After Tony Hu, is there a more recognizable Chinatown celebrity than Liu Chang Ming? You may not know his name, but if you’ve strolled past Hing Kee in the mall over the last few years, you’ve probably seen him in action in the front window, his brawny, tatted forearms pulling, twisting, bouncing, and folding long, thick ropes of dough into dozens of strands of perfect fresh noodles. It was kind of weird that the pan-Asian Hing Kee, which still has its front-of-the-house soup dumpling maker, employed a specialist like Liu, even though he had top billing (his likeness also graced a banner hanging on a fence at the corner of Wentworth and Archer). But now, after a short absence, he’s resurfaced as the star of his own show at nearby Sing’s Noodle House.
- Mike Sula
- Spicy chicken hand-pulled noodles, Sing’s Noodle House
At Sing’s, Liu works behind a glass enclosure at the rear of the dining room, where he makes the same hand-pulled noodles and submerges them in any one of 15 fathomless bowls of soup, like spicy chicken, in which the tendrils mingle with battered, deep-fried poultry nuggets, or the classic niu rou mian, with chunks of tender beef brisket and baby bok choy. I didn’t find these soups very compelling beyond the noodles, as they’re built on nearly identical, thin, bodiless broths. A better way to appreciate Liu’s work is in one of eight stir-fries, including beef tips, oxtail, lamb, or clam. Less dramatically produced but even more texturally appealing are the shaved noodles, which Liu cuts by cradling a large lump of dough in one arm and whittling away at it. The irregularity of these flat noodles makes them ideal for sauce adherence.
You can order decent pot stickers and steamed dumplings, plus an assortment of appetizers like spicy pig ears, shredded kelp, and, ma la noodles, but the real attraction—even more so than the noodles—is the normally stoic’s Liu’s mesmerizing game of cat’s cradle, during which he’s not above breaking character and mugging for the crowd.
- Mike Sula
- Sing’s Noodle House
Sing’s Noodle House, 2171 S. China Place, 312-225-2882