Handmade noodles. You need them on the regular. Or at least I do. The craving is intense, whether it’s fat Uyghur-style strands or ultra-fine extruded Italian specimens. But one of my new favorite ways to have them is at an unassuming Chinese spot in a Chantilly strip mall.
Cheng’s Asian House has a diner-thick menu of Chinese-American dishes. The kind you eat with a fork and knife. That’s all well and good, but I didn’t even open that tome. There was far too much on the “Chef’s Gourmet Menu,” a bill of fare that leans toward spicy Szechuan dishes but includes options from Taiwan to Beijing.
And it’s one of those Beijing-style dishes that will bring me back over and over. For those who love ragu Bolognese over their pasta, zha jiang mian is the Chinese equivalent. Korean food fans will recognize it as the inspiration for black bean noodles jajangmyeon.
The version at Cheng’s is anise-scented, but not as richly saucy as I might have hoped. However, that does little to minimize the enjoyment of the ropey noodles beneath the sauté of ground pork, soybeans, and petite cubes of tofu.
But I found a way to make the slightly dry version of the cucumber-topped dish irresistible. I also ordered the Chengdu-style twice-cooked pork. The crisp-edged pork-belly slivers repose in a mildly spicy chile oil, perfect for drizzling over the noodles. Combining the two dishes gave mild zha jiang mian a pleasant hot flash.
There’s lots more to explore on the menu (I’m looking at you, “Killing Me Spicy Taiwanese Flies Heads.”), but whatever I order, it will likely be accompanied by an order of chewy noodles. // 4090 Airline Pkwy. Ste. G, Chantilly
For more reviews, subscribe to our twice-weekly Food newsletter.