By now, with Philly well under the numbing hot spell of its Sichuan revolution, most adventure diners have slurped a fiery hot bowl of dandan mien, a nest of fine noodles tossed with chile oil sauce and ground pork.
But have you done "ding dang" noodles? These are apparently dandan's thicker rope noodle cousin, which I encountered for the first time at Traditional Szechuan Restaurant at 10th and Arch, a recent replacement for the generically named Chinatown Restaurant.
Aside from the noodles, shaped more like udon but with a toothier chew in this preparation, the ding dang's pork was not ground but shredded into ribbons that were both tender and perfectly uniform - a knife-skill sign of a well-trained cook in the kitchen. The overall effect is flavorful but more elegant. And the balance of heat, sweet, sour, and aromatic with nutty sesame and peppercorn spice was spot-on.
There was room for still more fire, as with much of the rest of our meal. But this promising newcomer is worthwhile, and the latest in a string of new Chinatown restaurants featuring northern Chinese flavors in a neighborhood traditionally focused on Cantonese fare. Also worth a try: the dumplings in chile oil, fish in hot sauce, and, especially, the pickled black fungus (wood ear) mushrooms with wild peppers. Wild, indeed!