PanPan Noodle Bar
PanPan Noodle Bar may be located in casual confines under a long tunnel-like awning and up a flight of steps, but the flavours in this unassuming space are big and bold.
Located above Light Cafe, they specialize in alkaline noodles, a favourite street food in major Chinese city Wuhan, especially signature “hot dry noodles.” Will Pan is the owner here, hence, PanPan Noodle Bar.
The space is simply decorated, mostly in sparse white with primary red furniture. A brightening skylight and a mural by Abby Wang and Xin Tong livens up the space with cute images of cartoon pandas with different personalities, all chowing down on noodles.
Before you even begin ordering, two small plates of salty szechuan peanuts and seaweed are placed in front of you as a precursor to your meal.
This is actually their own noodle recipe, and though these noodles are only used for these specific types of dishes their production is outsourced to a factory.
A sticky rice crepe ($12.99) is made from pan fried bean flour and egg, layered with marinated pork, bamboo, mushrooms, dried tofu, sticky rice, and topped with fried egg that’s been flipped a couple times for a crispy, crunchy top sprinkled with sesame seeds and chopped green onion.
It’s meaty, savoury, and full of salty soy flavour tempered by fluffy egg.
The sesame lover ($7.99) is a cheap but explosive signature dish, noodles covered in a creamy and nutty sesame sauce and topped with crunchy pickled cowpeas that are salty on their own but lend a great texture, green onion and cilantro.
The hot dry crab ($13.99) is essentially a super spicy seafood version of the sesame lover with crab sauce made with crab leg meat, green onion, ginger and garlic paste.
Be sure to fully mix up these bowls of noodles to thoroughly coat them in the spicy, tasty sauce, including the pool of chili oil at the bottom of the bowl they’re sitting in.
A dessert billed as “Soft Inside” ($3.99) on the menu is an incredible fried sticky rice donut that you dip into a pile of special sugar powder for a resplendently soft, chewy sweet.
An excellent lunch or dinner of authentic Chinese street food can for bottom dollar be had or taken out from this relaxed spot, and the portions aren’t ramen- or pho-level huge but they do the job, especially if you order a few dishes and share.