Something Old, Something New

2009.Jun.13 Saturday · 5 comments

in Life, Restaurants

“Chinese people say Marco Polo brought noodles from China back to Italy and Italians say they had noodles before that. All this has been based on documentary material, on personal accounts and menus. But we’ve been unable to find any actual material until now.”

– Lu Houyuan, geologist/geophysicist

New Barrio Chino archway

Buenos Aires – The new? Barrio Chino, having gone from being a place that when I moved here four years ago was frequented by the local Chinese community and a few random chefs who were experimenting with ingredients, to a still small enclave – a mere two blocks of commercial spots – that attracts both local residents from across the city and visitors to the country. If you’re looking for ingredients or good Chinese food, that’s a good move. As a tourist attraction, it had, until very recently, really nothing to offer other than a couple of tacky souvenir shops. But now, well, hey, it has an archway at one end of the street, with cute little dragons and everything. And there you go. Instant tourist attraction.

Comida China - potstickers and sesame/peanut noodles

Of more interest, a little hole in the wall that I’ve not paid any attention to until the other day, when I stopped to glance at the menu and realized that it’s a noodle house, simply called Comida China, Arribeños 2152. Boiled noodles, fried noodles, sauced noodles, soup noodles. Noodles everywhere. And, down at the bottom of the menu what caught my eye was fideos con salsa de maní – noodles in peanut sauce – on a hunch, I poked in and asked if this was “cold noodles with sesame sauce” – which is generally made with a mix of sesame and peanut, and, indeed, it was, though not cold, served hot. So, I grabbed a table, the only non-Chinese person in the place filled with 20-somethings slurping bowls of noodles and soup and families sharing big plates of steaming noodles. I ordered my favorite little potstickers – these packed with ground pork and diced vegetables, really quite good – no dipping sauce, but a bottle of soy and a jar of hot chili paste being passed around from table to table so I could make my own. I think my use of the big dollop of chili paste caught everyone’s attention as did my insistence on chopsticks rather than silverware. It was unusual enough, apparently, that I became the focus of attention as people made little hand gestures imitating the use of them – and then were surprised that I already knew how (I grew up with the things).

The sesame/peanut noodles? Not the best I’ve ever had, but quite good. Soft, slurpable noodles piled in a sauce of sesame and peanut with just a touch of soy and green onion – could have used a touch of chilies, which, another dab out of the jar when it came back around, handled. Oh, and respectively, the two plates? 10 and 5 pesos, or US$4 and change. That’s my kind of lunch. [This place has closed.]


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

david June 13, 2009 at 19:14

ah, cold sesame noodles ! yummm i was so disappointed when my favorite place in nyc closed after 30 years. Hunan Park on columbus ave tween 70 and 71 st street. they had the best. plus my other favorite, not on the menu but custom made – giant prawns in chili sauce with dried tofu. dried tofu is tofu with most of the water pressed out. it has a much better texture than reg tofu which is too fluffy for me. the combo of prawns and tofu and rice made a balanced meal and the chili sauce warmed me up and complimented the buzz from my screwdrivers. its great to hear that ba chinatown has sesame noodles!

david June 14, 2009 at 21:56

Dan, i have a question for you. why are they called sesame noodles when the sauce and the taste is of peanut and there is no evidence of sesame? are the noodles made with sesame?

do you know what the difference is between mani and cacahuetes?

then i can tell you about my life in the rock and roll band,
Carola and the Cacahuetes Desnudes….

dan June 14, 2009 at 22:32

If they’re made “right” they should taste more of sesame than peanut – the way I learned to make them it was equal parts chicken stock and peanut butter blended together over heat, then a dollop of sesame paste (basically tahini), a good amount of sesame oil, a bit of chili oil, scallions and sesame seeds. While the ones that I had the other day in Barrio Chino were more peanut flavored than sesame flavored there was clearly sesame in them.

Based on the authoritative dictionary… 😉 … translation for peanuts: Spain – cacahuete; Mexico & Central America – cacahuate; Andes, Rio de la Plata & the Caribbean – maní.

Forager June 17, 2009 at 04:15

Great blog! Stumbled upon it whilst looking for places to eat in BA when we visit this Sept/Oct. And there’s a Chinatown there – who would’ve thought! Looking forward to scouring the rest of your blog for yummy places to eat 🙂

dan June 17, 2009 at 08:47

Not only a chinatown, but a koreatown and an area that’s fairly japanese!

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