The lighter side of Chinese foodDigest Now Plating
June 28, 2015
Story By: Lynsey Beth Futa |
In the kitchen of Little Village Noodle House, it has been proven that simplicity is best. With each bite of fresh, clean-flavored food, comes a minimal list of ingredients used and steps for preparation taken — as it should be.
The restaurant’s choice to avoid cooking complexities is not a reflection on its dedication to quality, however, as each recipe goes through multiple experimentations and extensive care before making an appearance on the menu. Here, you won’t find a dish that is too much of “this” and too little of “that.”
The restaurant opened in April 2001 in the heart of Chinatown, and business partners David Chang and Kenneth Chan have continued to follow the concept that less is indeed more.
Starting with a dish that has become a staple item in Chinese cooking, Cold Ginger Onion Chicken ( $13.95) is prepared masterfully at Little Village.
“Do I have to give out specific details?” Chang reluctantly inquires when asked about how the dish is cooked. Now Plating respects a chef’s secrets, and Chang thankfully continues with a brief explanation, “We’ve experimented a lot with the weight of the chicken and the temperature when poaching. It’s a tedious process, but once you get it right, it’s perfect.” Perfect. There is no other word to describe the menu item, really. Moist white meat of Island-fresh chicken is cut and served with a separate sauce, which combines minced ginger, salad oil, salt and a special wild ginger powder for dipping, drenching or what have you.
Vegetarians will be pleased to discover Portobello Mushroom Snow Pea Stir Fry ($13.95), as what is described is what you get. A lovely array of vibrant greens and earthy chunks of portobello are quickly tossed together in a wok at high heat (in order to maintain the crunch of the peas), with only a hint of garlic and oil.
A new item to try is Fried Oysters (special rate, $16.95). The appetizer includes four large oysters, and also is a simple recipe. “You don’t want to make it too complicated, because the way I look at it, something that is live and fresh, it’s already a good ingredient. Why would you want to mess it up?” explains Chang. Which is why the restaurant only uses live oysters for this dish. These sea mollusks are coated in a “tempura-like” batter and fried until golden brown; that’s it. Served with a side of ponzu and some salt, this dish is the perfect mix of fresh and tasty.
Little Village continues to thrive because of its purity in Chinese cooking, but also because of its willingness to adapt. Chang shares, “A lot of people ask me if my restaurant is authentic Chinese food, but I think that anytime you create something different, if it is good, it becomes authentic. Even when I came to Honolulu, everything was only about ‘chop suey’ (Americanized Chinese food), but now it’s become more sophisticated. You have to evolve, because cooking is an art. But, you know what? Our food will still always be comfort food.” And it really is as simple as that.
Little Village Noodle House
1113 Smith St., Chinatown
Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.;
Friday-Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.