“It’s the most authentic Chinese food I’ve ever had,” said a student customer at Noodle House. Opened in June 2016 by a family who immigrated to the United States from Fujian, China, 25 years ago, Noodle House offers not only high-quality Chinese food, but also signature dishes from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. Among the restaurant’s most popular dishes are Japanese-style ramen and rice bowls as well as Vietnamese pho.
My friend and I each ordered a rice dish and chatted with the owner, Bonnie Yeung, as we waited for our meals. Yeung manages the restaurant while her husband cooks, a balanced and efficient form of collaboration, according to Yeung. Her husband has been passionate about culinary arts since before they immigrated to the US, and she grew up in a family of food dilettantes. “We’ve opened other restaurants before, and this is the first time we’re trying out a fusion restaurant.” Yeung explained with palpable enthusiasm. “We want Noodle House to be much more than noodles — we want everyone to be able to find something they like.”
Since I’ve visited several other ethnic restaurants on Nassau Street, I asked Bonnie what distinguishes Noodle House from other Asian restaurants, such as Tiger Noodles, Sakura Express, and EPS Corner. “The variety of our food!” Yeung said proudly, “We enjoy seeing young people come in and chat with friends, enjoying the meal and the bubble tea at the same time.” Indeed, Noodle House is the only Asian restaurant around Princeton with a specialized bubble tea counter that serves a diverse selection of hot and cold drinks, including coffee and slushes.
My friend’s grilled chicken rice bowl arrived. The golden, crispy façade of the chicken pieces complemented the yellow-orange color scheme of the egg yolk, radish, and carrots. The greens in the corner echoed the seaweed decorations on top of the chicken, and the white sesame added a pop of brightness to the picture — indeed, the contents of this bowl seemed almost too beautiful to end up in our stomachs. Nonetheless, we picked up chopsticks and each tasted a bite of chicken. The slight crispiness hit the spot, and transitioned into a taste that was savory but not too salty, solid but not too dry — a taste that brought sheer satisfaction.
My friend also enjoyed the chicken, and was fascinated by the white rice used in this bowl. “Most Chinese food in the US that I’ve tasted uses fried rice, which I know isn’t commonly what people eat in China.” As someone who was born and raised in China, I agree with her. My own dish — pork chop with rice and vegetables — brought a similar gastronomical delight. The dish also wasn’t as salty and oily as those at most Americanized Chinese fast-food restaurants — the amount of oil in the “Chinese” food in Princeton’s dining halls or at P.F. Chang’s always amazes me. One can say that it’s a different style and it indeed appeals to many crowds, but I appreciate Noodle House’s efforts to maintain the authenticity of its owners’ cultural and culinary heritage.
Other customers at the restaurant seem to come from a variety of different backgrounds — diverse ages, ethnicities, genders — echoing the restaurant’s aim at creating fusion. One elderly customer sitting alone across from us seemed to be enjoying his curry chicken rice bowl, so I walked over to ask about his experience. “I loved the chicken as well as the spicy sauce on the table that creates a quite unique mix of favor with the curry,” he said with a smile, after briefly introducing himself as a community auditor who lived in the neighborhood. When I asked whether he comes here often, his smile expanded, and I could hear the delight in his tone: “Today is actually my first time at this restaurant, and I’ll be back!” Noodle House took me on a gastronomical adventure around Asia while making me feel at home.