Spicy Village (Formerly He Nan Flavor) – Delicious Henan Food In Chinatown
Spicy Village was originally a branch of Henan Fengwei from Flushing. Around 6 months ago they were supposedly shutting down and possibly re-opening in another space on Allen. Luckily that never happened and instead they ended up changing their name to Spicy Village, but everything else remained the same.
Spicy Village specializes in cuisine from the Henan province in China. Henan is a landlocked province that is northwest of Shanghai. I’d love to give you some long winded background on Henan cuisine, but I don’t actually know that much about their cuisine as I have little experience eating it as isn’t prevalent or popular in the parts of China I usually visit. This Wikipedia article discusses it a little bit. I believe the owners are actually from Fuzhou as I’ve heard them speaking in the Fuzhou dialect with customers.
The restaurant is typical Chinatown in that it has very little in the way of décor although it is clean. The service is fine and the lady who runs the place is really nice. She also happens to speak English well and the entire menu is translated into English, so you will have no issues ordering.
Here’s what we got:
Cucumbers and Smoked Tofu (Liang Ban Huang Gua Dou Gan):
This was typical cold marinated cucumbers and smoked tofu called dou gan in Chinese. The pickles are tangy and a bit sweet as well. The version here was alright; it had decent crunch and flavor, but they were missing the really good flavor you get in a good version. I wasn’t really a fan of the dou gan as it was pretty plain tasting. 7.5/10 for the cucumbers; 6.75/10 for the smoked tofu
Pancake with Pork (Rou Jia Mo):
This is a shredded pork sandwich with cilantro. The bread is sort of like pita bread and is crispy from being toasted. The pork is actually quite light and is savory from the brown sauce they cook it in. It will remind you of the pancakes from Xi’an Famous Foods except the bread is thinner, it’s not as heavily spiced and it’s lighter. Overall, it’s not amazing, but it is a tasty enough pancake. 7.5/10
Pancake with Beef (Niu Rou Jia Mo):
This is the same as the prior pancake except with beef. However, I find the meat to be a little more flavorful, so I’d give the nod to the beef version. 7.75/10
Soup Dumplings (Guan Tang Bao):
While these look like misshapen ugly Shanghainese soup dumplings they are actually quite good and different than regular soup dumplings. The skins are a bit thicker and there is no soup inside. However, they are delicious as the filling is very flavorful. I actually enjoy these more than I do most Shanghainese soup dumplings in NY (I only like Nan Xiang actually). These are one of the best dishes here. 8/10
Homemade Steamed Dumplings (Shou Gong Shui Jiao):
These are typical northern Chinese style dumplings with thicker skins and pork and chive filling. I like their dumplings, but I don’t love them. The skins are decent, a bit on the doughy side, but I find their filling to be a bit bland. I end up using a lot of black vinegar and chili oil to make them tasty. 7.25/10
Black Bean Sauce Huimei (Zha Jiang Hui Mian):
Hui mian is thick wheat noodles that I believe are Henan in origin. Zha jiang mian literally means “fried sauce noodle”. You may know this dish as it is a ubiquitous dish in Korean-Chinese restaurants where Koreans took northern Chinese dishes and fit them to Korean tastes; they call it ja jang myun. I think it’s almost more popular with Koreans than it is with Chinese despite it being Chinese in origin. The Chinese version is more of a meat based sauce similar to a ragu. This can taste very different depending on who is making it. Here the sauce is fairly light in flavor and mainly just tastes like meat. I added some chili oil which made it a lot better. The noodles are excellent as they are a bit al dente and have great texture. Overall, the dish was decent, but not great. 7.5/10
Spicy Beef Brisket Huimei (Ma La Niu Nan Hui Mian):
This is a spicy beef brisket noodle soup. The beef brisket has been simmered for a while so it was quite tender and also had a good five spice flavor. The noodles are excellent being nicely al dente. The broth is flavorful and a bit spicy. While a bit different from traditional beef noodle soup, this is my current pick for the best beef noodle soup in NY. I think it far surpasses the various Lan Zhou noodle places around Chinatown (and Flushing) as the beef and broth are far superior in quality. This is another one of my favorite dishes here. Also, definitely use some chili oil and black vinegar, it tastes great with it. 8.25/10
Oxtail Huimei (Niu Wei Hui Mian):
This was an oxtail broth noodle soup with the hui mian. This was one of the duds here; I thought the broth was a bit bland, so there just wasn’t that much to it. We had to add a lot of chili oil and black vinegar to make it more interesting. 6.75/10
Grilled Pepper Chicken with Rice (Qing Jiao Ji Fan):
This was a surprise dish as I don’t think I’ve heard anyone mention it. Its stir fried pieces of chicken in slightly spicy and sweet sauce with diced green peppers. The chicken is tender and the sauce is really good, it’s a bit peppery, smoky, spicy and sweet. It tastes great with rice. This is one of my favorite dishes here. 8.25/10
Spicy Big Tray Kitchen (Da Pan Ji):
This is the dish that made them famous. It’s large chicken casserole in big iron pot. There are big chunks of very tender chicken on the bone and potatoes topped with cilantro. The sauce while it looks really oily isn’t actually all that heavy. It’s also ma la in flavor, which is normally a Sichuan flavor profile. “Ma” means the numbing sensation you get on your tongue from the Sichuan peppercorns, while “la” means spicy. While it is ma la, it’s not nearly as ma la as what you get at most Sichuan restaurants. It’s a bit hard to explain this dish, but it’s really good, so just hurry up and go try it. 8.5/10
Sweet Peanut Filled Rice Ball Soup (Tang Yuan):
Tang yuan has always been one of my favorite Chinese desserts, so I almost always get them when I see them on a menu. They can have various fillings, but here they serve them with peanut filling. The peanuts are not chopped that finely, so the chunks are pretty big. The filling also had these pinks things, but I couldn’t figure out what they were and they really didn’t taste like anything. The skins were decent, but not as super tender as I prefer them. These were alright, but I think this is the way Fuzhou people prepare them because this is the way they always taste at Fuzhou restaurants in NY. I prefer the Cantonese preparation. 7.25/10
Overall, I enjoy this place a lot and it’s somewhere that I eat at quite regularly. It’s also one of the few bright spots in a fast dying Chinatown, so I’d highly come recommend coming here to support them.
68B Forsyth Street
New York, NY 10002
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