A new business is bringing traditional Lanzhou pulled noodles to the Ocoee community.
Mr. J Hand-Pulled Noodle opened three months ago in place of the recently closed Crab & Wings building in the Silver Star Crossing Shopping Center.
Owner James Meng, 43, said the site was perfect for his first brick-and-mortar location.
“I had been looking for a place for a few years to open a noodle business,” Meng said. “This place did not need a lot of remodeling and was relatively new. The kitchen is large and has lots of room needed to make the noodles.”
Meng is a former professional dancing teacher from China.
As he got older, he realized dancing was not a lifelong business and needed to learn a new skill to prosper and provide for himself.
Meng, originally from Lanzhou, said he always was interested in working with food, because his family had a business crafting the noodles in China.
Meng came in 2005 to the United States alone. He co-owned a Chinese restaurant in the Davenport area.
Meng said he was missing the homestyle Lanzhou noodles in his new home, because he could not find them anywhere in the area. Although he tried several noodle places, the food did not taste like the traditional noodles from China.
He began to craft his own hand-pulled noodles from scratch, and although he said there was a certain pleasure in keeping the secret to himself, he decided he wanted to share the noodles with friends in the area.
He sold the noodles online for a short period of time before his customers began to recommend he share them with even more people to enjoy at his own business.
The Chinese-Muslim style of beef noodle is also known as clear-broth or consommé-stewed beef noodle.
It often uses halal meat and contains no soy sauce, resulting in a lighter taste that may be flavored by salt and herbs. Lanzhou Beef Lamian is usually served with clear soup and one hand-pulled lamian noodle per bowl. Only quality local beef from the southern yellow cattle prepared by the local halal butcher is used for the beef noodle.
Chinese radish and the specially cooked spicy oil are also indispensable partners to Lanzhou beef noodles. These ingredients are known as “one clear, two white, three red, four green, five yellow,” referring to clear soup, white radish, red chili oil, green leek and yellow noodles, respectively.
Mr. J’s offers a plethora of types of noodles, including flat, thin, small flat, normal, triangle, leek leave, thick and thicker.
The noodles start with the creation of the dough from scratch using only bread dough and sea salt. The dough is made in about 10-15 minutes before it is rolled out for pulling. Each individual noodle is pulled by hand. The dough is made multiple times throughout the day so it stays fresh.
Although a quick process, the most time consuming and difficult element of the business is the cooking of the meat and the soup broth.
The soup broth takes about six to seven hours to make using Lanzhounese seasoning before taking time to soak and enhance the flavor.
The restaurant offers several styles of Kung Fu Hand Pulled Noodles, such as Mr. J’s specialty which includes beef, coriander, garlic leaves, daikon and beef bone soup.
Other staple food items include hibachi shrimp fried rice, vegetable yun tun, a thousand-year-old egg, fried tofu, wings and seafood combos.
“My biggest enjoyment is seeing the look on people’s faces after they enjoy the noodles,” Meng said. “I get so much happiness from them trying the food we create.”
Meng said he hopes to open more locations in the future and share the noodles with even more people while teaching about the traditional style.