In Shanghai, longtangs or nongtangs are neighbourhoods organised around laneways. In their heyday, they were places for locals to live, gather and eat together. They’re slowly being replaced by high-rises, but the ones left are considered an integral part of the city. “It’s like a small village,” explains David Yang, who was born and bred in Shanghai. When he found the location for his restaurant in Melbourne’s MidCity Arcade, a tiny lane with bustling shops and restaurants, it reminded him of these neighbourhoods.
He opened Nong Tang Noodle House last year with his mother, wanting to showcase the authentic Shanghai cuisine he grew up eating. Yang chun noodles are their signature dish. Traditionally, the thin noodles are eaten dry (with fried spring onion, soy sauce and sesame oil) or in a soup (a light chicken broth with soy sauce, Chinese cabbage and spring onion).
“The noodles are handmade in-house. In Australia, the flours are different and we wanted to have a similar taste to the yang chun noodles in Shanghai, so we tried over 20 kinds to find the right one. Now, we mix three different flours to make the noodles and we have a very similar taste,” says Yang.
Once you’ve decided between dry or soup noodles, Yang encourages you to pick a few side dishes. “You can choose any toppings or side dishes you like; they’re all very traditional Shanghai [types]. The noodles are the base, like rice,” he says. You can mix the toppings with the noodles or eat them separately. You have about 15 different options, including lion’s head pork meatball, salted chicken Maryland, wine-marinated edamame, bean curd with coriander, and fried pork chops.
"In Australia, the flours are different and we wanted to have a similar taste to the yang chun noodles in Shanghai, so we tried over 20 kinds to find the right one."
Yang’s favourite combo is the dry noodles with a mix of the eight treasures (diced pork, chicken, potato, carrot, bean curd and onion with soy sauce and chilli sauce) and the shredded pork with pickled cabbage and peas.
If you’re eyeing the dumpling part of the menu, go for the signature pan-fried pork dumplings, which you should eat like a xia long bao, by sipping the broth first, then eating the dumpling. “In Shanghai, for breakfast, people often get just the noodles with the pan-fried pork dumplings,” says Yang.
The wrappers, filling and chilli oil are all made by head chef Alex Ma, who used to work at Shanghai’s Wyndham Hotel. But while he’s in charge of the kitchen, many of the recipes come straight from Yang’s family.
“The filling for the pork dumplings, the eight treasures, the duck in soy sauce, the salted chicken, the meatballs and the pork chops, they’re all my mum’s recipes. You can have all of these somewhere else, but you’ll be able to taste the difference,” he says.
Nong Tang Noodle House’s extensive menu goes outside Shanghai with dishes like kung pao chicken and other Australian favourites like lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork. But the name of the restaurant says it all, the Shanghainese specialities and the noodles are where it’s at.
Nong Tang Noodle House
MidCity Arcade, Shop 16-17, 194-200 Bourke Street, Melbourne, Vic
Daily 11:30 am – 10 pm