The vast selection of noodles at Wynn Palace in Cotai describes not only their culinary variety, but is in many ways an epic travelogue around Asia, expressed in flour, water, skill and incredible showmanship.
Shaanxi-style hand-pulled noodles in chili oil (left) and Sichuan dan dan noodles with sauteed minced pork and peanut paste in chili sauce at 99 Noodles in Wynn Palace
It's not every day that you get to slurp Shanxi knife-cut noodles for breakfast, Japanese ramen for lunch and Cantonese wonton noodle soup for dinner without stepping outside. But with an ever-expanding assortment of noodles on offer at Wynn Palace in Macau, guests can travel the region as they please, skipping from China’s northwestern Shanxi province (said to be the birthplace of noodles) down to southern Guangdong, and over to Japan.
On the recently revamped menu at 99 Noodles, for example, diners will find a staggering noodle selection. The northern Chinese offerings cover everything from Shaanxi-style knife-shaved noodles to buckwheat tip-ended noodles, Beijing la mian and leaf noodles, among others. "It's called 99 Noodles because we craft nine types of noodles, nine broths and nine garnishes," explains Chef de Cuisine Liu Jie at 99 Noodles at the original location inside Wynn Macau. "In China, of course, there are many more than just these nine types. They are a common staple in most diets, and an important aspect of our food culture."
To help diners navigate the lengthy list of broths and garnishes, the menu denotes a few signatures. The most popular is a bowl of Shaanxi noodles—traditionally topped with a mountain of spicy minced pork or lamb. “To make these noodles, we use a special knife shaped like a fin,” explains the chef, as he pretends to hold a ball of dough while slicing downwards. “The pieces fall into a pot of boiling water. This produces thicker noodles of varying lengths, which share a wonderful chewy texture.”
To accompany crowd favorites like Shaanxi noodles, Chef de Cuisine Chen Ming, who helms the Wynn Palace location, has injected a few nostalgic additions inspired by his childhood. “People in northern China love their zhajiang noodles [thick noodles with soybean paste and stir-fried pork]. When I was young, the zhajiang noodles that my mom made were the best,” says Chen. “Each time that I caught the attentiveness on my mother’s or the chefs’ faces while they were cooking, I would become so curious. It was then that I decided to become a chef when I grew up.”
Chef de Cuisine Chen Ming hand-pulls noodles at 99 Noodles at Wynn Palace.
An expanding menu at 99 Noodles isn’t the only thing that’s changing at the resort. Popular southern-style Chinese restaurant Red 8 moved to a larger location this March, just steps from 99 Noodles. The red-and-black color palette remains unchanged, but the space is nearly twice as large. At the heart of the restaurant, there’s an open kitchen where diners can watch the chefs at work as they pull a Peking duck out of the oven, craft dim sum dumplings or hand-pull Cantonese-style noodles.
“When comparing southern and northern noodles, you have to understand that the ingredients and processes vary. Southern noodles often use rice flour, while northern noodles use wheat flour. Both are time-consuming in their own way,” says Liu. “The different preparation process [such as soaking them in cold water or fermentation methods] will change the noodles’ structure and texture. That’s why each noodle has its own character.”
In the case of southern-style noodles, Chef Leung Wai Mun Leung at Red 8 makes about 155 pounds of noodles a day, using Australian flour and fresh Hubei duck eggs to enhance the eggy flavor. Before cooking, the dough undergoes a bath in cold water. This step results in a springy texture that remains firm while they swim in a bowl of warming, garlicky broth (which takes four hours to prepare) alongside bobbing shrimp wontons that appear to be hand-wrapped like little gifts.
Braised pork ribs in noodle soup at Red 8 in Wynn Palace
Of course, Chinese noodles aren’t the only types available under this palatial roof. Gourmands will gravitate to the handmade noodles at Hanami Ramen, where they can devour hearty bowls of ramen around an intimate marble-clad counter with just 19 seats.
“Noodles are a comfort food for people in China, and many places in Asia,” says Liu. “It’s something you have to have in your life. It’s a must. If you don’t eat noodles for a few weeks, you think about it constantly and crave them.” Luckily, at Wynn Palace, anyone craving noodles won’t have to venture too far.