LV Recommends: JiangHu Asian Street Food

On April 3, LV staff ordered a variety of delivery dishes from JiangHu Asian Street Food (110 E Court St, Iowa City) and recorded our commentary — and our gross chewing sounds — as we ate.

JiangHu You Po noodles
You Po Noodle (hand-pulled noodles, garlic, green onions, chilis), $11.99

Frankie: I want the spicy noodles to be more saucy.
Matt: I was surprised to like this so much. It’s so hearty — sometimes you just want that.
Jordan: The noodles are hand-pulled. I don’t know if they hand-pull in store, but —
Frankie: Someone’s hands are pulling.
Emma: I think I like the noodles best, too.

(Note: JiangHu hand-pulls their noodles right there in the kitchen behind the counter. They are chewy and hearty and you must have them immediately. I had this garlicky dish for the first time a decade ago and became obsessed. Learning it’s available in Iowa City was like finding purpose after years of meaninglessness.)

Beef Ball Skewer, $1.50; Squid Skewer, $1.50; Grilled Chicken Wing, $5

Frankie: What’s that circle thing on your plate, Jav?
Jordan: That’s the meatball skewer. I think it’s called cowball or something … I’m liking the squid skewer — the cumin is unexpected.
Frankie: Unexpected on the chicken, too.

(Note: The chicken wings are very cumin-y. Maybe not right for everyone, like my boyfriend, but I loved them.)

JiangHu skewers — photo by Jason Smith
Grilled Leek, $4.99

Frankie: Are these leeks or scallions? They seem so skinny.
Jordan: Those are leeks. They’re tough.
Frankie: Yeah, I’m not in love with those.
Jav: I think those are my least favorite.
Frankie: Just put the whole pile in your mouth.
Jordan: You’ll be chewing for days.

Grilled Enoki Mushroom, $4.99

Frankie: These little mushrooms are so cute, though! Look at those tiny little things.
Jordan: I would have never thought to just grill them all together.
Emma: This mushroom thing is good, but — texture. I get so weirded out by texture.
Jav: I’m not really picky with textures but that one was weird.
Frankie: I thought it was delightful.
Jordan: Me, too.
Jav: The flavor is good. I like it. I’ll still eat it.

JiangHu’s Sao Zi noodles and soup with (left to right) grilled leeks, grilled enoki mushrooms, grilled chicken wing and You Po noodles. — photo by Jason Smith
Sao Zi Noodle (spicy meat sauce with sour soup noodle), $11.99

Matt: Do we know anything about the vegetarian-ness? Are the broths all beefy?
Jordan: Good question.
Frankie: I’m pleasantly surprised by this soup.
Jordan: You are. You like it.
Frankie: Mmmhmm.
Jav: Yeah. this soup is really good.
Frankie: I would order this soup again. And again.

(Note: All broths are meat-based: beef, bone, chicken and fish.)

A ma la tang (pay by weight) soup prepared at JiangHu Asian Street Food. — photo by Jordan Sellergren
Ma la tang, pay by weight

(We don’t have transcribed comments of the the LV staff ma la tang experience. Research was gathered informally during several spontaneous craving-based trips.)

If you’re not already familiar (I wasn’t previously), ma la tang is a common Chinese street soup similar to hot pot. When you order at JiangHu, approach the counter, grab an empty bowl and tongs and select from a variety of noodles, meats, seafoods, tofus, fungi, seaweed and vegetables. You’ll pay by the weight of your selections. Hand over the bowl; the ingredients will be cooked in the broth of your choice, mild or spicy (choose spicy). Once your buzzer buzzes, season your soup at the bar with any combination of garlic, chili, sesame paste, cilantro, soy or vinegar.

You may find, like I did, that the oily, spicy broth tastes like something from another galaxy. As if chilis were somehow steeped upside-down and backward through time and space. If you’re “Midwestern mild,” just be brave and order it — it’s not the kind of heat that burns the tongue; it clears the sinuses and makes your lips tingle on the walk home. Every ingredient you select will be infused with this flavor, and multiple trips to JiangHu may be necessary to determine your perfect combination. Try a wide variety.

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