Meatless Mondays: Szechuan Noodle Bowl

Szechuan Noodle Bowl's Vegetable and Tofu Dumplings

The year of the Snake starts off with a mild sting.

Szechuan Noodle Bowl in the International District had big potential with its cheap prices and advertised bold flavors. I’m still waiting for that bite to strike.

Happy Chinese New Year! In honor of this holiday, I thought it would be fitting to try out a Chinese—specifically Szechuan—restaurant in the ID. And to bring it to another level, I even wore the only red thing I own to dine in. Red pants. It really makes a difference, people.

Before I sat down, I noticed the eclectic art on the walls—two pieces feature close up photographs of toy horses and the rest a series of Chinese characters that I couldn’t read—and the ladies who were socializing while prepping our food. The place got packed pretty quickly, which seemed to be a good sign. But those ladies set up shop and they weren’t moving. Gosh, do I love Asian women.

Starting my “culinary career” as a hostess in a Chinese restaurant in Seattle, I’d like to think I have a big heart and high hopes for Asian fare. But vegan? I’ve already reviewed Bamboo Garden’s vegetarian take and wasn’t blown away. Let’s see how Szechuan Noodle Bowl holds up.

Szechuan Noodle Bowl's Cold Noodle with Vegetables
Szechuan Noodle Bowl’s Cold Noodle with Vegetables

Cold Noodle with Sesame Sauce & Vegetables ($5.75)

I had no idea what to expect from this description. Half of the menu was in Mandarin so maybe it explains more in those characters? A big bowl of thick, white wheat noodles (like Udon) with a huge dollop of brown creamy sauce and freshly cut veggies shows up. It was a pretty vibrant presentation, with cuts of cucumber and carrot shreds topping the stark white homemade noodles. I was somewhat excited about the “sesame sauce” which turned out to be creamy peanut butter. Like seriously, melted Jif. I know peanuts are big in Szechuan cuisine, but when you tell me sesame, I expect sesame. It kind of reminded me of a less spicy Thai peanut sauce if that makes you feel better. The grouping of all the elements was interesting. Juicy and cold with wonderful noodles but I was not all that impressed.

Szechuan Vegetable Noodle Soup
Szechuan Noodle Bowl’s Vegetable Noodle Soup

Vegetable Noodle Soup ($5.50)

On to the second main course. At a few bucks cheaper than the already notoriously affordable pho, this dish is a supreme deal of delicious. Its cloudy, fragrant broth looked like miso but tasted like pure love. A perfect balance of a little sweet and tangy, a lot of smooth (do I taste peanut butter again?) and a heaping splash of umami, this broth melted my mind and my heart before I even got to the goods—bok choy, green onions and some more of their hearty, handmade noodles. The broth isn’t salty, like its Vietnamese counterpart, but don’t be scared. They figured a way to make it saucy without the sodium. The one thing this hot soup was missing was some fire, so don’t forget to dabble in their turntable of steamy sauces displayed on the table for your convenience.

Szechuan Noodle Bowl's Green Onion Pancake
Szechuan Noodle Bowl’s Green Onion Pancake

Green Onion Pancake ($3.50)

Redemption. This pancake is what’s up. Not too pretty to look at but when you take a slice from the “pie” and dip it in the vinegary dark brown sauce, you will forget about all that came before it. The onion flavor is wonderfully highlighted—Brownilocks would say it’s not too strong and not too weak. This pancake is made with 5 or 6 doughy layers that are all fried to golden perfection together. Mob mentality is welcomed in my mouth.

Szechuan Noodle Bowl's Vegetable and Tofu Dumplings
Szechuan Noodle Bowl’s Vegetable and Tofu Dumplings

Vegetable & Tofu Dumplings ($6.50)

Each dumpling was like a snowflake—different with the same beautiful essence. I felt a sort of connection with them considering the ladies of the restaurant were rolling dough and stuffing dumplings at a neighboring table. That’s how freshly homemade they were. Ten pieces come in each order and if I didn’t order all the rest of the food, I could probably take ‘em. (But they weren’t challenging me like the pancake seemed to be.) The thick dough—a distant cousin of the homemade noodles—enveloped a mix of chopped spinach and tofu. Again, not salty, but no peanut butter magically appeared in this dish. The sauce was necessary with these dumplings. Good thing it was already on the table for the pancake! Sharing is caring.

With cheap eats and a familiarly ID vibe, I get why people come here. The Year of the Snake should be a great one, so I’m not sure what happened with my first review. Not sure I’ll come back for your ¾ cup of unsalted peanut butter gravy, Szechuan Noodle Bowl. Well, maybe to get another peek of those framed toy horse masterpieces…and of course another pancake.

Szechuan Noodle Bowl | 420 8th Ave S,  Seattle | (206) 623-4198

Photography by Josie James Keeney