131 N 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
One of my favorite places to eat in Chinatown is Nan Zhou, the hand drawn noodle house I have been frequenting for a long time. I read about Lan Zhou opening over on Midtown Lunch a while back, and had finally made my way over – it's just so hard to steer away from my original favorite. Also, I hate that it's called "Yummy" Lan Zhou. Much like I hate when people say "nom." That's fine to say if you are eating fish sticks dipped in ketchup and are five years old. However, as you are likely neither a child nor the Cookie Monster, I hope you feel the same way.
They offer a table-side condiment bar to spruce up your order, always a plus in my book. They also one-up the original Nan Zhou with a container full of pickled cabbage on every table. Mixed with a little soy, vinegar and chili sauce, it was a quick snack while waiting for my noodles.
I stuck with two of my favorites, the pork with soy sauce and the peanut sauce noodles. These two are great because they are cheap, and they really let the noodles shine. Plus, I am hardly ever looking for a soup. That being said, they give you a small bowl of broth alongside the noodles that aren't served already swimming in it. Though it was kind of bland on its own, with a bit of sprucing up (some cabbage, vinegar, and chili), it was quite tasty.
The pork with soy sauce was delicious. It was different than what I am used to, not as salty, but the flavors and richness of the pork pervaded the GIANT bowl of noodles, creating quite a cohesive dish. The peanut sauce noodles were another winner. This is such a simple and incredibly cheap ($3!) bowl of comfort, I can hardly pass it up on every trip.
It's best to add a little bit of chili oil to the mix just to give it a bit of burn, and you will be well fed, without breaking the bank. The peanut sauce is thick, rich, and oily, which helps it coat the noodles and allows for maximum nutty flavor in each bite.
I can't say for certain which place is the better noodle house. Both have very tender and delicious hand drawn noodles, but Lan Zhou might edge Nan Zhou for value, if for nothing other than the extra broth and cabbage. They are both dirt cheap (my bill was $12 with tip), and each is worth a try for yourself.