In the mood for some cheap somewhat-legit Chinese food? Henan Flavor is a good place to check out… only if you order the best. Their menu consists of a variety of hand-pulled wide noodle dishes, dumplings, and the renown Big Tray of Chicken (pictured above). They have some other chicken dishes but I have never seen anyone… anyone order them. I’ve been here a couple of times and have now tried many of their dishes. I would suggest not to order the noodles, even though Yelp reviewers say otherwise. The noodles are decently chewy and clearly homemade but the soups and the sauces lack depth and flavor. Yes, one big bowl of noodles can range from only $4-$6, but I can guarantee you a better meal if you order these things instead:
1. Pork Pancake or 肉夹馍 (meat between steamed buns).This “pancake” is $2 each (one pancake pictured) and beats Xi’an Famous Foods and Prosperity Dumplings pancakes by far. The steamed bread (it really isn’t cakey; not too sure why people insist on calling it a pancake) is soft and chewy. The exterior seems to have a very thin film of crispiness. The pork inside is like an Asian carnitas: semi-fatty, lots of juice (as you can see from the semi-soaked bread), and bursting with flavor. It also has the perfect 1:1 bread:meat ratio. I happen to love cilantro so this was of course a welcomed addition. But if you are like LAW and despise these fragrant little green things, the lovely woman who makes the pancakes is happy to exclude them from your order.
2. Big Tray o’ Chicken or 大盘鸡 + NOODLES
Remember how I told you NOT to get any noodles dishes? This is because you have to order the Big Tray of Chicken and ask for noodles on the side. The Big Tray of Chicken (first photo) is a fairly large tray of chicken and potatoes seeped in a spicy chili oil sauce… for only $12. This is by FAR the most expensive item on the menu and for good reason. This large tray fed 3 hungry eaters, two of whom are boys who normally eat for two, for TWO meals (they are great as leftovers). The chicken is super tender and rich with flavor. They also use Sichuan peppercorns, which gives the dish a slightly numbing taste … extremely addicting. The potatoes are very soft and a nice carby addition to the chicken, especially since the chicken will have you hissing like a snake after a few bites due to the spice and numbing effects. The NOODLES on the side are just plain hand-pulled noodles that come on a plate. The reason I like ordering this over any other noodle dish is because you can pull off a single noodle and dip it in the chili oil sauce as you wish, keeping all the noodles al dente, rather than soaking in a soup or sauce that makes them soggy and blah.The sauce is seriously addicting. The noodles + sauce is an insane combination and is ultimately more cost effective as well (I feel like an ass talking about saving money at a cheap place like this). You can come with 4 people, order 4 plates of noodles at $1 per plate, and get one Big Tray of Chicken for $12 (yes, the sauce is enough for 4 plates of noodles – what a waste if you don’t use it!). That’s only $16. If you came and ordered noodle dishes each, you would have paid at least $18, sans-chicken. I’m seriously salivating and should probably wipe down my keyboard…
$5 for 15 dumplings. There isn’t anything extremely special about these dumplings. They are definitely not even considered great if measured against true Chinese standards where a great dumpling has very thin skin, tender and flavorful meat, is small and delicate. No, no… these dumplings are hearty and quite large. Pretty thick-skinned though not as bad as Vanessa’s Dumplings on 14th street. The meat is quite tender and flavorful. They have a nice garlic and vinegar sauce at each table that pairs very well with these dumplings. I just like having something a little more bland and even vinegary on the side to go along with my spiceful Big Tray o’ Chicken.
Seriously though, don’t get anything else. I’ve had very mediocre experiences here because of what I ordered. Oh, also be warned that this place is tiny and … homey in the sense that it literally is a home. The owners have a son who often will sit at the table next to you while he does his homework. He’s a cute kid.