Tasty Noodles & Dumplings – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Tasty Noodles & Dumplings Just South of Menaul on San Pedro

The first time I noticed that the dishes served to people of Asian descent weren’t covered in neon bright sauce, I wondered why those strange looking dishes weren’t on the menu.  Or maybe I just didn’t see them.   I asked my server (who was barely conversant in English) and was essentially told I wouldn’t like “authentic” Chinese food.  “What the heck am I eating?” I  asked myself.  That was the beginning of my explorations into the ancient and traditional culinary culture of China.  I delved into just what dishes are considered “authentic” and just what “authentic” means.

Dogmatists and purists insist that dishes that weren’t “invented” in China are spurious, not legitimate.  They use such terms as “Americanized” and “white-washed” to describe those dishes.  They point out that much of the Chinese food served across the fruited plain is stickier, sweeter, and unhealthier than traditional dishes served in China.  They don’t necessarily point out that some of the differences between Chinese food from China and Chinese food served in the states is because of the wide availability of American ingredients such as carrots, snow peas, green peppers, broccoli and mushrooms.

Kenny Approaches Our Table with Soup Dumplings

Additionally, Chinese immigrants were partly forced to rely on their external market — the American market who preferred sweeter dishes and eschewed such “strange” dishes as offal, chicken feet, braised duck’s tongue, or braised pig’s trotter.   Having grown up in Northern New Mexico where we raised our own crops and many of our own farm animals, none of those “yucky” foods turned me off.  I was raised eating such foods as morcillas (blood sausage), menudo (cow’s tripe soup), lengua (beef tongue), verdolagas (purslane) and quelites (lamb’s quarters), all dishes urban sophisticates might pass on.

For a very long time, the Chinese dishes perceived by many Americans to be unappealing were available only on “secret Chinese menus”   handed out to Chinese diners and weirdos  like me who enjoy foods of all kinds.  Today thanks to restaurants  such as Chopstix, Budai, Nio Szechuan and ABC Chinese those secret menus are are available to one and all.  None of these stalwart restaurants will ever question whether or not you’ll like items on the secret menu.  In fact, they’ll be grateful if you order dishes less intrepid diners dismiss and won’t ever consider ordering.

A Display of How Noodles Are Made is Painted on one Wall

Shortly after taking our seats at Tasty Noodles & Dumplings, our server delivered two menus to our table.  The thicker, three-page menu included many of the fruity sweet and sour dishes that seem to define what many Americans consider to be Chinese food:  honey lemon chicken, mango chicken, cola chicken and orange flavored chicken.  Other Chinese dishes invented in the United States (by Chinese cooks, I should add) include General Tso chicken, Kung Pao chicken, broccoli beef, cream cheese wontons and a few salad dishes.  Tasty Noodles & Dumplings does not offer an all-you-can-choke down buffet nor any ten dollar plates that include an egg roll, fried rice, soup and a partridge in a pear tree.  That raised this restaurant in my estimation.

The not-so-secret menu (labeled as “Chef Special”) is especially intriguing.  It features such delicacies as stir-fried kidney, braised yellow croacker, duck blood curd and jalapeño pork belly.  There’s absolutely nothing on the menu I wouldn’t try.   If you’re not so inclined, there are several irresistible options, categorized on the menu as: Shareables, Baos, Dumplings,  Hand-Pulled Noodles,  Rice and Noodles and Entrees.  It’s a menu aficionados of Chinese cuisine will appreciate–even those hung up on terms such as “authentic.”

Making Noodles is an Art

Half of one wall is dedicated to artwork depicting the art of making noodles.  Several menu items feature “Lan Zhou Hand-Pulled Noodles.” Lanzhou beef noodle soup, for example, is named for the city of Lanzhou, home to more than 1,000 beef noodle restaurants.  Lanzhou’s distinct culinary culture is centered around different types of noodles making the city renowned throughout China for its noodles nonpareil.  In China,  chefs who have mastered the art and skill of pulling noodles are held in high esteem, both as culinary and performance artists.  They repeatedly stretch and fold a cylinder of dough then multiply it into progressively thinner strands.

Our visit to Tasty Noodles & Dumplings was greatly enhanced by Kenny, a savvy and enthusiastic server who also doubles as a buffer between the kitchen team and the restaurant’s guests.  Most of the staff can’t speak fluent English so Kenny takes it upon himself to convey what guests like and what they don’t.  He’s quite the ambassador, too.  He urged us to order at least one item from the bao or dumpling menu, pointing out a smallish Chinese woman deftly manipulating dough to form perfectly pinched dumplings and bao.  Kenny also taught my Kim how to say “thank you” in Chinese.  Unlike when I taught my friends “pick-up lines” in Spanish that got their faces slapped, Kim’s appreciation drew smiles.

Soup Dumplings

In a previous post, I shared Wikipedia’s “list of dumplings” which surprised  some of you that by definition, empanadas and ravioli are both a type of dumpling.  So are gnocchi, pierogi and Pop-tarts.  Even Danny DeVito and Barack Obama somehow made Wikipedia’s list, but  Hot Pockets didn’t.  Two questions are obvious: (1) Who the heck curates this list? (2) Did Michelle Obama’s best-selling tome “Becoming” explain if and why she would call her husband “dumpling?”  There is, however, no question that bao are a type of dumpling.

Take a bao, Tasty Noodles & Dumplings!  Since their introduction to the land of e pluribus unum, it seems Americans don’t want to just take one bao.  We want several of them. The great thing is that they’re becoming ubiquitous.  You’ll find them in Japanese restaurants specializing in ramen, in Korean restaurants, on Chinese dim sum menus and even in some Vietnamese restaurants.  As with so many of the world’s culinary gems, the origin of bao is disputed.  Several nations claim to have “invented” them.  Most culinary historians seem to agree bao originated in China.  Some believe they were first made in Taiwan.  Whatever their origin, we can agree they’re special.   If you’ve never had bao, the very first one to try should be the Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), six steamed buns stuffed with pork and broth.   It takes fifteen minutes to prepare these tender gems with a delightful surprise inside.  It takes less than fifteen seconds to declare them absolutely wonderful, especially when soup pours out of the pouch-shaped treasures.  The pork inside may remind you of Italian sausage.  By the way, National Bao Day falls on August 22nd.

Pork Chop Noodles

You probably won’t see steak on the menu of many Chinese restaurants so my Kim’s conciliatory choice is pork chops–again not something frequently seen in Chinese restaurants.  When she espied pork chop noodles on the menu, she didn’t hesitate.  The “chops” were more akin to pork ribs than to the pork chops she loves.  Not a problem.  She loves pork ribs, too.  These ribs are marinated in a sauce that imbues them with deep savory umami characteristics.  Pork sticks to these ribs making gnawing on them a sheer pleasure.  The noodles are served in a heart-warming broth.  Tangles of  noodles absorb the flavor of the beef (though not as much as they might have had my Kim not declined any vegetables).

Tempted as I may have been to order something from the not-so-secret Chinese menu, the lure of curry chicken (chicken cooked with potatoes, carrots, red peppers, green peppers and onions in curry sauce) was just too hard to resist.  Chinese curry tends to be milder than Indian curry and not nearly as sweet as Thai curry.  Thank goodness tendencies are not hard and fast rules.  Tasty Noodles’ curry has a real bite.   The curry is simmered in a fragrant sauce and thickened to a delightful viscosity.  The ratio of chicken to vegetables skews heavily in favor of the vegetables.  Potatoes were conspicuous by their absence.  A side of fried rice (a three-dollar uncharge) was rather nondescript.   This may be the very best Chinese curry I’ve had in years.

Curry Chicken

Tasty Noodles & Dumplings has such a broad and diverse menu that diners of all persuasions will find something to enjoy, including those of us who prefer secret menus.  Tasty Noodles & Dumplings is located on San Pedro just south of Menaul.

Tasty Noodles & Dumplings
2325 San Pedro Drive, N.E., Suite 1E
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 219-3988
Website |
LATEST VISIT: 19 August 2023
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: Curry Chicken, Pork Chop Noodles, Soup Dumplings
REVIEW #1352

One thought on “Tasty Noodles & Dumplings – Albuquerque, New Mexico

  1. Hey Gil,

    I think I found my new favorite Chinese spot. We went there last night and had very good dan dan noodles and pork dumplings. I am looking forward to trying their other hand-pulled noodles. Thanks so much for the review!

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