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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

New Sichuan Noodle Star

New Chong Qing destroys the competition, says ipsedixit. It's better—and at $4 a bowl, cheaper—than its competitors. What are we competing in? Dan dan mein: Sichuan-style, spicy, sour, nutty noodles.

All of the famous Sichuan cold noodle places in San Gabriel are enjoyable, says JThur01, but New Chong Qing gets the edge for both flavor and value. The noodles themselves are spectacular, and the sauce is a red-pepper-infused slow burn.

Aside from the dan dan mein, the place makes fabulous kung pao chicken, says ipsedixit. The stir-fried lamb and seasonal vegetables are also choice, says CulverJack. But be aware that the "spicy and sour noodles" on the menu is an entirely different dish than the dan dan mein. It's still great, though.

New Chong Qing [San Gabriel Valley]
120 N. San Gabriel Boulevard, San Gabriel

Discuss: If you're look for the best Sichuan Spicy Noodle (or Dan Dan Mien) ...

How to Eat Less Meat

How to Eat Less Meat

Tips on de-meatifying your favorite dishes. READ MORE

Xian Street Chow Comes to Chinatown

In Chinatown, the landscape is shifting. Two-week-old Xian Famous Foods brings street bites from north-central China to a neighborhood dominated by Cantonese and Fujianese food.

Chowhounds know these dishes from Xian's original locations in the food courts of Flushing. A signature favorite, there and here, is the cumin-scented "lamb burger," a bit of hearty meat stew tucked into a griddled wheat bun. "It was spicy with intense robust cumin flavor, wonderful," sighs stuartlafonda. "It left that nice low level spreading warmth in the mouth."

The same lamb is paired with noodles, rolled and pulled to order, which Westminstress finds "awesome with the perfect amount of springiness." The Tiger Vegetable Salad, a bracing mix of cilantro, scallions, and other greens spiked with green chile, is "strangely addictive," she adds. Another specialty, cold liang pi noodles and wheat gluten, tossed with a lively mix of chile, cilantro, and vinegar, "sang with flavor," CalJack reports.

The address is 88 E. Broadway, but don't look for Xian Famous Foods inside the shopping center at that address. Instead head around the corner to the Forsyth Street side. And don't expect to eat there; there's a tiny counter, but this is mainly a takeout shop.

Xian Famous Foods [Chinatown]
88 E. Broadway (entrance on Forsyth Street), Manhattan

Discuss: Xi'an Famous Foods Opens Up Chinatown Branch A Week From Saturday
Flushing Mall vs Golden Mall?
Couldn't find Xian Foods 88 East Broadway Today

Free Pizza, Better Than It Has to Be

They're giving away pizza all over town these days, and mostly you get what you pay for. Enoteca on Court sounds like an exception. At this wine bar, spun off last year by the owners of Marco Polo next door, a $5 pint comes with a free five-inch margherita that Puppimus finds "phenomenal."

Pizza is just part of the parade of happy-hour freebies at Piola in the Village. "I ordered a Bombay Sapphire martini," small h reports. "They countered with pizza, bruschetta, guacamole and chips, curried chicken and rice (not my thing, but it looked fine), olives, fresh mozzarella and tomato, and spinach on pita. I ate, they replenished." This is one of a slew of budget deals offered around New York, small h notes. "It's not the awesome-est food experience you'll ever have, but Piola is providing a valuable service."

Enoteca on Court [Carroll Gardens]
347 Court Street (at Union Street), Brooklyn

Piola [Greenwich Village]
48 E. 12th Street (near Broadway), Manhattan

Discuss: Enoteca on Court St

Welcome Winter Warmers

With the wind chill plunging into the single digits, a glass of Pinot Grigio just isn't going to do it. So how about a hot toddy? Yaqo Homo likes the one at Prune, which packs extra heat in the form of cayenne. "Very sweet, but big-flavored, lemon-y, comforting, with a nice kick," he writes. "And they serve them in Ball canning jars. How cute."

Also good, if not so cute, is the hot toddy at cocktail specialist Little Branch, kathryn says. efdee recommends the versions at Tavern on Jane and Waterfront Ale House.

Winter inspires seasonal mixology all over town, kathryn notes. Some of her favorite warming quaffs include eggnog at Momofuku Ssam Bar and Maialino; spiked apple cider at Fanelli Café, L'Artusi, and Little Branch; spiked hot chocolate at tequila hot spot Mayahuel; and the Tom and Jerry at Bar Henry and Pegu Club.

Prune [East Village]
54 E. First Street (between First and Second avenues), Manhattan

Little Branch [West Village]
22 Seventh Avenue S. (at Leroy Street), Manhattan

Tavern on Jane [West Village]
31 Eighth Avenue (at Jane Street), Manhattan

Waterfront Ale House [Brooklyn Heights]
155 Atlantic Avenue (near Clinton Street), Brooklyn

Momofuku Ssam Bar [East Village]
207 Second Avenue (at E. 13th Street), Manhattan

Maialino [Gramercy]
2 Lexington Avenue (near E. 21st Street), Manhattan

Fanelli Café [SoHo]
94 Prince Street (at Mercer Street), Manhattan

L'Artusi [West Village]
228 W. 10th Street (near Bleecker Street), Manhattan

Mayahuel [East Village]
304 E. Sixth Street (near Second Avenue), Manhattan

Bar Henry [Greenwich Village]
90 W. Houston Street (at LaGuardia Place), Manhattan

Pegu Club [SoHo]
77 W. Houston Street (near West Broadway), Manhattan

Discuss: Hot winter beverages?

Overheard on the New York Boards

"Dad said 'let me have a large garbage pie.' When we got home and opened the box it was the best smelling pizza and holy crap, it was the best tasting ever. A garbage pie back then just meant a pie with onions, peppers, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and meatballs. It doesn't get any better than that!!!" - joefromnj

"Duck fat is the gift that keeps on giving. I have some in my fridge that is at least three years old." - MMRuth

"Yearrrs ago.... when I wuz young: I still remember one nite when some friends and I found ourselves in Pete's Tavern when it started to snow. We were there til the wee hours and came out and danced down the middle of Third Avenue leaving our footprints." - Gelaine

San Francisco 2009 Top Ten Roundup

1. Sourdough on the Endangered List
2. Cambodian Barbecue, Doughnuts on the Side
3. Cube-Shaped Blood Lust
4. Ice Cream on the Edge
5. Chinese Menu Pitfalls
6. Perfect Porchetta
7. The Foods Hounds Fight For
8. Bring a French Chef Into Your Home
9. Handmade Tortillas Make Tacos Like Dumplings
10. Chef's Choice: Barbecue

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"They're bringing in their own olive oil and mulberry vinegar... amazing stuff, didn't taste like vinegar, more like yogurt."
- Robert Lauriston

"They offer the most generous panchan spread I've ever seen (18 or more of the complimentary little dishes at dinner time; a few less at lunch)." - abstractpoet

"It was good but didn't knock my Christmas sock off the fireplace. On the good side, there was no taste of duck." - rworange

Home Cooking 2009 Top 10 Roundup

1. No-Fuss Polenta
2. Pasta and Sauce in Perfect Harmony
3. Sunny Side Up Perfection
4. Crack-Like Kale
5. Magic Flavor-Enhancing Cheese Rinds
6. Salty Secret to Creamy, Tender Beans
7. Positively Degenerate Flourless Chocolate Cake
8. Is That Oil Hot Enough to Fry In?
9. Pimento Cheese 101
10. Instant Ice Cream, No Ice-Cream Maker Required

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"I also tried this for Christmas. It yielded a wonderfully juicy, evenly cooked and tender roast with a nice crust." - AndrewK512

"Monkey bread is popular in my house - cut into small pieces, roll in butter, cinnamon and sugar, and heap the balls into a cake pan. Bake, and serve by turning out of the pan - everyone just pulls pieces off to eat..." - jeanmarieok

"My mom had an Xmas Eve fondue tradition--only every year it was a new recipe that bombed in a new way (the year that my 2-year-old nephew nearly got drunk on Kirsch-laden fondue was particularly special!). We carry on the tradition as well, but with what I hope is better fondue!" - mebby