In a city where it’s common to spend upwards of $25 on a plate of handmade Italian pasta, eating at MDM Noodles in Brighton Center, opened in March, feels like thievery.
But this is not delicate, thinly pressed pasta. Nearly a yard long, thick, chewy, and hand-pulled, these Chinese noodles should be tried first in their purest form, in a bowl with spicy hot oil ($6.50). Despite the name, and the slick of bright red oil, the noodles are not particularly spicy, just kissed with the flavor of roasted chile and garlic. On another visit we ask for extra spicy and these have more kick (though still far from mouth-searing). They also have a fuller flavor.
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To round out your meal get a savory pickled tea egg ($1.25) for a great starter. Or try a few barbecued lamb kebabs ($1.50 each). We ask for these extra spicy and they arrive coated in a taste-bud tingling blend of crushed chiles and cumin.
MDM (it’s an acronym for mian dui mian; a rough translation is noodles to noodles) is in the old Smoken’ Joe’s location in Brighton Center. Owner Anna Ruan has run Nanning Wok in South Boston for 20 years; at MDM she has a new business partner, Sam Ho.
Spicy boiled lamb and hand-pulled noodles in one bowl ($9) is incredibly satisfying, with more of that cumin-chile seasoning, along with sprouts and greens. For a straight hit of umami, try the spicy cumin lamb burger ($4.75), in which the shredded meat is stuffed into a dense roll, which to be honest, is a waste of valuable carb-space in this noodle haven.
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Budget-friendly fare around Boston
You cannot visit without trying the mala soup ($5 for vegetable, $7 for beef, lamb, or seafood). Mala is a specific taste in Sichuan cuisine, which means “numbing hot,” and is created by the combination of dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. In this dish (and all the other mala dishes) we miss the electrical jolt of the peppercorns, which seem to be used sparingly. But the dish isn’t short on flavor, with an addictively spicy broth, tender pieces of beef, tofu skins, beans sprouts, bok choy, and seaweed, with a tangle of clear gelatinous noodles. It will keep early summer hay fever at bay, at least while you’re here.
A similarly savory broth appears in spicy chicken for two ($20), a large wooden bowl of cleaver-chopped bone-in, skin-on chicken, tossed with potatoes and topped with cilantro. Though the roasted potatoes do a fine job of soaking up the flavorful broth at the bottom of the bowl, be sure to ask for soup spoons to slurp up the rest. Be warned, this is not a dish for the squeamish; it requires chomping around splintered bones and somewhat rubbery chicken skin. The chicken itself is greatly improved with a drizzle of the house chile oil on every table; it’s really a magical elixir, improving the flavor of everything it touches.
Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe
Spicy boiled lamb hand-pulled noodles.
We ask Ruan about the curious display case of meat and vegetables at the front of the store. She tells us the restaurant will cook any combination of meat or seafood ($10 per pound) or vegetables ($8 per pound), in a special house mala sauce, served with rice. We let out a collective sigh and start plotting a return to Brighton to satisfy the next inevitable spicy Sichuan craving. Clear sinuses, full bellies (and wallets). Can’t lose.
351 Washington St., Brighton Center,
617-208-8663, www.mdmnoodle.com. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.
Prices Appetizers $1.25-$5.50. Entrees $4.75-$9.50. Dishes for two $20, for four $35, for six $50. Mala
stir-fry $8-$10 a pound.
Hours Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
What to order BBQ lamb kebab, beef mala soup, spicy oil hand-pulled noodles, boiled lamb hand-pulled noodles.
Catherine Smart can be reached at [email protected]