Noodles, chilli, garlic and sesame paste. A simple set of ingredients from northern China that makes us eternally happy. Choo Choo Train specialises in two simple dishes: either cold noodles and sponge gluten covered in a sesame seed sauce and a dollop of chilli paste, or bowls of hot noodles and mystery additions in a mala tang (spicy soup).
The store is narrow, with just a few seats and a short counter to eat at. All of the dishes are served in take away containers regardless of whether you eat in or take away.
Signature hand made cold noodle, $4.50 and 50c extra if you want more sponge gluten. While it sounds like something dredged up from the bottom of the sea, sponge (or wheat) gluten is a bouncy, indeed spongey, square piece of food that soaks up all the sesame sauce and chilli and is ideal as a carrier straight through to your gob. It's like extreme wheat, taken down to it's glutinous essence.
Don't forget the noodles here. Flat wheat noodles are a dense and chewy, coated with the sesame and chilli mix.
Rather than the 'Choose your own' option we go for two ready picked assortments for the hot bowls. First up is the Perfect Bowl ($11.50). The pieces of fish cake, crab meat tempura and fish tofu are well up in the fish flavour stakes. Black fungus mushrooms, cabbage and greens round out the vegetables.
Next is the intriguingly named Whatever Bowl ($9.90) with a sweet potato noodle option. The same fishy balls of goodness are in here, we really loved the pieces with a little bit of fish roe in them. It seems to be mostly the same as the other, with just a few less pieces.
The sweet potato noodles are flat but clear, they are slippery to pick up and require some careful handling to make them into your mouth without intense splattering.
Choo Choo train menu - click to enlarge.
Choo Choo train menu - click to enlarge. The range of ingredients for the choose-your-own soup is wide. You can also add extras to the pre-made lists.
Not just free wifi - there's an Apple charger awaiting every dine-in customer, this place is clearly Android-ist.
Choo Choo Train is at 277a Liverpool Road, Ashfield. Ph: 8541 1268