The noodles from Hangzhou’s Kui Yuan Guan （奎元馆) dates back from the Qing Dynasty in 1867. Their noodles are so good Kui Yuan Guan is also dubbed as “Noodle King of Jiangnan” (江南麵王). If you ask a local Hanzhou folk to suggest a good place to eat, Kui Yuan Guan will definitely be one of them.
Before Kui Yuan Guan became popular, it was operated by a man from Anhui Province. One night, a meager-looking scholaron his way to Beijing for exams came by for dinner. The owner sympathized with him, placed three additional eggs underneath the noodles he ordered, and it’s also a way to wish him good luck for his exams. Later on, the scholar indeed was a top scorer in the exam. He came back to the noodle house to thank the owner and upon the owner’s request, he renamed the place as “Kui Yuan Guan”. Ever since then, the name seemed to have brought good luck and the restaurant became a favorite among the locals.
Kui Yuan Guan’s signature dish is noodles with sauteed eel and river shrimps (RMB 42). The noodles being the soul of the restaurant are evenly textured, lightly chewy, and an amazing part about the noodles is that the texture remains al dente from the first slurp of the noodles to the last slurp. Al dente might be something fairly easy to achieve in dry noodles but in soup noodles it is different. When soup noodles are served right out from the stove, the noodles may taste al dente for the first few minutes or so. But later on, you might find that as you work your way through the noodles, the continuous cooking from the hot soup have turned the noodles soggy. With the unchanging al dente texture in the noodles, no wonder Kui Yuan Guan is dubbed as noodle king!
The eels are prawns are good too. The eel is apparently sauteed three times – first in vegetable oil, then in pork oil and finally in sesame oil. The eel pieces are not the usual unagi type of texture. It is slightly tougher and crumbles easily as you take a bite with all the flavors locked within. The prawns are small but fresh and crunchy. The soup is richly flavored with traces of taste that is consistent with the eel. The soup could have been even better if it was less oily. In Hangzhou, you will find a lot of eel dishes because there was an abundance of eel in the olden days and it was the more economical alternative to prawns and fish.
Gary ordered the seafood noodle that is quite similar to mine. The noodles are the same, the soup is milder topped with four kinds of seafood – prawns, squids, scallops and sea cucumber (RMB 27). I prefer the eel noodle though as it is more savory than the seafood noodles.
The portion is generous as you can see from the size of the bowl – it’s as big as Gary’s face!
The restaurant has a nice ambiance, decorated with Chinese style gold paintings and calligraphy against a contrasting black background. The only thing I thought could have been improved would have been using some glass ware or ceramics to serve the noodles instead of plastic. With the mid-scale decoration I thought those would have been more matching.
Kui Yuan Guan Official Website
Address: 124 Jie Fang Road, Hangzhou
Business Hours: 09:30 – 22:00
Tel: 0571 – 87028626, 87065921