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Aug 22, 2008 04:41 PM

ZJM @ Fortune Cookie (李叔叔快餐) in San Jose

Today I drove to Dalat in San Jose intending to enjoy a light lunch of hu tieu. On the corner of the same block I noticed a fast food “Chinese” place called Fortune Cookie. Somehow that sounded vaguely familiar, and then I remembered the tip from chowhound “tanspace” that the Shandong owner and chefs from Korean-Chinese restaurant, China Way, were now here. Change of plans . . . I may not be in Beijing for the Olympics, but I can enjoy the Shandong-style version of zha jiang mian (ZJM) made here with hand-pulled noodles.

One of the staff was wearing a China Way t-shirt, and the pleasant man in charge confirmed that China Way was his restaurant. Fortune Cookie has a steam table set up and the other customers were choosing eggrolls and General Tso’s chicken for their take-out. The overhead menu though includes hamburgers and a few cooked-to-order dishes such as “noodle in black bean sauce” or zha jiang mian and “combination spicy noodle soup” aka chao ma mian, both $6.50.

Prepared “dry-style” here, the black bean sauce was studded with seared bits of pork, small juicy shrimp, carmelized onions, and zucchini.

The hand-pulled noodles were a darker shade than I’ve seen before and topped with slivers of cucumber.

Initially, I spooned less than half the black sauce onto my noodles because I wanted to taste how concentrated/salty the flavors were first. The owner came over to my table saying, “More sauce, more sauce!” and I did need to use all of it. The noodles were a shade less chewy than ideal, but still good and I liked their silky and dense mouthfeel.

Fortune Cookie is the type of spot that I’d usually avoid like the plague. It just goes to show you that chowish meals can be found in unlikely places.

10 Beijing Dishes: What to eat at the 2008 Olympic Games in China by Fuchsia Dunlop,

Fortune Cookie
414 E William St, San Jose, CA 95112

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  1. I came here a week or 2 ago (also after reading tanspace's tip about it) and had the chao ma mian. Besides the female owner, there was an older man in a China Way shirt trimming green beans, and a middle-age man who appeared from the kitchen soon after I got my soup so I assume was the one who stir-fried my toppings & dished out my soup. I couldn't tell which man the female owner said is her husband. The female owner chatted with me a bit, but I was too shy to ask her much besides confirming the noodles are hand pulled in-house (by her husband), they are the owners of China Way, and they're chinese from korea.

    The chao ma mian was soul-satisfying, the heat about "korean medium" (plenty hot for me) with the familiar back-of-the-throat scratchiness. The handpulled noodles had good Q, even the last bites had some Q (and it took me a while to finish the humungous bowl) . If you look closely at Melanie's noodle pic, you can see the longitudinal "stretch mark" running the length of the noodle. I thought that was cool when I first looked at my noodles.

    The toppings were plentiful, had some wok-hay to them and consisted of tender (tenderized?) beef (lots of beef), a few shrimps, dark meat chicken, carrots, and other things I can't remember. Missing (to me) are smoky whole peppers. The broth was deeply flavored but really you mostly taste the heat. I felt parched afterwards so there was either a good amount of salt or some msg, but it didn't seem like it while I was eating it.

    It's too bad the rest of the menu caters to those who want cheap fast americanized chinese food. The female owner did say her husband will make you anything you wanted, not just what's displayed, but the examples she mentioned were just more of the same americanized chinese basics.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Alice Patis

      Hey Alice, thanks for the report. I had ordered the chao ma mian, then decided that it was too hot in there to eat something that spicy and switched to zjm. I think I might try the shrimp noodle soup here, which looked like it might be the non-spicy version of the CMM. But I will say that in that neighborhood, it was hard to pass up Nha Toi. (g)

      Anyone else out there eating Chinese these days?

    2. Thanks for your report and photos, Melanie; I'm enjoying your Chinese food series. I've never noticed this place before when I visited Dalat or Nha Toi. I hope you make it to Dalat one day to try their "dry" hu tieu...

      Speaking of hu tieu, I was surfing Yelp last night for San Jose Viet restaurants and came across Nam Vang. Their hu tieu looks worth trying.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Carb Lover

        Thank you, all done.

        I'm sure I'd seen this place while circling for parking before, but I suspect that I blocked out the neon signs "Fortune Cookie" and "Fast food" as non-chowish. The restaurant has photos of the chao ma mian taped on the windows, if you get close enough to see them.

        I've been to Nam Vang recently, based on this old post, , but can't figure out the unnamed place. More on HTNV soon, i've tried about 8 versions or so

      2. Yes, usually the protocol with Zha Jiang Mian is to dump the entire bowl of sauce into the noodle bowl and mix them all up. I haven't had their ZJM in ages but last weekend had the chance to try some of their leftover sauce and it was pretty good. Can't wait for the China Way to open back up so I can do a proper sit-down eat-in.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tanspace

          If the sauce here had been as concentrated and intense as some are, that would have been way too much. But I guess one needs to trust the chef to provide the appropriate amount to season the portion of noodles.

          I'm sorry I didn't ask when China Way would open again, since the owner seemed to be willing to chat. I haven't been there before so can't judge what I've missed.

          China Way
          3475 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA

        2. Just wanted to update that the China Way owners no longer own Fortune Cookie, and so Fortune Cookie no longer offers the hand pulled noodles. The new owner of Fortune Cookie did not know where the China Way owners or chef went.

          Edited to add: It seems (according to a Yelp post) that China Way has reopened at their original Santa Clara location.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Alice Patis

            Thanks for the update. That's good news that the China Way folks are home again, will have to check it out.