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La Maison du Nord pork sandwich

So after reading about this sandwich via another thread (Chinatown 2), I had to have it. I had other plans for lunch, but oh well, they cancelled themselves.

The resto is VERY bare bones. The walls look like they were last painted in the 80s. There are wooden racks and crooked plants and not much else, well except for another patron, talking on a walkie talkie (?).. The place is hard to notice, especially since the storefront is narrow, and the south side of their sign is broken. A strong mutton smell hits your face the minute you enter. I am fine with it, but I must warn you it is muttony. There are possible hygiene violations going on, but I don't care about that either. So I order. Service is neither friendly, nor non. My order arrives fast.

The sandwich is confusing. Unlike the description, there is no cilantro in it. Damn, did they forget, or did they think the whitey don't like it? Too late to ask because I am already in my office, stuffing it into my mouth. The pork is fantastic. One might say this is the Chinese equivalent of a pulled pork sandwich. The meat is warmly spiced and adequately fatty; neither too greasy, nor too dry. But it needs something, something like... umm cilantro!

The pancake that wraps the meat is not as good. I think in theory it is promising, but the one I received is undercooked inside, and too doughy. It just sticks into your innards, and not in a good way. But hey, the pork is good and I can see how some cilantro and a better pancake could have elevated it to the new heights of yumminess.

What you get is a giant portion, 5 bucks, tax included. I am definitely going to try again, asking for cilantro specifically.

2130, rue St-Mathieu

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      1. re: emerilcantcook

        "oops. added the addy."
        I'm new to this, Is one not supposed to disclose the address of the place?

    1. Yup, the inconsistency of the fresh coriander leaves in one's pork sandwich is pretty much a... constant. I used to go to Maison du Nord a lot two years ago, and coriander would appear or not. It is in fact a lot greater when you find coriander - and when the bread's thin and crunchy like an Italian pressed panini.

      There are also dumplings on the menu as well as other very exotic things like a glutinous rice with lotus seeds and berries I think (It's eaten as a main dish that you share). The latter is super super heavy on your stomach. It's also good to order one of the "soups", also typical "student food" like corn cream and chicken...

      2 Replies
      1. re: schtroumpf_gourmand

        berries? In an Asian dish, or actually a Chinese dish? I highly doubt it is true -- it's probably red or green bean.

        1. re: Yummylicious

          Could be wolfberries.

          "Dried wolfberries are often added to rice congee, as well as used in Chinese tonic soups, in combination with chicken or pork, vegetables, and other herbs such as wild yam, Astragalus membranaceus, Codonopsis pilosula, and licorice root."
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfberry

      2. I discovered that the handmade Lanzhou noodles (兰州拉面) that were briefly on the menu at Qing Hua Yuan Dumplings have now reappeared at La Maison du Nord. It wasn't on their menu the last time I ate there or even the last time I checked on their door (two weeks ago).

        The man who presumably makes them says that have to eat it really quickly or they'll become soggy! I'll be posting something on my blog pretty soon.

        8 Replies
          1. re: schtroumpf_gourmand

            They look very good. I know what I am having for lunch this Monday :)

            1. re: emerilcantcook

              So Mme Moh and I went there today for lunch, and the noodle guy wasn't in. Just a heads up, Mondays are the day day off for the noodle master according to the server. We also saw the Qing Hua noodle man coming in and getting out. I think he might be the noodlemaker that our server was talking about.

              So we couldn't try the aforemented noodles; but everything else we tried was very good, and very cheap. Inspector Moh promised to write a report soon.

              1. re: emerilcantcook

                Goodness! We went a little crazy ordering, and ended up with a crazy amount of food! Prices are incredibly cheap, and portions are huge. Very high quality to price ratio. This is a great student eats place. I would add this to that $10 or less list.

                We had the following dishes:

                1. Pork sandwich: $5 for a large pork meat sandwich - very good deal.... The sandwich consists of shreds of pork between 2 halves of a thin, crispy crusted bread/pancake. The bread is quite unique. It has a nice crispy bite, but there is also a slightly sticky texture to the rest of the bread, imagine a crusty mochi-like substance. There is almost certainly some glutinous rice flour in the batter. For me, this sandwich is more about the bread than the pork. The pork is very good, but it acts more like a seasoning for the bread than as the main ingredient, a very Asian approach to meat. I agree that some sprigs of fresh coriander might add a nice touch to this sandwich. I personally really liked this sandwich, but if you are expecting a big pork fix, you may be disappointed. I really like the taste and texture of the bread, it is very different than what you usually get in sandwiches.

                2. Crystal noodles: This is listed in the appetizer section. $5, and again, it is huge! The dish consists of broad flat noodles made out of rice flour I believe. They may also be made of some kind of legume starch. They are served with julienned cucumber and slices of some kind of tofu or seitan product, the slices are lightly chewy and add an interesting textural element. The ingredients are served cold in a soy-sauce and vinegar based sauce with a hint of chili. This is a very refreshing noodle salad. You could easily eat this as a light lunch and be quite satiated. $5 for a bowl the size of a large serving of pho... how do they make money on this one? (scratches head in bewilderment)

                3. Pork chive and shrimp dumplings: Half order: $5.50. Full order is 22 dumplings for about $9. These dumplings are delicious! The skin has an excellent texture, the dumplings are aesthetically pleasing, and the filling is wonderful, an elegant blend of pork, chunks of shrimp and fresh chives. These dumplings taste homemade and very fresh. Delicious and crazy cheap. There is black vinegar and soy sauce on the table to make a little dipping sauce, and they can also bring you chili oil to spice it up.

                4. Noodles with stewed pork and vegetables: I apologize, as this is not the exact name on the menu. It is the first offering in the noodle section. The noodles are made on the premises, but when the noodle chef is not in, they use a machine to pull the noodles. The noodles are served in a light flavourful broth, and are garnished with umami-laden stewed potatoes and hunks of fork-tender braised meat, and baby bok choy leaves. The menu says it is pork, but it seemed really beefy to us. An unimportant detail. This noodle dish is simple but filled with home-spun goodness. $6 for a very large bowl.

                We could have fed 4 people with the food we ordered. Total price: $21.50!!! We thought they forgot to add some items to the bill, but no, this was really the price. I was a little giddy when I saw the bill. Very recession friendly. Service was excellent, tea was included in the price, and we both left with enough for another filling meal. This is not a special occasion kind of place, but another home-style classic along the veins of Qing Hua Dumplings. And it appears they share the noodle chef...

                1. re: moh

                  I went to Maison du Nord this week, and got the pork sandwich along with some dumplings and a standard bowl of beef noodles à la Lanzhou.

                  They didn't put coriander leaves in the pork sandwich, but were nice enough to give me a small plate of the stuff when asked.

                  Dumplings were eggs + zucchini + shrimp. It qualifies as meat-less, and it was weird. I prefer to find meat in my Chinese dumplings, but my cousins liked it.

                  Noodles -- they have to be eaten quickly, repeats the presumed noodles master, a tall middle-aged man with short greying hair. Frankly, a bowl of noodles is big enough to cover a normal meal of two people, thus the 8$ price tag.

                  We shared the aforementioned dishes between three people and it was more than enough!

                  1. re: schtroumpf_gourmand

                    Any idea of the current whereabouts of the noodle master? Would love to try them. But this post is from 2009!!

                2. re: emerilcantcook

                  I forgot to add that they did revamp the space a little bit since my last visit. There were pictures on the walls, and the meat fridge that was on the south side of the store was taken somewhere, replaced with tables. The racks were gone too. It looked less chaotic than before, and more eat in friendly, including the super sweet server.

                  1. re: emerilcantcook

                    EmerilCC do you know where the master is these days?

            2. Tried Maison du Nord for dinner yesterday. My only regret is not having tried that pork sandwich sooner! It was crunchy, salty, delicious.

              We ordered "Spicy Noodles" - a big bowl full of handmade magic noodles with small chunks of beef and slivers of cucumber, all swimming in chilli-oil broth. The noodles had a fantastic texture. Also the "Wasabi Salad", though we're not sure why it's called that. It had shredded nappa cabbage, carrot, and clear noodles.

              16 Replies
              1. re: mainsqueeze

                That pork sandwich is yummy! Hubbie is quite enamoured. He normally doesn't make requests for places to eat, he usually goes along with whatever I suggest, but today he requested we go to the "pork sandwich place" for lunch.

                The sandwich was even better than the last time, the pork was more seasoned, and the bread very crispy and crunchy. We tried the pork and cabbage dumplings, they are good, but I think I prefer the pork chive and shrimp dumplings. We also had a fabulous dish called lamb ribs stewed in soya sauce. These are lamb ribs braised in a savoury brown sauce based on soya sauce, it is not spicy, but it is very rich, with a hint of sweetness. The lamb ribs are incredibly tender and have a very strong lamb flavour. This lamb dish is not for everyone, you really have to love the taste of lamb, and you can't mind lamb fat, as they leave on all the fat. But if you love fatty lamb, this dish is a winner. It is one of the pricier dishes ($12), but it was very homey and very delicious.

                They had a dish called "soup with assorted lamb organs". It sounded intriguing, but I didn't get up the courage to order it yet...

                1. re: moh

                  I went today and it's the only day they don't have the magic noodle soup :(

                  I grabbed the pork sandwich to go which was irresistable so I started to eat on the bus and people gave me dirty looks.

                  I asked the girl for cilantro or coriander and she didn't understand. Luckily I had some at home.

                  Do they bake the bread when you order ? I thought I saw uncooked dough (translucent) or is it the fat of the pork ? The paper bag became transparent too.

                  1. re: marblebag

                    I stopped by and had one for lunch the other day. Moh, you understated if anything.

                    They are only a few blocks away from home too!

                    1. re: marblebag

                      Yeah, I think Emerilcantcook mentions that the noodle cook is not there on Mondays in a post above...

                      Re: uncooked dough in the sandwich, I am not sure if that is uncooked dough. I certainly don't taste any raw dough when I eat the sandwich. I had guessed they use some rice flour in the dough, mostly because of that translucent area, glutinous rice flour gets that translucent look when it is steamed/cooked, but that doesn't mean it is raw. I was thinking that the translucent area was some combination of rice four and moistness/fat from the pork.

                      1. re: moh

                        I would tend to think that it was moisture and fat. :) I think the real denomination for such pork sandwich is actually the "Shaanxi pork sandwich", which is what I was told it was when I ate it in China as well. Shaanxi is a central-northern province of China, and they should be traditionally be eating wheat products... Here's a link on Shaanxi sandwiches:

                        http://www.iwalku2.com/2009/03/those-...

                        What I like the most of their pork sandwich (which I had again yesterday) is perhaps the subtle (or not subtle enough) flavour of the bread's yeast.

                        1. re: schtroumpf_gourmand

                          that site with all the pictures of the sandwich made me think of the pork bun at momofuku

                          ohhh gotta go to manhattan soon

                          1. re: schtroumpf_gourmand

                            I will defer to you on this point, you make a very compelling argument about the use of wheat in Northern chinese cuisine! Love the picture.

                            The only reason I suggested the possibility of an element of glutinous rice flour in the bread is because I associate that translucency with suet fat mixed with glutinous rice flour. But I do not know enough about this cuisine to substantiate my hypothesis!

                            1. re: schtroumpf_gourmand

                              I tried it and thought it was like rou jia mo (a popular snack in China). It was OK but the flavour of the filling was not complex. I also thought it needed coriander, or another source of acidity, to break through the fattiness. I would still rather have a guo bao any day of the week.

                              As usual CH tends to over-hype these kinds of places a bit, but have to agree with those who thought Maison du Nord was quite authentic and a great value.

                              1. re: thelonious777

                                Made the trek to try it out today. We ordered two sandwiches. There was quite a bit of wait when one plate arrived. Since it was sliced in 4, we figured it was just 2 sandwiches and ate it. Then another one arrived. One $5 sandwich is certainly satisfying enough for 2 people, I think. We didn't get cilantro or anything else either, and it definitely seemed to be lacking something. The first and second sandwiches were very different too. One was really crusty, one was really soft. One had really dry meat, one had really moist meat. The dumplings definitely seem like a good deal, so I might go back and try that and their soup :)

                                1. re: thelonious777

                                  You're right, it's exactly that, a rou jia mo! I recognize the Chinese characters from the menu now: 肉夹馍.

                                  1. re: schtroumpf_gourmand

                                    I could never read well and after not having tried for 10 years can only remember a few characters. "Rou" is one of them for some reason.

                                    1. re: thelonious777

                                      Yes, when I was in on Friday I asked if it was a Shaanxi jia mo. They said yes, and that most of their noodle dishes are Shaanxi-style, and the dumplings are Beijing style.

                                      Unfortunately, cilantro, coriander leaf, and Chinese parsley all got a blank stare when I asked if they had any when my jia mo arrived without any.

                                      As far as the bread is concerned, it seemed to me like a pan fried (possibly pre-steamed dough?) wheat-flour pancake that had just soaked up lots of pork fat.

                                      http://petercherches.blogspot.com

                              2. re: moh

                                Well, the Qing Hua noodle chef had been training the male owner of la Maison du Nord before he went to China. Now the owner does the noodles, but only after 12:00. I spoke with the wife/owner today and went over the coriander situation with her... suggested posting a picture so we could all point. She also explained that the addition was not traditional... a Chowhound thing I think, but a tasty idea.

                              3. re: marblebag

                                "Coriander" is "xiang cai" in Chinese (pinyin romanization). You may also romanize it as "hsiang tsai". It literally means "flavoury herb".

                                1. re: schtroumpf_gourmand

                                  Do we have to order the coriander (cilantro) in Chinese or will they understand one of the English versions? I really want to make sure my sandwich has it. I am thinking I might just head out there for an early lunch tomorrow.

                          2. I finally tried the pork sandwich today. Although I heard it was a good size portion, I never imagined it was about the diameter of a baby's head! I had to share it with some of the girls at work. In my opinion, the sandwich is just so-so. I love the crunchy outside of the bread, but a would have to agree with marblebag on it being undercooked on the inside. The texture was more sticky than translucent (from fatty pork). The girls liked it more than I did, polishing of 3/4 of my sandwich between them.

                            I also took a full order of pork/shrimp/chive dumplings, which I ate while driving... no easy task. I found the filling, generous and fresh tasting. I especially liked that the filling was not over-processed (like many dumplings), with large chunks of shrimp.

                            I am almost willing to offer to paint the place for them... really.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Andria

                              next montreal chow group activity , paint this store and maybe the new qing hua dumpling place too

                              I am thinking of bringing my own dressing kit for the next sandwich. Lettuce, butter, hot sauce, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro... Maybe Picks can sell us their condiments.