MORRIS COUNTY — The ongoing quest for the next great Parsippany dining experience continued as my foodie friends and I ventured out to Shan Shan Noodles. I had been to Shan Shan Noodles before, and I loved it, but it has been closed for indoor dining for most of the last two years because of the pandemic, so when I found out that the restaurant had resumed indoor dining a couple of months ago, I was anxious for a return visit.
Shan Shan Noodles, which opened in 2014, is another one of those nondescript, unassuming, humble-looking little storefront eateries, located in the small Pacific Pavilion strip mall, right off Route 46 East and Edwards Road. I have learned long ago that these simple, unpretentious, little locations can truly reveal one of those “hidden gems” people talk about. Shan Shan Noodles is one of those gems.
The moment we entered the restaurant we were immediately and warmly welcomed by our hostess, Lili Lu, mother of owner Shan Lu. The personable, enthusiastic, and genial persona of Ms. Lu immediately made one feel comfortable and at home. Our group was immediately seated, like menus, water, tea, and chopsticks arrived (and for a couple of our group, forks were requested). Shan Lu also made it a point to come over to welcome us to her restaurant; you knew we were in for a pleasant dining experience.
I should mention that Shan Shan Noodles is a family-owned and operated business that specializes in the authentic food of Northwestern China, specifically the Xinjiang Province, where Shan and her mother, Lili, were born. The food prepared and served at Shan Shan reflects that region of China and is unique due to the various cultural influences that together make Shan Shan’s food so special.
Shan Shan is a comfortable, homey, exceptionally clean, and organized eatery. Though the dining room is small, with seven, four-person booths along both the sidewalls and five or six glass-covered, wood-grained tables thoughtfully placed around the room, one gets the feeling that it is more spacious. I did notice immediately that the interior had been renovated since 2019, and now offers diners a more modern, bright, and sleek appearance. The attractive Chinese-themed mural still covers one wall, and diners can still enjoy Chef Kegong Zhang (AKA John) pulling, stretching, and flapping freshly made noodles through a large window. That show alone is worth the visit, and you can see that the Chef enjoys what he is doing. Chef Zhang explained to me that he makes a variety of different shaped hand-pulled noodles that can vary in thickness to accommodate the variety of dishes served at the restaurant. The noodles range from “Skinny”, “Angel’s Hair”, “Regular”, “Second Skinny (Woodon)”, “Flat”, and “Belt” (AKA Biangbiang noodles); and each type of noodle marries perfectly with the accompanying dish.
The rest of the interior is simple, with a casual, relaxing vibe, with two wall TVs (on quiet), and soft mood music playing in the background. Reminds me of a Chinese restaurant I used to visit on Mott Street in New York City, and that is a compliment.
Shan Shan’s menu is not too extensive as Shan Lu prefers to concentrate on quality food, service, and keeping her customers happy. Though the menu might be considered limited by some, each dish seems more tempting than the next, and it was nice of both Shan and Lili Lu to walk us through the assorted items, and on our request offer some helpful recommendations. The menu does offer appetizers, Chef Specials, sauteed noodles and dishes, fried rice, cold plates, and hand-pulled noodle soup.
After some fun conversation and bantering with our hosts, we finally decided to begin our meal with a selection of shared appetizers. We went with the Beef Pancake, Spicy Wonton, Scallion Pancake, and Pot Stickers. Both the beef and scallion pancakes were freshly and perfectly cooked to a golden brown; savory, light, chewy crepes that were nicely enhanced with the sauces that they were served with. Chinese pancakes are one of the quintessential popular snack foods found throughout China.
The Pot Stickers, basically Chinese dumplings; lightly browned, golden crispy, folded, and pleated bundles looked as good as they tasted. Wonderful taste sensation as they melted in your mouth. They came eight to a serving, which is a lot of stickers. Our final appetizer was the Spicy Wonton. Wonton’s, another type of dumpling, sits in an oil-based hot sauce, well rounded with the flavorings developed from a myriad of herbs and spices. A sophisticated, flavorful broth that I was not ashamed to slurp down to the last drop.
For an entrée I ordered the Shredded Pork with Hot Pepper over Hand-Pulled Noodle, others in the group chose the Black Bean Sauce over Hand-Pulled Noodle, (Ground pork, with black bean sauce), Cold Hand-Pulled Noodle with Hot and Spicy Chicken, Seafood with Fried Hand-Pulled Noodle, (Shrimp, fish ball, imitation crab meat), and the Pork with Fried Hand-Pulled Noodle. My dish of shredded spicy pork paired perfectly with the homemade hand-pulled noodles. A visually beautiful dish filled with tender pork, fresh ingredients and seasoned perfectly. This delectable dish had a nice mouthfeel to it, was not overly spicy hot, and the fusion of textures, spices, and flavors, along with the luscious, freshly made springy and satisfying noodles made for a memorable meal. A wonderful fusion of meat, noodles, and broth; I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Part of what makes eating this cuisine fun is that is comes with a pair of scissors so you can cut your very lengthy noodles to a manageable size. While I prefer to cut my own noodles while I devour my meal, others didn’t mind letting Lili Lu guide them on how to master this eating technique. There’s also chili oil and black vinegar on the table should you want to enhance the flavors of your meal. Personally, I didn’t need it. This dish also went well with my Beijing-based Yanjing beer, which I brought along as Shan Shan is BYOB.
The consensus of the group was that everyone thoroughly enjoyed their individual meals and that Shan Shan Noodles was definitely a standout, and a location to add to our “must return” list.
We ended this culinary feast with a variety of Asian desserts from Shan Shan Noodles’ own bakery, Sweet Sensations, which is a separate store located just a few doors down from the restaurant and which specializes in cakes, desserts, bubble teas, and more. The desserts we tried were very light, fluffy, not overly sweet, and very fresh. I found out that this style of Asian dessert, from the Xinjiang Province in Northwestern China, only uses fresh whipped cream (no buttercream) and is very health-conscious, diabetic-friendly, and unlike the heavy sweetness that is usually found in desserts here in America.
Naturally, this led to a tour of Sweet Shansations by Shan Lu. Sparkling clean, attractive bakery with an interesting selection of tantalizing Asian baked goods. All those in my group enjoyed the education they received on the unfamiliar items and based on how delicious our desserts were everyone walked out with a bag full of tasty treats to take home with them. They also offer a choice of special occasion cakes if that is your interest. If you have not yet tried authentic Asian desserts, I would strongly suggest giving Sweet Shansations a try.
Shan Shan Noodles is a true culinary treasure right here in Parsippany. Delicious cuisine, very reasonable prices, generous portions, wonderful family atmosphere, professional service, and a family that truly cares about their customers. Shan Shan Noodles is not one of your familiar run-of-the-mill Chinese eateries. Next time you are seeking out a different type of Chinese restaurant, do yourself a favor and give Shan Shan a try, and while you are at it, stop in at Sweet Shansations for dessert.
Shan Shan Noodles is located at 333 Route 46 East, Parsippany. (973) 287-7399. Click here for the website. BYOB – No Reservations. Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Closed Mondays. Parking Lot.