Ode: Duck Noodle Wonton Soup from Zoe Ma Ma
You know how sometimes you forget what day it is, but then you remember and it reminds you of something else and that makes you really happy?
That’s how I am every time I’m downtown on a Friday or Saturday afternoon and realize it’s Duck Noodle Wonton Soup Day at Zoe Ma Ma. My stomach growls, my nostrils flare, and my lips draw back in an expectant smile. Oh, hell yeah.
Chef Edwin Zoe — a James Beard Award semifinalist — named the restaurant for his mother (“Ma Ma” being the requisite Chinese honorific for respected women), and if you’re lucky, you’ll find her behind the counter taking your order or milling about in the kitchen. It makes the dining experience in the walk-up Union Station stalwart feel intimate and authentic.
Because you can only get the delectable duck soup on a Friday or Saturday, timing is crucial.
And soooo worth it.
The broth is rich with just the right amount of oleaginous mouthfeel, and tastes even better after a splash or two of chili oil for extra heat (and maybe drizzle in one of the salty sauces to up the umami). And then you dig into the homemade noodles, slurping them up with a bite of crispy duck, or chopstick a wonton into your mouth hole and — oh shit — you hold your lips open and breathe around it because it’s so fucking hot — and then you can finally bite into the savory pillow, taking a sip of cold water before you do permanent damage to the roof of your mouth.
But it doesn’t matter how hot the soup and wontons are, because all you want to do is spoon it all into your gullet — on an icy winter’s day or a clear and hot summer afternoon. Every sip, every bite a little moment of deep satisfaction.
You wipe the beads of sweat from that space under your nose and above your upper lip and go in for more, maybe using your chopsticks to fill the little plastic Asian soup spoon with noodles and meat, blowing on it for a sec and guzzling it down.
It’s all so salty and fatty and plush and comforting.
Woe to the moment when you’re thinking it’s Saturday as you hustle through Union Station, only to realize it’s a Sunday afternoon. No duck soup for you.