Uncle Zhou first opened its doors in Queens about ten years ago. There, Chef Steven Zhou’s hand-pulled noodles, baked fish in sweet and sour sauce and signature dial oil, earning it a place in Michelin’s Bib Gourmand guide.
“In Henan, wheat noodles are the foundation of many meals even in the hottest weather,” wrote a New York Times food critic in 2011. “… These noodles, tempered with tomato and egg, wood-ear mushrooms, julienned cucumber and a touch of peanut sauce, are refreshing, even enlightening.”
Then, a year ago, right before the COVID-19 pandemic, Uncle Zhou quietly opened up in Plano, near the Frisco border. Uncle Zhou specializes in food from the central Chinese province of Henan. Henan, which translates to “south of the river,” is often known as the heart of the Chinese civilization, where more than 20 dynasties established their capitals.
Uncle Zhou is small, with lanterns hanging from the ceiling, red and gold accents, and homemade chili oil on every table. Their New York accolades are framed and hang over the register. Above the door is the logo, a bright yellow circle with crimson letter, reminiscent of the old New York location.
The Uncle Zhou wait staff won’t steer you wrong. They might recommend the handmade fried dumplings. Each has lacy, crisp edges from the fryer, and juicy insides. You can mix up your own dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oil from the table. Every bite is a revelation of Henan flavor.
Likely, Steven Zhou will be right there, in the kitchen, supervision and slicing noodles as always. He’ll tell you himself that the name “dial” oil noodles are mistranslated. But it’s a decade too late to change the name of one of Uncle Zhou’s most iconic dishes. It became too well-known in New York, ordered and loved by anyone who enjoys the simple art of thick and silky hand-pulled noodles, sliced into long strands that fold softly into a bowl with baby bok choy. Every bite is full of savory garlic flavor, bold, but as light a touch as sunshine.
Additionally, Dragon Eggplant features dual curls of scalloped eggplant, fried in sweet and sour sauce. Henan claims to be the home of the original iteration of sweet and sour sauce, or at least a similar marriage of vinegar and sugar. On Uncle Zhou’s dragon eggplant, which is a stunning dish with a rich fragrance, sweet and sour sauce caramelizes on each piece of lightly fried eggplant.
But one of Uncle Zhou’s most stunning dishes features a whole fried fish, Henan style. It glistens in a pool of rich mushroom and pepper sauce. Henan food is variable and thrilling, known for utilizing all five flavors in harmony. With every flaky bite, these flavors sing.
There are many Chinese restaurants in the DFW metroplex, particularly in Plano, where Uncle Zhou made its new home. Plano has numbing spice of dan dan noodles, a whole universe of dim sum, and noodles tossed in oils, broths, and sauce. But through these doors, under that yellow sign, there’s something special.
Uncle Zhou: Know Before You Go
The best way to enjoy Uncle Zhou’s Henan menu is to visit or order with a group. Get a pot of green tea for the table, and also be prepared to share everything.
Uncle Zhou in Plano has a robust take-out operation in addition to socially distant restaurant seating.
Finally, the lunch specials are available Monday – Thursday.
- Monday – Saturday | 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
- Sunday | Closed
Where: 8200 Preston Rd., Plano