Saaho Village brings a fresh feel to an ancient art of rice noodle making

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Spencer Chan poses for a portrait outside Saaho Village, a restaurant bringing an ancient tradition into the modern era. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Saaho Village, one of the newest eateries in Great Neck Plaza, aims to revive an ancient art of noodle making – but with a modern twist.

Spencer Chan, the founder and manager of Saaho Village, spent about a year and a half mastering the eight-step process for creating Saaho rice noddles, native to a small village in Guangzhou, China. The practice goes back hundreds of years.

It begins with finding the best organic rice grains and rinsing them with spring water.

From there, they are ground into a rich paste, steamed, dried out, treated with oil to make it stick and then cut into strips. The process takes a couple of hours. Today, most rice processing involves powder and machines.

But rather than just stick to simple noodles, Chan said he intends to go beyond that by using an “authentic method” and fusing this traditional practice with Thai and Malaysian food.

Some recipes also infuses kale, broccoli, mushrooms and other flavors into the rice, resulting in different colors, shapes and combinations.

“This is a new theme of the rice noodle,” Chan, who has worked in and managed restaurants in Chinatown for 40 years, said. “We’re a new concept.”

These noodles, coming in three different styles in terms of shape and feel, can be paired up with other items like duck, shrimp or chicken sausage. There are also foods like eel dumplings, crispy wok crepe, poached lamb belly and cubed steak – to name a few things.

Young-Min Jang, who was sitting among the vast outdoor seating, said this was a place she would recommend. She said that it was very clean, modern and in a very nice neighborhood.

“I can see even the small ones like it,” Jang said with a laugh, as her four-year old daughter whiffed up a food sample from a toothpick and finished a drink.

Chan said this was a project almost two years in the making. He said he had experience setting up in Chinatown, but it took time to navigate the array of permits, inspections and mastering the recipes, the restaurant needed to be perfect. “I got a little stuck,” he said with a chuckle.

“This was almost two years coming to fruition here, but he wouldn’t open until he felt he was ready with a product,” said Great Neck Plaza Village Mayor Jean Celender. “So it’s a testament to his what he’s delivering.”

Donna Trappler, the general manager of Great Neck Properties who helped Chan get set up, said she took great interest – and confidence – in his ideas.

“Mr. Chan has great experience and that is what really attracted me the most,” Trappler said. “He has an incredible track record and he’s bringing something very authentic and great to Great Neck.”

While the restaraunt has only just opened, Chan said he hopes this restaurant will serve as the foundation of a larger franchise.

“This is the first one,” Chan said. “We are trying to do a different kind of model.”

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