At their NYC restaurants and joint pop-up, Shy*Boyz Club, chefs (and friends) Eric Sze of 886 and Lucas Sin of Junzi Kitchen cook as a way to explore Chinese food’s past, present, and future and to celebrate the cuisine’s diversity. “China has thousands of years of history, 50-something ethnic minorities, and one of the largest diasporas in the world,” Sin says. “‘Chinese food’ could mean anything.” Case in point: beef noodle soup, which varies in most every detail depending on who makes it.

Photo by Emma Fishman, Illustration by Naomi Otsu

The Clear Choice
“Clear brisket broth is near and dear to my heart; I ate it at least once a week as a kid in Hong Kong. I’m a huge proponent of how subtle and elegant it is. My approach is in line with the style from Chaozhou, a city north of Hong Kong.”

Rice Noodles Get It Done
“I use rice noodles—they aren’t extruded or pulled; they’re cut, which means that the surface is very slippery. The Chinese word for it is hua, which is often translated as ‘slippery’ or ‘silky.’ They’re really, really good for slurping, especially when you’re slurping at high speeds.”

Dig That Daikon
“In Hong Kong daikon is the traditional vegetable. It’s braised, and the sweetness of the daikon lends itself to the sweetness of the broth. It doesn’t need sugar or soy sauce or anything to let it shine.”

Short Rib, Big Deal
“In the U.S., we often think of brisket as one cut, but in Hong Kong, there are at least three, the best of which is called hang lam, which is basically boneless English short rib. It becomes fall-apart tender.”

Photo by Emma Fishman, Illustration by Naomi Otsu

Rich Broth Is Boss
“I boil beef femur and shinbones, oxtail, and beef neck and add chicken bones for extra flavor, then add apple, celery, and an absurd amount of tomatoes. I toast spices like cinnamon and angelica root, and caramelize doubanjiang. Plus soy sauce for savory notes. If I had to trash-talk, I’d say Lucas’s Cantonese broth is very vanilla as opposed to flavorfully rich.”

Wheat Wins
“I use wheat noodles because of the large number of Shandonese and Shanghainese immigrants who migrated to Taiwan after the Chinese civil war. That was their preference, and modern Taiwanese cooks obviously inherited their preference. Some things you just don’t mess with.”

Greens With a Kick
“I stir-fry preserved mustard greens, a traditional Hakka condiment, in garlic, chile, and sugar. It’s a brief but necessary break before you dive back in for more soup.”

Give Shanks
“At my first restaurant I used short ribs—it was a real show-offy dish. But as I got more homesick, I wanted to go more traditional. In Taiwan farmers would plow the fields while beef shanks simmered in broth at home. When they came back it was tender.”