Authentic Asian Cuisine in Louisville

DSC_1578Yang Kee Noodle, a beloved Louisville Asian stir-fry eatery, first opened in 2003 with its first location at Oxmoor Center. “At the time, the best real estate available was at the mall. Everyone went there, so we got exposure to the whole market,” relates Dan Huckestein, operating partner at Yang Kee Noodle. Having traveled to more cosmopolitan areas like Chicago and cities in New York and California, Huckestein had the benefit of experiencing what some of the best noodle shops in the country were doing: “These noodle houses were based on what you see throughout Asia, and I thought that we don’t have anything like this in Louisville. When we opened at Oxmoor, we were probably a little ahead of the curve, but I just said, ‘Let’s make our own concept and combine the best ideas from all these different cities.’”

With an incipient idea firmly in place, Huckestein traveled to Asia – to places like Thailand and Vietnam – in order to get a feel for the authentic cuisine he wanted to bring to Louisville. When he returned, he knew there was only one person who could capture that taste. “I got Chef Castro from Sullivan. He’s a professor there; he’s been a professor for about 25 years. He is, of course, Filipino by descent, but he also spent a lot of time in Asia, specifically in Taipei, and traveled a lot throughout China.”

Together, Huckestein and Castro developed the menu and the recipes from scratch, modeling their concept from the noodles houses they saw on their respective travels. Slowly, they tailored their vision to also include what a more local palate might expect or want, but they’ve never sacrificed authenticity.  “We use very authentic, ethnic ingredients,” affirms Huckestein. “We have our gochujang, which is an authentic Korean red bean and chili paste, and there are other things that are a fusion of things across Asia. ‘Ancient flavors, fresh ideas.’ That’s our slogan and we try to stay true to that. A lot of these flavors are rooted in the way they’ve been doing things for thousands of years. We try to present them in an authentic way. We’ve never Americanized the flavor.”

And that flavor does not disappoint. When I visited the new Highlands location, I had the opportunity to sample and savor several items such as lettuce wraps with ground seasoned chicken and coconut, lime and ginger seasoning; spring rolls of pork and veggie varieties; traditional crab rangoon; chicken and pork potstickers; Highland Green Curry, a spicy curry dish with Thai burnt chili, kaffir lime leaves and galangal; the Farmer’s Bowl with oolong noodles and a golden ginger sauce; spicy Thai basil beef, a dish with rice noodles, chili oyster sauce, fresh Thai basil, tomatoes, onions and bean sprouts; and Chop Chop noodles, a Yang Kee Noodle staple that features chicken, shrimp, napa cabbage, mushrooms, bell peppers and snow peas.

It was nearly overwhelming to taste so many exotic dishes at once, but it was impossible to dismiss the quality. Everything tasted fresh, and while nothing came across as completely foreign to my palate, I still felt like I had never eaten anything quite like these dishes before. If anything, it made me more adventurous, which is something that Huckestein counts on. “Some of these things, like spicy Thai basil or Green Curry, are very bold flavors and can be a little intimidating to someone who isn’t an aficionado of this kind of food,” he asserts. “We have some basic things to bring people in to try us for the first time, and they sort of graduate to the next level with these bolder flavors. A lot of the regulars go on to the third tier where they make their own stir-frys.”

For over a decade, Yang Kee Noodle was delivering polished excellence just at their original Oxmoor Center location. They opened in Middletown last year and most recently in The Highlands, but Huckestein says that his priority will always be delivering authentic pan-Asian cuisine that is of quality and can fit in the budget of the average consumer: “Right now, we want to keep doing what we’re doing: being consistent across all three stores, developing new ideas, making sure our menu never gets tired and staying ahead of the curve.” With spot-on taste and value like this, a menu that can fit any dietary restrictions and nearly unparalleled poise, Yang Kee Noodle’s newest location more than fulfills that mission. VT

Yang Kee Noodle’s new Highlands location is situated at 1004 Bardstown Road. They are open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit
yangkeenoodle.com or call 502.791.9600.