Monday, January 23, 2012

Gung Hay Fat Choy

One of the most fun meals of my adult life was Chinese New Year ten years ago (it was in February that year). My friend Zach's grandmother took her whole family out for dinner and I was invited along. (I don't remember the name of the restaurant, just that the food was fantastic and I was the only white person in the massive room.)

Since today is Chinese New Year, I thought I would give you a rundown of some Chinese meals I have eaten lately. None of them are as authentic as that New Year's dinner was a decade ago, but most of these were good.

Golden China
Do I write about Golden China too much? Perhaps. Especially considering I don't think the food is really anything special. But it's half a mile away, they are always friendly and fast, and the lunch specials cannot be beat. (Lots of places in town offer similar specials, but at Golden China I like all of the components: the soup, rice, salad and spring roll. I can't say that for anyplace else.)

Not long ago I was out for a walk and decided to get a haircut at Supercuts in the same shopping center as Golden China. I didn't think it was supposed to rain until much later in the day, but as I sat in the barber's chair it started pouring. Oh well, I thought when I was done with my haircut, I'll duck into Golden China and get lunch and hopefully the rain will pass. (It didn't.)

The pot of tea was set down before I took my seat.

Nothing you haven't seen here before many times, right?

On this occasion I got the shredded pork in garlic sauce. If I ranked all the entrees I have had at Golden China, this would fall almost exactly in the middle. I won't be getting it again, but I had no complaints.

Especially when I got the bill. $6.80 for all that food. And a place to sit and stay dry.

China Express
China Express offers massive to-go containers of food for about the same price as Golden China. Their soup is good but their rice is not, and the spring rolls and fried wontons can either be great or terrible. On the above trip I got the orange chicken. I was not a fan. The orange sauce was too bitter and the chicken was too tough.

On another trip to China Express, however, I order the Hot Szechwan Chicken. This was much better: tender chicken in a spicy sauce. I would get this again.

Pickup Stix
It seems weird to say that there was a time when I was infatuated with Pickup Stix. I mean, the nearest one to me was an hour round-trip but I would go at least once a week. These days? I might make it there once a year. Sure, I still think it's much better than Panda Express - although that's not saying much - but I realize now that it's really not that good most of the time. And, of the more than one dozen Pickup Stix locations I have been to, the Alhambra unit is unquestionably my least favorite. The proteins always come out much too oily.

This occasion was no different. I ordered the House Special Chicken. The flavors were nice - a caramelized sauce of wine, soy and green onion. But the rubbery chicken killed the dish for me. 

The single spring roll that came with my lunch combo was good, though.

Ralph's Asian-Inspired Family Favorites
Well, why not, right? Ralph's had this General Tsao's tempura chicken on sale and I decided to give it a try. I cooked the chicken in the oven for about twenty-five minutes and tossed it with the packet of sauce, then placed it on a plate with rice and broccoli.

I liked it. I wish I could be more effusive than that, but it wasn't anything special. The sauce wasn't as sweet as I was expecting but it didn't have any real spice to it. The chicken was fine, but when you factor in that these bags are a few dollars more than the similar tempura chicken at Trader Joe's, I don't see any reason for me to ever get these again.

Well, after this one, I mean.

Take everything I wrote about the General Tsao's chicken above, only this sweet & sour sauce was much too sweet.

Tyson Chicken Breast Chunks With Spicy Sweet & Sour Sauce
This sauce actually wasn't bad, especially with a little cracked pepper and chili flakes on top, but the chicken was terrible. I mean, just terrible: dried-out, flavorless chicken. I thought I might break a tooth on some of the pieces. I don't know if I expected anything else, but this is not something I can recommend.

Trader Joe's Tempura Chicken
After writing the about the above frozen chicken products and realizing how much better Trader Joe's is, I decided to have it for dinner last night. I also decided to split it in two and add two different sauces. But, as I have written here before, the sweet & sour sauce they provide is much too sweet. So I added some Tabasco Sweet & Spicy sauce and a couple of drops of hot sauce.

To the second batch of chicken I added Buffalo Wild Wings "Asian Zing" sauce. This was much spicier than the other chicken, although by no means was it too spicy. And both of these were much better than the Ralph's brand or Tyson chicken.

Golden China #2
90% of my trips to Golden China are for lunch, but every once in a while we go for dinner, too. Elizabeth gets her sizzling pepper steak and I get a couple of appetizers. On this occasion I ordered the potstickers.

I was really impressed with them: big, juicy, meaty and flavorful. These are some of the better potstickers I have had in a while.

I liked them with the provided dipping sauce, but I LOVED them with hot mustard and sweet & sour sauce.

I hope you have a nice day, even if you aren't celebrating New Year. 


Zachary said...

Hmmm, I think that we went to Harbor Palace on Garvey. It's not there anymore, well technically it is. The place changes names every couple of years, so we just call it the Hong Kong mural restaurant b/c that always seems to survive the changes.

JustinM said...

And your grandma calls it "that place where Zachary brought the white guy that one time."

I just looked at photos of the current restaurant at that location. I bet that's it.

Zachary said...

That's not entirely true - I took Griffin there once. She was impressed with him b/c he loved the red bean soup (I don't even think Asians really like that soup).

I think the place is now called Monterey Palace. It's at Garvey and New (1 block west of).

mw said...

Awwwe I'm Asian and I like the red bean soup but I don't like the tapioca balls they sometimes put in it. Happy New Year!