Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eight Chinese Eats

The number eight is considered the luckiest of the Chinese numbers, because it sounds very similar to the word for prosper or wealth. Here is a rundown of eight Chinese things I have eaten in the last couple of months. And if they're more Americanized-Chinese than actual Chinese... well, so if my friend Bryce, and today is his birthday. (Bryce has said more than once that I eat much more Chinese food than he does; he prefers Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese to Chinese.) So happy birthday my friend, may you have nothing but prosperity.

 1) Chicken "Terriyaki" Dumplings

There is a deli right across the street from us that, in addition to making sandwiches, has a large amount of prepared foods. (Those of you in Pasadena, think Porta Via.) These chicken "terriyaki" dumplings (I'm pretty sure teriyaki is spelled with only one r) were quite good, although the sauce was the saltiest soy sauce I've ever tried, which is saying a lot. 

2) Pagoda Express Spicy Orange Chicken
This was on sale at the store (I think it was less than two bucks) so I decided to give it a try. I microwaved it for a few minutes then let it sit for at least two - it was really hot - and dumped it out on a plate. First off, there was nothing spicy about it. Nothing at all. But that didn't really surprise me. What did surprise me is that the chicken was tender and really good. Have you ever had microwaved chicken that didn't taste terrible? I have not... before this.

The veggies and rice were good, too. The whole thing was way too salty, although you know going in that frozen, microwavable meals contain a lot of sodium. But this meal that I ate is something I would definitely try again.

But I don't think I will: I may have caught lightning in a bottle here. I may have just managed to cook it at the perfect temperature for the perfect amount of time and I will never be able to replicate it. (We got rid of the microwave I used to cook this.) So I'm not entirely sure I will ever buy another one of these. But if you ever see one on sale, give it a try, you may like it too.

3) Safeway Selects Orange Chicken
Take what I said about the Pagoda Express meal being salty and not spicy. Remove every single thing I wrote about it being tasty. You have Safeway-brand microwavable orange chicken. I would not eat this again under any circumstance. 

4) Fortune House
The weekend before this one that just passed, it was brutally hot and humid. Elizabeth's dad (he's still in town) asked if we wanted to pick up Chinese food and come over to eat lunch in the air-conditioned apartment and watch the Angels vs. Yankees (though he called it "Yankees vs. Angels"). We said absolutely.

We had sweet & sour chicken, shrimp with walnuts, boneless bbq ribs, and Fortune House's fantastic egg rolls. (Rick also had another entree but I have no picture of it and can't remember what it was - I think it was pepper steak.)

All of the food was good. The baseball game was not. But that's how it goes sometimes.  

5) Chicken Teriyaki
Back at that deli across the street and they've managed to spell teriyaki correctly. These breaded nuggets of chicken are one of my favorite things there, provided I can get one that has been made recently. The chicken is juicy, white meat, and the sauce is sweet and tangy. But it's not spicy, so I usually put some wasabi sauce in a container into which I can dip the chicken to clear my sinuses (which might make it more of a Japanese eat, but, whatever). I probably eat a container of these at least once a week.

6) PF Chang's General Chang's Chicken Spring Rolls
I waited years before I finally tried, last summer, one of PF Chang's "Home Menu" items. PF Chang's is in contention for my least favorite chain restaurant, right up there with Applebee's or Hooters (though to be frank, I don't see any way I could detest a chain of restaurants as much as I do Buca di Beppo), so I was not surprised to find that I did not care for their frozen offerings. The (almost 10-dollar) bag barely served two and contained very little protein. I figured I would never try one again.

But then they came out with some new frozen appetizers, and they were on sale at Target, so I figured they were worth a shot. I opted for the "General Chang's Chicken" spring rolls. The package gave three different instructions for reheating them: the oven, toaster oven, and microwave. None of those sounded ideal, so I pan fried them. (It's not like frying them a second time is somehow going to ruin them. It's freaking PF Chang's.

Remember my ratings system for egg rolls? I haven't posted it in months so many of you might not be aware: the bottom category, the only category I do not enjoy, are egg rolls that have not been cooked long enough and are still cold. Since I was cooking these here myself, there was no danger of that happening. I made sure they were hot. So I enjoyed them. Did I enjoy them a lot? No. There was very little flavor, in classic PF Chang's fashion, and the provided sauce was syrupy-sweet. (I used some of my strategic reserve of hot mustard packets, which went much better.)

I will try one of the other PF Chang's appetizers if they're on sale again, but not these spring rolls.

7) Shrimp Dumplings
Two blocks away is a gourmet market that has a lot of prepared items, so one day recently I picked up a package of shrimp dumplings. These seemed too delicate to fry for a second time, so I baked them in the oven for ten minutes. These were very good, the insides fresh and juicy and the chili sauce actually spicy. I would definitely get these again.

8) CPK Chinese Chicken Salad
Elizabeth and I adopted a rescue kitten last month. (His name is Hawkeye. I'd fully intended to name the kitty Mike Trout, but when we were in the waiting room and the woman told us the names of the six kitties we were going to meet, as soon as she said "Hawkeye," I knew that was the one, without knowing anything about him. She showed us two kitties, then brought in a bowling ball bag with four little guys in it, and when she opened the bag one of them was staring right up at me with big eyes. I didn't even have to ask: it was Hawkeye. So, it didn't seem right to change his name after that.)

When we left the vet's office, I noticed one block away a California Pizza Kitchen. It had never occurred to me that they were in New York. (There are two locations in Manhattan.) While I generally enjoy CPK's toppings, I find their crust no different than the extra-bland, pre-made crusts of a Dominos or Pizza Hut. I didn't think that would fly in New York City.

But I've been eating and loving a lot of pizza these days, so I didn't have any need for a CPK pizza. What I did crave, however, was one of their Chinese Chicken Salads, which has been perhaps my favorite item there. So last week I went and got myself one - actually it was on my birthday, which is one week before Bryce's. (He's four years older than I, though he looks younger; we've certainly been places over the years where he has been carded and I have not.) 

As usual, I enjoyed my salad. I have the CPK cookbook with the recipe, but they are withholding something: I've followed the recipe exactly, at least fifteen times, and it never tastes as good as this. In my memory the salad used to have more lettuce in it, this was mostly cabbage, but I'm okay with that. It's been more than three years since I've eaten this, and it may be another another few before I return, but I imagine I will.


Bryce said...

Thanks man. No birthday beer(s) w/ you this year--boo!

Amy W said...

Please start calling it "Buca De crap-o" --my name for my least fav chain. glad to know you also give it bad press!

Julie said...

YAY RESCUE KITTY! Did you guys bring a cat from CA?

JustinM said...

No. Unfortunately our cat passed away in February, much too young. So we planned to get a new one once we were (semi) settled in.