I love Chinese food; well, most of it anyway. I’ll leave the sea weed, rumaki (chicken livers) deep fried whole fish and chicken feet dishes to those with more adventurous palates. I realize that Asian cuisine offered in this country has been dumbed down for American sensibilities but that’s okay because I’m a sensible dumb American I remember my first exposure to it was through a double decker can of Chun King chow mein back in my high school days.
My mom was a terrific cook but her menu choices were based on familiarity. So it was a bit shocking when one evening for supper she placed before us a bowl of limp vegetables mixed with diced chicken swimming in a slimy translucent sauce. Then she took a pan of hot crunchy noodles from the oven and told us to dig in. Well, the only thing I knew about Chinese were Charlie Chan movies and comic books showing American soldiers fending off attacks by hordes of them during the Korean War. But mom insisted we give this a try.
Instead of the usual salt and pepper on our table, there was a bottle of strange dark liquid called La Choy soy sauce which, according to the directions, was to be sprinkled to taste over the rather unappetizing pile on our plates. One by one, we slowly sampled this exotic concoction and much to our delight, all found it to be delicious and asked if mom had another can on the shelf to warm up so we could have seconds. She may have gotten the idea from seeing this commercial.
I still get hungry for canned chow mein and crispy noodles to this day.
When I first moved to Sioux Falls in 1969, I used to frequent the newly opened Ming Wah restaurant for lunch. It was located just a block or so from where I worked and I really liked their egg foo young, shrimp fried rice and chow mein which turned out to be even better than the canned stuff.
During the 70’s, after playing music at the Red Lantern Lounge, several of us would head over to the Canton Café on Main Avenue which stayed open until 3 a.m. on weekends. That’s where I learned to love a wider variety of Chinese food like cashew chicken, Mongolian beef, teriyaki beef on a stick and egg rolls. The Canton’s egg rolls were the best I’ve ever tasted then or since. I don’t know what made them so special but if I had the recipe I’d open an egg roll shop and get rich. The Canton Cafe..named for a region in China not the town South of Sioux Falls, eventually relocated to West 12th street but kept the same menu and our business until the family decided to sell out several years ago..a sad day indeed. Since then, Chinese restaurants have opened all over Sioux Falls..most using the world “Golden” in their name for some reason which can lead to customer confusion I would think.
Linda likes Chinese food okay but wouldn’t care for a steady diet of it like me. In fact, I’ve been kind of doing my own city wide taste test; sampling two or three of my favorite dishes from each of the 8 to 10 Asian restaurants in Sioux Falls. (I don’t count buffets because I think proper Chinese food was meant to be served hot and fresh from the wok..not scooped out of a metal pan at a steam table.) The truth is, everybody’s tastes vary so much it would be difficult for me to pick one restaurant over another and go unchallenged. I like most of them but for different reasons. Szechwan has the best egg rolls and brown sauce for cashew chicken. Kow Loon is my favorite for Orange beef; Golden Harvest for Mongolian Beef and Golden Dragon for sweet and sour. Plus it depends on which cook is working the wok. Consistency is important and that’s not always the case at some places.
I do make Chinese food at home once in a while and its okay but I still prefer the adventure of going out to do some culinary exploration. Besides, I don’t have fortune cookies. (An American invention not Chinese.)
If you’d care to share some thoughts about your favorite Chinese restaurant and why…please leave a comment below.
Now, all this talk about Asian dining has my gut growling so loud the neighbor’s dog started barking. Oh, no wonder..it’s a Shih Tzu.