Category: Chinese (Page 2 of 2)

Date Night At The Chinese Buffet

There’s a new buffet in town!

Saturday date nights are sacred. They are the one evening we go out together for the point of doing something fun. Usually they revolve around dinner and sometimes, they’ll include a movie or friends. I look forward to date nights each week.

The few weekends ago, we visited New City Buffet, the newest restaurant in town that also advertises having a hibachi grill and sushi. My local blogger friend said she enjoyed her meal so we went to try it for ourselves.

The inside of the buffet is deceptively large. I had pictured a small buffet line and one room of tables, but there were rows and rows of booths and almost all of them were full. It was really busy and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people in one place yet, in Mason City.

There were so many options. Just like any other buffet, I found some items more appealing than others, but most everything we tasted was thoughtfully prepared and nicely flavored.

I love Chinese food and I love Americanized Chinese food. I’m no snob regarding authenticity. What really bugs me is when Chinese take-out is overly oily, bland, filled with grisly meats or soggy when it should be crisp.

Honestly, I didn’t find any of these issues at the buffet. Because the restaurant was so busy, the turnover of food trays was high. The staff hustled to quickly replace dishes and clean up tables so they could seat more customers.

There are some foods I never try at buffets, such as mussels. However, I did try the whole shrimp with their heads and legs fully attached, fried in a crumbly salt and pepper coating with thin slices of fresh jalapeno. I think we both chickened out on trying the fried frogs legs.

The fillet of salmon was moist and flavorful and there were a couple of meat dishes that actually tasted spicy. Sauces for the other dishes tasted better than what we’ve typically found. The whole, garlicky green beans with blistery skin reminded me of those I used to eat at Cleveland Wok in Saint Paul, MN.

I didn’t get too adventurous with the sushi but the California roll was fine and the creation covered in mayo and eel sauce was sweet for my tastes, but still edible. Certainly good enough to scratch the basic sushi itch and I appreciated that the rice wasn’t mushy.

It was hard to eat the fried foods in moderation. I’m terrible when placed in a situation with unlimited cream cheese wontons (more commonly referred to as crab ragoons in Iowa). And then there were those donuts rolled in sugar.

All hail the Chinese buffet donut!

They taste like deep fried bam/wham/whomp biscuits, a treat an old childhood friend’s family used to make the morning after sleepovers. They were special then and they’re special now.

I’m generally not fond of buffets. I can’t eat that much food at one time and hate feeling pressured to overeat so I get my money’s worth. I’m happiest if I can take home my leftovers and enjoy them in the comfort of my own home at my own pace. Fortunately, it looks like New City Buffet offers a take-out menu that we will likely order from.

We enjoyed our dinner, all for $10.99 per person before tax and tip. The price includes sodas and even hot coffee with real cream. The restaurant appears to be family run and they were all welcoming and worked hard to keep up with all of the guests. We hope they succeed.

Fried Rice Seasoned With Gochujang & Miso

“Dang it”

I realized I had no soy sauce.  I had just chopped a mound of vegetables and de-frosted meat, only to discover an empty soy sauce bottle in my fridge.
With two takeout boxes of leftover steamed rice and a half hour of prep work done, there was no way I was not going to make fried rice.  I reached further into my fridge and pulled out a jar of Korean gouchujang and my trusty tub of year-old miso paste.
Then I proceeded like normal.  I stir fried my vegetables with a little Chinese sausage, chicken breast, and leftover rice.  Then, I flavored the fried rice with a mix of gochujang and miso paste, diluted with water for easier incorporation.  I found Chinese sausage at the Asian & American Market in Fargo.  It provided a subtle sweetness that balanced the miso’s saltiness and gochujang’s heat.
We were satisfied with the result.  So much so, that we polished off the skillet of fried rice.  If you also just own a standard skillet, you might not achieve any smokey char, but your fried rice will still be a respectable home variation.
My method of cooking fried rice is not an exact science.  Once I choose my vegetables and proteins, it’s basically a process of sauteing and tasting.  You could use soy sauce instead of miso and add additional seasonings like hot peppers and ginger.
Mantra: Homemade fried rice is easy.  Homemade fried rice is an efficient way to use up leftover meat and veggies.  Homemade fried rice puts extra takeout rice to work.
Vegetable oil
Chinese sausage, finely diced
Chopped vegetables (I used lots of onion, green onions, swiss chard stems and greens, and carrots)
Proteins of choice and/or scrambled egg
Leftover rice
1 clove of minced garlic
Miso paste and gochujang, diluted with some water
White pepper
Cracked black pepper
In a dab of vegetable oil, begin sauteing the Chinese sausage.  When it renders a bit, add the vegetables and stir until softened but al dente.  I add the vegetables that take longer to cook first, such as carrot and onion.  Then, I add the softer vegetables like chard leaves, green onion, and garlic.
As the vegetables are cooking, prepare any additional protein or scrambled egg in a separate pan.  Add a little more oil to the vegetables and then stir in the rice.  As the rice is cooking, flavor with diluted miso paste and gochujang, black pepper, and white pepper.
Add the scrambled egg and/or other cooked meat and combine.  Taste and adjust for seasoning (I used a lot of miso and gochujang).
Cook to your liking.  I prefer my fried rice to develop some crusty bits.

This Is Why We Didn’t Return To Ribfest & Chinese Take-Out from Snapdragon

Last Saturday, the four raucous days known as Ribfest passed (Wednesday, June 6 – Saturday, June 9th).

Since we live within earshot of the Ribfest stage erected in the Fargodome parking lot, our sleep had been a little worse than normal.  80’s hair bands and country music rocked our walls from 8-11 p.m. 

On Wednesday evening, we patiently waited until the concert was over before we slept.  On Thursday, the music began at 9 p.m.  I frantically unearthed our place, searching for an earplug.  Any earplug. Even a dirty, crusty one.  When my search ended in failure, I contemplated scotch or valerian root.  Fortunately, I fell asleep with neither.  Just a pillow wrapped tightly around my head.  

On Friday evening, we visited to sample some ribs.  I felt exhausted and left early.  Navigating through the tightly packed crowd proved challenging.

On Saturday afternoon, we settled in for an afternoon nap.  As soon as we began to fall asleep, 80’s hair bands started their extensive sound checks, tearing us from any catch-up sleep.  We shrugged and thought, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”  Then, we meandered towards the Fargodome.  I was longing for a blooming onion and we wanted to try other rib vendors. 

We stop to grab cash.  As I wait in line for the ATM, a strange man steps behind me.  He smells like liquor and asks us if the ATM has a limit.  Of course we have no idea, and he continues to spin woe-filled tales of ATM’s and dollar limits.  He and Jake make small talk about the stranger’s biking.

As I finish my transaction, I am jolted to attention when the looming stranger reads my full name from the ATM screen and announces it back to me.  Then he laughs. 

My feistiness activates.  I don’t acknowledge his comment or turn around, determined to finish the transaction as quickly as possible.  I debate whether I should ignore him or confront.   

The whole situation brings to mind the only time I ever confronted a stranger’s brazen inappropriateness.  One afternoon, when I lived in North Minneapolis, I visited the CVS on West Broadway.  As I exited the store, a man made obscene catcalls.  I was furious by the injustice of not being able to run an emerency errand for special lady products, unscathed, and told him (in other words) to “Go fly a kite.”  The man launched towards me as I sprinted towards my car.  I managed to shut and lock the door as his hand reached the handle.  I don’t remember much except driving like hell. 

This time, I kept my mouth shut.  Jake and I left the ATM and briskly walked towards the festival.  Suddenly, Jake beaconed me to run across the street while oncoming traffic raced towards us.  We turned around to see the strange man running after us.  After we passed the festival gates, we zigzagged through the crowd.  Jake caught the man staring at us. The man quickly looks away. 

We decided it was best to quietly leave and meandered through the exit.  Maybe we overreacted, maybe we didn’t.  All I know is that something didn’t feel right.  Jake is almost never rattled by anything but his instinct said to “leave” and so we listened.

I was annoyed that I got scared and annoyed that I didn’t get my blooming onion.  However, I was not annoyed about missing the Warrant concert. 

Fargo sits along the path to Western North Dakota’s chaotic oil activity.  I’m going to postulate that our location, a huge festival featuring meat and overflowing beer, and a concert by a band whose music rocks strip clubs everywhere might draw some interesting folks.

We ventured to Moorhead, MN, where I chose Chinese take-out from Snapdragon, a joint recommended by a co-worker.  We chose the Korean stir-fry with beef and vegetables, General Tso’s chicken (both extra spicy) and an order of crab wontons.  Our bill totaled approximately $28, plus tip.  

The Korean stir-fry actually contained some heat.  I’m not sure why the beef looked so pale, but it tasted like beef and contained fresh carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, and zucchini.  Baby corn never thrills me but overall, it was a solid stir-fry.

The General Tso’s chicken was crispy.  Maybe a little too chewy, but at least it wasn’t soggy.  The sauce was tangy and tasted like it might have contained ketchup.  Jake preferred this dish. 

Like every other version of cheese wontons, we enjoyed the crab-cheese wontons.  We received eight packed into a nifty foil-lined bag and dunked them in sweet and sour sauce.  Of the four Chinese food restaurants we have visited in Fargo-Moorhead, Snapdragon seemed the freshest.  However, we will continue our search for our favorite version and welcome your suggestions. 

Easter Weekend Recap: When Chipotle Became Like A God & Take-Out From Little Szechuan

Jake and I returned home for a long, holiday weekend in the Twin Cities.

We spent time with our families and I visited some good friends.

Even as adults, we enjoyed being spoiled by our families who made Easter ham, roasted turkey, lamb, & cheesy potatoes.

We were somewhat productive in that we ascertained an electric saw and hammer and destroyed the lock on our storage unit at our Bloomington condo.  I had almost forgotten about my grandma’s engagement and wedding rings, packed somewhere in the dusty unit filled with mostly crap.  The rings swam amongst friendship bracelets and 10 for $5 jewelry from Claire’s, in a jewelry box wrapped in old newspapers and packed into a Cub foods box.  My engagement ring is part loaner-band and we are hoping to use my grandma’s.

Most importantly, I grabbed my copy of Hunger Games that was accidentally sent to our Bloomington address.  Everyone and everything have become obstacles between me and my Hunger Games.  I stayed up entirely too late on work nights, reading, and suffered Hunger Games-induced nightmares.

Hunger Games is ruining my life and I’m just beginning Catching Fire.

Announcing our engagement was a lot of fun and less anxiety-inducing than I had anticipated.  The story of our engagement is as unromantic as how we met, which is perfectly fitting and perfectly us.  Only Jake can really tell the engagement story, as it is practically a complicated web of lies.  Except for the part where he asked me to marry him and I said “yes.”

The Food Run-Down
We fit in a few meals out.

828 7th Street East
St. Paul, MN 55106

I was thrilled when I realized Jake’s family lives fairly close to Manana.  The pupusas filled with pork, cheese, and beans were as memorable as my first visit, pre-Jake.  Jake commented the pupusas were one of the best things he’d tasted for a while, the sentiment I remember feeling the first time I tasted one.

Unfortunately, my take-out order did not come with thecortido cabbage salad and hot sauce.  I wonder if my questions were misunderstood and I was supposed to serve myself.

On trips home, we always enjoy stopping at The Wine Thief & Ale Jail where Jake selects craft beers and I treat myself to sake.  The sake selection in Fargo is less than ethereal (not that I even know that much about sake, but still).  Afterwards, Jake wanted to stop at Chipotle for lunch.

I’ve practically grew-up on Chipotle.  Ever since Chipotle made its debut in Apple Valley, my mom became hooked on their barbecoa burritos.  Sometimes she bought them by the trio, slicing the foil-wrapped logs by the chunk for lunches.  I had already eaten my fill of Chipotle when I left for college in another Chipotle-less land.  When I returned to the Twin Cities, I found myself, again, at countless Chipotles until it no longer resembled food.

Now, I find myself in the land that Chipotle forgot.  Or blatentely ignores.  Around here, Chipotle is like a god.  Legendary and spoken of reverently, in hushed voices.  I still don’t crave Chipotle, but was somewhat happy to be reunited with my old friend and managed to choke down half a burrito.

On our last evening in the Twin Cities, Jake and I planned a date night.  We were disappointed when we found that Meritage and Broders Cucina Italiana were closed so we scrambled for a convenient back-up plan.  Which is how we found ourselves ordering take-out from Little Szechuan.

Little Szechuan
422 University Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55103

When I lived near Tea House in Plymouth, MN, I always enjoyed their fish fillets in a spicy broth filled with cabbage and tofu.  I ordered Litte Szechuan’s Fish Fillet in Spicy Tofu Broth and cream cheese wontons.  Jake ordered Kung Pao Beef, extra spicy, and sesame chicken.

Our order cost $46 plus tip and was packed into this sturdy box.

I enjoyed the Fish Fillet in Spicy Tofu Broth, although I still think the Plymouth Tea House’s version is better.  The broth was more viscous than Tea House’s, though it was plentiful with chili.

It’s fish fillets had a silky mouth-feel and tasted fresh.  This portion was huge and could easily feed a family.

Little Szechuan’s Kung Pao Beef was one of the best versions of Kung Pao we’ve ever eaten, in addition to Tea House.

The sauce was flavorful and struck all of the spicy, sweet, and savory notes.  Lots of tender beef, and pleasantly spicy.

My least favorite dish was the sesame chicken.  It wasn’t inedible, but the batter was soggy, the chicken pieces tasted dense and dry, and the sauce was a little bland.  But it fulfilled my craving for Americanized Chinese take-out.

Lastly, I enjoyed the cream cheese puffs, per usual.

I’ve dawdled in a life-long love affair with cream cheese puffs.

All in all, a wonderful and eventful trip back home.  It looks like we’ll be home a couple times in the near future for celebrations involving family and friends.

A thank you to our families for taking care of us this weekend and to the friends who were able to spend time with us.

Meritage and Broders Cucina. . . we will be back for mussels, absinthe, and Eggplant Special pizza.

Afghani football pizza, Cafe Caribe, and the Americanized Chinese take-out I crave.

Crescent Moon
1517 Como Ave SE (Across the street from Obento Ya)
Minneapolis, MN

Before our Fargo trip, Jake and I embarked on a Bucket List Chronicles outing and ordered take-out from Crescent Moon bakery.  Neither of us had tried their often-mentioned Afghani football pizza.

We ordered a House Special football pizza, $14.99, topped with “Afghani beef, onions, and green peppers,” a small Meat Lovers pizza, $10.99 topped with “Afghani beef, pepperoni, chicken & gyro,” in addition to a side of spinach, $4.99.

To those already initiated into Afghani football pizzadom, does this sound like too much food for two?

It most certainly was.

I faintly remember hearing mention that the football pizzas were large, but I must not have read the descriptions too closely.  I exited Crescent Moon with a ridiculous pile of take-away boxes.  Although I parked my car in front of the store, I managed to forget where I parked my car, so I scurried around the block carrying a pile of boxes, one of which was large enough to comfortably use as a sled.

As I was picking up the pizzas, I noticed some articles on Crescent Moon’s walls.  One described the owner as having baking experience in Kabul.  It was evident the pizza crust and pita bread which accompanied the spinach, were made with skill.  The edges of the pizza were crispy,  more flavorful than the average pizza crust, and pleasantly rich.

Behold, the epic football pizza and green sauce.

I’m not even sure the sauce has a name beyond “green sauce” but I would recommend you ensure your pizzas arrive with plenty.  I could probably consume a container of green sauce per two slices of pizza.  The sauce almost reminds me of an Indian chutney.  It’s slightly spicy (although some may consider it spicy), herbal like cilantro, tangy, creamy, and packs a raw garlic punch.  The Afghani beef topping seemed subtly spiced and tasted lamby.

I enjoyed the bits of gyro meat that topped the smaller, circular shaped Meat Lovers pizza.

I savored this side of silky spinach, almost enjoying it more than the actual pizza.  This large, side portion of spinach was warmly spiced.  If I had known how addictive this spinach was, I would have ordered the Spinach Lovers pizza.   

We both enjoyed our first tastes of Crescent Moon’s pizza.  As criticisms, I wished the sauce was zippier or more prevalent, and, although we ordered the pizzas spicy, they were very mild.

More than the pizza itself, I enjoyed the fresh crust and pita, garlicky green sauce, and creamy spinach.

Girls Big Night at Cafe Caribe
791 Raymond Ave
St. Paul, MN 55114

On Wednesday evening, I attended part of the Minnesota Food Bloggers event, Girls Big Night, hosted by Cafe Caribe where Chef Tony and Heidi warmly sharing their passion for Caribbean food.

I sampled a delicious, crispy tostone with a flavorful aoli and Doubles, a crispy sandwich of sorts, adorned with curried chickpeas and a sweet chutney.  I was delighted that Cafe Caribe’s spicy hot sauce was indeed quite spicy, so I requested my own cup.

For dinner, I ordered the Jamaican Rundown, described as “Coconut stew, slow-cooked, crab, carrots, onions, peppers, and sweet potatoes served with jasmine rice.”

The coconut broth was mellow and comforting.  Although it was not spicy-hot, the broth was flavored with surprising spices I can not identify.  The broth contained creamy, slow-cooked vegetables and bits of crab meat.

I enjoyed garnishing this stew with the hot sauce and cruet of vinegar infused with herbs and peppers.

Seng Foon
3420 50th Street W
Rosemount, MN 55068

My family knows me well.  As a belated birthday celebration, they invited Jake and I over for Seng Foon takeout.

As I have mentioned in previous posts regarding Chinese take-out, Seng Foon is the version I grew-up eating and crave into adulthood. It may not be the most authentic or flawless version of Americanized Chinese take-out but it is perfect to me.  And the only version that soothes my cravings for the take-out of my childhood.  No other restaurant else has completely filled this void or created a synonymous replica.

I always order plenty of these cream cheese wontons, even though they are mostly cripsy wonton wrapper with some congealed cream cheese.

I filled up on cream cheese wontons while the rest of the family supplemented their meals with egg rolls.

We ordered both chicken and vegetable fried rice. 

The vegetable fried rice was dotted with stir fried pea pods, broccoli, plenty of scrambled egg, and my favorite chewy clumps of stuck-together-rice.

Jake requested sesame chicken. A little salty, but standard.

I always order sweet and sour shrimp.  In general, I am not a sweet and sour fan, however, I crave these puffy rings of fried shrimp mixed with crunchy chunks of onion, often under ripe pineapple, green pepper and carrot.  This entree usually disappears quickly.

On this visit, I specifically requested this Kung Pao beef extra spicy and it actually contained some pleasant heat.  Heavy on the water chestnuts, but I liked the sauce.

The Seng Foon take-out container mania of my dreams.   
For dessert, Joan made a delicious and moist Apple Dapple bundt cake glazed with rich caramel.  

Thank you, family, for the wonderful birthday treat and for the absurd amount of leftovers in our fridge.

The culinary-themed birthday festivities will continue this weekend.

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