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 tastes and that’s how I was first introduced to it with a can of Chun King chow mein. . 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 Chinese I’d ever been exposed to were Charlie Chan movies and comic books showing American soldiers fending off attacks by hordes of Red Chinese during the Korean War. But we promised to give it 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 surprise, all found it to be delicious and asked if mom had another can on the shelf to warm up. 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. Sadly, the original Ming Wah proprietors decided that 46 years was long enough and closed the place.
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. 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 want my meal served fresh from the wok..not scooped out of a metal pan on a steam table. The truth is, everybody’s tastes vary so much it would be difficult to pick one restaurant over another. 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 Chicken; Golden Harvest for Mongolian Beef. 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.
I’m sure many of you have a favorite Chinese food and restaurant. If you’d care to share with the rest of us which one and why..please leave a comment below..
Now, all this talk has my gut growling so loud the neighbor’s dog started barking.