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Archive for March, 2013

Our New Favorite Chinese Place

I should qualify that a little bit.  This is our new favorite local Chinese restaurant, i.e. one that’ll deliver to our place if we so desire.  I probably need to clarify that even more.  I’m talking about Americanized Chinese restaurants and cuisine.  Granted, this is what you find by default, but with a little effort, you can find places that serve authentic Chinese fare.  But that’s neither here nor there at the moment.

New Fresh Wok is located on Larpenteur Ave, just off of Snelling in St. Paul.  They opened up sometime last fall and it took us a bit of time before we actually went and ate there, even though it’s less than two miles from our apartment.  The reason for the delay is that we were hitting a long string of mediocre Chinese restaurants in the area and we were not all that excited about trying another place just to be let down.  The other restaurants weren’t bad, but Lindz and I are used to being spoiled.  When we were living in Decorah, IA, we would frequent two really kicking Chinese places in town (yup, two great Chinese restaurants in a town with a population of just over 8000).  Of course, there is our hands down favorite Chinese place of all time, China Star, in Rochester (located a disturbingly convenient half mile from our future home and 2.5 miles from Lindz’s folks place).  That’s enough of the past.

This post/review is a compilation of a couple of visits, both eating in and getting take-out.

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First up, we have the Thai Styled Mango Chicken.  This was an okay dish.  It had an adequate level of heat to it, but for some reason the flavor was two dimensional.  The veggies were good but the chicken was mushy.  It reminded me of the chicken breasts that I accidentally bought one time that were injected with a saline solution to make them more tender.  It worked, but it felt like I was eating a sponge that kinda sorta tasted like chicken.  Even though the flavors weren’t there, I do really like the concept of this dish.

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One of Lindz’s requirements for a good Chinese place is good Crab Rangoons.  But since they are hard to find, she is willing to settle for Cream Cheese Wontons.  This is one of those tricky things to cook, with it comprising of only a few ingredients, you have to nail it every time.  New Fresh Wok passes with flying colors.

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Outside of Decorah, I haven’t been able to find a place that does a Mongolian Beef to my liking.  Much to my surprise and even more to my delight, New Fresh Wok offers up a really good version.  I like Mongolian Beef best with just beef, onions, and sauce.  They throw in a few more veggies than I would prefer, but it doesn’t detract from the dish.  It’s a nice dish with a salty, earthy base highlighted with onions, garlic, ginger, and, of course, the beef.

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My true test of a Chinese restaurant is a dish that is not even Chinese.  I am obviously talking about General Tso’s Chicken.  This is a dish that needs a teeth shattering batter, tender chicken, and a sauce that will make you thankful for the rice because it cuts the heat.  New Fresh Wok delivers on all of these accounts.  This is the fundamental reason why New Fresh Wok surged to the top of our favorites list.

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OK, I didn’t have the Orange Chicken, but Sheryl really seemed to like it.  Even though she thought it was light on the veggies.

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Naturally, we had to try out a selection from their sushi bar.  And, naturally, we went with the Dragon Roll that has eel and cucumber in the center and topped off with avocado and roe.  Not the greatest roll I’ve ever eaten, but for the price, it was worth it.  Hmm, apparently somewhere along the way I’ve become a total sushi snob.

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What would a Chinese meal be without some tea?  New Fresh Wok served the standard Chinese restaurant tea.  I’m not a huge tea drinker, so that’s all the info you’ll get out of me.  But I really like the tea pot.

If you find yourself in the Roseville area and are hankering for some good Chinese, drop in at New Fresh Wok.  You won’t be disappointed.

This One Is For The Adventurous Sort

This recipe is mind-blowing amazing!  I found it over at the Not Without Butter blog.  It is called Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.  If you like Asian cuisine, you’ll love this dish.

I tried it out on some chicken feet that I had in the freezer.  Yes, I had chicken feet around but no wings.  That’s how I roll.  And before you ask, yes, they are edible, and yes, they are quite good.  I do suggest that you peel off the skin, cut off the last knuckle, i.e. the claw, and give them a good wash.  Or if you’re lucky, your little sis will do all of this for you.

I’ll play nice and give you the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds Chicken Wings, tips removed, drummies and flats separated
  • 3 Tbs plus 2 tsp Fish Sauce
  • 3 Tbs plus 2 tsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbs minced Garlic
  • 1 Tbs minced Ginger
  • 1 Tbs Veggie Oil
  • 1 Tbs Lime Juice
  • 2 Thai Birdeye Chilis, finely minced – I used dried chili peppers
  • Cilantro leave for garnish (optional)

Mix 2 tsp fish sauce, 2 tsp sugar, and the black pepper together and coat the chicken with it.  Let it marinate for a half hour.

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Cue the “Ewwwww!”

In a steamer, bring some water up to a boil and put the chicken in the basket.  Steam it for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  While the chicken is steaming preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Over medium heat, saute the garlic and ginger in the oil until they are crispy and golden.  Once that is done, strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and save the garlic and ginger in another bowl.

When the chicken is done, remove from the steamer and pat dry with some paper towels.  Brush the flavored oil all over the chicken and place them in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake the chicken in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Flip everything over and bake for another 20 minutes.

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Looking better . . .

Once the chicken is done baking, drain them on a paper towel if necessary, and place in a large bowl.  Make the sauce by combining the remaining fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice.  Mix together until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the garlic, ginger, and chilies.  Pour over the chicken and toss to evenly coat.  Pile it onto a plate and garnish with the cilantro and serve.

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You have to admit they look pretty darn good at this point.

I went into this recipe with the knowledge that if I left the feet in the oven as long as you’re suppose to leave the wings, I’d end up with a desiccated mummy of a chicken foot.  Even though I drastically cut the time in the oven (7 minutes per side), the feet still ended up being over cooked.  I’m thinking of a couple of ways to get the crispy skin and not have them turn into leather.  One plan is to skip the steaming and just roast them, and the other is to steam them and just throw them under the broiler for a couple of minutes per side.  A benefit of the roasting that I wasn’t expecting was that the gelatinous nature of the feet was significantly muted.  I don’t mind that texture/stickiness, but it can get to be a bit much after a few feet.

All that aside, the flavor was wonderfully amazing.  The sauce had a nice punch to it which was rounded out by the freshness of the citrus, garlic, and ginger.  The fish sauce added a nice background note of earthiness that I associate with Asian cuisine.  All in all a very simple and very solid sauce.  I can’t wait to try this recipe on some wings!

I’ll leave with one of Mom’s favorite sayings:  “If you don’t like what I’ve made, go make your own supper!”

The Blue Door Pub

First off, that is a great name for a pub.  Simple.  Unpretentious.  Easily shortened: the Blue Door.  Rolls right off the tongue.  Unique, as not to be confused with another establishment.  Great name.

Our good friends, Miles and Sarah, were in town for a preaching convention (yeah, I now know more pastors than I had ever thought possible).  Since we don’t get to see each other in the flesh all that often, we decided to go out and have supper together.  Miles, being a fellow food lover, suggested The Blue Door Pub in the Highland Park area of St. Paul.  This was a great choice because it is close and they have amazing food.  The downside is that everyone around the area knows that they have great food.  Which translated into a 45 minute wait for a table at 6:30 pm on a Thursday.

Ob-la-di.

The main reason (other than good food and good company) Miles wanted to have the Spam Bites.

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They look innocent enough . . .

As previously noted, I do love me some Spam.  So, basically, there was no possible way this evening was ending without having some Spam.  We also ordered the Deep Fried Pickles and Cheese Curds for our appetizers.

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I’m going to start referring to this plate as The Holy Trinity of The Blue Door Pub.

The spam bites went beyond my wildest dreams.  The bites consisted of diced spam and diced pickles, held together in a mass of cream cheese.  Then gloriously battered and deep fried.  If you’ve ever had the pickle/cream cheese/ham wraps before, these tasted just like that.  Deep fried pickles are out of this world.  The tart vinegar taste pairs very nicely with the beer batter and the garlic aioli.  Cheese curds are a Midwest staple (the really good ones squeak against your teeth).  They only improve if you batter them and deep fry ’em.  If you’ve never had any of these before, I most definitely recommend it.  Just not too often.  You know, heat attacks and such.

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I present to you the Merriam Park Juicy Blucy.

The burger of choice that night was the Merriam Park Juicy Blucy.  Three out of four of us ordered it, and it will make sense as to why in just a sec.  The Merriam Park is a hamburger stuffed with bacon, bleu cheese, and garlic.  Them topped with a red currant jelly.  See?  You want one too, huh?  All of the stuffing makes for a really rich and full bodied bite.  That’s where the jelly comes in.  It gives that bite just a hint of sweet and tart to balance out the flavor.  At the moment, it is my clear favorite Blucy.  I opted for the deep fried green beans as a side.  Though it was a close call because their tater tots are worlds beyond your fondest memory of them as a kid.  Really.  They are that good.

So if you ever find yourself in St. Paul (specifically, Highland Park) swing on over to The Blue Door Pub.  It is without a doubt worth the wait in line.

P.S. A quick shout out and a thanks to Miles for letting me use his pictures (the top and bottom ones).