After a long hiatus, blog posting is back on! In general I’m still trying to dine outdoors as much as possible. However, regardless of where in the restaurant one dines, the dining experience is still (and may never be) not quite pre-pandemic “normal” in most major US cities. Given that, I decided to take my recent trip to Los Angeles as an opportunity to try a new restaurant and post a new review.
I chose Tang Gong because of it’s good reviews from other folks I trust and the fact it opened months before the pandemic began. As I was also meeting up with a friend of mine who was also visiting LA, I asked if he’d like to grab dim sum and meet up there.
Tang Gong is located in the location that used to house Empress Harbor Seafood Restaurant, which was a venerable dim sum and Cantonese seafood restaurant for many decades. I have attended a number of dim sum lunches at Empress Harbor and more than a few Chinese banquets there, so I had high hopes when Tang Gong opened. The plaza it’s in may be well past its late 90s heyday, but I was glad there was still a well rated Cantonese restaurant still there.
My friend and I ate on a Wednesday, so lines and a wait were nonexistent. While there were a number of people eating indoors and outdoors (though I think slightly more outdoors), there was plenty of seating for both. I checked in at the host stand and chose a table outside but close to the front doors. To minimize contact and risk with COVID-19, we were given disposable plates and chopsticks while we were seated, in addition to a menu to tick off food to order and tea which came with our own hot water thermos to refill hot water whenever we needed (which, to be honest, should be standard at dim sum restaurants regardless of a pandemic). After a few minutes we ticked off about a half dozen items to eat and waved a staff member to place our order.
Shrimp Dumpling – 唐官蝦餃皇 – The shrimp dumplings were relatively good. The wrappers were probably a little thicker than I liked but held up well. The shrimp quality was good, but perhaps could have used a touch more salt and white pepper. All in all, pretty solid and up to the basic standards of San Gabriel Valley dim sum.
Pork and Shrimp Shun [sic] Mai – 蝦子燒賣王– The shu mai were pretty good with very juicy pork that was tender and melded well with the shrimp. Didn’t taste too much of the salmon roe (the steam likely overcooking them a bit), but overall a solid choice
Baked Crispy Pork Bun – 法式酥皮餐包 -This is the unofficial dim sum speciality of Tang Gong and it is AMAZING. It’s like if you took the Tim Ho Wan char siu bao and kicked it up a notch. The baked custard top with corn flakes were a great textural and taste complement to the pork filling on the inside. Would definitely order more if I had room!
Pan Fried Turnip Cake – 家鄉蘿蔔糕 – Honestly, these were okay. The fry on them was great so the texture was on point, but the filling could have used a little more seasoning.
Garlic Spare Rib Rice Roll – 蒜香排骨粉卷– This was another standout dish, agreed upon by my friend and I as the best dish of the meal. The pork spare ribs were tender and flavorful, the rice noodle rolls were soft but still retained its chewiness in the sauce, and the bits of pumpkin were soft and complemented the pork, sauce, and rice noodle rolls very well.
Pineapple Bun – 菠蘿包 – Pretty solid pineapple bun. May have been a slight let down in comparison to the baked crispy pork bun, but this was easily a nice dessert and I enjoyed another one as a snack for a DoorDash shift later on in the day.
Baked BBQ Pork Pastry – 香麻叉燒酥 – To be honest I was too stuffed to try these and it was probably the dish that least appealed to me in the beginning. BUT, I asked my friend who did eat them and, in his words, he really liked them as essentially a cha siu bao but in puff pastry form.
All in all, Tang Gong was pretty good. It was definitely worth coming here for the baked crispy pork bun and garlic spare rib rice rolls alone. Parking and the wait was not bad either (and I surmise it probably isn’t that terrible in the weekend compared to other places like Lunasia or Sea Harbour). The bill came out to be less than $20 a person too, which is quite a bargain for menu based higher end dim sum nowadays. If you are in or around LA, I would definitely recommend stopping by Tang Gong for some dim sum.
I am back from my hiatus with some new content (it was a bit hard to do a blog mostly reliant on restaurant reviews when neither dining in was allowed nor was I comfortable doing such).
Before I dive into my recipe for Hong Kong style borscht, I do want to note that my heart is heavy after a year plus of dramatic increases of anti-Asian hate crimes, including the death of six Asian American women in and around Atlanta this week. To say it’s been traumatic for many of us in the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is an understatement. There are undoubtedly many organizations to give to right now, but if you can I would give money and/or time to NAPAWF Georgia and AAAJ-Atlanta, in addition to local Asian American organizing orgs in your area. Feel free to reach out to me if you would like to know more about AAPI organizations in your community.
With that said, the reason for my blog post today is that I just got vaccinated with my second COVID-19 vaccine. In preparation for the side effects that are likely to come (at least a sore arm and possibly other symptoms like fatigue, chills, etc), I decided to make one of my family’s ultimate comfort soups: Hong Kong style borscht.
A brief history before going to the recipe itself, Hong Kong style borscht came to Hong Kong via Russians who immigrated initially to Chinese port cities like Shanghai before fleeing to Hong Kong in/around the Chinese Civil War. Goldthread has a good explainer video on its path to Hong Kong. As Hong Kong developed into an industrial hub in the 1960s and 1970s, a uniquely Hong Kong fusion cuisine was born adapting “western” cuisine like pork chops and fries to suit the palates of the growing Hong Kong middle class. One of the many offerings at these Hong Kong style cafes (more like US diners to be honest) that became popular was Hong Kong style borscht, or 羅宋湯 (Russian soup) as it is known in Chinese.
This soup was a favorite for my mom’s family, who dined at early vanguards for Hong Kong style western foods like Goldfinch (made famous in the movie In The Mood For Love). My grandmother and then my mother brought their take on the dish when they immigrated to the United States in the late 1970s and cooked it regularly for me and the rest of my family when I was young. Unfortunately the loose concept that could be considered our family recipe was lost forever when my mom suffered a debilitating stroke in 2011 and passed away a year later. A number of our family members have valiantly tried to recreate the dish in the decade sense, borrowing from others and adapting flavors to suit their own tastes and memories.
So to be clear, this is not necessarily a family recipe, but this is my recipe based on my tastes and nostalgia. I should also shoutout my cousin, who’s recipe I adapted this from. This is certainly quicker than my mom’s recipe which would have involved making beef stock overnight and then adding additional ingredients in the morning for an almost 24 hour process. I am far too impatient to make such a labor of love, but I think this recipe is *almost* as good.
If you do make this recipe, let me know how it goes! Without further ado…
Kitchen Utensils You’ll Need:
Stock pot or 6+ quart pot/dutch oven
Tablespoons to taste as you go
Large cutting board
Couple large prep bowls (don’t need to divide ingredients)
Baking sheet (if using potatoes)
1 quart beef broth or beef stock
3-5 bay leaves
2-3 tablespoons of paprika
2 yellow or white onions
4-5 medium sized carrots
3-4 stalks of celery (optional)
1 small head of cabbage
5-6 medium sized tomatoes (can substitute with 1 can of crushed tomatoes or tomato paste. Perhaps an ideal is a combo of fresh tomatoes and tomato paste)
3-4 small to medium yellow potatoes (optional)
1 pound of oxtail (if unavailable, double the stew meat)
1 pound of beef stew meat
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
fresh ground pepper
Season beef with salt and pepper. Ideally have it seasoned, sealed, and refridgerated for at least a few hours, if not overnight, but in a pinch it will be fine to do it right before making the soup
Wash, pat dry, and rough chop the vegetables. (ex. tomatoes can be quartered, carrots into 1-1.5 inch pieces, onions in 1/8 or 1/16 chunks). If using potatoes, set aside on baking sheet from rest of vegetables
Heat up pot with oil
Heat oven to 400 (if using potatoes)
Sear and brown the beef. A couple minutes on each side will be fine
Add beef stock/broth, prepped vegetables (aside from potatoes), paprika, bay leaves (I like more bay leaves but I leave the amount up to you), and a generous helping of salt and pepper. (I do at least 30-40 grinds per salt or pepper grinder. Yes, use a liberal amount of pepper!)
Top off the pot with additional water (will be around 4-5 cups)
Bring up to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes
If using potatoes, season with oil, salt, and pepper and roast for 20-30 minutes
After 30 minutes of simmer, spoon away the fat that bubbles to the surface, do a taste and add more salt and pepper to taste (I typically then add another 28 grinds of each with my salt and pepper grinders)
If using potatoes add potatoes around the 30-45 min mark of simmering
Simmer for another 2 hours. By then the soup will start to get ready. Use ladle to help mix the ingredients together more and do another taste, add more salt and pepper as needed
I generally simmer for another 3 hours before I consider it ready (and yes, I might even add MORE pepper) but at this point it’s up to you.
In general, the longer the soup simmers the richer it will be. I generally help myself to one bowl once it simmers for about 4-5 hours but continue to simmer for another 1-2 hours before calling it done and saving for the next day. This recipe is flexible and adaptable to suit your tastes. After all, each Hong Kong style cafe and family will have their own spin and recipe. Regardless, though, every bowl is a comforting sense of home, which is especially important as I rest up for my second vaccine shot.
With the pandemic continuing at least another 6 months to a year, at least, before possible widespread distribution of a successful vaccine, like many folks, I have turned to honing my cooking skills in lieu of being able to eat out. While I do love takeout from my favorite places, it’s still not quite the same and I have learned to embrace my new kitchen culinary adventures, especially in my new home with much wider counter space.
Some of my friends have even remarked how good my food looks on my Instagram and have asked for what recipes I use. I figured I might as well turn it into a blog post so my slightly expanded audience of readers can also see what I’m cooking up and which recipes I’m using. I’ll also give some tips and tricks that I have found useful/helpful during this time.
Recipes/Cooks I Follow
First, I want to shout out the various cooks and chefs that have written and published a number of recipes that I have loved to use and go back to over and over again.
Number one among them is the family behind the cooking blog/website The Woks of Life. They have volumes of recipes that are really good, especially compared to other similar recipes I have used for certain dishes. Read down for specific recipes I love, but their blog is full of how-tos, tips, and even guides to various ingredients. If you’re newer to cooking Chinese food, I would definitely give those how-tos and introductions a read.
Next shoutout goes to Fuchsia Dunlop, a renown chef and expert in Chinese cuisine, especially Sichuanese food. Yes, she is white, but I do find her knowledge to be quite extensive and her writing to be rather approachable. In fact, I have her cookbook Every Grain of Rice in my kitchen and used a number of recipes from it. For my vegetarian/vegan friends, many of her recipes in the book are vegetarian friendly or can easily be adapted to be vegetarian as well. Her latest book, the Land of Fish and Water goes in depth to the food of the Jiangnan region (Shanghai along with Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces of the Yangtze River delta).
Since I am Cantonese and do love Cantonese cooking, I’ll also shoutout Tony and Karen’s Kitchen on Youtube. Yes, Tony speaks in Cantonese but there are easy to understand English subtitles. There will also be links to his recipes from the YouTube to his English language blog. From there you can learn some excellent Cantonese classics or foray into some Hong Kong “western”/fusion cuisine.
There are definitely other sources I have gotten recipes from (including from my cousin for a modified quasi- family recipe of Hong Kong style “Russian borscht”), but those would be my top 3 sources where you would have well over a month’s a recipes to cook with if you cooked something new every day.
The recipes below generally go from what I view as “easiest” to “most involved” but your mileage may very.
“Ants Climbing Up a Tree” by The Woks of Life– a new in my repertoire but honestly this recipe is SO EASY. You do need to go to your Asian grocery store to find chili bean paste (Lee Kum Kee my preferred brand for almost all things), but after you prep the ingredients, which isn’t a lot, it cooks in minutes and get a hearty dish for 3-4 people to share.
Tomato with Egg (Chinese style) – the Woks of Life and the New York Times both have their separate recipes and my version is like a combo of the two (I do use ketchup to add some sweetness/thickness to the sauce and make it more like cha chaan teng style Tomato with Egg but I don’t use cornstarch as NYT suggests). While the recipes themselves are simple, what really trips up the dish is cooking the eggs. I suggest lowering the heat and folding in the eggs gently, but quickly, to get that fluffy texture you want for the dish.
干煸四季豆 (Dried Fried String Beans) by The Woks of Life – While I never got my mom’s recipe before she passed, this is the next best things for me. The key to this recipe is to shallow fry the green beans and then pat the oil dry after to make that signature wrinkly/crisp texture without it being too oily.
干鍋菜花 (Dry Pot Cauliflower) by The Woks of Life – This is one of my current recipe staples. It’s fairly easy, hearty, and pretty flavorful. Instead of pork belly I use bacon and slice the raw bacon into bite size pieces but either way will be tasty. This year you can even find these Chinese style cauliflower at Trader Joes but you can also get a large head at a local Chinese supermarket (like a 99 Ranch or T&T Supermarket)
Slivered Pork with Chinese Chives by Fuchsia Dunlop– I actually use golden chives for this dish but honestly any chive variety should be fine. While the portions itself is fine for a small side dish, I recommend doubling the amount of everything for something heartier as a main/co-equal dish at the table.
Twice Cooked Pork– The recipe I use is from Dunlop’s book but this Serious Eats recipe is very similar and should be just as tasty. Dunlop’s recipe calls for boiling the pork belly only 20 minutes but also to chill the pork belly overnight.
乾炒牛河 (Stir-Fried Rice Noodle with Beef)– The Tony’s Kitchen recipe is my first and favorite one to make this classic comfort Cantonese dish. You definitely need to separate the fresh rice noodles which is a lot of labor, but helpful in making sure the rice noodles don’t stick. I still haven’t mastered stir frying the rice noodles to a point where they are as smooth, separated, and not as sticky as a restaurant or a pro ,but the results of this dish are nonetheless delicious.
Other Easy Meals
Like many other people, I can get exhausted or lazy and just need a quick dinner so here’s a couple very easy things to cook with little effort.
Ma Po Tofu – Yes, you make make some great homemade recipes for this, but honestly I am all about just using a Ma Po Tofu sauce packet either from House Foods (Med Hot) or Lee Kum Kee. If you’re using Lee Kum Kee, I recommend using 2 packets. Cube a packet of tofu, cook the ground pork, and throw in the sauce and then tofu and you have a hearty main dish in minutes.
Stir Fried Chinese Greens – Stir fried veggies are very quick and versatile. All you need are aromatics (ginger, garlic, and any kind of onion/shallot) and a leafy Chinese green (bok choy, you choy/choy sum, Chinese broccoli, etc) will do (though you may want to blanch the Chinese broccoli if you use that). Add the sliced onion to the wok to cook and the ginger for about a minute. Quickly add the garlic and stir fry that too (so it doesn’t burn). Then add the leafy green of choice, seasoning with salt and pepper and cook until your choice of how crunchy/tender you like the greens.
Frozen Dumplings and Instant Ramen – Ultimate laziness? I boil some Asian dumplings (I generally like pork with chives or pork with cabbage ones), then make instant ramen (my go to brands are Tung-I onion flavor or any flavor of IndoMie). Add stir fried greens of choice and voila, easy meal.
Things I’ve learned cooking during this pandemic that have been helpful:
Always have some kind of allium on hand, even when you think you might not need it. Onions, garlic, shallots? Just buy some as you shop as they’ll always come in handy.
Cooking a lot of Chinese food? Keep some ground pork in hand. A lot of recipes I like require ground pork. It’s versatile, it’s easy, and it’s cheap. You can substitute ground pork for ground meat/vegetarian substitute of choice but ground pork will give it that great flavor.
Sauces/Cooking Liquids to keep on hand – Shaoxing wine (very versatile and can use in stir frying), light/regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce (thicker, more rich soy sauce usually for coloring), hot chili oil (never enough!), oyster sauce (lots of quick and easy umami), and vegetable/chicken stock (can even use to cook rice).
Hope this helps and inspires you to add some Chinese food intro your pandemic cooking routine. If needed, you can definitely contact me here or on Instagram for any questions or follow up.
It’s been months since I wrote a blog post, since the pandemic has really made my normal blog staples, reviewing different restaurants, virtually impossible. I thought about writing a blog post on what restaurants are open to outdoor dining, but I am wary about tacitly endorsing dining, even outdoors, in the midst of a new surge and plateau of cases in much of the US.
So instead, I figured I would write about my personal favorite Chinatowns in North America that I’ve been to, why I like them, and which of my favorite restaurants are still open for takeout. The order is loosely based on my preference but don’t fret, even if I left yours out, I still love all Chinatowns.
San Gabriel Valley (LA), CA
I admit, I am a little biased given that I have traveled to the San Gabriel Valley (aka the “SGV” or “626”) since I was a kid, as it was often the area where we could get better dim sum and Chinese groceries that were harder or more expensive to find in San Diego. That said, the SGV is one of the largest “Chinatowns” in North America encompassing hundreds of square miles and dozens of different cities just east of Los Angeles and can probably be divided into 2: the west San Gabriel Valley centered in the cities of Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, and San Gabriel, and the east San Gabriel Valley around the communities of Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights, and Walnut.
Unlike historic Chinatowns in San Francisco or New York City with their dense streets and small alleys, the San Gabriel Valley is filled with sprawling suburbs centered on commercial corridors jam packed with Chinese strip malls along Valley Blvd, Garvey Ave, Colima Rd, and other streets. Partially because of such vastness, over the last 50 years the SGV has been an area where successive waves of immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China have been able to settle and set up new businesses. This allows a continual wave of new competition and trends from China to emerge, which also keeps old standbys on their toes to better their offerings or potentially be replaced fairly soon.
It’s also a fairly young place, with a pretty dynamic and ever evolving Chinese American culture that help popularize emerging Asian American trends in the United States like boba/bubble tea 20-30 years ago. (yes, bubble tea has been in the US for that long!) This Fung Bros “The 626” video typifies how this culture was like 10 years ago.
So where are some of the places to order takeout in the best Chinatown in North America? See below:
The Bay Cafe – One of the SGV’s better known and regarded Hong Kong style cafes serves a good Hong Kong milk tea and a cornucopia of other great Hong Kong staples. Order on DoorDash or Uber Eats
Bistro Na’s – Michelin starred Bistro Na’s in Temple City serves self proclaimed “imperial court food” that is nonetheless vary delicious, like the Crispy Shrimp and Na’s Spicy Chicken. You can order online via their website, DoorDash, or Grubhub
Elite Restaurant – One of the SGV’s best places for dim sum is now open for takeout again on DoorDash
HaiDiLao Hot Pot – Takeout hot pot you say? Yes, it exists (and I can report that it’s really doable if you got a pot and burner/hot plate at home) and you can order from this popular, and expensive, Chinese chain on virtually all the delivery platforms.
Mian – Chengdu Taste’s sibling restaurant with a tasty assortment of noodles is available for takeout on Uber Eats
Sea Harbour – Constantly evolving and standard setting Cantonese and dim sum specialist Sea Harbour is open for takeout. Given them a call at 626-288-3939
Savoy Kitchen – This perennial chicken rice favorite is available to order togo. Just give them a call at 626-308-9535
Yin Ji Chang Fen – The San Gabriel outpost of this Guangzhou style rice noodle roll chain accepts orders on DoorDash and Uber Eats
Richmond (Vancouver), BC
While great Chinese food can be found nearly all over Vancouver, the best in the Lower Mainland is concentrated in the southern suburb of Vancouver. While the San Gabriel Valley’s strength is in its wide and continually evolving breadth of regional cuisines, Richmond’s strength lies in its particular depth of one regional cuisine: Cantonese.
It’s not to say you can’t find great places serving other regional Chinese cuisines in Richmond, but the particular depth of Cantonese cuisine here lies in its unique history. As the 1997 handover of Hong Kong approached, many wealthy Hong Kongers feared what might change in a PRC controlled Hong Kong and promptly found ways to immigrant. One of the easiest options was to get investment visas in Canada, and thus tens of thousands of Hong Kongers and their children moved and settled to Richmond. They brought along and could entice good chefs from Hong Kong which helped increase the quality of Cantonese food in the region, so much so that many restaurants in the 2000s to mid 2010s were close or at the level of their counterparts in Hong Kong.
More recently, arrivals from mainland China have helped expanded the number of good regional options available, but not to the level of SGV yet, and it remains to be seen on how Hong Kong’s latest political turbulence will mean for even more food and immigration to Canada. That said, some of my favorites are:
HK BBQ Master – This was always basically a big takeout restaurant, so you can still get their excellent Cantonese style roast meats in person
Mama’s Dumpling and Coffee – Renown for their xiaolongbao, you can get these delicious orders for takeout
Silver Tower – Old school Hong Kong Style Cafe serves the best comfort food that you can order on DoorDash
Sun Sui Wah – A couple of my friends recently dined here (BC’s COVID rates are significantly better than the US, though I’d still be pretty hesitant) and the food seems just as great as pre-pandemic, which you can order on Skip the Dishes.
Yue Restaurant – One of my favorite dim sum spots in Richmond is open for takeout via DoorDash
Flushing (New York City), NY
The sights and sounds of Canal and Mott Streets in Manhattan Chinatown may get much of the spotlight in New York City, but I say that the best New York Chinatown is a hop uptown and a 7 line subway ride away to Flushing in Queens.
In contrast to the SGV and Richmond’s sprawling strip malls, Flushing is a decidedly urban Chinatown, densely packed along Main Street and its side streets and allies. You can find a variety of Chinese regional cuisines here too, especially in the few densely packed mall food courts like the New World Mall (though not sure how open they might or will be with the COVID-19 pandemic). However, many of the main stars in Flushing are Taiwanese, Fujianese, and Shanghainese and some of my favorite memories in New York City are of walking down Main St with various friends and cousins sipping on boba and eating street food.
Here are a few great places currently open for takeout:
Hunan Cafe – Order some authentic Hunanese food for takeout via Seamless or Uber Eats
Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao – You can order some of the best soup dumplings in the city online through their website
Nurlan Uygher Restaurant – One of NYC’s first Uygher restaurants is open for takeout by looking at their menu and calling 347-542-3324
Xing Fu Tang – I couldn’t write about Flushing without a bubble tea recommendation right? Well get some Brown Sugar Boba Milk from this new kid on the block that replaced the old Red House on Seamless, Uber Eats, or DoorDash
Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea – I love Yi Fang Fruit Tea for their endless array of delectable fruit teas, which you can order on Seamless and DoorDash
The Richmond (San Francisco), CA
There are numerous Chinatowns in the San Francisco Bay Area, but in my opinion the Richmond District in the western part of the city is the best Chinatown in the region.
Why? Unlike San Francisco’s historic Chinatown, the Richmond is a little less touristy but packs in the bustle as much as you’d find on Stockton St. Clement St and Geary St have a large selection of Chinese restaurants, supermarkets, and other businesses, including my favorite dim sum place, Dragon Beaux.
Here are some places to try ordering from in the Richmond:
Dragon Beaux – The aforementioned Dragon Beaux is available for takeout on Uber Eats or Grubhub, but you could also give them a call and order their frozen dim sum to reheat yourself to perfection
HoDaLa – From beef noodle soup to popcorn chicken, this Taiwanese favorite can be ordered for takeout or delivery via its website.
Jiangnan Cuisine – Cuisine from the area just north of Shanghai in Jiangsu province can be found on DoorDash, Grubhub, or Postmates
Kowloon Tong Dessert Cafe – This no frills cha chaan teng is ready to serve you some delicious Hong Kong milk tea or basic Hong Kong style western food and deserts on nearly all delivery apps
Tasty Pot – Taiwanese hot pot chain Tasty Pot is available for your individualized hot pot needs via takeout or delivery on DoorDash or Uber Eats
Manhattan Chinatown (New York City), NY
The only historic Chinatown on my list is New York City. Why Manhattan’s historic Chinatown you ask, instead of other ones like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, or even my hometown of Oakland? The simple reason is that unlike the others, it’s a perfect combination of history, mix of shops, and an area where both old Chinese families from Guangdong, recent arrivals from Fujian, and tourists alike can mix and mingle with ease. San Francisco’s Chinatown, sadly, feels very weirdly divided between tourist and trinket shop dominated Grant St and local market and restaurant focused Stockton St.
So if you’re in or near Manhattan, here are some places open for takeout!
Carol’s Bun – Located in the East Broadway part of Chinatown, this no-frills Fujianese places is perfect for some affordable takeout
Cha Chan Tang – One of the original cha chaan tengs in the city serves up comfort Hong Kong style western food like macaroni soup and curry chicken that you can get on DoorDash or Seamless
Kong Sihk Tong – Feast upon all sorts of Hong Kong style foods by getting some takeout via phone at 646-850-6140
Noodle Village – My favorite comfort Cantonese spot in Manhattan Chinatown is available for takeout or delivery on virtually all the delivery apps
Wo Hop – Want some old school Chinese American food? Like so old that the restaurant has been around for 80+ years? Look no further than Chinatown staple Wo Hop to grab some Chinese American takeout
Houston Chinatown, TX
I think many folks tend to think of big historic and even suburban Chinatowns as being exclusively a West Coast or East Coast thing, but one of the largest Chinatowns in the country is, in fact, in Houston! Centered on Bellaire Blvd. east of Beltway 8, Houston Chinatown is similar to what you would find along Valley Blvd in the SGV or heavily Chinese cities in the Silicon Valley around Sunnyvale and Cupertino. There’s a mix of Hong Kong, mainland Chinese, and Vietnamese Chinese people in Houston that also makes Houston’s Chinatown a little unique. Houston’s Little Saigon is also just to the west of Beltway 8.
I’ve only been to Houston Chinatown once, but here’s some places that are still open for takeout:
Fung’s Kitchen – The only one of the places on this list I’ve actually dined in, you can get your craving of dim sum filled here through ordering takeout or on DoorDash or Uber Eats (I hear they are taking COVID precautions pretty seriously too!)
House of Bowls – One of Houston’s cha chaan tengs seems well beloved with a variety of Hong Kong style dishes available for takeout
Mala Sichuan Bistro – The authentic flavors of Sichuan can be had by ordering takeout on their website as well as Uber Eats
Mein – Classic Cantonese food, including the namesake noodles and noodle soups, can be found for takeout at this well regarded spot
One Dragon – For Shanghainese xiao long bao and their crispy bottom cousins, sheng jian bao, order takeout here
I didn’t include pan-Asian areas just so it was clearer/cleaner. However, there are a few pan-Asian districts (places where there’s more of a mix of different pan-Asian shops, restaurants, and markets) that I really love.
International District (Seattle), WA – The most recent non-Bay Area Asian district I’ve been to, the International District, is a historic Japanese and Chinese area that has a great diversity of different Asian cuisines just southeast of downtown Seattle.
Irvine (outside of LA), CA – I went to college in Irvine and loved being able to eat all sorts of Taiwanese food here as many Taiwanese families settled in Irvine in the 1980s and 1990s.
Kearny Mesa (San Diego), CA – Yes, I’m biased in that I grew up in San Diego, but Kearny Mesa, especially on Convoy St, was the area I grew up eating dim sum, Korean BBQ, yakitori, and other variety of Asian food. Mira Mesa, historically a large neighborhood of Filipino and Vietnamese folks, is also a great pan Asian area to visit in San Diego as well.
Mesa (Phoenix), AZ – While Mesa leans more toward Vietnamese and Vietnamese Chinese folks, it’s a great place to eat and shop all types of Asian cuisines. I always made it a point to stop in Mesa on my ways to/from Albuquerque to/from my visits seeing family in Southern California
A few weeks ago when the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were starting to show up in the United States in force, I wrote a blog post on how you can still support your local Asian restaurants, especially given that many were already facing drastic declines in sales since January due to racist fears over how the coronavirus is spread.
Of course given how many restaurants, including Asian ones, have closed with stay at home orders being implemented across the country, it’s not necessarily easy to know which ones are still open and which are closed. To further add to the confusion, some are on some apps but not on others.
Well, I have decided to have a running list of Asian restaurants open in certain metros across the US and Canada based on my research so you too can eat well and support your local Asian businesses during this time. (Much of this research relies on the work that Eater writers in several metros have compiled, so giving due where credit is deserved). The list will be alphabetical by metro area and will only include up to 10-15 restaurants per region to make it still somewhat manageable to navigate.
Of course, given the day by day nature of changes in the current environment it might be good to call the restaurant or double check the app you are using to confirm the place is open. (And when you do order from an app, be sure to text your driver requesting no contact delivery and tipping them well)
2000 Vietnam (Vietnamese) – One of my favorite pho place in Albuquerque is open for takeout or delivery via Grubhub and Doordash
Asian Pear (Korean) – Arguably my favorite Asian restaurant in Albuquerque is open for takeout (call ahead) or delivery via DoorDash
Basil Leaf (Vietnamese) – This favorite of the first family of Albuquerque (at least when I was helping Mayor Keller’s State Senate run in 2012!) is open for takeout. There pho is good but try something different like their Banh Xeo (a sort of Vietnamese stuffed omelet)
Bubblicitiea (Filipino) – Yes, there’s a Filipino place in Albuquerque AND it serves bubble tea. Around Uptown? Call ahead to 505-289-9719 for your Filipino food fixin.
Chopstix (Chinese) – From reports that I have seen, this solid Chinese restaurant is available for takeout and delivery via DoorDash
IT Dimsum (Chinese) – I’ve never been as this place opened since I was last in Albuquerque, but if you want some traditional Cantonese food and Hong Kong style dim sum, you can order via Grubhub
Given that I live in the Bay Area, this is a combination of both research gained on Eater SF articles for SF, East Bay, and the Peninsula, along with my firsthand knowledge being a delivery driver (mostly in Oakland/Berkeley). This list is not exhaustive, but a start!
Burma Superstar (Burmese) – Burma Superstar’s locations in Alameda and Oakland (as well as the now unaffiliated original in San Francisco) along with Burma Love are available for takeout and delivery for your tea leaf salad cravings
Co Nam (Vietnamese) – Co Nam’s street style Vietnamese food locations in San Francisco (Polk Street) and Oakland (Mosswood/Temescal) are open for takeout and delivery via Caviar
Dragon Beaux (Chinese) – Hugely popular dim sum and hot pot restaurant in San Francisco is open 11AM-3PM and 5-8PM every day for takeout & delivery on Doordash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats. They also sell their dim sum frozen in bulk if you like as well!
Farmhouse Thai (Thai/Lao) – Farmhouse Thai’s locations in San Francisco (Mission) and Oakland (Jack London as well as sister restaurant Daughter Thai in Montclair) are open for takeout and free delivery via Caviar. Specials include a Lao table meal for 2-3 for $59 and lunch special for $22
Hawking Bird (Thai) – This is James Syhabout’s only restaurant currently open (Commis isn’t exactly a place with feasible takeout). Grab some khao mun gai 11:30AM-8PM Tuesday-Sunday via takeout, Caviar, or Doordash.
Nari (Thai) -While you can’t get Michelin starred Thai at Kin Khao during this pandemic, sister restaurant Nari in Japantown is open for takeout 5-7PM Tuesday-Saturday. Order via their website.
Ohgane (Korean) – Only Ohgane’s Oakland location is open for takeout or delivery (via DoorDash or Caviar), but their full dinner menu is available as well as a $15 lunch special on weekdays
Shiba Ramen (Japanese) – I know firsthand that Shiba Ramen is particularly struggling. You can order their delicious Clear Dark Ramen online for takeout in their Oakland location or delivery via Caviar 11:30AM-7:30PM Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday.
Shooting Star Cafe (Chinese) – One of my favorite Hong Kong style cafes is open for takeout and delivery (via DoorDash and Caviar) everyday until midnight whether you are craving a baked pork chop rice and Hong Kong milk tea or an egg waffle puff
Taro – In Palo Alto you can slurp udon by grabbing takeout at this Stanford Shopping Center restaurant or via Caviar, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats
The LA/OC list is not exhaustive, of course, given the breadth of the metro area. For more details you can check out theseEaterarticlesIused for research. Also, I recommend checking the twitter accounts of David Chan, Jim Thurman, and Kristie Hang, who are awesome English language food writers/bloggers that keep pretty up to date tabs on what’s open in LA (esp. the San Gabriel Valley)
Bay Cafe (Hong Kong) – Delicious Hong Kong cafe style food can be had by you either through takeout or delivery via DoorDash
Capital Noodle Bar (Chinese) – All branches of Capital Noodle Bar (Brea, Costa Mesa, and Irvine) are available for your noodle consumption needs via Grubhub, Postmates, DoorDash, and UberEats
Capital Seafood (Chinese) – Both the Capital Seafood in Beverly Hills and the one in Irvine (apparently owned/operated separately) are open for takeout and Beverly Hills location you can also order via Grubhub
Din Tai Fung (Taiwanese) – The Century City and South Coast Plaza locations are reportedly open, but sadly the original Arcadia location is not. Soup dumplings, in my opinion, are notoriously bad food items for takeout given the rapid loss of heat but you do you!
Ding’s Garden (Taiwanese) – Whether you’re in Alhambra, Irvine, Pasadena, or Rowland Heights, you can get some heaping portions of Taiwanese food via takeout or Postmotes
Gen Korean BBQ (Korean) – Locations in Alhambra, Cerritos, Chino Hills, Northridge, Rancho Cucamonga, and Torrance are doing takeout and delivery including a $10 2 meat, 3 sides, and rice deal.
Jitlada (Thai) -Yes, it’s true, world renown Thai restaurant Jitlada is open for takeout or delivery via Grubhub
J Zhou Oriental Cuisine (Chinese) – My favorite place for dim sum in Orange County is open for takeout or delivery via Seamless and Grubhub if you’re around Irvine
Kai Ramen (Japanese) – Folks who live near Sherman Oaks and WeHo can get their ramen slurps on by takeout or Postmates
Mo-Mo Paradise (Japanese) – Shabu shabu to go? Yes, that is possible! Order takeout from Mo-Mo by ordering online or you can get delivery from Grubhub from all locations (Arcadia, Rowland Heights, and Torrance)
Pho Ga District (Vietnamese) – If you live near Rosemead, you can get steaming, delicious bowls of chicken pho to your door via DoorDash or pickup to go!
Savoy Kitchen (Singaporean) – Are you missing your chicken rice fix? Well you can head to Savoy for takeout!
Tsujita (Japanese) – It seems like all Tsujita family restaurants are open for takeout (you can order online on their website). Additionally, if you live fairly close to the Tsujita & Co Noodle Production location on Fairfax you can get takeout as well as delivery on Caviar, Grubhub, and Postmates
Uniboil (Hotpot) – From it’s flagship location in Monterey Park, you can order over the phone and get your hotpot items to go or delivery even as far as Yorba Linda! Purchase of $50 or more? You even get 2 complimentary face masks
Vinh Loi Tofu (Vietnamese) – Whether you’re in Cerritos or deep in the Valley by Reseda, you can get a bite of vegan Vietnamese food through takeout or Uber Eats.
NEW YORK CITY
Like the Bay Area and LA, I couldn’t possibly lay out all or even a good chunk of Asian restaurants offering take out and delivery, so for further lists of places here are someadditionalarticles and an Instagram account (Instagram mostly surveys Chinatown).
Arirang Steak House (Japanese) – If you crave teppan grilled Japanese cuisine, all Arirang locations in the NYC area is open for dinner through takeout or delivery on their website
Buddha Bodai (Chinese) – Need your vegetarian dim sum fix? Well you’re just in luck as Buddha Bodai is open for takeout and delivery!.
Di An Di (Vietnamese) – This Greenpoint Vietnamese restaurant is available for takeout or delivery via Caviar
The Handpulled Noodles (Chinese) – In the Heights you can taste some Uyghur/Xinjiang style noodles and dishes that are available to order online via their website, Seamless, or Grubhub.
Hao Noodles (Chinese) – While the West Village location is closed, you can still get your bowls of Chinese noodles from the Chelsea location via Caviar, Uber Eats, Chowbus, or Ricepo
Her Name is Han (Korean) – This Koreatown restaurant that specializes in Korean communal comfort food like Bossam is available for delivery on a number of platforms including Caviar, Grubhub, Uber Eats, Chowbus, and Doordash
Kong Sihk Tong (Hong Kong) – I ate an early birthday/4th of July meal here last year and I’m pleased this great HK style cafe is still open for takeout and delivery
Kopitiam (Malaysian) – Get your fix of Nasi Lemak, Kaya Toast, or other Malaysian favorites via takeout or delivery through Caviar
Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (Chinese) – Again, I don’t prefer soup dumplings for takeout/delivery, but if you must satisfy the craving and live near Flushing, Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao is available for takeout or delivery via GoHive/Chowbus
Udom Thai (Thai) – You can get your fix of Thai food at this Prospect Park restaurant through takeout and delivery
San Diego’s Asian restaurant scene is not as large and unwieldy as the Bay or LA, but if you want an expanded list of places open in Kearny Mesa, you can take a look here. My list will include places beyond Convoy St.
Emerald Restaurant (Chinese) – San Diego’s recently off and on again dim sum restaurant serves takeout from 11AM-7PM daily
Jasmine (Chinese) – You can chow down on dim sum or Chinese BBQ via their takeout counter or by ordering on Grubhub, Doordash, Postmates, or Uber Eats
Manna BBQ (Korean) – Yes, you can get your fix of Korean BBQ (cooked or uncooked) by ordering takeout or delivery from either their Kearny Mesa or Mira Mesa locations
Mekong Cuisine Lao & Thai (Lao & Thai) – I believe San Diego’s only (or one of the first) Lao places is available for takeout or delivery via Grubhub or Postmates
The Original Sab-E-Lee (Thai) – Both the Linda Vista and Rancho Peñasquitos location of this delectable Thai restaurant is available for takeout (and I believe delivery via Doordash but don’t quote me on that)
Pho Ca Dao (Vietnamese) – My favorite pho place in San Diego has all 7 of their locations (Chula Vista, City Heights, Mira Mesa, Mission Valley, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, and Santee) open for takeout or delivery via DoorDash.
RakiRaki Ramen & Tsukemen – Both their Convoy and Liberty Station locations are open for takeout and delivery
Sushi Ota (Japanese) – San Diego’s venerable sushi place (where my grandfather has been known to frequent in the past) is serving their sushi via takeout (I doubt they are on delivery apps, but you can try!)
Yakyudori Yakitori & Ramen (Japanese) – Get a taste of these very awesome yakitori skewers via takeout or delivery on Grubhub
GTA, like other large metros, is too large to capture in just 10-15 places, but you can dig deeper on thesesources I found.
Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu (Korean) – For your soon tofu needs, you can order from their Bloor St, North York, Missisauga, or Richmond Hill locations via Uber Eats or SkipTheDishes
Cumin Restaurant (Indian) – This East York South Asian eatery is available for takeout or delivery
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka (Japanese) – Like their US counterparts, Canadian branches of Santouka Ramen are available for takeout or delivery via Uber Eats or DoorDash at their Dundas St., Bloor St., or Eglinton & Yonge locations
Hong Shing (Chinese) – For your pan-Chinese and Canadian Chinese dining needs, Hong Shing is open 11AM-2AM for your takeout and delivery needs
Kaboom Kitchen (Korean) – Korean fried chicken is divine and you can have them at your door via Foodora, UberEats, or DoorDash
Lai Wah Heen (Chinese) – Craving some fancy dim sum? Well you’re in luck as you can order from Lai Wah Heen via Foodora, UberEats, DoorDash, and F.O.D.
Matha Roti (Indian) – This Harbord Village roti specialist is not available for delivery, but you can order for takeout
Max’s Chicken (Filipino) – Cravings for Filipino style fried chicken (and other dishes) in Vaughan or Scarborough can be satisfied by takeout or delivery via UberEats
Torang Restaurant (Iranian) – Newmarket area residents can get their taste of Iranian food via takeout or delivery
Wuhan Noodle (Chinese) – Markham noodle house Wuhan Noodle, the site of racist online attacks earlier this year, is available for takeout or ordering on DoorDash
Given its large Chinese population, Vancouver was one of the areas first hit hard in North America from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many places are closed, but I’ve tried to do the best I can to find places open to curate this small, but mighty, list (with Dished Vancouver being a helpful resource):
Bubble Queen (Chinese) – Your bubble tea and Hong Kong egg waffle puff cravings can be satisfied by this Fairview/South Cambie joint available for takeout or on DoorDash
CC’s Chinese Restaurant (Chinese) – In North Van and hungry for Canadian Chinese or Taiwanese food? Well CC’s has you covered for takeout or delivery on SkipTheDishes or Uber Eats
Chef Hung’s Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (Taiwanese) – Only the Kerrisdale location of this venerable Taiwanese chain is open for takeout or delivery 11AM-8PM daily
Disco Cheetah (Korean) – West End/Davie Village Korean fusion fast casual is open 11AM-11PM for takeout or delivery via Uber Eats
Do Chay (Vietnamese) – Vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant Do Chay is open for takeout and delivery
Fresh Legend (Taiwanese) – Renfrew Taiwanese dessert place Fresh Legend has their freshly made taro balls available for takeout
Kirin Restaurant (Chinese) – Hungry for one of the most reliable dim sum places in Vancouver? Well you can order takeout from both the Richmond and New Westminster locations and they should be on Uber Eats soon, if not already.
Kulinarya (Filipino) – This Coquitlam and Commercial Dr. Filipino restaurant is available for your pansit and silog cravings for pickup or delivery via DoorDash
Max’s Chicken (Filipino) – Cravings for Filipino style fried chicken (and other dishes) can be satisfied by takeout or delivery via Foodora, UberEats, or DoorDash
Shiok (Singaporean) – East Van Singaporean place Shiok is available for takeout or delivery via Foodora or Uber Eats
Sun Sui Wah (Chinese) – The venerable Cantonese restaurant is takeout only for its Richmond location, but you can order delivery from its Main St. location on SkipTheDishes.
Vij’s (Indian) – Yes, this renown Indian restaurant restaurant is available for takeout and delivery and the owner himself is one of the leaders in supporting a national Canada Takeout Day to encourage it!
The DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia) area might have smaller Asian communities than SF, LA, and NYC, but there are still a large number of places still open. As with other metro areas, I used Eater DC for a fairbitofresearch, in addition to my own research. Here is a list of places open spread out across the metro area:
Bun’d (Taiwanese and Korean) – Taiwanese Korean fusion place Bun’d has centralized operations in its Pentagon City location where you can order baos and ssam via online pickup, Postmates, or Caviar
Chiko (Korean) – Fast casual modern American Korean spot Chiko is available for takeout in both its Dupont Circle and Eastern Market locations as well as on Caviar and DoorDash
Da Hong Pao (Chinese) – Yes, you can get dim sum delivered to you in DC via Doordash! If you’re craving American Chinese classics like lo mein or…wings with mumbo sauce…sister restaurant Yum’s II is also open next door for takeout (yes, you read that right, I AM recommending an American Chinese place)
Daikaya (Japanese) – Reliable and good ramen shop Daikaya is available for pickup using its online store or delivery via Uber Eats. Its sister restaurants Bantam King (fried chicken and chicken ramen) and Hatoba are also available for delivery on Caviar in addition to takeout and Uber Eats
Hai Duong (Vietnamese) – Reliable Eden Center favorite Hai Duong is available for your Northern Virginia pho needs via takeout or delivery on DoorDash
Honey Pig (Korean) – Delightful Korean BBQ restaurant Honey Pig is available for your Northern Virginia bulgogi desires either through pickup or on DoorDash
Kabobi by the Helmand (Afghan) – My favorite Afghan place in Baltimore has a fast casual place in Herndon that can be delivered to you via Grubhub, Uber Eats, or Postmates
Makan (Malaysian) – Columbia Heights newcomer Makan serves Malaysian food for takeout via online ordering. Its sister restaurant Maketto (Cambodian-Taiwanese fusion) is also available for pickup or delivery via Caviar
Mama Chang (Chinese) – One of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the DMV is open for you to do contactless pickup when you order their delicious Sichuanese and Hunanese food online or deliver in Northern Virginia via Uber Eats.
Rasa (Indian) – You can order fast casual modern Indian food from this Navy Yard restaurant either by ordering online for pickup or through virtually all delivery platforms including Caviar, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Seamless. You can also buy toilet paper for $1 a roll and a pack of 100 disposable gloves for $5 too
Sushi Taro (Japanese) – Live near Dupont Circle? Well you’re in luck to order takeout from Michelin starred Sushi Taro for it’s fabulous selection of sushi, sake, and udon
Tiger Fork (Hong Kong) – I am pleased and relieved to find out that my current favorite Chinese restaurant in DC is open for takeout (on a more limited menu) from 3-8PM either by picking up or delivery through Caviar or Doordash
Turnip Cakes and Rice Noodles at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village
I was planning to write some very backlogged reviews after Super Tuesday (when I was spending a lot of my spare time volunteering for the Elizabeth Warren campaign), but COVID-19 has changed all that, as it has for all of us in the past 1-2 weeks in the United States.
So what does the growing Coronavirus crisis in the US mean for eating Asian food? Why does it even matter when we are told to socially distance ourselves and avoid crowded spaces, including restaurants?
Well it does matter because food service establishments (restaurants and bars) employs more than 12 million people in the United States. Many of them now face an uncertain future when state governments are issuing strong guidance or ordering bars and restaurants to close indefinitely or drastically curtail service hours and number of people they can seat at a given time. This has been especially acute for Asian, particularly Chinese, restaurants that have seen sharp declines in business since January to due racist and unfounded fears that somehow you could get COVID-19 from Chinese food or because Chinese Americans work their (despite never having been to China recently or have contact with people diagnosed with COVID-19). This has led to temporary and permanent closures of Chinese restaurants across the country due to the slowdown in business.
Now all bars and restaurants are being hit hard, of course, so we should be supportive of all local food establishments as much as we can. Of course, Asian restaurants have been hit harder and for longer so if you want to prioritize them, I think that is valid.
Just this afternoon my friend organized a few of her friends, including myself, to her house to eat Chinese food from Oakland Chinatown to support Chinese restaurants. Originally our plan was to actually do a “restaurant hop” but given the guidance and developments in the last week in the Bay Area we switched to getting takeout and meeting at my friend’s place (and even then there were last minute concerns that maybe we weren’t socially distancing ourselves as much as we should). But all in all, we felt good being able to socialize in a small group but also support local. businesses that have been hurting.
So given the current situation I would say yes, support your local restaurants, especially Asian restaurants. If you can’t go to a restaurant (either because your state or locality has shut down restaurants or you don’t feel comfortable), order takeout or delivery and make sure to tip well. We should all do our part in social distancing but also do our part in supporting our local restaurants in whatever way we can as long as possible we are able.
A couple weeks ago during the holidays I finally took the opportunity to try one of my good friend and her husband’s favorite Thai restaurants. I have always wanted to taste the food at Night + Market, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity (as I assume there isn’t too much difference between their original location and their 3rd location at Sahm).
We made a reservation for 8PM on a Sunday and I am glad we did as the line was definitely long when we arrived at 7:45PM. We didn’t end up getting seated until our reservation time, but while we waited the wait staff did offer us drinks from their alcohol menu. After sitting down we mainly ordered several of my friend’s favorites (which I was keen to try out) as well as added an item of my own:
nam khao tod at Night + Market Sahm
nam khao tod (crispy rice salad) – I was intrigued by this crispy rice picked pork salad dish and it did not disappoint. While it might not have been as easy to eat with the sticky rice as other larbs, the pork was flavorful and the rice and ginger provided a nice crunch. It was definitely spicy, so eater beware, but very enjoyable
peek gai hey-ya – These party wings were fried to perfection and absolutely delicious. The sauce coated the wings and drumsticks just enough to give a sweet and sticky bite while not too much to make the breading soggy. The meat was moist while still having the crunch of the frying.
garlic green beans at Night + Market Sahm
garlic green beans – I am a sucker for garlic and long green beans so these were wonderfully divine in my mouth. If you like your greens also a little on the crunchy side with the delectable flavors of fried garlic and a dash of savory soy sauce, these are for you.
pad thai, wings, and curry and Night + Market Sahm
chicken pad thai – While the pad thai was pretty good, with hint of spice and sourness the balance the sweetness, overall it wasn’t my favorite. To be fair to the dish, I’m generally not a big pad thai fan (I generally find the Thai American versions to be a bit too sweet) and would have preferred the pad see ew instead, but if you are a pad thai lover, I would definitely recommend
penang en neua– This beef curry was very flavorful and tender, going well with the sticky rice left over from the larb we had earlier. The roti dipped in curry was also delicious, however I found the roti to be a bit overly fried and crispy, so it wasn’t a great vehicle to really pick up the bites of beef and curry.
After all was eaten and paid, I definitely enjoyed my first foray at a Night + Market restaurant. I would definitely choose a few more different dishes next time to sample other flavors (the seasonal greens looked wonderful while I was definitely intrigued in the pastrami pad kee mao), but everything was good. The food prices themselves were pretty decent for a restaurant in Venice, which is definitely an advantage when wanting to try out as many dishes as possible. Just remember, however, to make a reservation.
Padaek 6395 Seven Corners Center Falls Church, VA 22044
The Washington, DC has very few Lao restaurant options, despite the fast growing Asian cuisine scene in the area. So when I was researching Asian restaurants to go to with my friends in Alexandria on my trip to DC a month ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see Padaek as an entry for not only Thai cuisine, but Lao as well. Always one to help introduce other friends to new Asian cuisines, I eagerly asked them if they wanted to try and they were definitely game.
On a Monday night after work we met up and headed to Falls Church near the notoriously difficult to navigate Seven Corners area of Fairfax County. Inside a fairly nondescript strip mall was Padaek, decorated in Halloween themed decor for the then-upcoming holidays.
We sat down and browsed the menu, which included a front two pages of Lao dishes and a back two pages of more familiar Thai dishes. We decided to order a few dishes from the Lao side only and ordered the following:
Sai Oua at Padaek
Sai Oua – This classic appetizer dish of Lao sausage came with sticky rice, lemongrass, dill, and ginger. The sausage was flavorful by itself with a blend of spices that perfectly accentuated the fattiness of the pork. The lemongrass and ginger slices helped to cut that and melded really well with the sticky rice.
Mee Kathi at Padaek
Mee Kathi – This noodle soup was a Mohinga like thick/chowder-y noodle soup with thin rice noodles We got this with tofu and even with the tofu, the dish was immensely flavorful with coconut curry and chili.
Tom Zaap at Padaek
Tom Zaap – This soup had a a nice, subtly sour and tangy tamarind and lemongrass taste. This was refreshing with the pork ribs which were very tender and accompanied by more sticky rice! I do wish it was more stew like than soup like, but nonetheless it was tasty, even as we asked for medium spice (which still didn’t feel too spicy).
Mieng Vientiane at Padaek
Mieng Vientiane – This wrap dish consisted of fried catfish and warp accoutrements like lemongrass, ginger, dill, peanut, tomato, cabbage, and a sweet but slightly spicy fermented soybean-pineapple sauce. The catfish was fried perfectly with great crunch but still flaky and tender meat inside. Combined with the fresh wrap accompaniments, the lettuce wraps had both great textural play and flavor combination between sweet, sour, and spicy. I would highly recommend this dish.
All in all, Padaek was a great Lao experience and allowed me to experience some dishes I can’t even find or haven’t even had in the Bay Area yet! I would definitely be excited to go back and try the other Lao dishes and see how their Thai dishes stand out compared to the many other Thai restaurants in the DC area. If you happen to be traveling in Northern Virginia, I would definitely swing by for a great meal.
Toward the end of my time in DC in July I spent a couple dinners at the relatively new Tiger Fork. Tiger Fork is one of two recently opened restaurants in DC that specialize in the food, especially the street food, of Hong Kong (the other being Queen’s English in the Columbia Heights/Pleasant Plains neighborhood). As a son of immigrants from Hong Kong and a person raised on the food of Hong Kong, I was intrigued that DC’s first foray into the specific food of my parents’ birthplace, especially as it wasn’t through a more proletarian Hong Kong style cafe/cha chaan teng.
Tiger Fork can be hard to find in Blagden Alley, just blocks from the Mt. Vernon Place-Convention Center Metro Station, but once you see the neon sign of the restaurant’s Chinese name and the large Chinese style wooden door, you know you have arrived. There can be a wait, given that it is a popular restaurant, but both times (on weekday nights) I have managed to get a seat within 20-30 minutes.
After sitting down I browsed the fairly pared down menu on one page the sides of a paper placemat. Through my two times there, I ordered the following:
Hong Kong Milk Tea at Tiger Fork
Hong Kong Milk Tea – A bit pricey at $5, but it is absolutely fantastic with a perfect balance between the strong, slightly bitter tea blend and sweet creamy notes of the condensed milk. I could easily chug a couple of these in one sitting but that can add up real quick. This is probably one of only a few areas in the entire DMV region that has a proper Hong Kong milk tea.
Chili Wontons at Tiger Fork
Chili Wontons – Despite being a Cantonese restaurant and not a Sichuanese one, these wontons were pretty good with just enough heat from the oil pairing perfectly with the chicken and shrimp wontons.
Ong Choy – These are one of my favorite vegetables to eat. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the Tiger Fork preparation of this dish. While I love the flavor of fermented bean curd, the version I had used too much vinegar and ended up being a bit of a slightly too sour mess. (Queen’s English version is a bit closer to what I remember loving as a kid)
Garlic Scapes at Tiger Fork
Garlic Scapes – In comparison, my friend and I loved the Garlic Scapes. The chives and scapes were stir fried perfectly with a bit of crunch and herbal nuttiness that was sublime. We consumed this dish very rapidly.
Beef Chow Fun – This is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, but unfortunately it missed the mark for me. First of all, I’ll say that the beef brisket they use is phenomenal. It’s well seasoned and cooked to mouth watering perfectly. Unfortunately, the noodles are a little soft and gummy. The dish should have “wok hei”, stir fried with just a touch of crispy char to give a play of textural and heat crunchiness with the tenderness of the ingredients. This dish had none of that wok hei which was disappointing.
Char Siu Plate at Tiger Fork
Char Siu Plate – The BBQ Pork, on the other hand, was delicious with the fattiness of the pork balancing perfectly with the sugary glaze. The rice and ginger scallion sauce was great to help soak up the flavor of the pork too.
Egg Tart at Tiger Fork
Egg Tart – At the end of one of my meals there I had an egg tart and this was the best egg tart I had since my last visit to Hong Kong earlier this year. The shortbread crust was buttery and slightly flakey with a custard filling that had that signature touch of sweetness.
All in all, Tiger Fork is an excellent example of Hong Kong food in DC. While it has a couple misses, there are many outstanding items to capably represent the food and culture of my parents’ birthplace. I am excited to try even more dishes on my next trip to DC.
When I was in the process of selecting a place to host my slightly belated birthday dinner this year I wanted a place that was: A. relatively new, but highly regarded; B. was something a little different than what most of my friends may have had before; and C. was relatively close to transit or fairly accessible by car for friends both in DC and the suburbs. Thamee fit the bill as a newer, well regarded place for Burmese food in a metro area that has few restaurants representing the cuisine (and most of those places have been underwhelming). So on a Sunday a month ago, five of my friends gathered with me to celebrate.
As we got seated and looked at the menu we all got some fantastic drinks, which included the non-alcoholic Butterfly Limeade which was just as delicious to drink as it was to look at. We quickly decided to do family style instead of the Thamee experience, so after restraining ourselves from ordering the whole menu, we got the following:
Lahpet Thoke at Thamee
Lahpet Thoke – The tea leaf salad was less cohesive than others I’ve had and wish it had more of a fermented tea leaf taste but it was a refreshing start to our meal.
White Flower Mushroom & Chicken – The white flower mushroom was more like a wood ear fungus in taste and texture. The salad had a great lightly spicy dressing though I’m not sure the chicken (which was good) and the fungus really paired well.
Balachaung – This spicy condiment was great for those among us who ate meat to pair with the plates of pickled vegetables delivered to our table.
Mohinga and Ohno Khauk Swe at Thamee
Mohinga – The flavors of the fish chowder were real good and not runny like some other places. I loved the toasted chickpea topping and the noodles, which I could have used more of, were cooked perfectly. This was easily the best Mohinga I’ve had outside of California (and daresay better than Burma Superstar).
Ohno Khauk Swe – The coconut chicken curry was so delicious that I wanted seconds. The coconut broth balanced the curry really well and the lime cut the broth perfectly.
Pork and Pickled Mango and Garlic Greens at Thamee
Pork & Pickled Mango – The pork was melt in your mouth delicious with a tomato sauce topped with sliced pickled mango. The mango was a refreshing cut to the fatty, rich pork and sauce and nicely blended with the rice.
Prawn & Tomato – I’m normally not a fan of shrimp but the shrimp here was excellent and the tomato sauce was rich without being overpowering. I highly recommend mixing this with the rice.
Garlic Greens – I absolutely loved these wok tossed morning glory shoots topped with fried garlic. Not only do I love morning glory in general, but to have such a flavorful, but simple preparation just showed how a little garlic, oil, and very fresh vegetables go a long way.
Golden Rice – I loved the turmeric rice with fried garlic which had a lot of flavor on its own. I did slightly prefer the regular jasmine rice for the dishes with thicker sauces (like prawn & tomato) but the golden rice was excellent with the Garlic Greens
As much as all the dishes above were amazing, sadly the portions were on the smaller side so we had to order additional items to properly fill our stomachs. We ordered additional Prawn & Tomato and Garlic Greens in addition to these two new dishes:
Ohno Khauk Swe (Vegetarian) and egglant and Cauliflower at Thamee
Ohno Khauk Swe (vegetarian) – Much as the same as the coconut chicken curry above, but I may have preferred this version more as I felt the mushrooms soaked up the curry a little more
Eggplant and Cauliflower – I’m generally not an eggplant person so I avoided that part of the dish, but I did love the hint of spice with the cauliflower.
All in all I loved Thamee and I’m glad there’s a Burmese place in DC that does the cuisine such justice. Not only was it a great way to celebrate my birthday, it was great way to taste even more flavors of Burmese food I can’t find in the Bay Area.