Monthly Archives: September 2013

Budai, Albuquerque

Budai Gourmet Chinese
6300 San Mateo NE H-1
Albuquerque, NM 87109

Taiwanese food is my favorite Chinese regional cuisine after Cantonese. Granted, what many North Americans view as Taiwanese food is a slight misnomer given that what we mostly think of as Taiwanese food today is heavily influenced by Shanghainese and Fujianese cuisine, especially after the KMT’s move to the island in and after 1949. Oftentimes what is considered Taiwanese now overlaps with many other historic Chinese regional cuisines given the nature of war and settlement over several centuries.

Regardless of the historic influences of Taiwanese cuisine, Albuquerque is blessed with a restaurant that actually serves it and does so pretty authentically. Located in the Northeast Heights, it’s a bit of a drive from my house near Old Town, but it’s a godsend when I have cravings for non-Cantonese style Chinese food.

When I entered the restaurant earlier today I was promptly greeted by one of the owners and politely seated. The waiter was quick to get my drink order as I perused the menu, which is just big enough to offer a number of selections without being overwhelming (something many other Asian restaurants could be better at). Unfortunately, as usual it was slightly distressing to see that my settings only consisted of a fork and spoon, no chopsticks. However, given the clientele is overwhelmingly non-East Asian I can understand and at least appreciated that Budai is serving authentic Taiwanese food to them.

Budai1

I ordered a bowl of Taiwanese beef noodle soup, xiao long bao (Soup Dumplings, which you can learn about here), and scallion pancakes. This was more than enough for one person to eat, but three good staples to test out the quality and authenticity of a Taiwanese (by way of Shanghai) restaurant.

The scallion pancake came first, and they were a bit thicker than I am used to. However, even with the thickness, the scallion pancake had that dough flakiness that is just right and enough scallions to make it flavorful without overpowering. Next came the beef noodle soup in a gigantic bowl, served with a side garnish of pickled Chinese mustard greens. The broth was delicious, the noodles were cooked well, and the beef was braised just right with great tenderness and just enough spice. Honestly, the beef noodle soup could compete with any Taiwanese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley.

Budai2

For the finale came the prized xiao long bao, which came atop some thin sponge like material to prevent the dumplings from sticking to the steamer (smart move). I picked one up and carefully placed one on my spoon, ate a little bit of the top to let the steam out and slurp the soup, and then devoured the filling and dumpling wrapper. It was delicious, though the broth perhaps slightly blander than what I’m used to. As the dumplings cooled down, the experience wasn’t as great as trying to bite the top part of the wrapper tore apart the dumpling.

After I ate a copious amount of food, with plenty left over to take in boxes, I payed the bill which came out to be around $28 (noodle soup – $10, xiao long bao [10] – $9, scallion pancakes – $5, tea – $1.50). It was a little bit more expensive than I was used to, and certainly at least twice as expensive as any bill I would get at A&J, but well worth it in my opinion. Albuquerque can be proud that is has an excellent place for Taiwanese food, and it’s good enough that there’s no need to fly to LA.

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Kim Long Asian Cuisine, Albuquerque

Kim Long Asian Cuisine
2325 San Pedro NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110

There are few things better to eat on a cold rainy day when you’re under the weather than pho. Fortunately, Albuquerque has a number of Vietnamese restaurants serving this wonderful rice noodle soup with beef due to the number of refugees that were flown in here and settled during and after the Vietnam War. (You can see a more detailed account of Vietnamese settlement in Albuquerque here)

Considering that many of the Vietnamese restaurants here close early on Sundays, I had to leave the house quickly at 7:45PM to find a spot still open. Fortunately, Kim Long Asian Cuisine was open until 8:30PM and is located relatively close to Trader Joe’s, where I had to buy groceries later. When I arrived at Kim Long, cold and wet from the rain, they were about to close. Luckily I knew exactly what I wanted, a large bowl of their combination pho, and they were gracious to accommodate me at their counter.

Kim Long

The pho came out fairly quickly with just a small side dish of bean sprouts, thai basil, jalapenos, and cilantro. Sipping the broth it was clear that the beef stock is a little bit stronger than most pho beef stocks (as I could also tell from the dark, rich color), but it was overpoweringly so. It could have used a little more spice (perhaps some more star anise) or slightly more salt to add more complexity to the broth flavor, but all in all it was pretty good. The noodles were cooked just right with a little chew but not too tough. The cuts of meat were well portioned and they even included meatballs which is generally extra in most Vietnamese restaurants. One thing that was a little downer is that I didn’t see much rare meat, which is a little disappointing since I love the flavor and taste of just done beef.

Because it was closing time I didn’t get the chance to explore other menu items like Vietnamese egg rolls, rice cakes, or some of their drinks. However, once I sat down their service was pleasant and they were nothing but hospitable as I finished my bowl of pho.

While this place (or others in Albuquerque) are really comparable to what you’d find in Westminster, it’s pretty good in my book. I definitely need to come back and try more, but this is a promising start.

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Chopstix, Albuquerque

Chopstix
6001-L Lomas Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110

Before I go into this week’s review, I want to say I had a great time over the past week in Oakland, where I met the other great members of the staff at Forward Together. During the course of the week I ate many delicious Asian food items, none of them I could write about either because I would give unfair consideration to the restaurant or we had placed delivery orders which meant I could not write about the service of the place. However, based on the food alone I would suggest eating at Shan Dong restaurant in Oakland (famous for their hand pulled noodles) or Hong Kong City in Alameda (serving good Cantonese food) the next time any of you are in the East Bay.

However, for today’s review I went searching to see if there were more Chinese food specific restaurants that served authentic cuisine other than Ming Dynasty (reviewed last week) and Budai (to be reviewed later). Over the course of my research I came across Chopstix, which had reasonably good yelp reviews indicating there were authentic dishes served here. Given that almost all Chopstix named restaurants I have been to has served highly Americanized Chinese food (aside from one in San Diego serving decent homestyle Japanese), I was naturally skeptical. Since I am a more adventurous food eater, I decided to go anyway in hopes that I could find another authentic Chinese food restaurant in Albuquerque.

Chopstix

My skepticism was shelved when I entered the restaurant, sat down, and looked at the menu. While the menu had some typical Americanized Chinese food items, I would say that the majority of it had authentic items to my astonishment and excitement. It took me a few minutes to decide what I wanted but in the end I ordered home style green beans (green beans stir fried with minced pork), dong po pork (braised pork in red oil), and hot and sour soup.

The hot and sour soup came first and it was nothing to write home about. It was just enough sour, but not very spicy. It lacked the flavor from what you would get at a Sichuanese restaurant in LA. However, the green beans and dong po pork came out perfectly. The green beans were made almost exactly how my mother would cook the dish at home with a hint of spice. My brother, who loved eating the dish at home, would likely find this version to be reminiscent of home. The dong po pork was good too, with nice flavor coming from the braise and fat that was melt in your mouth good. The pork meat itself could have used slightly more time in the braise for tenderness, but it was still good with the slight chew it had. An added bonus to the meal was that they used good tea leaves for their tea instead of the typical cheap stuff they serve at many Chinese restaurants to cut costs.

The service was a bit slow, but much of that was due to fact that they only had one person at the front of the house. She tried the best she could given the multitude of tables with patrons, to go orders ringing from the phones, and tables that needed to be cleaned after patrons left. They could certainly use another person as a waiter, but in the end the service wasn’t terrible, just a little slow.

All in all it was great find another place in Albuquerque serving authentic Chinese food, especially when there cooking can be compared similarly to my mother’s. There were a number of dishes I also would have liked to try, but did not have the time nor the stomach space. In the future I will see how their Dan Dan Mian and MaPo Tofu tastes. If their MaPo Tofu is also similar to my mom’s, I may have found another favorite in the Duke City.

Later this week I may be starting mid-week posts relating to the history of Asian food in America. Stay tuned!

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Ming Dynasty, Albuquerque

Ming Dynasty
1551 Eubank Blvd. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87112

When I first moved to Albuquerque last year I worried and dreaded that I wouldn’t find any authentic Cantonese food place in the city. After all, Albuquerque isn’t exactly known for their Chinese population, even if it has a fairly sizable Vietnamese population. I searched the internet one day in hopes that there would at least be one place that serves authentic Cantonese style Dim Sum in this city. Lo and behold there is one place (and exactly one place): Ming Dynasty.

After not visiting there for a year, a friend and I decided to eat there again today. As Sunday morning is probably the best time to eat Dim Sum and find out the quality of a Dim Sum serving establishment, it’s probably the best opportunity to write about the experience for my blog.

Ming Dynasty

We sat down and I ordered tea and water for the table, the service being prompt and delightful. Immediately, as usual, the waitresses with carts started streaming our way with a selection of items. The first cart that arrived was filled with fried and grilled items. My friend requested the stuffed bell peppers, a favorite of my mom’s, which turned out pretty decently with a good balance of the shrimp and bell pepper flavor. We also got a fried dumpling with chives and shrimp which was decent, if not remarkable. Next came one of the carts with steamed items, where we got some sticky rice with chicken, shu mai, and pork spare ribs. The stick rice was good with generous amounts of chicken and seasoning that was flavoring but not overpowering. The shu mai was good, the pork being well seasoned and just the right amount of chew. The spareribs were solid as well, without some of the overpowering pepper or black bean you find at some other establishments.

We then ordered some steamed rice noodles with shrimp and preserved duck with minced pork congee. The steamed rice noodles were poorly made, making for a gloopy mess that was overly drenched in soy sauce. The congee lacked a little seasoning, especially pepper, and my friend was not much of a fan. To end the meal we had egg custard tarts, which were solid in flavor, though could have used a little more heat.

The service was fast and efficient with waiters refilling water and carts coming to us in a reasonable pace. The value was also pretty reasonable with the check coming to about $31 for 8 small Dim Sum plates.

The quality of food is certainly not to the level that you would find in the San Gabriel Valley or San Francisco. However, for Albuquerque this would certainly be a good foray for any beginner on what Cantonese Dim Sum is like and does a reasonable job in taking care of my Dim Sum cravings in between my trips to California. Their dinner menu seems decent as well, and something I will have to try at another time.

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Bo Lings, Overland Park

Bo Lings
9055 Metcalf Ave.
Overland Park, KS

This is my last installment of my DC to Denver road trip. Much apologies about the delay in all these posts, given that it’s now a month and a half since I started the road trip! Things are a little settled down now in my new home in Albuquerque. Speaking of Albuquerque, tomorrow’s Labor Day blog post will expound on Vietnamese food in the Duke City.

Now back to the road trip. On the third night of my trip I stopped in Overland Park, KS, a suburb right outside of Kansas City. The following day was a Sunday, which was a prime day to eat Dim Sum. I wasn’t sure what to expect in the Kansas City, especially on the Kansas side where I assumed there wasn’t a lot of authentic Chinese food. A quick Google and yelp search steered me toward Bo Lings, which seemed reasonably authentic based on the review and the website. The next morning I drove ten miles from my hotel to a nondescript strip mall in the middle of the suburb.

When I entered I was warmly greeted by the hostess, who wrote down my name, number in my party, and handed me one of those electronic buzzers that you’d find while waiting for a table at Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden. As I waited for a table the restaurant was impressively decorated. There was definitely a Chinese/oriental theme to it, but a more modern styling as opposed to some aging restaurants stuck in the 1980s movie set in Chinatown. They also had a side grill table where cooks were grilling daikon cakes, dried shrimp rice noodle rolls, and potstickers. All of this definitely put me at ease and I couldn’t wait to be seated.

Bo Lings 1

After I was seated and given my choice of tea (almost always Chrysanthemum), the carts started rolling by. I first got some freshly blanched Chinese broccoli, pan fried daikon cakes, and steamed tofu skin rolls stuffed with pork and vegetables. They were all pretty good with the daikon cakes perfectly fried (crispy outside but chewy and soft on the inside) and Chinese broccoli with the perfect crunch and light coating of oyster sauce. Next came the shu mai which was decent, though not the best I’ve had. It was flavorful though the pork meatball filling was slightly overcooked and a little too chewy. Then came the fried sticky rice which was great and generously filled with Chinese sausage. Last but not least, I had the silken tofu in sweet herbal soup for dessert. It was delicious.

Bo Lings 2

The servers were also pretty decent in refilling my tea and ice water. It took a little bit to get my check in the end, but I wasn’t in too much of a hurry. However, the bill was definitely a bit of sticker shock. The bill came out to about $30, when it would normally cost $15 or so in LA, New York, or even Denver.

All in all, I was definitely surprised to find such quality Dim Sum around Kansas City. I would definitely come back again if I am in or around Kansas City for a road trip or business trip, but more prepared for the bill. It’s a good reminder of what Dim Sum prices are generally like when you’re not in the San Gabriel Valley.

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