Monthly Archives: June 2014

Tan Ky Mi Gia, San Diego

Tan Ky Mi Gia
9330 Mira Mesa Blvd, Ste A
San Diego, CA 92126

I have a confession to make today – I prefer Vietnamese/Teochow style wonton noodle soup over Cantonese style wonton noodle soup. What’s the difference you may ask? Cantonese style is all about the light and freshness of the seafood broth and shrimp. It’s wonderful, but sometimes I prefer a flavor that is a little bit bolder and adds items I could not get in a simple bowl of wonton noodle soup with just egg noodles, shrimp wontons, broth, and maybe some vegetables. You see, Vietnamese/Teochow style wonton noodle soup has all that Cantonese style wonton soup has, but more. The broth has an extra kick due to the addition of chives and sometimes fried green onions. As a bonus, Vietnamese/Teochow style wonton noodle soup also gives you slices of barbecue pork, something that would cost you at least $1 extra in a Cantonese style restaurant.

All of that is to say that when I was hungry a couple weeks ago in San Diego and hanging out with family, I insisted that we go eat lunch at the local Vietnamese/Teochow style noodle soup restaurant down the street. It would be quick. It would be cheap. Most of all, it would be delicious and give me a taste of one Vietnamese dish that Vietnamese restaurants in Albuquerque don’t quite execute well.

When we stepped into the restaurant, we were greeted and seated immediately. After the server gave us our cups of water, we order our noodle soups. I ordered the Mi Hoanh Thanh while most of my other family members ordered dumpling noodle soups (dumplings that are slightly different than wontons in the wrappers, dumpling filling, and shape).

 Tan Ky Mi Gia

The noodle soups quickly came, as typical for most Vietnamese restaurants serving pho or mi. As usual the broth was delicious with a good, but not overpowering, punch of chives. The wontons were pretty good too with a nice amount of shrimp. The pieces of barbeque pork were slightly drier than normal, but provided a nice balance with the broth. There was also a crispy fried piece of wonton wrapper with shrimp which I don’t particularly care for, but I suppose it provides a nice little texture in the soup (similar to oyster crackers in soups).

Service is efficient with the server regularly refilling cups with water as needed. However, the prices were higher than I remember than the last time I ate here about 6-9 months ago. A bowl of wonton noodle soup now costs $7.99, which is still a bargain for any meal, but definitely a spike compared to the $5.99 I was used to for a while.

Regardless, it was a delicious and simple meal. Given that my mom introduced me to this wonderful style of Vietnamese/Teochow style cuisine (at Minh Ky in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego), I suppose my ancestors can’t frown on me too much. Good food is good food, regardless of the regional origin.

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Sam Woo, San Diego

Sam Woo
7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd Ste. 103
San Diego, CA 92111

This weekend has been quite busy, with a number of celebrations. Yesterday was my mom’s birthday, when she would have turned 54. On Thursday, my sister had her 8th grade promotion to high school. Of course, today is father’s day. Because of all of these wonderful occasions, I went home to San Diego and celebrate with my family.

On Friday I landed around dinner time and, of course, I immediately asked my dad if we could go eat dinner on the way back home. He agreed so after we paid respects to my mom, we headed to Sam Woo. While Sam Woo isn’t necessarily a favorite restaurant of my family, it is one that we ate in a lot because of its affordable prices and location inside the venerable 99 Ranch Market in San Diego.

Sam Woo 1

My dad, sister, and I walked in and put our names on the sign in/waiting list sheet. Within a few minutes our table was ready and we say down, ready to order an eat. My sister decided to get Singaporean style rice vermicelli, my dad ordered a bowl of wonton and dumpling noodle soup, and I finished by asking for a roast duck and soy sauce chicken rice plate along with a side of water spinach (ong choy) stir fried in fish paste. The food came out reasonably fast and I was able to sneak a bite of everything:

  • Roast Duck and Soy Sauce Chicken Rice Plate (came first, the soy sauce chicken was well seasoned without too much soy sauce, duck was meaty and fatty despite initial fears of a lean duck, while the rice was a bit dry)
  • Singaporean Style Rice Vermicelli (decent mild curry sauce with crisp vegetables. noodles could be a little more al dente)
  • Wonton and Dumpling Noodle Soup (soup, as usual for Sam Woo, was a bit salty and the dumpling was okay)
  • Water Spinach Stir Fried in Fish Sauce (pretty aromatic and pungent with the fish sauce, which means it was excellent with flavor)

Sam Woo 3

Service was a little slow, but it is understandable given that the San Diego Sam Woo seems constantly busy and they barely have enough staff to cover the fast paced service. Service is a little bit better in the Irvine location, but that’s considered the flagship restaurant of sorts.

All in all, good Chinese food that made me feel like living childhood memories. My mom would be quite proud.

Sam Woo 2

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Pacific Paradise, Albuquerque

Pacific Paradise
3000 San Pedro Dr NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110

During a recent search through the Chowhound forums, I discovered a thread that talked about authentic Sichuan in Albuquerque. That piqued my interest as previously the only authentic Chinese restaurants in Albuquerque that I knew and went to were either Cantonese or Taiwanese in flavor or influence. Truly authentic Sichuan (as opposed to the Taiwanese influenced Sichuan and Hunan that arrived in America in the 1970s) was something I only knew of in large cities with a lot of Chinese residents, like Los Angeles. Therefore I was very intrigued when a poster mentioned Pacific Paradise’s Sichuan menu and I had to go.

Pacific Paradise 1

When I entered Pacific Paradise, I was immediately hesitant. Essentially the restaurant bills itself as something tropical pan-Asian with Pacific Islander motifs and a menu made of Americanized Japanese and Chinese dishes, along with sushi. It was a visual representation of what I thought was everything wrong with Americanized appropriation of Asian food.

I requested the Sichuan menu, which the waiter immediately gave me, and immediately soothed some of my initial concerns. After a quick look at the menu I ordered dry sauteed green beans and spicy and aromatic diced chicken, hoping that these dishes would bring some of that authentic Sichuan flavor I’ve been missing in Albuquerque.

Pacific Paradise 2

About 15 minutes or so later, the dishes came out. The first dish were the green beans. The first bite immediately wiped out any fears developed by the kitschy decor. The green beans were sauteed very well with a lot of great flavor coming from ginger, shallots, and garlic caramelized to near perfection. The chicken came out next and the deep fried exterior of the chicken caught me off guard. Nonetheless it was quite tasty and the aromatic flavors of the dried chiles, sichuan peppercorns, and peanuts were well infused. It was definitely spicy, though I did wish it had even more spicy notes from the sichuan peppercorns. The peppercorns did not overpower and numb my mouth as it should do, though I don’t know if that didn’t happen because the dishes were dry fried or whether I should have ordered in Chong Qing style at the next spice level up.

Pacific Paradise 3

Service was fantastic with my waiter filling my glass of water copiously, which is essential when I am eating Sichuan cuisine.

All in all, the sichuan food here was better than I had ever imagined for Albuquerque. While I do wish there was a little more mala spicy flavor, the Sichuan menu is worlds better than the offerings I saw on their regular menu. I just wish the restaurant would do a better job highlighting there hidden gem of a menu.

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