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Saturday December 20, 2014
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Two Worlds

 

continued

On our first visit, I played it safe, ordering a small bowl of egg drop soup and asking the waitress to recommend a vegetarian entree. She pointed to "Asia City's deluxe stir fry," which she said was "very popular" and had many Chinese vegetables in it. I asked again, "It's vegetarian?" She said, "Yes, yes."

My friend was as adventurous as I was timid. She ordered a spicy soft-shell crab appetizer; "shrimp, scallop, squid in bird's nest"; and "braised beef brisket in hot pot."

My small soup was huge, but my "vegetarian" entree came with shrimp, and virtually none of the vegetables were Chinese. My friend was disappointed in her crab appetizer, too, because the heat came from sliced jalapenos--it would have been more authentic, she said, if it had been breaded, deep-fried, and sauteed in hot peppers. The seafood "nest" was presented nicely--shrimp, scallops, squid, and vegetables on a bed of fried shoestring potatoes--but the portion was small, and the seasoning was bland. In hindsight, she wished she'd asked for MSG--Wang says they don't use it routinely but will add it on request.

Her favorite that night was the beef, served authentically in a clay pot and well seasoned with five-spice powder (a blend of fennel, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns). I was put off by the tendons in this dish, but my friend even liked those--they were cooked till tender, she said, and enhanced the beefy flavor.

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