Happy Chinese New Year!
Happy Chinese New Year! Officially, Chinese New Year started on February 7th, and it continues on for 14 days ending with the festival of lights. Since the 1st day of Chinese New Year landed on a Thursday, a day I need to jog (still trying to train for my next marathon), I had to go run after work, and spend no time cooking for Chinese New Year. My idea for a little CNY food celebration was to head to China Chef, and get a bite to eat with Matt after I finished my workout. I had to hurry because China Chef closes at 9:30 pm, and that means closes, not last order. We got there at 8:30 pm, and Suzanne let us come in thinking that would be ok and give them enough time to close by 9:30 pm.
The evening was about ordering off the special paper menu. We got five flavored eggplant, roasted duck Hong Kong style, and Kung Po squid. I did not take a photo of the eggplant because eggplant while raw is quite stunningly beautiful, but once cooked it looks like a pile of "you know what". Well that pile of eggplant was made tasty, and a we liked it. We took some eggplant leftovers home, and Suzanne suggested that it would be good cold, like a baba ghanoush which is good eaten hot or cold. Then Suzanne suggested that the left over eggplant would make a great filling for a sandwich too.
I also ordered 1/2 of a Hong Kong style roasted duck. China Chef, as far as I know from Brentwood to Charlotte Pike, is the only place that makes their own HK style roasted duck. All others are shipped in from a place in Atlanta. Even one of the Chinese Markets has deliveries of the HK style roasted duck from Atlanta. I have purchased these in the past, they are tasty, but I have to do all the chopping (I am not good at this because I don't have a good chopping block, nor cleaver) and presentation. It is much better to have a restaurant do all for me. China Chef was happy to do that for me. This duck was much less seasoned that the factory kind from Atlanta, but it was recently made and definitely made by China Chef's chef. The skin was very crispy, and the inside bones were flavored with anise spices. It was good. Again, we took some of this home for leftovers, and I am excited to have more for lunch today!
The last dish we got should have been a fish dish, a traditional CNY dish, but I wanted the Kung Po squid again. Squid is a fish right? That is what I thought anyway. Since my 1st visit to China Chef for Kung Po squid, I have been taking a tour of some other "Chinese" restaurants in town offering Kung Po. Well, what I got at the other places was no squid, so I substituted shrimp and all were overcooked and chewy. At the other places, I also got strange a dishes with generic brown gravy that seems to be on every beef and broccoli (and definitely not spicy like Kung Po), and a lot of zucchini and bell peppers adding to a soggy content.
Anyway, I have gone back to China Chef twice to get this Kung Po squid because it is, quite frankly, the best I have had in Nashville! I have decided that China Chef is my only source of Kung Po squid from now on. I need not waste my time anywhere else.
The last little tidbit about China Chef's chef is that the chef is a She, not a he, and I have not asked her name. She is originally from Hong Kong where she was a famous cook on Hong Kong TV. Now, how she found herself in Nashville, it is unclear, and I don't know. Since she is not from the USA, she isn't the best at making the Americanized "Chinese food" because it is not Chinese food and she did not grow up with that tradition, but she kicks butt when it comes to Hong Kong style recipes! I think that is why Kung Po is the best here, because there is a modern tradition of Kung Po in Hong Kong.
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