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Chase the Dragon

May 21, 2015

May has been the month for convenience foods. The CSA hasn’t started. Everyone is burned out of the staples that have gotten us through winter. I’ve been extra busy. And then there was straining that muscle in the lower back.

It got so bad that I suggested the unthinkable. Chinese take-out.

There’s something about Ichiban that just drives me batty. Really, it’s that Chinese/Japanese thing. I’m not going to order takeout Chinese from a Japanese restaurant. And while I think at its heart, Ichiban is actually a Chinese restaurant, it has a Japanese name and a sushi bar. Seriously, it makes my head want to explode.

Even though my memory isn’t what it once was, I still recalled that the Times Union wrote a very positive piece on Dragon City just a couple years ago. I figured, how bad could it be? And remember, I was desparate.

So, I took the plunge.

Maybe we ordered wrong. Or perhaps I had the wrong mindset for approaching this kind of place. Probably I should have just bitten the bullet and committed to breaded, deep fried proteins in sweet and sticky sauces.

But really we wanted other things. Mrs. Fussy wanted dishes filled with vegetables. Young Master Fussy loves chow fun and dumplings. Little Miss Fussy loves meat. And I just wanted food to come without having to turn on the stove or be on my feet.

When I order, I typically tend to go overboard. Especially if I’m trying a place for the first time. My goal is to try and find something good, so I’ll cast a broad net.

Steamed pork dumplings? Not good. Thick, gummy, grainy wrappers that let water inside.
Beef chow fun? Not good. Gummy noodles, lacking wok sear and flavor.
Pint of roast pork? Little Miss Fussy was unimpressed.
Roast pork fried rice? Young Master Fussy–the fried rice lover–didn’t love it.

We were striking out all over the place.

The egg roll was literally filled with oil, the “special cantonese style” chicken which the internet seemed to indicate was sliced was instead thickly battered and deep fried (as it turns out the paper menu describes it as such).

Of all the things we ate, the only one that was really any good was the… wait for it… General Tso’s chicken.

Now let’s remember, we don’t waste anything in this house. So if we brought in a lot of crappy food, dammit, we’re going to eat it. If nothing else, than for punishment. But as it turns out, this food can be made better.

The fried rice benefitted from being crisped in a searing hot pan, with some additional meat, vegetables and an egg. The chow fun also was able to get the sear it so desperately wanted, and a splash of good soy sauce as it was cooking in the cast iron skillet gave the flavor a bit more oompf. Battered and fried pieces of chicken I re-crisped in an oiled pan and added Frank’s Red Hot to make it Buffalo style.

And just like that, the leftovers were gone. In this case, the leftovers were the best part of the experience. Which kind of turns everything on its head for me.

Soon CSA season will begin and I’ll have no choice but to cook. I’m glad to report I’ve found a partner, so instead of being an onerous amount of work every week, the fridge full of glorious produce will be a delightful reminder of what deliciousness can grow in the Capital Region when people really put their mind to it.

Should I ever have to resort to Chinese takeout again, I’ll probably think about it differently, and just know going in that it’s going to be all about the battered deep fried chicken drowning in sweet and sticky sauce. But hopefully, that won’t happen for a long long time.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2015 10:00 am

    You don’t tell us what you did with the oil-filled egg roll. Did you drain the oil out, or fry it in more oil? (That was a question.)

  2. Jack C. permalink
    May 21, 2015 10:20 am

    Empire Wok in Delmar is pretty good. The Singapore-style mei fun is my favorite. It’s a really strange dish, I know, but I like it.

  3. May 21, 2015 11:10 am

    You should resort to Chinese Take-Out semi-often. Just make sure it’s Ocean Palace.

  4. May 21, 2015 1:46 pm

    What Daniel said. The Chinese okra for Mrs. Fussy.

  5. Erin T permalink
    May 21, 2015 1:50 pm

    Thanks to this post and thread, I ordered and am now enjoying Ocean Palace take-out for lunch.

  6. May 28, 2015 9:46 am

    There are very few good Chinese takeout places, alas. There’s one in Clifton Park, but that’s probably a bit too far north for you. We’ve also found an acceptable one in Malta.

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