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World travel – Food
Signs of Spring: Chinese Food!
Obviously, March is not a month that inspires an awful lot of comment. Now, February… that’s what I call a month! Stepping out of our building we saw the first of spring’s kolbasz buds on a tree in the back yard. Really…
I am not sure whether my neighbor was saving this for an outdoor snack or whether there is some folky reason to stick sausage on a tree branch, but it stayed there for several weeks.
My birthday was adequately celebrated by a trip to the new Chinese restaurant in my neigborhood, Master Wang’s. Chef Wang was the original chef at the Lanzhou Restaurant on Luther Utca, and this is his fourth Budapest locale.
Why get excited about a Chinese restaurant? Well, Budapest has a lot of them, but by and large they are mediocre, overpriced, or unspeakably bad. That last category is aimed at the numerous “Chinese Buffet” joints polluting our gastronomic scene, offering up cheap plates of faux-sinitic stew on rice. Due to a quirk in Hungarian immigration law, any ethnic restaurant has the right to sponsor a residence permit for its cooking staff. So the Chinese folks cooking your fried rice and aromatic duck at the corner take out in Budapest, are far more likely to have graduated from business or even medical school than culinary school. And they are far more likely to come from Northern China than from better known culinary regions like Szechuan or Canton.
There are some Chinese banquet restaurants dotting the back neighborhoods of the city, places where the local Chinese go to celebrate a business deal or a family holiday with an off the menu hot-pot party or dim sum blast, but these are constantly changing and none has ever stayed in one locality for very long. Chef Wang Qiang comes from Lanzhou, a region west of Beijing with a significant Hui muslim population. The Lanzhou always had a special Chinese language only menu offering various mutton dishes for errant Hui in Budapest, but at the new Master Wang on they go all out with a great spicy cumin lamb dish.
Since I had recently stretched my boundaries of icky food by eating sea cucumber and sea squirts at the a Korean Restaurant in the States, I also went for the Hundred Day Eggs. I had heard they were good, I had watched Chinese diners at the Lanzhou order them, but… black eggs? Eggs pickled in clay and salt for a few months until they turn black and gelatinous? And surprise! They were delicious. Run, don’t walk, to your local Chinese banquet hall and order these today. Wang’s were served with chopped tofu and peppers. Not smelly, not slimy, not really anything I had ever related to eggs before. I want more.
Fumie was laughing at me for never having tried them before, but then, I had never seen Fumie order them either. And yes, I have already looked at the wikipedia entry on Century Eggs with a perverse mind to making them myself at home, and just as quickly discarded the idea. Chef Wangs is only a few blocks away (off the 7 bus along Thőkőly út at Gizella út 46) so why bother? And they serve one of my favorite Chinese beer snack plates: spicy mixed offal salad.
Who says a salad need to be wholesome to be good? Sliced tripe, tongue, heart, and kidney in a fiery red pepper oil sauce topped with chopped garlic and Chile pepper. It is almost enough to make me like beer.
Have a good and healthy season.
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