The Grumpy Gourmet has been absent from cyberspace due to some illness followed by an extended period being out-of-state with family. However, I am back in my kitchen and my stomach is growling. Thus, it is time to think about and discuss food.
The posts by readers during the past several weeks have been interesting and incisive. A bottom line appears to be that some eateries have their good days and bad. There were two very interesting and opposite POVs about the Fallston diner. One poster’s Hollandaise was another’s chicken gravy, which leads me to believe that at such an eatery, the food can vary depending upon who is in the back room. In the case of a diner, the chef is there at certain hours and the cook rules at other times of day.
Speaking of diners, we had a quick dinner at the White Marsh TT diner last week. I ordered the grilled Romanian tenderloin steak, and it was remarkably good. For the uninitiated, that is really a garlic marinated skirt steak, the cut used most often for fajitas and a signature dish at Sammy’s Romanian Steakhouse in NYC. The steak was juicy, tender, deeply flavorful, and was done perfectly medium rare. Managers at the Bel Air Double T have told me that this will never be on their menu, a big shame.
Now, that brings me to Chinese food. How? Well, the skirt steak is one of the few tender cuts available to those who follow kosher dietary laws. And American Chinese food is, for some reason, the first taste many Jewish kids have of non kosher food (trayf). Growing up in Brooklyn, my sibs and I were always admonished by our parents, “Do not tell Grandma and Grandpa that we ate at Joy Fong.” Won Ton Soup, BBQ ribs, lobster Cantonese, and other delights were my initial encounters with “foreign cuisine,” pork, and shellfish.
Of course 99 percent of Chinese food in the US is not Chinese at all, but is a descendant of what Chinese immigrants were able to prepare using readily available ingredients and traditional cooking techniques such as stir frying, steaming, and red cooking. Here in the Greater Bel Air Metroplex, Chinese is the dominant Asian cuisine, followed as a close second by sushi, with nary a Thai or Vietnamese place to be found.
Since arriving here in 1974, I’ve sampled dishes at virtually every Chinese joint and carryout that has come and gone. From the Plum Blossom in Edgewood through Ongs in Aberdeen, and Duck Cheung in Bel Air, I have tasted gallons of hot and sour soup, miles of noodles, and many shoulders of pig. Currently, I do have a favorite, which I will reveal and review shortly, but in the meantime, I would love to hear from you. What is the single best dish that you have enjoyed at a local Chinese Restaurant? Tell me what has made it distinctive.
A final thought about local food. If you are a lover of hotdogs, try the all beef skin-on Black Bear franks sold in the deli department at Kleins ShopRite. You will never bite an Esskay dog again. While you are at it, pick up a jar of the Ba Tempte NY Deli mustard at the same counter.