Archive for the ‘ Chinese ’ Category

Duck

*Guest Post by Edward Meredith*

outside

I was pessimistic when informed that I would be eating in a place named ‘Duck’, but my mood quickly changed as I walked in the front door. Although small, this small shop was filled with atmosphere.

busyinside

The line stretched as far as the door and was even longer when we left. Bright colours and interesting pictures on the wall enhanced the experience and the man who took your order had a great smile on his face.

The menu was quite extensive (click -> big) …

menu

… but we only had eyes for the meals for €5.

outsign

This daily special menu had two options for each day and it changes daily.

specials

As we went on a Wednesday, the two options to pick from were sambal chicken and thai green curry chicken. We both went for the sambal chicken, but I had it with noodles and my dad had it with boiled rice.

The meal was enjoyable and for only a fiver, we got enough food to fill us up …

boxfood

 

loadsafoodbox

The chicken was succulent and the whole box had a great spicy flavour. The vegetables tasted nice but I had hoped they would be crunchier to add a bit of texture. I made the mistake of adding some sauce that was found on the table which made the meal unbearably spicy, but otherwise, very tasty. If you happen to go and order this meal, I strongly recommend getting it with rice. I found that the noodles were quite chewy and rather tasteless.

 

Additional Notes: Duck is on Fade Street, around the corner from the Asia Market (on Drury Street) with which it has a connection. Duck has a website and a Facebook page and there are bundles of reviews online, mostly focusing on the duck items. Students get the special for a fiver. Non-students have to fork out another 50c. It’s open from 12 noon, 7 days a week, closing at 8pm most evenings, and 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. You can eat inside or take your food away.

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Oriental Jackpot at Jervis Stop

I’m STUFFED. STUFFED. For a fiver!

Garwin Liu, the guy from Facebook who told me about the Star Pizza place on Talbot Street that I did a few weeks ago, came up with the venue for today’s feed. He was responding to my whinge about restaurants on Parnell Street having two menus, one usually in Chinese and he suggested that I go to the Oriental Emporium at the Luas Jervis stop on Abbey Street where I could just point. So that’s what I did.

2013-10-31 14.07.02

I had been in this place before, and its cousins in South Great George’s Street (not sure it’s still there), the one in Rathmines and, just because I was driving past it, the one in Rathcoole. All offer a phenomenal range of goods, from fish, to all sorts of vegetables, meat, tinned goods, sauces, rice, noodles, fruit, and so on. The smell of them alone is likely to get your juices running. And if you attempt (as I sometimes do) to cook something oriental but don’t want to use the over-sweetened crap that comes from supermarket sachets, then a visit to one of these shops or the Asia Market on Drury Street is a must.

Anyway, as I say, I had been in here before but I didn’t notice or pay attention to the fact that it had a hot food counter.

Hard to miss …

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… but there you go.

Various signs indicate the different types of food on offer and slap bang in the middle of them is one saying “Hot Food €5”. Unambiguous.

I asked the helpful man behind the counter what I could get for my fiver and he indicated the section of the massive selection of dishes from which I could choose three. I pointed to three ones I liked the look of and he put a generous spoonful of each into a plastic container. I said I wanted to eat in (most people I saw subsequently took their food away) and he gave me another container of rice and a pair of disposable chopsticks.

My fiver paid over, I found myself a seat. There isn’t a huge seating area: 8 seats around two tables. Each table had a selection of condiments, a box of tissues and this sign …

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… fair enough.

My food …

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… comprised belly of beef with mooli (or daikon), aubergine with minced pork, and pak choi with ginger.

The beef was absolutely gorgeous: rich, almost like oxtail, and tender. The aubergine was soft and unctuous. And the pak choi still slightly crunchy, tempered with the taste of fresh ginger. There was lots of it. And I ate it ALL …

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This seems to be a popular place both for grocery shopping and for buying prepared food. There is a huge selection of dishes both hot and cold so it’s a place for possible culinary exploration. And it’s great value. Try it. Do.

Garwin (and a bloke who calls himself Benjamin L Willard and who went to school with the big lad) also suggested another place nearby: Han Sung on Great Strand Street just opposite the National Hyperbaric Centre, the location of which I’m sure you’re familiar with. If you’re not, Great Strand Street runs parallel to Abbey Street, closer to the quays. This is the place …

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Again, it’s a shop, with a food counter at the back. A lot more seats and an interesting range of Korean, Japanese and Chinese food. All from about €5.50, so just above my budget but, judging from the number of people eating there and the heaps of food being consumed, excellent value.

 

So, it’s Hallowe’en.

 

Woooooooo!

 

 

Wok Station on Parnell Street

My knowledge of the Chinese language (or indeed any of the languages spoken in Asia) is, sadly, poor. When I say poor, I mean non-existent. On most days, this lack doesn’t matter much. I get by. Today, however, it was a bit of an issue.

It’s my impression that several of the restaurants on Parnell Street have two menus: one English language menu with the standard ‘Chinese Restaurant’ fare, catering for western tastes and the other, often in Chinese script, with, I’m kind of assuming, the more authentic (and more interesting) regional offerings.

If you happen to pop in to one when business is slow, you can maybe go through the various options in some detail to get an idea of what’s in offer. On the other hand, when you go in at lunch time and there’s a queue, and few staff, and you’re only going to spend a fiver, you kind of feel that it wouldn’t be fair to either the staff or the other customers to take up everybody’s time asking too many questions.

So, you tend to either drift towards the familiar or, as happened today (where there wasn’t actually a menu at all), you are respectfully directed towards the westernised dishes.

I was in Parnell Street with the older lad today, hoping to try out the Dan Dan Noodles in Sichuan (sic) House, as suggested in a Facebook message by Garwin Liu, who has a keen eye for the fiver deals in various parts of the city. Sichuan House has since closed, we discovered, so undeterred, we wandered along Parnell Street in the rain looking for other options.

Wok Station is at the junction with North Cumberland Street.

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There are no menus or prices on display outside so we went in speculatively.

It’s a bright, clean and quite sizeable space, with seats for about 24 or more at a guess. A counter with pre-prepared food takes up one wall. There must have been about 18 dishes on display, 8 or so of which were familiar looking: variations on a theme with pork, chicken, beef, tofu and (unusually) lamb. These were the ones we were directed towards. The ones on the left included chicken feet, fish, various types of vegetables, duck eggs, pancakes and, I think, seaweed. There just wasn’t enough common language or time really to explore all the options especially, as I said above, if all we were about to spend was a fiver each and as a small queue was beginning to form behind us.

Probably a little wimpily, we ordered from the familiar dishes. Food to eat on the premises and to take away costs the same. For your fiver, you get plain rice and two dishes, or two portions of the same dish. If you opt for fried rice, the meal costs €6. With noodles, it’s €6.50, I think.

The older lad chose spicy chicken in batter and a lamb dish

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while I chose pork and tofu, and the same spicy lamb.

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Good size portions. Certainly enough for both of us. The food wasn’t that hot temperature-wise so you wouldn’t really want to linger over your lunch. It was tasty though. Both of us enjoyed the lamb best. It was spicy, with peppers and a discernible taste of cumin seeds. I enjoyed my pork and tofu dish too. The pork was tender and the sauce was OK. The least favoured dish was the chicken which didn’t really taste of much at all.

The older lad. Looking pleased.

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As we were finishing up, a bunch of students from DIT on Mountjoy Square came in. Some of them obviously regulars, they were greeted warmly. It’s a regular Friday haunt for them, one told us. Fair enough.

I’d be dead keen, outside the eatforafiver restrictions, to explore fully what the different restaurants on Parnell Street have to offer in terms of authentic food from different parts of China, Korea and other countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Parnell Street Adventure

I wouldn’t have gone to this place if Margaret E Ward (MD of ClearInk and inspiration for and founder of womenonair) hadn’t suggested it in a comment on a previous post.

China Cottage/Han Yang, 103 Parnell Street

There’s nothing on the windows of the China Cottage/Han Yang to suggest that it offers anything for a fiver or less. But Margaret said that it did Dim Sum-type dishes for as little as €1 so we had a closer look.

Pasted to the wall beside each table was a menu, mostly in oriental script, but with some English, and helpful pictures of some of the food on offer. And yes, some of the items cost as little as 50c.

We, in this case, were the young lad (not back to school yet) and me. I must say that I prefer to do these eatforafiver things with some company and the young lad will try most things (once, at least), gets into the spirit of the adventure that is cheap food and is a good dining companion.

We were approached by a sceptical staff member. I say sceptical because she kind of looked us up and down as if we might have strayed into the wrong restaurant by accident. We were the only European-looking people there, sure, and maybe she felt that we weren’t really looking for the food she had to offer. She even checked to see whether we really wanted oriental food.

Anyway, we consulted the pasted up menu and made our selections. She wrote them down and pointed to a few pots of broth and other items that were laid out on a table to the side of the restaurant. She said something that I didn’t quite hear and went to fill our order. I confess to having been a little apprehensive about approaching her again to explain what everything on the table was and what we were supposed to do with it, so we just filled a bowl each with what turned out to be a very tasty soup containing rice, some molluscs and bits of ham.

The rice soup

Some of our order arrived soon after and we tucked in. The first batch of food comprised a fried dumpling with chives and egg (€1), a pork meat pie (€1), a deep fried sesame ball with red bean paste (50c) and an oyster pancake with pork and veg (€1.50).

Batch #1

We divided each item in half, grabbed our chopsticks and ate with relish.

They might not look that appetising in the photo but they tasted good, with flavoursome fillings. The only item the young lad wasn’t keen on was the sesame ball, and mainly because the red bean paste was quite sweet and he felt it didn’t go well with the sesame seeds.

Chives and egg dumpling

Just as we had finished the first batch, the rest of our order arrived. Unlike batch #1, which appeared to have been pre-prepared and ready for serving, the other items had been freshly prepared. They were a scallion pancake (€1) and six steamed dumplings (€5).

These were gorgeous. The scallion pancake was a bit like a paratha, with a flaky buttery texture and a lovely mild spring onion taste. The dumplings were moist and soft, with a very tasty pork-based (I think) filling.

Our steamed dumplings ...

... being enjoyed

Our surroundings were plain and quite utilitarian and there were just three other solo diners (who evidently did know what to do with the broth and food on the table I referred to earlier). There’s a big TV on the wall in one corner, tuned to an oriental channel. For food this cheap, surroundings don’t bother me, as long as the place is clean. And it is, although the toilets could do with a bit of a mop and someone to empty the overflowing bin.

We didn’t hang around once we’d finished. When I went to pay, the sceptical staff member asked how we’d liked the food. We told her we enjoyed it and her scepticism vanished immediately, replaced by a warm and broad smile. We did enjoy the food. In fact the young lad was most impressed, suggesting that it was ‘up there’ and saying that he’d like to come back.

So, finally … a confession. The food for the two of us came to €12. Ooops! I didn’t factor in the soup when calculating the cost initially. Without the soup, it would still have been a good value lunch. Alternatively, we could have had the soup and a few other small dishes rather than those lovely dumplings and got away for a tenner for the two of us.

I’d say: go for it. (Thanks for the tip-off Margaret.)

 

Moore Street Chinese Buffet

Traffic in Dublin was appalling today. Please don’t tell me this is the start of the annual Christmas snarl-up. Not sure that I could take another month of this.

Anyway, I had an urge to go back to Moore Street. When we were there for the first outing (Delhi O’Deli) I remember spotting a Chinese buffet a few doors up, with €4.99 signs stuck on the window.

So I battled my way down Henry Street, cut through the ILAC centre and emerged exactly opposite the place I was looking for. On the way, on Capel Street, just near the bridge I passed Soup Dragon, which does a Friday Fiver lunch and then I found Bonza Pies in the ILAC centre which sells various pies for under a fiver, both noted for future outings.

So …

Chinese Fast Food Buffet, Moore Street, Dublin

… in I went, alone this time.

It doesn’t seem like a place that would be noted for its atmosphere, or maybe I just caught it on the wrong day. It was 1.45pm and maybe it was a hive of babbling activity a little earlier, but now, it felt a bit like a library. There were about 8 patrons there, most dining alone and just finishing up their meals, and by the time I sat down with mine, only one was left, and he went shortly afterwards. Pretty quiet for a place that provides huge amounts of food for a fiver. Why?

Chinese Fast Food is a buffet, so I took my plate and checked out what was on offer. There were three big buffet catering units, each with eight trays of food.

The one on the right has two types of fried rice, noodles, chips, cocktail sausages and a few other bits and pieces. The other ones contained a reasonably broad range of standard Chinese restaurant/ take-away food: pork, chicken, tofu and vegetables, cooked in a variety of ways some in standard looking/smelling sauces and others deep fried in batter.

I wasn’t massively hungry but I wanted to try a few dishes, so I spooned out some rice and tried some cauliflower, some broccoli and a few different pork dishes (one rib and two other fried pork portions, one in sweet and sour sauce).

My lunch

It wasn’t hot. That’s the first thing that crossed my mind. Not helped by being spooned on to a cold plate. The rice was nicely cooked, with egg, and it wasn’t greasy. The vegetables were quite crisp, especially the broccoli and served in generic, hard to define but tasty sauces. I could taste salt or MSG but it wasn’t the dominant flavour.

The rib was gorgeous, with a strong five spice flavour. Very tender and not fatty. The two other pork dishes were fine. The sweet and sour sauce was as I expected and the pork was a bit chewy, but not tough.

To be honest, I enjoyed this meal and it was only €4.99. The only other Chinese buffet I had experienced was the rather more famous one on the quays, where every dish seemed very oily and overcooked and from which one emerged smelling like a chipper. In contrast, there was no residue of grease on my plate after this meal. I had plenty of food and there was no limit on the amount of food one could pile on the reasonable sized plates.

The place itself is plain and pretty devoid of atmosphere…

… which is a pity and I still find it odd that it was so empty. On my way back to the quays after lunch, near enough to 2.30pm I passed several other restaurants, none of them as empty as the one I had just left.

I’m not going to not recommend this place, if you know what I mean, but I’d suggest that if you are going to give it a try, go with a few other people and liven the place up.

(PS. I confess to being a bit nervous of buffet food in general. It’s quite exposed to the atmosphere and, of course, to people, with our various unpleasantnesses. You’re never quite sure how long the food been there and at what temperature. These are general concerns, you understand, not particular concerns about this buffet.)

Noodle Doodles

I knew I’d be able to eatforafiver somewhere on Parnell Street among the various Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese restaurants that have opened there in the last few years. I wasn’t wrong.

The boys and I headed there this lunchtime. We parked on Hill Street just off the Gardiner Street end of Parnell Street and wandered around for a bit. We were tempted by a (misleading, as it happens) sign outside a buffet place offering ‘3 Chinese dishes and rice’ for €5. In actual fact, that was for a take-away option which wasn’t mentioned on the sign. That being said, the place was offering a substantial tasty looking lunch buffet for €7.

Elsewhere we found a tiny place with two tables with interesting sounding dishes for €5 but rice would have cost an additional €1.50.

We had a look at ‘Wok in a Box’ and we’ll visit there sometime in the future. But for today, we settled for Charming Noodles, or Lee’s Charming Noodles.

The guys outside Lee's Charming Noodles

Charming Noodles, as you might expect, specialises in noodle dishes. It has several different menus on display. There’s a general lunch menu, offering two courses for either €7.99 or €9.99. There’s a standard Chinese-restaurant-fare menu, offering the sort of dishes that you’d see in any other Chinese place. There’s a very interesting looking Noodle menu, comprising soup noodle dishes, pan fried noodle dishes, chow mein dishes and noodle mixes. And there’s the Recession Specials, for a €4.99 each.

The restaurant was a little over half full when we went in, but filled up to almost capacity while we were there. About half the customers appeared to be of far eastern origin, and most were tucking in to big bowls of noodles with gusto.

It was the Recession Specials that clinched the deal for us obviously although on my next visit (and there will be one) I’ll be going for one of those delicious looking noodle bowls. The recession specials are available from 12 – 3, Monday to Friday. On offer are sweet and chilli squid, creamy chicken, salt and chilli chicken wings, beef with black pepper sauce, and sweet and sour vegetables (all with rice or chips). And also seaweed tofu soup with chow mein. For your fiver you also get a glass of either orange, pineapple or apple juice.

The young lad opted for the chicken wings with chips,  the big lad for sweet and chilli squid with rice, and I went for the seaweed tofu soup with chow mein.

We ordered and waited. And waited …

Eventually our food arrived. Mine first.

My seaweed tofu soup with chow mein

The soup was lovely. Nicely seasoned, with light melt-in-the-mouth tofu and feather-delicate leaves of dark green seaweed. The chow mein was a little too oily for my taste but flavoursome and filling nevertheless. The quantity was generous.

The big lad’s squid arrived next.

Sweet and chilli squid with rice

The squid was tender and the sauce subtly spicy and quite tomatoe-y. The big lad was pleased with the quantity and polished it off with evident satisfaction.

After a long wait, the young lad got his wings.

Salt and chilli wings with chips

He was a bit disappointed to be honest. The long wait, he felt, wasn’t really worth it, and he eyed the big lad’s squid jealously. The wings were more batter than meat, with not a lot of chilli in evidence. The chips were fine, he said, but without much enthusiasm. Chinese restaurant chips always look and taste distinctively different from chipper chips, and these were definitely Chinese restaurant chips.

In any case, we were all well fed and watered for €14.97 which was the point of the exercise:

The bill

I have to say, I’d go back, especially to try some of their speciality noodle dishes, which seemed to be remarkably good value and looked scrumptious as they emerged from the kitchen. Most noodle dishes seemed to be priced at somewhere between €8.20 and €9.50, with a few above that. I think that’s pretty good.

Parnell Street has been dubbed Dublin’s Chinatown. I suspect by people who have never been there, but like to think there might be somewhere vaguely exotic on the north side. Sure, there are a quite a few Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese restaurants and some oriental food shops there but none of the hustle, bustle, colour and atmosphere of the more established Chinatowns you’d find in different parts of the world.

That being said, Parnell Street, Moore Street, Mary Street and Capel Street seem to be very much worth exploring for cheap eats generally.

To change the subject entirely, I’ve been growing chillies. I bought a pot of seeds a few months ago in Homebase for €2.99 or so. They came with their own compost, so all you had to do was to sow them, water them, keep them warm and covered and, hey-presto, they germinated. I thinned them out, repotted the stronger ones and now have about 10 chilli plants on my window cill.

One of my chilli plants

And a young chilli ...

About a month later, I got a chilli from the fridge, cut it open, took the seeds out and germinated them in a similar way. I now have four more plants from that process. They are so easy to grow. Can’t wait to pick them and cook with them.

 

 

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