Edmonds Restaurant News: Hunan cuisine at Dong Ting Chung, plus new openings

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Dong Ting Chun, located at 22001 Highway 99 in Edmonds, has arrived. Entrees at Dong Ting Chun delight the palate with the true chili-laden, smoky flavors of Hunan, and have their own twists, of course, given availability of time honored ingredients.

Dong Ting Chun has branched out from their California base and brings a broad range of Hunan cuisine to the Edmonds area. While service is in a relatively casual setting, attention to detail, décor and serving pieces echo the elegance of a white-table-cloth dining experience. Bright red and golden yellow lanterns and beautiful porcelain serving pieces set the tone–this is not an ordinary restaurant.

Readers, do plan ahead to dine at this popular spot… they only reserve tables for parties of eight or more. I arrived at 11:30 a.m. (their opening time) and managed to get a table right away.

Foodie friends gave me this advice: “Work your way through the Chef Special list on the menu.” I ordered the Farmer’s Pork. I’d humbly like to suggest an alternate name for this dish: “Hog Heaven”.

I grew up in the Midwest – I adore pork! Tender slices of stir-fried pork mingle with substantial cloves of garlic and green pepper so fresh and delicious I was almost tempted to use the serving soon. Chop sticks were not getting the food into my mouth fast enough! Thin cut pork belly slices absorbed all the flavors–including garlic and peppers–into the meat. A dash of soy sauce and salted soy beans gave just the right amount of salt seasoning to the dish.

My non-meat eater hubby ordered the mashed eggplant with green pepper. He assumed this would be similar to my dish, and was enthralled with the table-side pedestal preparation for this version.

The specials menu lists plenty of tempting dishes, including Archlord Frog (served whole in spicy chili sauce), a must-try for an Indiana gal who has dined on frog legs a few times. Many visits ahead, for sure.

A bit of Sino-culinary history–Hunan’s contribution, also known as Xiang cuisine, deserves to be celebrated as one of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine. Click here for more info on all eight regional cuisines.

Authentic Hunan foods include smoked duck, spare ribs steamed in bamboo and cured pork with pickled long beans.

Similarities between Sichuan (a more familiar type of fare) and Hunan cuisine — namely, that both showcase the heat of chili peppers. But there are also strong differences in the forms of the chili peppers and what they are used with. Sichuan cuisine uses a lot of dried chilies and chili oil, often in conjunction with Sichuan peppercorns to create a ma la (numbing and spicy) sensation. Sugar is often used to balance the spiciness.

In contrast, Hunan cooking uses chili peppers in a greater range of forms: pickled, salted, and ground into pastes, as well as dried and infused in oils. Instead of Sichuan peppercorn or sugar, vinegar is the region’s preferred balancing agent, or kicker — which is why Hunan is known for sour and salty spiciness. Regional herbs like perilla are also incorporated as kickers.

Hunan cuisine is a gan la (dry and spicy) version. The flavors are familiar, but the food is fresher, less oily than the Sichuan norm and prepared with more vegetables. The province, in the south-central part of China, has a rich bounty of agricultural products. As a result, menu items typically vary by season. For example, Sizzling Pot King has recently been serving smoked pork belly with winter bamboo shoots, with the preparation due to change for spring.

Hunan cooking deploys a wider variety of techniques, including smoking, curing and steaming meats, slow-cooking stews and stir-frying.

Edmonds locals are fortunate to now have excellent food from various regions of China, including Shanghai, Shaanxi Province at Qin. located at 22315 Highway 99 in Edmonds (see my full review by clicking here) and even Guizhou Province.

Qian Noodle, located at 13510 Aurora Ave N. in nearby Shoreline, represents the expansion of Chinese food to other provincial cuisines. The recipes are from Guizhou province, showcasing dishes like lamb noodle soup with pickled greens. The house specialty is a sour soup option, which adds paste from stir-fried pickled chili peppers, tomatoes, rice vinegar and garlic.

New openings close by…

A new Vietnamese street food eatery is now open in Mountlake Terrace. Owners Bao Dinh and Thao Ly opened Banh Mi Bites in Arbor Village, 23601 56th Ave. W., Ste. 600 last week.

A note on the location: Google Maps is NOT accurate!

Banh Mi Bites’ entrance and parking garage entrance is on 236th Street Southwest. Google Maps’ nice voice directed me to the 56th Avenue West side of the complex, and there is scant parking on 56th Street. So, turn onto 236th to park in the nice underground parking lot.

What to order? Depends on if you are eating in the restaurant, or taking it home or back to the office. Skewers or whole sandwiches fare better than the signature item, the Banh Mi Bites.

The Bites are a “deconstructed” version of a whole sandwich. The roll is sliced and toasted, with spreads applied to each portion. The bites are then piled onto plate with the rest of ingredients arranged on top. Lovely presentation, and delicious if eaten promptly, but that freshly toasted/sliced bread tends to soak up the juices from ingredients and becomes a tad soggy if there is a delay… albeit the bites are still very tasty.

A note about the ingredients. Banh Mi Bites chose shredded pickled papaya over the more traditional daikon because pickled papaya doesn’t have strong odor. Papaya is crunchy and has lots of health benefits as well.

Now for the skewers… Slender wooden sticks held meat balls, fresh pineapple and slices of jalapeno. The portion-two skewers-satisfied. They were tasty and traveled well, too.

More traditional Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches of crusty French bread with shredded pickled papaya and flavorful meats topped with tender sprigs of cilantro can be ordered with meatballs, pepperoni or meatloaf. There is also a veggie version.

Dinh says “Along with the banh mi we all know and love, we have coffee, milk tea, smoothies and more…”

More… Ah, dessert! I ordered one to go.

The almond jelly lychee dessert is a delight on many levels. The first is the fun aspect of viewing the machine that seals it all up – the spill-proof top keeps contents intact, and one’s car interior spotless too. Bao demonstrated with a flick of his wrist–he flipped the sealed cup and not a drop of its colorful contents leaked out. It was a treat to eat too, textures of crunchy almond slices, wiggly almond jelly, lychee and the not-too-sweet juices combine to tantalize the tongue and taste buds.

Banh Mi Bites is open Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 4-7 p.m., and closed Sunday.

New things to eat and drink

Toast at Harbor Square Athletic Club

Harbor Square Athletic Club has great grab and go food at their Smoothie Bar & Eats, and now a new toast bar is expected to open May 1. Options will include Sweet Treat, Creamy Chia, Hearty, Berry Toasty, A Bit Nutty and Avo-Yumm. The price will be between $3.50 and $4 check it out!

New from Puget Community Coop- shop no more… let them do it for you!

Scratch-made Meals at Home, available at PCC

Too tired to dine out? Or maybe the kids are too fussy to behave in a restaurant this evening? Well, you can prepare a delicious, home-cooked meal in under an hour with the new PCC Scratch-made Meals at Home. Each kit includes a flavorful, simple-to-follow recipe created by their professional chefs; fresh, organic ingredients; and recyclable, compostable packaging.

Pick up PCC Scratch-made Meals at Home kits at Greenlake Village PCC, or have one delivered through PCC’s grocery delivery partners.

It’s getting warmer. Cool off with a new beverage!

Kordashi green tea

Kouridashi-style ice-brewed green tea is a thing these days. Kouridashi-style also known as cold brewing, takes a bit of time, but is an incredible way to distill the essence of your tea. Tea can be steeped much longer this way as cold water will not draw out the natural astringency like hot water does.

Here’s a link to answer all your questions about the various types of green teas.

Looking ahead

Macaroons

May is verdant, May is exciting and May is filled with fun food holidays. Don’t wait for Mother’s Day or the big barbecue weekend – there are celebrations every day of the month.

For example, May 31 is National Macaroon Day and Ganache Patisserie and Cafe, at 407 Main St. just west of the Edmonds Theater, has very yummy macaroons!

Restaurant News will look for May menu items that celebrate food holidays for: asparagus, barbecue, chocolate custard, gazpacho, hamburgers, Mediterranean diets, salads, salsas, strawberries, vinegars and more!

— By Kathy Passage

A specialty gourmet food broker for over 30 years, Kathy Passage has in-depth knowledge on food and the special qualities of ingredients used in the exquisite products she helped bring to market. Kathy brings this unique perspective from the “other side of the plate” to writing about the food and restaurant scene in Edmonds.

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