The Roaming Foodie

The best 中国反 (chinese food) I’ve had.

Posted on: April 16, 2010

It’s at Red Pearl Restaurant in Birmingham.

The restaurant is tucked into the Super Oriental Market on W. Valley Rd. It’s basically the typical Oriental Market I’ve found elsewhere (reminds me a lot of the one in Pittsburgh that my mom and I visited), with fresh fish and eel (fresh as in still swimming), and even fresh conch! It’s a tiny little place full of fascinating finds for an American that is as, for lack of a better word, obsessed with Asian culture as I am.

Anyway, my Chinese 101 class went to Red Pearl together, with our laoshi (teacher, in Chinese) and our TA. We each ordered a dish or two that we wanted, Yang laoshi ordered several, and we all ended up sharing the feast that was presented before us.

I’m not even sure I can remember all that we ate, but I’ll give it a shot. Also, it’s probably the closest thing to authentic Chinese (from what I’ve heard about Chinese food from China. I’ve never actually been to China to eat it, so that statement is a slight shot in the dark) that you’ll get in Birmingham, AL.

Steamed dumplings-Definitely the best dumplings ever. They were very lightly fried, not greasy at all, and the skin was crisp, tender, and light. The filling was a typical pork and vegetable, but there wasn’t too much filling and it was very flavorful.

Eggplant in Garlic Sauce-I couldn’t stop eating this, probably because I love eggplant, but also probably because the sauce was delectable. Not too spicy, but definitely packed full of garlic, it was a nice compliment to the stir-fried, tender eggplant.

Peking duck– Not a huge fan of duck to begin with (it’s too rich and too fatty for me), but this was some good duck. I only had a bite of it, but the skin was crisp and it was seasoned and cooked well. But I probably wouldn’t order it again, but only because of my opinion of duck. Everyone who liked duck seemed to really enjoy it.

Chicken with Broccoli– this is what I ordered. Absolutely amazing. The broccoli was fresh, the chicken pieces tender, and the sauce was full of flavor without overpowering the chicken or the vegetables. Also, they didn’t drown the whole thing is sauce, which is what most Chinese restaurants do, so it wasn’t soggy at all. It was just…amazing.

Pork Lo Mein and Shrimp Lo Mein-I didn’t eat any of this, as by the time I even considered getting some, my stomach was beginning to protest being stuffed with any more food. But, the things I did notice just from looking at the dish was a) the noodles were wide noodles that looked like they were fresh made, b) it also wasn’t drowning in sauce, so the veggies and noodles still retained their color, instead of staining brown and c) there were more veggies besides onions and carrots, which is what I’ve experienced with many lo meins.

Mongolian Beef– Probably the most Americanized dish we ordered other than my chicken and broccoli, but still really good. They were a bit heavier on the sauce in this dish, but the sauce was good, so it wasn’t a problem. Not my favorite of the bunch, but then again, beef isn’t exactly my favorite thing either. Sorry I don’t have much to say about this one, but I only ate a bite of it.

Pork, Tofu, and Bamboo Shoot– This dish was incredibly good. There wasn’t much (if any) sauce on it, the bamboo shoots were fresh (not the kind out of the can), and the tofu complimented the pork in a nice way (I thought mixing tofu and pork would be weird, but it was a nice texture contrast). I loved the fresh bamboo shoots in the dish. Our TA told us that the bamboo shoots in the dish were actually the sprouts of the bamboo. Whatever they were, they were really good, and tender, and didn’t have the canned taste to them like bamboo shoots from a can.

Fried Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce– Fried. Fish. Need I say more? (I will anyway). I kept eating pieces of this dish. The fish was fried to perfection, with just the right ratio of breading to fish. The fish was also very fresh (I’m guessing it came from one of the tanks in the front of the market), tender, and flaky. The sauce, while orange, was not quite as neon red as other Chinese restaurants. It’s something I would definitely order again if I go back (IF? I’m so going back before I leave)

Sauteed Chinese Broccoli and Sauteed Lily Bulbs with Spinach– these dishes were probably the most fascinating to me. Not because they were complex in anyway…In fact, they were quite quite simple. Just broccoli sauteed in a little oil, and spinach and lily bulbs sauteed in a little oil. And by a little, I mean hardly any. The thing that fascinated me was that I’d never, ever encountered such fresh and such lightly cooked vegetables in a Chinese restaurant. They were cooked just enough to be cooked, but still retained a bright green color and crunch. Both were very lightly salted. And lily bulbs? Yummy. They were just little white chopped up bulbs that mainly provided a watery crunch to the spinach more than any extra flavor. But it was a nice texture contrast between the crunchy bulbs and the soft spinach.

This is the best Chinese meal I’ve had. The food was great, my class is full of a fun and good-natured bunch of people, and our Laoshi is the sweetest person ever. The atmosphere of the restaurant was nice, despite its location in a grocery store. It wasn’t the fanciest place ever, but it was comfortable and clean. The waitress, who was a bit too serious at first, warmed up as soon as we started counting in Chinese while she was getting a picture of the group. She provided good and quick service, despite the fact that she was the only waitress in the restaurant serving a large group like ours plus a few other tables.

All in all, it was a fantastic meal. My only regret is that I didn’t find this restaurant sooner.

Super Oriental Market and Red Pearl Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: