The Roaming Foodie

Archive for the ‘Birmingham’ Category

At least…it did when I woke up this morning, really jonesing for some tacos. I decided to venture to a Taco Truck that one of my friends here in Birmingham had mentioned several times. On a study break, of course.

The weather is incredibly warm today, and very sunny and bright, so it was kind of nice to head outside to get lunch from a truck. It’s located on W. Valley Avenue in a gas station parking lot, right down the street from my beloved Red Pearl Restaurant. There were quite a few Hispanics outside (always a good sign that the food is going to be authentic), women in scrubs, and men in business suits that reminded me of my brother. I guess because of the suits. But I digress.

All you have to do is decide what kind of meat you want in your taco (there’s a sign, in Spanish, on the side of the truck. If you don’t know Spanish, some of the names have English in parentheses, which was good for me). I had already had the “al pastor” (barbecue pork) recommended to me. I decided to be less adventurous and get “pollo” (chicken), even though I was kind of considering getting “tripa” (tripe) or “lengua” (tongue).Β  They have Mexican bottles of soda and such available too, but I didn’t get any, since I needed to get my tacos to go instead of sitting in the parking lot to eat. Although, it’d be a lot of fun to sit outside on a warm day by a taco truck with a friend (or the boyfriend) and eat tacos.

The chicken was so incredibly tender. It was shredded, not chopped, and just perfectly spiced and still juicy. The al pastor was chopped up, and had been barbecued in a smoky, slightly sweet marinade. I’m going to go ahead and guess it was chipotle based, but I’m not exactly an aficionado when it comes to Mexican food. All tacos come in two very soft, very fresh corn tortillas. Believe me, two shells on each taco are needed, especially after you add the salsas to the tacos. They have a red salsa, which is pretty spicy, and a green salsa, which I didn’t try because I was told it was really spicy. All the tacos come with cilantro, onions, and a lime wedge to squeeze on top. The al pastor had cheese, but I don’t believe the chicken taco did (it’s hard to judge…I kind of inhaled them). I definitely recommend this taco truck (officially called Taqueria Guzman, but I’ll always call it Taco Truck, haha) if you’re in Birmingham and looking for cheap (each taco is only $1.75) and authentic tacos. They also have burritos (the guy in front of me got one and it was HUGE), quesadillas, and tostadas. I don’t what it is, and maybe it’s just me, but food always seems better when it’s served from a truck or a street cart. And this taco truck is legit. Trust me, and go eat a taco (or three…) from Taqueria Guzman.

Back to studying. My exam is in an hour and a half. Then I’ll officially be a senior.

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

So, my mom visited me on Wednesday and Thursday on her Spring Break, before bringing me home for Easter Break. We spent the day and a half shopping, hanging out, and more importantly, eating at a few of the places that she really enjoys in the Ham.

Wednesday:
I took my mom back to Edgar’s for one of the last visits (I’m making at least one last one myself). She ordered a Chicken Avocado Wrap, and I got the usual Red White and Blue wrap. We split it, so we had half of each wrap. The Chicken Avocado had grilled chicken that was slightly spiced but incredibly moist and juicy, mashed avocado, and lettuce. My wrap has incredibly lean roast beef, feta cheese, cabbage, and tomatoes, and is so so so good and addictive. The thing I like about Edgar’s wraps is that they press them in a panini press, so they’re slightly warmed through and it makes the outside of the wrap a little bit crispy. Then we split a chocolate cupcake. The chocolate icing at Edgar’s is to die for. It’s like eating softened fudge. So good, and really hard to explain how good it is. So just go try it. Then you’ll know just how delicious the chocolate buttercream is. Since it was Easter, the bakery had Easter decorated cakes, petit fours and cookies. My mom and I bought the most adorable Easter bunny sugar cookies to eat for dessert that night. The cookie itself reminded me of the cookies we make at Christmas, so it wasn’t that astounding (but still really delicious) since my mom and I can totally make it ourselves. But the decorating was absolutely adorable.
For dinner, we went to Jim n’ Nicks, a barbecue place in 5 Points, but they’re also scattered about elsewhere, including around Atlanta (I’ve seen one out in Gwinnett, but I don’t know if there are any In The Perimeter). Basically, JNN has the best creamed spinach I’ve ever had, hands down. It’s perfectly creamy with little pieces of artichoke in it. I really could eat just a bowl of that for dinner, but they don’t offer that, so my mom and I each ordered 1/4 of a barbecued chicken and a side of creamed spinach. The chicken is incredibly moist with a great smoked flavor to it, and you can totally tell it’s cooked “slow and low” like all good barbecue should be (and if it’s not actually cooked that way, then they have an amazing way of faking it), and they’re sauce is good, even if it is a little spicy for my taste.

Thursday:
We ate breakfast at Starbucks, each getting a Turkey Bacon Egg sandwich. It was alright, but doesn’t hold a candle to Panera’s breakfast sandwich (I could eat those crazy delicious things everyday. But I don’t. Go me.)
For lunch, before heading home, we ate at Dragon, my favorite Chinese restaurant in the Ham. They don’t use MSG AT ALL, and for $12, my mom and I each got an egg roll, a bowl of egg drop soup, an entree that could’ve fed two people, and a scoop of rice. The food was waaaay more than expected for $6 each, and it’s really great Americanized Chinese food. Which is about all you can find in B’ham as far as I know, except for a place called Red Pearl that’s inside an Oriental Market. I haven’t been, but we’re going as a group in my Chinese class in a few weeks, so I’ll let ya’ll know how it is πŸ™‚

That’s about it for now. I’m home for Easter/my grandmother’s birthday right now, then I’ll be back down to Atlanta to meet Andrew’s parents on Sunday night. Good food for Easter, of course. Ham, roast asparagus, potato salad, bread, and I’m making cupcakes! Easter cupcakes! I’ll post pictures in all their decorated glory, as long as they look good πŸ™‚

Happy Easter or Happy Passover!!!