Tuesday, September 13, 2016

China King

412 N. Main
DeSoto, Mo.
On Facebook

I crowd-sourced this choice. (I asked people on a social network group to recommend a place).
This was not a gimmick though, I really wanted input and I figured, who better to ask than a group called "If you grew up in Desoto, Mo., you might remember . . . "  I didn't grow up there but I joined the group for historical reasons. . . history club stuff. There's a lot of old photos posted there and discussions as to what used to be where, etc. Here's what I posted.
"Sorry to intrude with a non-history question, but I'm kind of a marital bind. I need to find a decent Chinese take out place in Desoto. Thoughts? Recommendations? Places to avoid?"
There were several responses, even some debate. Only one name came up, to near unanimous recommendation.
One post, by Ed,  a guy I know IRL (in real life):
"Too bad you specified De Soto. I know this excellent place on Ty Tung Doh Low (phonetic spelling). But that's in Tai Pei"
I responded that I knew a couple of great places as well, in Northern Japan and South Korea.
You see, the travel was the entire point of my inquiry.
The country road I live on connects to a minor county road. At least it used to. There's a bridge over a creek between our compound and that other road. It is being completely rebuilt, road closed.
The detour adds about four or five miles to any and all trips to anywhere. That may not sound like much, but it is all country road miles. No center lines, no shoulders, narrow, curvy and constantly populated by deer, tractors and other country stuff.
Normally when we bring home Chinese, we go to Lam's in Festus. If we want a buffet, we go to Festus.
Now that Festus was even further away than it used to be, I was looking to cut down on the drive time. Desoto is about five miles closer than Festus. I'd never had Chinese food in DeSoto.
So I asked the group to name the good ones.

The Place:
Located next to the Dollar General in a not-completely-occupied strip mall on Main street. The parking lot was barely littered with patrons, it was rather quiet. On the railroad tracks across the street, a double locomotive idled powerfully, sounding hungry for the long pull to come.
It had taken about a half hour to get there, Angel had composed and called in the order just as I was leaving. I took her list with me just in case the order wasn't quite all there.
There was a couple, or a small family sitting at one of the tables, I couldn't tell if they were eating in or waiting for a take-out.
Overall the place looked exactly like every other small town Chinese take-out place, maybe a little more worn and run down. The carpet was stomped almost smooth and shiny in a few heavy traffic areas, the lights seemed old, just not as bright as maybe they once were. It wasn't necessarily dirty, just well-worn.
There was a man at the counter paying for his order, I was next in line. Actually, I was the line. The lady asked for my phone number, Angel had said they didn't ask for a name, just a number. This sort of thing is not usually a problem for me, however I fumbled the answer this time like I was lying and got caught. The problem was that I rarely give out my home phone number and my personal cell phone number had recently changed. So I essentially answered in a confused compilation of three different numbers. Realizing I had screwed it up only made me more anxious about it so I started spitting out various unrelated number sequences. One of them must have come close, since the lady shoved a large bag towards me.
I handed her my debit card, she said something about signatures and dollar amounts, but I was still recovering from the phone number crisis so I didn't quite grasp the details. I merely trusted her to ring it up correctly, I either trusted or just didn't care, they look kind of the same in the language of my facial ticks and scowls.
I made the drive back, almost hitting a deer crossing the detour road, the same deer crossing in the opposite direction, at the same spot in the same road that I'd almost hit an hour earlier. I guessed that he went out for some take-out as well.
The Food:
We ordered three combos and a couple of sides, even though it would just be the two of us. We do take out this way, we set it up as a buffet at home.
What we got this time:
1. Pepper Beef. Slim strips of beef, big ol' chunks of bell pepper and onion and a savory gravy/sauce.
2. General Chicken. You know which general. Zuo Zongtang (Tso Tsung-t'ang) (1812–1885) was indeed a real person, a military leader and statesman. However, he had absolutely nothing to do with this dish. There is no record at all of anything like this stuff existing anywhere around when and where he lived and worked. It could be a linguistic anomaly, a similar sound to his name passed down over generations. Hunan cuisine chef Peng Chang-kuei fled mainland China during that nations's civil war and settled, as did many, in what is now known as Taiwan. He cooked there until 1973 when he
left the continent to settle in New York City, where he experimented with new dishes and allegedly introduced the sweet, spicy concoction to the American menu. That's one story anyhow. There are, as with nearly every food item, more than a few claims to the origin, what is known is that it first appeared in the U.S. in the early 1970's
3. Pork Noodles (lo mein). In Japan this was called yakisoba. Chinese spiced and sauced . . .  spaghetti. . . with small strips of pork, onions, etc. I like noodles.
On the side we added steamed dumplings, a pair of crab Rangoons
and a couple of egg rolls. 'Rangoon' refers to the former capital of Myanmar (Burma) and there is a similar food item to what we know from Burma (Myanmar) BTW, Rangoon is more correctly 'Yangon'. Because, of course it is.
The version we know commonly was invented in San Francisco, perhaps at Trader Vic's. You see, there is no history, at all, of cream cheese in Southeast Asia, or pretty much any other kind of cheese.

So we peeled it all open and dived in, each a little of everything, just like at a real buffet, but without the frog legs.
Let me lead off by asking you: "What the hell is up with making the fried rice day-glow yellow and for the love of any god or gods you choose, WHY?
I've seen this in a few places. Probably turmeric, nature's own food coloring. It adds little to nothing to the taste and used like this, in my opinion, is a bit off-putting. It doesn't look anywhere near natural. I don't need to sparkle up a potato, what's wrong with natural brownish beige in a starchy side?
There, got that off my chest.
So how was it? One word, Adam could have said it for us. Fine. It was all just fine.
Nothing was outstanding and nothing was terrible. Beside the pencil-yellow rice, the steamed dumplings had a structural problem. There was a lot of dough and only a little happy ending (filling). The dough to filling ratio was out of whack.
The taste of the filling was. . . fine, but there was a lot of essentially tasteless, chewy dough to go through to get to it.
But that's pretty much as bad as it gets. In every other aspect it was quite. . .  fine. Acceptable, good enough.
Sometimes that's all you need. Chinese food like this is not haute cuisine. It's working people food. It's cheap, there are several options, and it fits perfectly with the American lust for wrapped and floured fried meats. Kids even like the stuff.
I am of course spoiled. I served and ate for three years in Japan and South Korea. It's a different thing. Some of the stuff we have here wasn't even available there. (however, if you like deep fried squid heads on a stick, you are in luck.)
I left the service after that tour and settled, for over fifteen years, in the modern day Mecca of Americanized Chinese food, Springfield, Mo. I am indeed spoiled.
There's a Chinese place nearer to my home than China King. We ate there, once and only once. For the past few years we've settled for the two places in Festus, China King can easily join that pair as a good-enough place to go for Chinese takeout.
Sometimes you have to settle. After Springfield, we lived for five years on the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland. I have not had a decent crab cake since then. There are some I can settle for, but they are not the ideal. And that's okay. China King is plenty good enough. If I want steak and lobster, I'll get steak and lobster. On a busy weekend when I just crave Chinese, this will do just fine if it means I do not have to drive to Seoul or Misawa.
To all the FB post responders in Desoto, thanks for participating! Let's do this again sometime!

China King Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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