August 23, 2008

Mandarin Deli, Northridge CA

Often with the tallasiandude's parents we go for dinner at the Mandarin Deli in Northridge. It's pretty close to the house, it's very mellow and low-key, and the food is really great.

Especially the cold cucumber pickle. Oh my god, it is so delicious: rough-chopped cucumber with some kind of intensely garlicky dressing and some cilantro. I can't quite tell if there is any sugar or vinegar involved; it's one of those pickles where it's probably just salt but some crazy alchemy makes it into a super-savory complexity that makes me happy all the way to the end of the plate. Can't get enough, especially in warm weather.

The shredded radish pickle is also excellent, we learned on this trip. It looks much like the daikon-thread pickle one gets as pan chan in Korean restaurants, but has a slightly different taste, almost as if it has just a whisper of fish sauce in it.

The spicy seafood chile noodle soup did turn out to be jambong, as we'd hoped. Hilariously, all the Chinese family at the table informed us that this soup is Korean, while every single Korean restaurant in Chicago that we asked for jambong told us, no, we don't have that, it's Chinese. This was a nice version, lots of heat in the buttery broth, but with a bit of a charred note that kept me from drinking down every drop.

The dry pork sauce noodle was delightful as always, a savory brown mess of pork and scallion and cabbage that makes those noodles into what lo mein desperately wants to be. There was also a lighter, brighter noodle with a serious chile kick and some shredded chicken, carrot and cucumber -- i didn't catch its name, but I will definitely try and find out next time so we can get some more.

The rice cakes were gummy, sadly, but came with a huge pile of perfectly crisp-cooked vegetables -- cabbage, carrot, and lots of snow peas -- in a stupendously savory but light sauce. There's another savory brown dish that we always get, deliciously similar to the dry pork sauce noodle but involving more vegetables and instead of the noodles a bunch of shredded shao bing. The wonton soup is a classic of course, and I like this broth more than most. It's darker and pepperier somehow, and gives a nice contrast to the bland dumplings.

But i think the very best thing that we ordered this trip was the tofu with thousand-year eggs. Sometimes the tofu can be bland in this dish, but this had absorbed just enough of a very flavorful soy dressing, and the edges of the cut eggs dissolved into a salty, creamy mess to add even more flavor. I love this dish anyway but this was for sure the best version I've ever had, and only a vague attempt at social grace kept me from licking the plate entirely clean.

Posted by foodnerd at August 23, 2008 01:51 PM
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