Tag Archives: crab rangoons

Year of the Rooster

December 23, 2016 by
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

Chinese Lunar New Year falls on January 28 this year. The holiday is like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s all rolled into a week of celebrations. This year will be my third Lunar New Year in Omaha. Since relocating to the Midwest, I have developed a small go-to list for dishes that taste like home (or at least satiate my appetite until my next return visit to Hong Kong).

When coworkers ask me to recommend “real” Chinese food, I often probe how adventurous they are with eating. Authentic Chinese cuisines do not usually come with a thick brown or red sauce. Sometimes, signature dishes also feature uncommon ingredients. Although I never fancied chicken feet, I know several European Americans who will gobble down the dish (which translates to “phoenix talons” in my native Cantonese language) at any opportunity.

Chinese cuisines vary depending on region. Sichuanese (from western China) is known for its “mala” numbing spice. Cantonese (from Hong Kong and Guangdong) is famous for fresh seafood and dim sum. Dumplings, maybe even more than rice, are beloved in northern Chinese cuisines. You might even say Americanized Chinese food is authentic in its own way, with its distinct flavors and history woven into the story of Chinese migration.

1. Fresh housemade dim sum

I was excited to see barbecue pork and duck hanging on display upon entering Canton House Restaurant during my first visit; the Cantonese diner reminds me of the typical Hong Kong-style café (also known as a “cha chaan teng”). The chef started his career in Hong Kong decades ago and has brought a long list of authentic Hong Kong dishes to his restaurant in northwestern Omaha. Dim sum—bite-size breakfast hors d’oeuvres—are freshly made to order; I highly recommend ordering a variety and enjoying them with a group of friends. Stuffed eggplant, fish slices in congee (rice porridge), and sliced beef with pan-fried rice noodles are among my top three choices.

4849 N. 90th St., No. 1, Omaha, NE 68134

402-505-9446

cantonhouseomaha.com

2. Savory Shandong cuisine

Tucked in the corner of a strip mall on 72nd Street, Blue and Fly Asian Kitchen is a homey eatery that is crowded with Chinese students every night. The traditional Chinese menu features a range of quick-fried and fish dishes that are iconic of Shandong cuisine. A bilingual handwritten menu beside the kitchen offers a further selection of seasonal delicacies. The owners are generous in sharing their cultural heritage with patrons; for example, in the last Mid-Autumn Festival, they gave out handmade “mooncakes” to diners to share celebration of the Chinese holiday. I have yet to order anything I do not enjoy at Blue and Fly (and I am definitely a frequent patron). My personal favorites include spicy shredded potato (a cold appetizer), spicy pig intestine (an entrée), and a specialty dessert—caramelized sweet potato.

721 S. 72nd St., Omaha, NE 68114

402-504-6545

blueflyasiankitchen.com

3. Cantonese-style barbecue duck and barbecue pork buns

Order a Cantonese-style duck (half) to go with a bowl of rice, and you will get an authentic Hong Kong lunch experience. Grand Fortune Chinese Restaurant also has an extensive dim sum menu—the baked barbecue pork pastry and baked barbecue pork bun are must-tries as you may only find the steamed version in other dim sum shops in town. Steamed barbecue pork buns are known as “cha siu bao” in Cantonese. Cha siu bao, pork and shrimp dumplings (“siu mai”), and shrimp dumplings (“har gow”) are regular fixtures of dim sum brunch anywhere in the world.

17330 West Center Road, Omaha, NE 68130

402-697-9888

grandfortunecuisine.com

4. Dim sum brunch after church

New Gold Mountain is crowded with families after church on Sundays. The restaurant has an intimate atmosphere. Its fried items—such as salt and pepper shrimp, deep-fried minced pork shrimp dumplings, and crispy fried tofu are all finger-licking good. Meat lovers can try barbecue pork with five spiced beef. The meat platter is a common dinner staple in Hong Kong, and is best enjoyed with a bowl of rice and some stir-fried vegetables.

15505 Ruggles St. No.105, Omaha, NE 68116.

402-496-1688

newgoldmountain.com

5. Mouthwatering tofu dishes

People may not associate Three Happiness Express with authentic Chinese food. But its kung pao tofu is a good representation of Chinese cooking. The tofu is perfectly fried to form a crispy crust; the dish is not drowned, rather it is drizzled with a light brown sauce. The restaurant’s steamed dumplings are also authentic, as long as you skip the sweet and spicy sauce and dip it in soy sauce. Friends from the neighborhood have professed a deep love for the crab rangoons, Princess Chicken, and Loc’s Chicken Wings (and these dishes are definitely American Chinese inventions).

5107 Leavenworth St., Omaha, NE 68106

402-558-8899

facebook.com/threehappinessexpress

6. Classic American Chinese food

Golden Palace has an old-school menu and an Oriental interior design that suggest the restaurant has been passed down through generations. The restaurant serves polished classic American Chinese food. The barbecue back ribs are the absolute bomb.

4040 N. 132nd St., Omaha, NE 68164

402-493-2777

goldenpalacene.com

7. Unlock the secret menu 

The “secret menu” of Jade Palace offers authentic Chinese cuisines. Even if you don’t read Chinese, pick a protein and ask the server what he/she recommends. The owner suggested we try “water boiled fish”—beware though, the Sichuanese dish is cooked with a lot of red hot chili peppers. The heat index of the fish is a challenge (southerners, like me, are not known for eating spicy). Be sure to discuss the level of spiciness before ordering.

1702 Galvin Road South, Bellevue, NE 68005

402-558-8899

jadepalacebellevue.com

8. Hot pot special

China Garden Restaurant has a winter hot pot special. The communal dish is popular in colder months. Select meats and vegetables from a list, and the server will bring a pot of broth and a portable stove for you to cook the food in. The restaurant offers most of the favorites of Sichuanese cuisine. To drink, ask the server if sweet-sour plum juice is available. Other thirst-quenching options include Tsingtao beer and canned Chinese herbal tea, “Wong Lo Kat.”

8315 Tangier Way, Omaha, NE 68124

402-397-1995

chinagardenomaha.com

9. Fusion Chinese food

P.F. Chang’s modern take on Chinese food results in a range of light, savory fusion cuisine. I highly recommend the chicken lettuce wrap.

Westroads Mall, 10150 California St., Omaha, NE 68114

402-390-6021

pfchangs.com

10. Oldest Chinese restaurant in town

The interior design of King Fong Cafe resembles that of Chinese courtyard houses. The wood carvings and chandeliers (imported from Canton, the old name of Guangzhou) are well-preserved—the visual enjoyment is a feast in itself. The restaurant is not only the oldest Chinese restaurant in town, it is the longest-running restaurant in the city.

315 1/2 S. 16th St., Omaha, NE 68102

402-341-3433

facebook.com/pages/king-fong-cafe/117861274906131

* Note: King Fong Cafe announced its temporary closure in 2016 and had not announced a reopening date at the time of Omaha Magazine‘s publication deadline.

Another great way to discover new dishes is to ask the server what Chinese customers have ordered. If something looks delicious at another table, ask your server what it is. For anyone looking to celebrate the Lunar New Year with a Chinese feast, please note that restaurants may close during the festival, so check ahead to confirm if they are open.

Authenticity aside, I absolutely love when fortune cookies arrive with the bill. The American Chinese invention (or American Japanese, depending on the origin story) coincides with Chinese affinity for auspicious signs. Happy Lunar New Year! May your fortune cookie bring good luck!

How do you say Happy New Year in Chinese?

“Gong hei fat choi!” That’s Cantonese (the language of Hong Kong and Guangdong).

“Xin nian kuai le!” That’s Mandarin (the official language of mainland China and Taiwan)

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…and for a preview of the 2017 Nebraska Chinese Association Lunar New Year Celebration:

A Taste of Old Times and Reuben Tacos in Old Dundee

October 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When I first started coming into the cavernous Old Dundee Bar & Grill, the eatery and I were both much smaller. The eastern portion—the part accessible from the back entrance off of Capital Avenue—was called Main Street Movies, a movie rental place walled-off from the bar area.

My dad used to walk my sister and me there to rent VHS tapes, any movie we wanted for $2.50.  I remember the smell of popcorn from the Dundee Theatre at the top of the ramp in the southeast corner, the `70s-style pattern in the worn carpet. I remember the smell of fried fish coming from the Dundee Dell.

olddundee2Established in 1934, the year after Prohibition, the Dundee Dell went through various owners. A former owner of the Dundee Dell, Pat Goebel, relocated the bar to Underwood Avenue in 2000. So, the bar that next occupied the old Dodge Street location needed a different name. The new name held onto nostalgia for the space. Affectionately known as “The Old” or “ODBG,” it has been owned by Bellevue native Joe Goodman since 2009.

Goodman says that the old bar and the building surrounding it—including the shuttered Dundee Theatre, a bridal store, Merle Norman Cosmetics, and an antiques store—were built in the 1920s and operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition.

Goodman’s ODBG is known for its specials, expert staff, and reasonable food prices, as well as its deep-fried flour tacos, including the Reuben taco (which isn’t listed on the menu). It’s made of a deep-fried flour shell, Swiss cheese, corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, and of course, sauerkraut. They’re huge, so I only eat one. For the Wednesday night special, the price of the beef tacos drops to $2. The others stay at the usual $2.25.

I’ve never eaten a Reuben—I normally hate sauerkraut. But the combination of the meat, cheese, dressing, and crunchy taco shell was delicious. The taco’s crunchiness and tangy dressing distracted me from the sauerkraut. I would consider ordering it again, and this is the only restaurant where I’ve heard of reuben tacos for sale. Other items that Goodman will cook-to-order, but are not listed on the menu, include a Cuban sandwich and crab rangoons. While these favorites are not necessarily secret, in general, only Old Dundee regulars request them. 

Goodman, and the staff who worked at The Old prior to his ownership, transformed it from a struggling bar into a thriving neighborhood watering hole. The space has been renovated while retaining its speakeasy roots: a massive brick fireplace defines the southern wall, topped by a massive black-and-white painting of two guys having a drink. Goodman replaced the battered green carpet that covered the floor and the bar with wooden floors, new carpet, and a newly cut and painted original cement floor in the gaming area (complete with pool tables and darts). He also installed a gleaming wooden bar flanked with carved lions.

olddundee1

“I think it’s the staff that keeps bringing people back,” Goodman says. “They make people feel welcome and encourage them to have a good time.” 

You’ll want to visit the Old Dundee soon: The bar’s lease will not be renewed. It will leave the building by the end of January 2017 to make way for Film Streams’ redevelopment of the Dundee Theatre next door. While Goodman says that the bar will remain open for New Year’s, he’s not sure when he’ll shut down for good.

“When we close depends on inventory, but we’re having fun,” Goodman says.

So while you can, come to the Old Dundee for the tacos, and stay for its vintage, comfortable vibe.