A Spicy Pot of Joy
Recently, I had the worst Chinese food of my life. This is not an exaggeration and is a sentence I hoped I would never have to formulate in my chef’s brain. I love Americanized Chinese food in all its sticky, salty-sweet glory. Thickening sauces with a cornstarch slurry (a non-Newtonian fluid) to a silky-smooth, slightly jellyfish-like consistency is one of the greatest things ever cooked up.
I’ve eaten four-day-old pork lo mein, cold and straight from the greasy white box. In front of the refrigerator. In only my underpants. At sunrise with a plastic cup of hot chili oil emptied over top and carelessly tossed into the sink. (The lid to said cup, on the floor, oil-side down.) It was a gazillion times better than the monstrosity that arrived at my doorstep from a Chinese restaurant here in The Fred.
To say it was an insult to food-court Chinese food, where your chicken comes pouring out of a bag like liquid eggs and coagulates to a pinkish-tan, vaguely chicken-y bit, would be too kind an observation. It was supposed to be pork in garlic sauce, but it looked like a refrigerated, gloppy trashcan bottom after the bag broke. Grayish-brown, congealed, ugly. It tasted like the aquarium water that your first goldfish, “Goldie,” died in. So, I got in my car, drove to the restaurant and returned that terribad nonsense. I got sweet & power chicken as a replacement. It was fine, but slightly less than below average.
But since the “Spicy Trashcan Pork” incident, I’ve happily learned that Frederick has a fantastic Asian food scene.
On the Hipster Meter, having an H Mart in our town is a much bigger accomplishment than getting a Whole Foods. The aisles are full of ingredients both familiar and obscure. Parents, if you haven’t made a trip there for the “make your own gummi candy” kits, get in your car and go now! Colorful, so much fun and (kind of) tasty!
The food court at the H Mart is unbelievable. Fresh, varied and hideously under-utilized by locals and tourists alike. Sushi, noodles of all kinds, soups, bao, dumplings, hot pot, rice and kimchi, as well as uncountable other delights line a whole wall. The entire place offers the promise of one of Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets: In your wildest dreams you could not imagine the marvelous SURPRISES that await YOU!
We have the local Asian Supermarket on Patrick Street, as well. This friendly and well-stocked gem has everything you could need for that Asian recipe you’re cooking tonight. Need some doenjang or crispy squid snacks? Yeah, c’mon!
There are a bunch of Vietnamese noodle houses around town, which serve pho and fresh bánh mì, which have been on chef’s early-morning breakfast tables since forever. A handful of Thai restaurants serving up authentic and classic Southeast Asian classics in peanut sauce, lemongrass and nam pla also dot the landscape. Don’t forget the bulgogi sub with everything at Joy Convenience.
Frederick’s Asian community is vibrant and growing. There are more choices than ever to get your fix of sweet, salty, sour, crispy, spicy, umami goodness. The adventurous eater is welcomed and rewarded with delicious treasures and unusual flavors. The wonderful people serving you these treasures, are the ultimate bonus.