On my recent trip to Orlando’s Chinatown, on West Colonial Drive west of downtown, I stopped by Zero Degrees for a snack and some sweet drinks, and then I went on to bring home some takeout from Chef Wang’s Kitchen (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chef-Wangs-Kitchen/1957726267879134), a well-regarded Chinese restaurant in the same shopping center as Zero Degrees. Once again, this was a whole new area I was exploring, too far from work to jet off to for lunch, but it came highly recommended.
I ordered beef chow fun, one of my favorite Chinese dishes anywhere, with tender beef, onions, scallions, and wide, flat, chewy noodles. After including the beef chow fun from Peter’s Kitchen, another fantastic local Chinese restaurant, in my Orlando Weekly Top Five Dishes of 2017 column, I am always on the lookout for other restaurants’ versions of this classic. Chef Wang’s did not disappoint. Now I always ask to hold the bean sprouts in everything, as I’ve never been that big a fan of those crunchy little things, and it makes a hugely positive difference for me.
My wife requested cashew chicken for herself, stir-fried with onions and bell peppers in a thick, sweet-ish sauce. I’m not big on nuts in anything, but this was much tastier and more satisfying than I expected, considering I finished it for her a few days later. (She is not big on leftovers, whereas I live for them.)
I also ordered us a very generous portion of pan-fried pork dumplings, which were terrific.
And after almost a year of hype, what finally made me drop everything and schlep across town to Chef Wang’s: the BEEF KNISH. Yes, dear readers, you heard it here first. There’s a stereotype that American Jews love Chinese food, and many of us do. For me and so many family members and friends, a Jewish Christmas involves going out to see a movie and getting Chinese food on Christmas Day. My family and I have never kept kosher, but despite the prevalence of pork and shellfish in Chinese food, I have often wondered why there isn’t more crossover between Americanized Chinese and American Jewish cuisines. But now there’s a BEEF KNISH.
The order comes with two knishes, made fresh to order. Each one is about four inches diameter and a good inch thick, with a soft, chewy, doughy shell and a filling of hot (not spicy) tender beef seasoned with some chives, onions, and garlic.
Here’s one of them after I took a bite. I gotta tell you, at first I was shocked by how much liquid came pouring out when I bit into it. It drenched my plate and hand! At first I was wondering if these would be like xiao long bao, the infamous soup dumplings that apparently nobody in Orlando serves, but so many local foodies lust after. But no, this was not exactly a soup shower, but a grease geyser! Don’t get me wrong, these cross-cultural delights were delicious, and also an engineering marvel in how the perfectly-sealed baked dough shell didn’t allow for any leaking liquid.
I have to say, Orlando absolutely kills it with Chinese food. We have Chef Wang’s Kitchen and Taste of Chengdu (really creative and spicy Szechuan cuisine) both west of downtown on Colonial, my old favorites Chuan Lu Garden (also Szechuan) and Peter’s Kitchen east of downtown on Colonial along with old stand-by Tasty Wok, and Yummy House in Altamonte Springs. They’re all worthwhile and worth visiting, and all a cut above your shopping plaza storefronts or mall food court Chinese places. Chef Wang’s is great, and in great company.