"Revenge is a dish best served cold."
Or hot out of a take out container at your desk with scents of garlic and oil and stir fried pork and steamed rice wafting through the cubicle rat maze. Yes, while the rest of my cubicle farm was chowing on questionable office cafeteria food or microwavable astronaut food, I sat humbly at my desk, not a peep about the prize I'd just picked up on my lunchtime journey out to Monterey Park see my master. Dumpling Master, that is.
Like all kung fu movies where the apprentice goes out in search of his or her master, the master is never located in the most visible of locations. In some cases, you'd have to journey up a mountain to a remote mountain hideaway. In my case, my master would be found tucked away in a minimall that's overshadowed by Shun Fat supermarket.
Dumpling master does serve up revenge in the form of cold dishes, as seen by the small saran- wrapped plates of cold dishes in the refrigerated case. You can get revenge in the form of thinly sliced pig ears, spicy cucumber or pickled cabbage. I chose to seek revenge the hot route...I had my eye on several things--xiao long bao and a variety of other steamed and fried dumplings, niu rou mien (beef noodle soup), stir fried rice cake, scallion pancakes--and had to decide quickly; I told the master what I had come in search of and of course she delivered. But not without a challenge, of course.
She spoke only Mandarin and limited English. I speak English and Cantonese. I wanted this dish that my mom had ordered here before that was basically a fried pork chop with pickled potherb over rice. I could not find the exact dish on the menu. I asked. She pointed to a rice dish of pork chop with gravy over rice. I asked if the included potherb. She then pointed to the pork and potherb fried rice and said we can do that but with rice and gravy. But I wanted the pork chop and I didn't remember it having gravy. She stared at me. I stared back.
After a few short minutes of waiting, the Master returned with my reward: a plastic bag carrying pork and potherb with gravy over rice (yes, I gave in), pork and napa cabbage stir fried rice cake, and an order of scallion pancake. Food which would provide strength and sustenance at both lunch and dinner. (You didn't think I was going to eat this all by myself at lunch did you?)
"Do you have any soy sauce and vinegar I can take to go?" I asked the master. Yeah, yeah, so I like to dab my scallion pancakes in a teeny bit of soy-sauce & vinegar mixture, so what?
"Soy sauce here," she replied abruptly as she handed me two soy sauce packets and a small plastic cup and lid, "you want vinegar, you make yourself." She pointed to the vinegar cruet on an empty table, and then almost magically, disappeared into thin air. The Master works in mysterious ways.
A good apprentice always make sure she keeps the to-go containers of any fried or crispy stuff open on the way to her destination so as to avoid any sogginess from steam droplets that collect inside. I drove back to work with my purse, a box of pork/potherb rice and stir fried rice cakes tied up in a plastic bag, and an open Chinese takeout box of scallion pancake all in my passenger seat.
Back at work, I tore into the scallion pancakes first, which had held up quite well during their 15 minute car ride. They were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside without being too doughy. I mixed the a little soy sauce into the tiny cup of vinegar the Master had made me prepare myself and dabbed the pancake into it; the taste of scallion-tinged hot oil made a teeny bit tart by my soy sauce/vinegar mixture was delicious. This is why I stay true to the master.
Yes, Scallion Pancake Master
Though I went in search of enlightenment through fried porkchop with potherb, I was glad I took the Master's advice on the pork and potherb with gravy over rice. I was afraid that with the gravy it would have been too saucy, but to my surprise, it wasn't. A mixture of stir fried pork strips with pickled potherb mustard greens lay on top of a bed of hot steamy white rice, the tang and slight crunch of the potherb were the yin to the yang of the mild but soothing pork and white rice.
Yes, Pork And Potherb With Gravy Over Rice Master
The Master isn't necessarily masterful at everything, however. I thought the stir fried rice cakes with pork and napa cabbage were a bit bland and could have used a bit more flavor. Texturally, however, this dish was a winner--its oval rice cakes were cooked to the perfect chewiness and offset the napa cabbage's crispness nicely.
Uh Maybe, Pork And Napa Cabbage Stir Fried Rice Cake Master
As all master-apprentice visits should be, I felt stronger, wiser, and enlightened after this trip, ready to take on anything or anyone that got in my way.
423 N. Atlantic Blvd. #106
Monterey Park, CA 91754