Danwei Canting

Recently in the past few months, three new restaurants have opened in Portland featuring Chinese food. Here’s a quick primer on the three new options for Chinese Food in Portland from Danwei Canting, XLB, and Duck House and what differentiates each one, I’ll do all three of these posts back-to-back. This first post is about Danwei Canting.
A look inside Danwei Canting A look inside Danwei Canting
What differentiates Danwei Canting is the specialization into food you would be able to get in Beijing. The service is casual counter service which seems to continue to trend this year – you go to the register where you first place your order, pay, and get a Chinese character card which is how they’ll find you to deliver your food. The food comes in simple metal plates or white bowls, and they bus your dishes from your table for you. There is a board above the register with photos of all the food, but you can find descriptions on paper menus right at the door you enter on the Stark Street side (vs the other entrance on the SE Sandy side). You’ll want to head towards the China + Portland mashup mural.
A look inside Danwei Canting
Danwei Canting after you order at the counter, you are given a card with a number where they then deliver your food

Here, you’ll find Jiaozi, or dumplings, that are steamed and offer fillings of pork jiaozi with ginger, chives, garlic and napa cabbage (white dough skin), lamb jiaozi with lamb, cumin, ginger, fermented chilis and napa cabbage (orange dough), or tofu jiaozi with tofu with sweet potato noodles, scallions, carrots and sesame (green dough). Eat these with the imported Donghu brand of the famous Shanxi mature black vinegar which you pour into the smaller sauce container already waiting with slices of bamboo shoots and ginger. Be generous dunking into the vinegar because that’s really what these dumplings are, a vehicle to get all that sauce.
Danwei Canting are really proud of their dumplings - they even imported a special dumpling making machine in order to make the capacity they need. They offer Pork Jiaozi, Spicy Lamb Jiaozi (pictured), and a vegetarian Tofu Jiaozi Danwei Canting are really proud of their dumplings - they even imported a special dumpling making machine in order to make the capacity they need. They offer Pork Jiaozi, Spicy Lamb Jiaozi and this pictured vegetarian Tofu Jiaozi

A not often seen street food, xianbing is also available here, where they offer Spiced Beef Jianbing with the minced beef sandwiched between the flaky dough layers. These are pretty good with or without sauce.
Danwei Canting Spiced Beef Jianbing with the minced beef sandwiched between the flaky dough layers Danwei Canting Spiced Beef Jianbing with the minced beef sandwiched between the flaky dough layers

Another common in Beijing but not so common dish you’ll find here are Beijing Peanuts, work roasted peanuts in black vinegar with scallions and cilantro. Other street food options include Xinjiang lamb skewers and Paigu (chinese style crispy pork ribs). I find all three of these to lean more towards “drinking food” as they are not dishes you eat on their own: you need drinks, or other dishes to balance them out. My favorite are the ribs of these three.
Danwei Canting Beijing Peanuts, work roasted peanuts in black vinegar with scallions and cilantro Danwei Canting Paigu (chinese style crispy pork ribs)

As the latter lamb and pork dishes come with just the meat on the platter, you might consider ordering a rice dish. You can just order a side of plain rice, or get a entree with rice. Danwei Canting offers two meat and rice entrees like the Chongqing Chicken, a dish of spicy chicken with whole chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns, or Hongshao Rou a dish of pork belly cooked with star anise and cinnamon and fennel seed respectively).
Danwei Canting spicy chicken with whole chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns Danwei Canting meat dish served with rice and seasonal pickles of Hong Shao Rou wtih red cooked pork belly with star anise, cinnamon, fennel seed, and crispy skin

Or try the vegetable dishes of wok seared Cauliflower with Sweet Peppers or the Green Beans with Pork and fermented bean paste. They also offer two dry noodle dishes and wonton noodle with soup,  but I preferred the rice dishes to the noodle dishes. With all these dishes notice that they are sized so you can have the dish itself as your individual entree, or at most maybe share among 2 people – so order accordingly, it’s not like the traditional Chinese place with a lazy susan and platters that can feed 4-8.

Danwei Canting Cauliflower with Sweet Peppers Danwei Canting noodle dish of Chongqing Liang Mian with thin chilled egg noodles with shredded chicken, sesasme paste, radish and spicy Chonqing sauce

Danwei Canting also offers a Beijing take on burgers, such as Pork Rou Jia Mou with pork shoulder braised with star anise, fennel seed, and ginger, or a Lamb Rou Jia Mou with lamb, ginger, and chilis, or the Spicy Tofu Rou Jia Mou with tofu roasted with cilantro, sesame and chile. I think this Spicy Tofu burger is the best option for vegetarians, and even for non vegetarians of the burgers.
Danwei Canting offers three burger/sandwiches, one of which is this vegetarian Spicy Tofu Rou Jia Mou with tofu roasted with cilantro, sesame, and chilies Danwei Canting offers three burger/sandwiches, one of which is this vegetarian Spicy Tofu Rou Jia Mou with tofu roasted with cilantro, sesame, and chilies

For drinks, look to the baijiu, which are the national liquor of China. Cheap, strong, and gluten free as it is made from sorghum and rice and usually consumed in small glasses or as shots. The baijiu here at Danwei Canting is courtesy of local Vinn Distillery and is under their Elixers section. You will find flavored versions spicy Sichuan peppers, or Star anise with ginger, clove, and goji, or Asian pear with bamboo and white wood mushroom. They also offer the baijiu in cocktails, like the Danwei Canting cocktail of Lao Ban with Vinn Baijiu infused with fresh ginger and lime, ginger beer, and ginger sugar rim.
Danwei Canting presents baijiu from Vinn Distillery, Elixers #2 and #3, but my favorite was #1 but it is really spicy so be prepared, otherwise my next fave is #2 with ginger Danwei Canting presents baijiu from Vinn Distillery, Danwei Canting cocktail of Lao Ban with Vinn Baijiu infused with fresh ginger and lime, ginger beer, and ginger sugar rim

A different cocktail I enjoyed was there in January, but replaced in February with the Black Cat cocktail with Burnside Bourbon, Townshend’s Smoke Tea Liqueur, sweet vermouth, splash of black currant syrup, dash of black walnut bitters so it looks like we’ll be seeing them rotate often.
Black Cat cocktail from Danwei Canting with Burnside Bourbon, Townshend's Smoke Tea Liqueur, sweet vermouth, splash of black currant syrup, dash of black walnut bitters

What would you order on a visit to Danwei Canting?

Danwei Canting Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chinese Tomato and Eggs Recipe

Looking for something new to do with fresh summer tomatoes besides sauces and salads? Have you ever had Chinese Tomato and Eggs?

In 1997, there was a summer where I spent a summer in China as part of the UCCEC program with Columbia University. It was a couple weeks in Beijing, and then a couple weeks in Kunming. We had classes every day, but we were learning Chinese while in China so the immersion forced us to learn faster and broader, and the weekends included trips such as what you see below to Beihai, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, and the Great Wall and more.

Beijing Sightseeing:
Temple of Heaven, Beijing Our UCCEC group at  Temple of Heaven, Beijing in summer of 1997
Me in the Forbidden City, China in 1997 The steps at the Great Wall of China in summer of 1997

Beihai Park, an Imperial Garden:
Lily pads in Beihai

During that first week or so in China, as my stomach and my new friends adjusted to the new sights, sounds, smells, and foreign language, we discovered this simple dish of Chinese Tomato and Eggs. Every restaurant in Beijing had it, it was easy to recognize in Chinese on the menu and say without people being confused, and it was a safe bet for eating as our stomachs became used to the new bacteria in this part of the world.
'Easy 'Easy

This recipe for Chinese Tomato and Eggs is not a dish seen often in Chinese restaurants United States, maybe because it’s too simple.  But it’s so delicious. It only takes 20 minutes or so, so it’s very fast. And, it can feed 2-4 for dinner when served with rice (2 as the only dish with the rice, 4 with another dish).

The key to this dish, which sounds plain but is not, is that the eggs get a touch of sesame oil, and the tomatoes get a touch of sugar. My version uses the secret ingredient of one tablespoon of Red Duck Ketchup, which adds just that little extra depth of flavor.
My secret ingredient to my Chinese Tomato and Eggs recipe is a tablespoon of Red Duck Ketchup

Ingredients:

  • Some chopped green onions, with the white and green parts separated, I used about 4 green onions but I really like green onions!
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil, separated (you will use 2 and then 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup

Directions:

  1. Beat eggs together; season with salt and pepper, and add the sesame oil. Whisk so it’s airy.
  2. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan (or wok if you have one, but it’s not absolutely necessary), turning up the heat to high. You should see the oil start to be steamy so you know it’s hot. Now add the white parts of the green onions (approximately – I still had some green-white parts and it was fine for me!) and sauté for about 30 seconds or so until fragrant.
  3. Next, add the egg mixture and let sit for 30 seconds. Stir and then carefully fold the eggs for another minute or less, just until the eggs are about to set (wherever it is shiny and still liquidy just fold down so it can cook for a few seconds until there are no more liquid parts), then immediately remove from heat and set aside on a plate.
    Setting aside eggs with green onions for the Chinese Tomato and Eggs recipe
  4. In a small bowl, combine together  2 tablespoons of water  with the 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Mix until it all is incorporated into the liquid.
  5. Add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. When the oil is steaming again, add the roughly chopped tomatoes and the cornstarch sugar water and my secret ingredient, the tablespoon of Red Duck ketchup. Let the tomatoes cook, stirring only a bit, until you can see the tomato meat firm up slightly and you can smell the tomatoes. This should only take about 5 minutes.
    You only need to roughly chop the tomatoes for the Chinese Tomato and Eggs recipe Cook the tomatoes until it is fragrant and the flesh is more firm for the Chinese Tomato and Eggs recipe, just a few minutes
  6. Pour the eggs you set aside earlier back into the pan and stir to mix the eggs and tomatoes. Add the green part of the green onion and after another good stir, pour into your serving dish.
    Easy comfort food of my Chinese Tomato and Eggs recipe, enjoy with rice and is only 20 minutes from prep start to finish! Easy comfort food of my Chinese Tomato and Eggs recipe, enjoy with rice and is only 20 minutes from prep start to finish!
  7. Serve with rice.
    Easy comfort food of my Chinese Tomato and Eggs recipe, enjoy with rice and is only 20 minutes from prep start to finish!

You can fancify this dish with more vegetables like spinach, a bit of ginger, putting it on fried rice instead of regular rice. It can be breakfast, lunch or dinner – and I promise you, although it sounds simple, so does pasta with cheese (aka classic mac and cheese), and no one can deny the comfort of that dish. That’s what this Chinese Tomato and Eggs is.
My secret ingredient to my Chinese Tomato and Eggs recipe is a tablespoon of Red Duck Ketchup

I am a huge fan of Red Duck Ketchup. It’s made from organic ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup (it’s 100% corn free), and is supporting a local business. The name of the ketchup comes from the fact the three founders are from University of Oregon and thus are fans of the Oregon Ducks. And ketchup is red… aka Red Duck.
 Coalition Brewing Spicy Ketchup Beer and Curry Red Ale were brewed with Red Duck Ketchup

Although I’m not specifically an Oregon Ducks fan, on the day I was born as my mom was sitting on the front steps as my dad prepared the car, she saw a mother duck and her ducklings under a bush (our backyard had a lake) walk out and she almost, almost nicknamed me Duck. Thank goodness I got Pech instead.

Not to mention, this is just the most delicious ketchup I have ever had. They make a few flavors (I also love their spicy ketchup and curry ketchup, and they sometimes make other seasonal flavors like Pumpkin Spice!). The Red Duck Original Ketchup flavor isn’t too sweet but has a little depth of flavor thanks to a bit of balsamic vinegar.

Red Duck Ketchup was a discovery for me at Feast Portland‘s Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting. This event, which takes place on Friday and Saturday on September 18 and 19, is a great value in that so many amazing local vendors are all gathered in one place, ALL are offering samples so you can try everything and know what you are buying!

Feast Portland 2014, Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting Feast Portland 2014, Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting Feast Portland 2014, Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting

That’s how I discovered and got to try Red Duck Ketchup, which I’m not sure I would have noticed normally since I’m not usually a big ketchup fan. But, Red Duck totally changed my tune.

This ketchup is amazing with anything and everything… and I loved it even when Coalition Brewing brewed a one keg special edition Spicy Ketchup Beer and a keg of Curry Red Ale with Red Duck Ketchup as part of National Ketchup Day. That’s right, this ketchup can even hold its own when used in beer!
Coalition Brewing Spicy Ketchup Beer and Curry Red Ale were brewed with Red Duck Ketchup Coalition Brewing Spicy Ketchup Beer and Curry Red Ale were brewed with Red Duck Ketchup

So of course it’s going to be awesome in your basic uses like paired on an Olympia Provisions hot dog, on your burgers… or as a secret ingredient of my Chinese Tomato and Eggs recipe.
Coalition Brewing Spicy Ketchup Beer and Curry Red Ale were brewed with Red Duck Ketchup as part of National Ketchup Day. So of course the ketchup is awesome paired on an Olympia Provisions hot dog.

Have you had Red Duck Ketchup, or Chinese Tomato and Eggs before? Have you studied abroad and learned of a new local dish during your visit that has special memories for you?

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Year of the Horse 2014- Chinese New Year Foods

How are you celebrating Chinese New Year 2014? This is the year of the Horse.
4 goat faces, 1 horse face with windblown mane...taken at Surfing Goat Dairy in Maui

The New Year’s Day in China (equivalent to the year in Chinese) is this Friday, January 31, but in the new year is celebrated over multiple days. It starts from the last year of the Chinese Year up to the end of the Lantern Festival 15 days later. This gives you plenty of time to still join in the traditions of gathering with your family, cleaning out the old (including cleaning your house!), and doing a few things to hopefully usher in a healthy, wealthy, new year in.

I can’t say that the cleaning my house portion is my favorite part- it’s definitely the eating certain food that are symbols of health and wealth, often because they look/sound in Chinese like words linked with health and wealth.

Every year there are two that I always do- and so far it certainly hasn’t hurt! So here are my traditional Chinese New Year Foods…

1. Eat Dumplings.

Dumplings are symbols of wealth, because traditional Chinese money were gold and silver ingots. This is pretty easy to do- there are so many places that offer dumplings, even food carts and restaurants that aren’t Chinese food specific. Mmm just look at these photos of dumplings from my past makes me want dumplings now. Particularly these ones, which are endearingly chubby.

The Dump Truck food cart dumplings Chubby potstickers are so endearing

2. Eat Noodles

Long noodles represent a nice long life, so when eating noodles for this time of year means ordering the longest noodles you can. Other than that though, they can be any kind of noodles you want- flour, rice, egg, wheat, etc. Again, I am sort of lenient on where the noodles come from and they don’t need to be Chinese- which explains below the photo from Boke Bowl which specializes in ramen with fancy upgrades like the fried chicken  and pork belly as you see below, the chinese pulled noodle specialist such as Noodle House Food Cart, or by simply rocking noodles with garlic like what you see below from Star Noodle in Maui.

Boke Bowl ramen noodles with fried chicken and pork belly and pulled pork Noodle House Food Cart Chinese noodles Garlic Noodles from Star Noodle in Maui

There are more foods to eat- check out this cool infographic from Steamy Kitchen and this 10 Good Luck Foods list from Chow.com for more foods to eat- and she also provides recipes to try! This year besides the dumplings and noodles, I am adding in cauliflower/broccoli for blossoming riches, and also shrimp for good times and lettuce for rising fortune (in Chinese the word for lettuce sounds like wealth).

In general, I think simple stir fried vegetables are also a popular part of New Years eatings because not only are they healthy, but because of the crunch sound they make associated with money, and help start the new year by not taking the life of an animal to start off the year. It also balances out your meal of dumplings and noodles :X. Your dessert can be oranges and tangerines.
Chinese broccoli- an auspicious Chinese New Year Food because not only are they healthy, but because of the crunch sound they make associated with money, and help start the new year by not taking the life of an animal to start off the year.

The Chinese New Year Lantern viewings at the local Lan Su Chinese Gardens are offering a lot of activities- they sold out last year, so you might want to buy your advance tickets now! Their festivities include a dragon and lion dance of course, but also martial arts demonstrations, miniature horses, calligraphy demonstrations, a Chinese Wishing Tree, and with the Lantern Festival lots of lanterns! Did I mention little miniature horses? Inside of the gardens they have a tea house where you can enjoy a selection of various Chinese teas and snacks (and hey, maybe get some radish cake, rice cakes, etc. to get your prosperous New Year’s eating in!)

Lantern Festival in the rain at Lan Su Chinese Gardens tea and Chinese snack at Lan Su Chinese Gardens

In addition, on Feb 1, at the Oregon Convention Center there is also the Portland Chinese New Year Cultural Fair that includes more cultural performances. And food too.

I wish you a happy Chinese New Year! Tell me how you plan to celebrate it!?

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Cravings for Asian food

I'm not sure if it's because I know I'm going to Thailand soon (from the 29 of December to January 11), but this week I really had a craving for some Asian food. I didn't try anyplace new- instead, I went back to two places to see if I ordered something else, would I still like the place.

For dinner one evening, I returned to Typhoon and had the "Three Flavor Fish"- a flash-fried halbut with a spicy sweet and sour sauce. Unfortunately when the waiter put it down the stacked fish fell over, but you can see the delicious crispiness all the same. It's quite a bit of fish, and I ate all of that up. Maybe I was straining myself for the last third, but that crispness wouldn't be there if I saved it and took it home. Another thing I like there is there large selection of teas to choose from, so I had a pot all by myself practically. 

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I also went back in Beaverton while running my first Zipcar errand to Petco and Fred Meyer to a dinner at Jin Wah, which I have also blogged about earlier. This time, I remembered to capture the Joy Yee-ness of the place in their photographed food examples, and the largeness of their menu. This time, I somehow noticed the oilyness that I missed the first time- or was willing to overlook because of their drug-like control of me when I have their chinese sausage fried rice. This time, when I tried their noodles, it was a fail. No crispy burnt parts at all! Fail!

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And… Zipcar? What's that? Well, I recently joined Zipcar, which is a membership car coop program in which I pay a small annual fee, but otherwise it's about $10 an hour to rent a car (or $70 a day) and there are several cars nearby in walking distance just sitting in designated rental parking spots (for instance, 8 within half a mile of my house alone). I use my card to just open the car after making a reservation approximating how long I would use it, either doing so online or via phone. I don't pay for insurance, or for gas (there is already an insurance card in the car, and a gas card I can use as well). The use of the car card is pretty cool- it scans it from the windshield, which unlocks or locks the car. The actual key to the ignition is permanently attachedf with a cord in the car. Thieves don't steal the car because unless you activate it with the card, the engine doesn't even work.

I also got a discounted annual fee by buying a coupon book from Whole Foods, and that book has lots of coupons for groceries and restaurants. I've already made the money spent on the book back on savings through my membership savings of not paying an application fee and getting some driving credits, and that's without me using the grocery store coupons in the book. I have often thought of joining ZipCar, but since I know of 3 ZipCars within a 5 minute walk of me (one is only 2 blocks away) and with the addition of that coupon book and the fact that some of the bigger stores like Target, Petco, and such are farther away and would be a pain to go to public transit wise, it just makes sense for me to have a Zipcar.

So I own a car now! Sorta.

zipcar

 

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Chinese for me, Chinese for you…

I really wanted some Chinese food, so on the way home from work I stopped at Jin Wah. I had smelled it a few times, since it is located in this mall by the Beaverton Transit Center that my train goes by every day, and there happens to be a Petco also here so I had stopped there for a scratching post and this time needed a cat food refill. This third time, I couldn’t resist.

I was quite pleased that the food here was fast and delicious. They had a huge menu- sort of the equivalent of a small book here like you would get at the big restaurants in Chicago’s Chinatown, but in a place the size of the hole in the walls places like Seven Treasures is, although it does have a nicer feel (closer to the bigger Three Happiness). Besides that initial book, there was also a second menu that just had pictures (similar to what Joy Yee’s does in Chicago, but not with photos of all the dishes), I guess in case you have no idea what Chinese sausage fried rice looks like and such?

I came in thinking about chow fuun, but since my tastebuds perked up at the thought of chinese sausage, I ordered that instead…and it was pretty dang good! The veggies I also ordered, which were morning glory stir fried with garlic, was a bit on the oily side and less flavorful, but the fried rice made up for it. It is bizarre that I am raving about the fried rice, but it wasn’t the normal greasy chinese fried rice with hard rice kernals or in a puddle of oil that you would normally expect, it was fluffy and not too greasy given that there are chinese sausages punctuating the dish. The portion was huge, and I still ate that whole thing up on my own!

As I mentioned, the menu is extensive, so there is a a lot of variety to choose from. Seriously. I took a copy of the take out menu so I can order carry-out on the way home in the future, and I can count more than 200 different items on their take-out menu, and I know I saw more in the restaurant, not to mention they also have a specials board.  Although I was really wondering if I made the right choice when I first walked in and saw Thai and Vietnamese dishes alongside the Chinese, and the fact that underneath the English translation of the Chinese symbols was the dish in Vietnamese…

I was comforted to actually see other Asians in the place though, the way the wait staff is dressed reminds me of the outfits at Three Little Happiness back in the 80s (and they have the same stand-offish but efficient serving style), and as I scanned the menu I immediately saw items like jellyfish and home style chicken feet in appetizers, hong kong style pork spareribs, seafood bird nest, sea cucumber with duck feet clay pot, goose intestine with black bean sauce, 15 kinds of egg noodle soup, congee, and fried chinese bread, so I forgave the entries of pad thai and the pho and bun sections. This place has got to be authentic Asian. Yeah, I am totally going back.

The prices are very reasonable, and the restaurant is pretty large to accomodate a lot of customers. It’s not a trendy or even necessarily a nice looking establishment- it’s what you would expect to see in a strip mall- but sometimes, these strip malls hide yummy treasures, and really, I admit I have always have given a wide berth to Chinese restaurants after what I’ve seen in Chicago’s Chinatown and in China.

When I got home, I decided to treat Mew and Lobo to Chinese food too. Sadly, only Lobo was interested.

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