In honor of our country’s independence, I decided to celebrate in a way that would bring joy to my heart and the hearts of those around me; going out for Asian food. Yes, the founding fathers are living vicariously through me, and I’m sure their desire would be to eat mountains of Chinese, Thai, and Japanese food all in one day.
Since my father was working and my sister was out with her boyfriend, my mother and I were left all alone – so I decided to open the event up to my friends via twitter and facebook. Only Risa was brave enough to join us, and this is our story.
Part 1: Chinese food at Thai & Chinese Food II
For the first meal of the day I chose my favorite local Chinese joint, Thai & Chinese Food II. Mom, Risa, and I hopped in the car and headed over to Lancaster at around noon. I’m a regular at this place, and since I usually eat alone I’m sure the little, intimidating Chinese ladies were surprised to see me walk in with two women. PIMPIN.
I come here specifically for the orange chicken. I know it’s a little cliche in this culture of ethnic food substitutes (Taco Bell, Panda Express, etc.) in which orange chicken is Asian food status quo, but Thai & Chinese II does this popular dish glorious justice.
The chicken is crispy and always served extremely hot. The sauce sweet with a little hint of spicy red pepper, and not sticky like some fastfood Chinese places *coughpandaexpresscough*. As you can probably tell from the photo, the chicken is cooked in the orange sauce instead of the sauce being poured over the top, helping the flavor soak into the the batter without making it soggy. I probably wouldn’t object to the cooks using a little more of the magic juice on here, but I personally like to add a liiiiitle bit of soy sauce and a generous helping of Sriracha.
In addition to the orange chicken party, we also ordered another entree and some fried wontons with sweet and sour sauce. The wontons here are good, but nothing really amazing; to a certain extent fried wontons are fried wontons to. The co-star of the lunch though was the pad thai, delicious tangy noodles with shrimp, chicken, and pork… this was Risa’s choice, but the three of us shared the two entrees and the wontons. I definitely prefer rice to noodles in Asian food, but the pad thai was still good.
Part 2: Thai Cafe
If I’m in the Antelope Valley and I want Thai food, Thai Cafe is my destination.
I was first introduced to this place years ago by a vegan girl I was seeing, she ordered us sweet and sour tofu and I fell in love. Since then I’ve indulged several times a month, over the years trying every item on the menu but always coming back to my one true love of sweet and sour tofu.
On this day mom, Risa, and I decided to share legendary sweet & sour tofu and, once again, orange chicken.
The tofu is lightly fried, then drenched in a sweet a sour sauce with sliced peppers and chunks of juicy pineapple. Heaven heaven heaven! Grab some of the light and sticky rice, pile on this deliciousness and you have a a fantastic meal for a large man such as myself, or can be shared between two slightly less ravenous eaters.
As much as I love orange chicken, I view this item as almost an entirely separate dish as what we ate at Thai & Chinese II. The orange chicken here has much thicker batter, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside – kind of reminds me of hush puppies. These delightful little puffs of glory are served on a plate of incredible orange glaze; use the serving spoon to drizzle the glaze all over the batter balls and allow your life to be changed.
To top off the meal, our waitresses served us complimentary bua loi, a delicious desert of sticky rice balls in cool, sweet, coconut milk. I don’t often order deserts at restaurants, but this was a nice surprise to round out our lunch.
If you’ve never had bua loi, I would best compare it to boba balls in horchata. Sound perfect? Because it is! Except Risa didn’t think so… she didn’t want to eat it at first because she thought it might have dairy in it (she’s lactose intolerant), but even after the waitress confirmed it was diary free, Miss Risa refused to eat it. My mother called her ungrateful.
Part 3: Harbour Sushi, and the tragedy that ensued
One of the greatest things about Asian restaurants is the fact that they’re usually open on holidays; everyone’s heard that cliche about the lonely guy spending Christmas in Chinese joint. Well, I wanted to spend the 4th in a sushi bar, BUT THE UNIVERSE HAD OTHER PLANS FOR ME.
I went to my favorite local Japanese restaurant, Harbour to get down on their Harbour Special – $20 for all-you-can-eat appetizers and western-style sushi rolls. I enjoy nigirisushi as well, but adding an AYCE option with that is usually about $5 extra… not usually worth it to me, so I just demolish about a dozen rolls and some gyoza, shrimp shumai, baked green mussels, dynamite, and miso soup.
Injustice of all injustices, HARBOUR WAS CLOSED.
SO WAS BIG TUNA
AND SO WAS LOVE
So I went home and pouted in bed.