Panda King (Push cart dim sum)
This time on my food adventures, I went much farther than L.A. (lower Alabama) and the Panhandle. I headed west to just outside of New Orleans in Gretna. There I visited Panda King, the only push cart dim sum place found within 3 hours of Mobile.
The best way to describe dim sum is comparing it to Spanish Tapas. They're small dishes served in steam baskets or small plates. Each dish comes with about 3 to 4 of the item. Plates are a little larger and generally cost more. Once you're seated, the table is given a ticket. There are a number of push cart ladies that roll carts full of food around. When she stops at your table, you pick out what you want and your ticket is stamped with the corresponding number of items in each price category. The price of each dish range from 3 dollars to 7 depending on size and type.
My favorite dim sum dish is chicken feet. The chicken feet are either deep fried or steamed first to make it tender. Then they are simmered in a sauce flavored with black fermented beans, beans paste and sugar. They may sound really weird but it's just so good. The meat is basically fall off the bone. I like to dip it in a sauce of hot chili, soy sauce and red vinegar. I can eat a whole order by myself.
My friends and I also typically order tripe. It's usually just boiled and maybe lightly stirred fried. I like the way my mom makes tripe more, but PK's ok.
The most popular dim sum dishes may be the dumplings. I typically order to shark fin and shao mai. The shao mai are stuffed with either pork or shrimp, sometimes both. Apparently, PK just changed chefs and these are a little bit more spongy then they have in the past. I don't like eating the shrimp dumplings because those tend to have a very fishy taste to them. The shark fin is good. It's just another pork dumpling with some shark fin through it. There's not much shark fin in it but I understand why. It's very expensive. Some dim sum places also have abalone. I like those dumplings the most but PK doesn't offer them.
One you exhaust the dumpling option, there are always the dishes that comes on plates. One of those are turnip cakes. They're made from mashed daikon radish mixed with bits of dried shrimp then cut into slices and pan-fried. I had some that were diced up and then stirred fried with green onions, shallots and eggs. There were also greens blanched then drizzled with a soy, sesame oil and garlic sauce. My other favorite small dish is crispy fried squid. It's very much like Italian Calamari, but instead it's coated in a tempura batter then fried. There usually crispy fried jalapeño slices as well. This time however the calamari was cold. Its usually really good. Next time I will ask our waiter to get some fresh from the kitchen.
There's a big selection of desserts available at Pk. It ranges from sweet bean paste stuffed dumplings to fresh fruit.. I typically don't get any. However I did get sweet tofu slightly flavored with ginger. It was really good however if you have issues with a very silky, smooth texture, this may not be good for you. I've got egg tarts before but I didn't like that very much.
I do have one warning, because the dishes are so small it can be really easy to over spend. Today, we had five people and our check was about $100. Like I said because the dishes are small and you grab what you can from the carts that go around, it's very easy to order a lot more and stay longer. Our meal lasted about an hour and a half. By the time, we finished one round and the next cart comes around we are ready for more food.