Chinatown - King Fung Garden - A Mongolian Touch
- Tord Svenson
The King Fung Garden (KFG) is located at the corner of 74 Kneeland St and Hudson St. in Boston's Chinatown. The KFG has been there for many years and occupies the site of a former gasoline station. It has a unique, funky appearance. The place is quite small and is heated with a plug-in electric heater. It seems to be under new ownership and has been cleaned up a bit. Gone are the old magic marker paper signs in Chinese with the daily specials and hot-pot offerings. Now there are paintings and such. The Formica and stainless steel booths and tables are the same - numbering just six.
The clientele seems to be mostly Asian students. I take some of them to be Mongolian. The older man who had to be the former owner was the only cook. He seemed Mongolian and his food had aspects of being Mongolian. Nobody speaks English so I could not find out what happened to him and the sweet lady who used to wait tables. . The KFG is a lot like the little restaurants one comes upon on the roadside of Asia. The food is home-style and fairly inexpensive.
Anyway - how was the food? The scallion pie was the same -hot, crispy, good taste and served with a hot chili sambal ($2.25). My wife and I used it to warm our cold hands. We had the spicy lamb ($7.25). Lots of thin sliced lamb with American celery, carrots, water chestnuts and onions. The brown sauce was mildly spicy -the lamb tender -pretty much the same as we remembered from many past visits. Our other dish was scallops with vegetables ($7.50). The scallops tasted great - but there were very few of them in this dish. The white sauce was excellent, as were the many pieces of tender Chinese celery and the sliced carrots. This dish would have been a lot better with several more of the juicy sea-tasting scallops.
The KFG has a decent sized menu featuring about 180 numbered items. They offer some interesting hot pots. There is a separate listing of whole fish dishes -all are $9.95. The house specialty is the Mongolian Fire Pot. It costs $12 per person - 2-person minimum. You get lamb, chicken, pork, beef, squid and tripe. There is bean curd and noodles - and you can order extra sides like egg, vegetables, and a special sauce. You cook the ingredients in a soup-filled fire pot on your table.
One dish we want to try is #150, the scallions and beef in cypress leaves ($7.50). Many chow foon and rice cake dishes are good, cheap choices for hungry chowhounds.
Busloads of mostly Chinese day-trippers to Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun casinos discharge in the front yard of the KFG. It's close to the entrance to the Mass. Pike and the S.E. Xway.
As an aside -when you walk around Chinatown there are several travel agencies offering day trips to NYC (for example) for $15 one way. A couple can go to Viagra Falls for $79 each -RT -- including a one night stay at a hotel. It's escorted - good weekend getaway. You can purchase a bunch of Chinese food to go and feast on the road.
The food at the KFG is interesting with the Mongolian mix. The new owners seem to be following the menu of the elderly patriarch who used to walk out of his tiny kitchen and greet each person. You left the KFG with a full stomach and a feeling that the relatively simple meals were cooked just for you -- with affection -- by a man who cared. The Mongols I knew in Asia were always smiling their squinty broad smiles. They formerly ruled but now are the lower classes and most work very hard to survive. They and we are survivors into the third millennium.
Life is good.
Wow - I'm glad to hear this place still exists, and is relatively unchanged! I have fond memories of it from ~10 years ago when I was a student in Boston, and we went to it regularly. It was known in our group as "Brezhnev's", because (as I remember) there was no sign in English at the time, and the cook had a passing resemblance to Brezhnev. It also had an MIT sticker on the door.
My favorites were always the scallion pies, and the rice noodle dishes. The thicker-than-normal noodles were always just chewy enough to give an interesting bite, and they were in a savory brown sauce along with the vegetables and meat. There was also a dish that I've never encountered anywhere else, made up of discs of the same sort of noodle, about the size of a half dollar and about a quarter inch thick. We found it by seeing what other patrons were ordering off of the Chinese-only menu, and pointing- the nearest translation we got was 'Rice sticks'.
I'll definitely have to make a pilgrimage back here next time I'm in Boston - lots of good memories from this place.