Wang's Fast Food (Somerville)
I feel silly - I feel like I should have known about this place years ago - but here, my friends, is what you will find if you travel beyond Davis, beyond Ball Square, to the strange heights of Magoun Square (the corner of Broadway and Medford St. in Somerville).
Wang's Fast Food (henceforth WWF) is an odd little hole-in-the-wall, which looks recently refurbished - well, the paint on the walls is intact and a fashionable shade of orange, and the fake brickwork looks clean. There's a TV in the corner, a huge kettle of pour-yourself tea and styrofoam cups, and a menu written entirely in Chinese on the wall. If you require more than two square feet of booth space to sit comfortably, this isn't your kind of restaurant. If you're a foodie, though, you will notice that the tables sport soy sauce, dark vinegar, and pots of restuarant-mixed chili sauce - a very, very good sign.
Your waitress will give you a bilingual English/Chinese menu. Ignore the regular items, and skip straight to the "Northern Chinese" back page. There, pleasure awaits. Not only does Wang's feature ten different types of dumplings (and at least three different vegetarian ones!), but oddments such as "Cold preserved egg with tofu" and "salt/sweet flour cake." "Wok and Roll" it ain't.
My party ordered the vegetarian Leek Dumplings, Chinese Vegetable Dumplings, and Peking Ravioli, all steamed. The Leek Dumplings actually had a *flavor* - an uncommon occurrence in veggie dumplings - of, well, leeks. The CVDs were filled with mushroons, glass noodles, and other oddments, that were pleasant, but not overly flavorful, while the Peking Ravioli were, well, meat in dough. The true revelation, though, occurred as we mixed together the soy sauce, vinegar, and the chili sauce for dumpling-dip. Ah, the chili sauce. It tasted of freshly roasted chilis - not rancid sesame oil, not too-strong vinegar, not raw garlic; just lovely, roasted chilis to warm your stomach and feed your soul. Supposedly, Wang's Spinach Dumplings are its true wonder, the delight of Ming Tsai chef at Wellesley's Blue Ginger), but we ignored them on this outing.
At this point, I will alert y'all that Wang's believes in large portions. In retrospect, it was foolish of us to order anything beyond the dumplings, which were ample enough for a light dinner. But no, we obeyed our hearts, not our stomachs, and the food kept rolling in...
Everything we ordered appeared hot out of the frier or wok. The sweet flour cake was a dense pastry, a bit like moon cake filling without the interfering red beans/lotus etc. A friend ordered a steamed red bean bun, which was less sticky-sweet than most versions I've had, and huge. Fried squid in salt batter was marvelous - the squid was tender, and the coating was tasty and light. Fried chow fun noodles with vegetables were thick and not too greasy - and worth their weight in capellini with a few spoonfuls of the Chili Sauce of Heaven mixed into their indelicate strips.
I was nervous when my tofu soup arrived; it looked like the same gelatinous, overboiled Hot and Sour Soup I've had in neglectful Chinese restaurants a dozen times before. Then, I saw that there was something that looked like brown mustard stirred into the top. I spooned out a bit of the soup with the "mustard" mixed in,and suddenly tasted a marvelous burst of garlic and ginger broth. So *that* was the secret! The tofu was dreamy - smooth and slippery, like a very carefully poached egg. My husband and I jealously shared alternate slurps.
The best dish, though, in my unorthodox opinion, was the cold Preserved Egg with Tofu. All this dish seemed to consist of was tofu, perhaps a bit of rice wine, a few scallions, and chopped preserved egg. (NOTE TO THE SQUEAMISH: this particular preserved egg is greenish -to- navy blue. It's supposed to be that color. Just close your eyes and eat it.) The tofu looked like cottage cheese, but tasted creamy - not as silky as the soup tofu, but still melt-in-your-mouth smooth, in contrast with the firm, salty preserved egg. This stuff was the Egg Salad of the Gods.
Frankly, this was the best Chinese restaurant I've been to in Massachusetts outside Chinatown in a long, long time. How could I have been so blind?
p.s. If you were smart and early, you could buy some pastries at the Cara Donna bakery on Medford ST (cited for acheivements in "Whipped Cream and Strawberries" by the Boston Phoenix a year or two back), and save them for dessert. I've never been that early, though.
Just stumbled on Wang's a few weeks ago, and even though I live far enough that I have to order $20 of food after 10pm to get them to deliver, I've been ordering pretty much every week! The spinach dumplings are to die for. The chicken and cabbage ones ain't bad either.
Tried some stuff on their regular menu, too, and had quite good, crispy General Gao's chicken. I've been so disappointed by most of the delivery and take out places on the Cambridge/Somerville side of the Charles River that I was in despair. (China Sun in Davis makes me cough up hairballs, Chef Lee's is okay but bland, Chang Sho is OK to eat in the restaurant but again, bland... )
If you're on Beacon Street around B.U., by the way, I highly recommend a hole in the wall called Quan's Kitchen. They make very good chow fun (wide white rice noodles) with beef, chicken, you name it, in addition to other chinese dishes. they deliver to the Fenway, Kenmore Square, B.U. etc...
We intended to go to Wang's for lunch. But be warned, they open at 4pm during the week, 11:30am on weekends. So we looked for another place in the area and hit gold. Across the intersection, at 513B Medford St. we found a great Mexican/Salvadoran place called Taqueria Andale! Everything is freshly made and delicious: tacos, quesadillas (corn or flour), burritos, sincronizadas (turnovers), even the chips; the salsa is fresh and excellent, but mild. Tortillas are hot and not at all greasy. There are only a couple of tables and you go to the counter to order. It's also inexpensive. This is a real find!