Which Chinese restaurant for my birthday?
I love Chinese food. However, my wife generally dislikes many Chinese restaurants because she often gets severe headaches after eating at them. We're not sure if it is because of a MSG allergy or bad food (such as mold on old cornstarch). In addition, many Chinese restaurants use too much oil for her palate. The one Chinese dish my wife really loves is Duck Noodle soup.
Because of my wife's preferences, I have not had a chance to visit any of the Chinese restaurants in the area.
For my birthday, my wife has agreed to eat out at a Washington area Chinese restaurant of my choice. I want a good restaurant but one where MSG is not used (or can be avoided) and things such as moldy cornstarch do not happen. If the restaurant has good Duck Noodle Soup that would be great. (We have been to Chinatown Express and like ti but would rather not go downtown for this outing).
I am thinking of China Star in Fairfax, or Joe's Noodle House or Bob's Noodle 66 in Rockville.
Any recommendations of these or other suburban restaurants (i.e. easy parking) would be appreciated.
Prepare to fall asleep, but just in case you were interested:
Your wife's issue probably is indeed MSG sensitivity. Not that it makes me an expert by any stretch, but back in my academic days I was a tech on a research team studying MSG sensitivity. It is not actually an allergy (immunoglobulins not involved), but more of a low grade poison-type reaction. Sensitivy is very difficult to identify as the adverse reaction can set in anywhere from 30 minutes to two days after ingestion, and includes inconsistent symptoms which could all be caused by something else: commonly severe headache, diarrhea, hives/rash, and/or wheezing are observed, but there can also be neurological, cardiac, musculoskeletal, etc effects.
What complicates matters is that there are dozens of food ingredients which contain free glutamic acids (basically MSG, and will cause the adverse reaction in sensitive people) that are not directly resultant from monosodium glutamate as an additive (often a product of processing - hyrdolyzation, fermentation, etc). However, if something doesn't have monosodium glutamate in it as a direct additive, it can be labelled "No MSG" even if it is full of processed free glutamic acids.
Good of your wife to do this for you, but ensure she avoids both soup and soy sauce at all costs, in addition to a strict "No MSG" request, and her odds of a headache-free night will be improved.
A quick google search turned up this site which appears to offer some pretty solid guidance:
If you're going to order duck noodle soup (ie. noodle soup with cantonese duck on the top), chances are you can't avoid MSG. MSG is in the broth and in the duck marinade. Given that, I've never found MSG overpowering at any place in this area besides China Chef in Wheaton and Lucky 3's dim sum buffet. If you like duck noodle soup, I recommend Mark's Duck House, but they're closed for summer vacation from July 10-20.
I'm pretty sure I've had some sort of duck noodle soup at Full Kee at Bailey's Crossroads, across parking lot from Best Buy. They have lots of soups, and lots of Asians eating there whenever I go in.
I've never heard of moldy cornstarch. Maybe I should throw out that box that I've had on the shelf for about 8 years?
I would go for Mark's Duck House (Seven Corners) or Peking Gourmet Inn (Culmore). Both are more than willing to prepare almost anything to your exact specifications. I have never had an issue with either one -- even when I was fighting a nasty parasite I brought back from overseas.
I am a vegetarian so I am not familiar with Duck Noodle Soup, but Peking Gourmet Inn has Duck Bone Soup. Please note that parking at Peking is not easy, but it worth it.
Oh, and it looks like Mark's is on vacation until the 21-July.
Good luck and happy birthday!