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crispy fish at asia cafe (asiamarket) rocks

At the recommendations of many here, I have now been twice to asia cafe, and since it's 5 min. from my house, it's going to be a regular.

Last week i tried the crispy fish and greenbeans w/ garlic. The beans are perfectly blistered with a little garlic, and tender (not crunchy) and slightly salted. The fish is outrageously good: very lightly breaded, nicely fried big chunks of catfish fillets immersed in a bowl of red-peppery oil and broth laden with cilantro, bok choy, other greens, bean sprouts, and a nice bit of heat (not overly spicy though). This is one of the best dishes in Austin anywhere. Not sweet, and for me that's a bonus.

I also tried today the pork with flower chive - I think it's garlic chives sliced in 1 1/2 inch straws sauteed with velvety little 1 inch pieces of chopped pork in a slight amount of sauce / starch coating. This is an excellent dish too, but doesn't compare to the intensity of the fish. It's simple, and not too spicy, and not sweet. This became a nice candidate for the pepper/oil on the table to kick it up a notch.

Ma Po Tofu - Outstanding, but again, the fish won. Cubes of Tofu in a very similar sort of red oil / broth mixture as the fish, laced with red pepper, tiny sausage bits, thin slices of the whites green onions, cilantro, maybe some really thin sliced mushroom (not sure). This is a challenge for chopsticks - but my second favorite of the day.

what a lovely restaurant. I work with a Chinese couple down the hall from me here at UT and they prefer Chinese Barbecue (or something like that) in the new N. Lamar sort of Asian Shopping and Dining Mecca to all Austin Chinese places, including Asia Market and Din Ho.

Can't wait to get that pork elbow !!

Thanks for the outstanding recommendations!

Oh, and on saturday mornings get the Tzon Yo Ping (a scallion pancake). That's the phoenetic pronounciation they taught me, and it's close enough to get you by. It's a lovely fried little pancake of dense flour dough lightly salted and laced with the greens of green onions. really a nice little treat. The long doughy fried bread tubes on Saturday morning were at every table in the place - anyone tried that?

happy eating!

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    1. re: singlemalt

      In the back of a grocery store named Asia Market in a run down strip center at 183 and Spicewood Springs Rd.



      1. re: rollledspleen

        It's not fancy, it's just a small joint with about 10-12 tablets. At peak hours you will 90% Asians eating there. It must tell you something. It's my favorite place to eat there or take out. Prices have gone up a bit. :( I agree with the spicy fish. First time I tried it had actually ordered spicy beef, when I got home, I said this beef looks strange. Boy, was I in love. Great Place.

        1. re: robbie6805

          [it's just a small joint with about 10-12 tablets]

          I can't imagine how there's any room for those big bowls! ;)

    2. Is that dish really called "spicy fish?"

      2 Replies
      1. re: rudeboy

        It's actually called spicy fish fillet, item 234 on the menu:


        1. re: professor_ted

          Based on the recs here, the first time I went to Asia Market we ordered the Spicy Fish Filet and have been back since. That's one of the best things I've ever eaten. Also in love with the Zhong Dumplings, green beans with garlic and the twice cooked pork (um, bacon!).

          Last time I was there I saw someone eating the pork with flower chive and decided that was next on my list. Along with the eggplant and pork. I want to try everything! It all looks amazing!

      2. Love this place. I'll have to try the crispy fish though. We went there last weekend and were disappointed for the very first time in our many trips there. The regular crew wasn't working though so perhaps that was the problem.

        1. I'm going today...for the first time.

          1. Thanks for reminding me about the crispy fish, professor_ted. I tried it recently and liked it, although I ordered the whole crispy fish instead of the fish fillets. (Fortunately, I was with a group of good eaters.) The batter on the fish was quite crisp and well fried; the moist fish was cooked through and tasty; the sweet and sour sauce was a fine accompaniment. The pork elbow was very good on this visit, too—meltingly tender and flavorful, with a sweet barbecue-like glaze. As rolledspleen stated on an earlier thread, you get a lot of meat off of this bone-in cut, which makes for great meals with the leftovers. The twice-cooked pork [belly] was noticeably drier than usual, however, with almost nothing in the way of sauce, while the Zhong dumplings were gummier than I remember them being last time. The spicy wontons were good as usual, and the green beans in spicy sauce [I didn't see green beans with garlic on the menu] were prepared just as professor_ted described. My only regret was that we didn't order more spicy dishes since many items seemed sweet to me. Although some dishes were a bit off on this visit, the new discoveries more than made up for them.

            2 Replies
            1. re: MPH

              Okay, so I went up to the counter and confidently asked for the crispy fish. The guy says "You sure? That's a whole fish. You want spicy fish."
              I said, "I heard about a fish dish here that was really good."
              He said, "You want spicy fish" and then pointed to four different tables in the cafe and says, "spicy fish, spicy fish, spicy fish, spicy fish."
              Almost everyone there was hovering over a bowl of spicy fish.
              I wisely took the gentleman's advice and it was delicious! Bite-sized pieces of whitefish sauteed in a spicy red sauce over bean sprouts and bok choy, finished with cilantro and dried chili spices. Large enough to share...but I didin't! I ate until my belly was distended, but I had a satisfied grin on my face :-)

              1. re: curlykerry

                I am a big fan of the spicy fish. I am always amazed at how perfectly cooked the fish is. It is never dry, just moist and barely flaking. And the crust is still somewhat crispy because they only just poured the sauce and veggie mixture in with it. Very tasty. Still want to try the Crispy fish though.

            2. Yet another take on the spicy fish fillet. The take out version seems a LOT more capsaicin loaded and hotter than the in house version. Anyone else notice that?

              Still ridiculously good though.

              6 Replies
              1. re: professor_ted

                I can't tell you how spicy the in-house version is, but my recent take-out version of spicy fish [fillet] was hot, but not unbearably hot, and quite good. As I mentioned in my post above, I ordered the crispy fish the last time I was there, which is the name that's mentioned in the title and the OP [original post]. The dish described in the OP, however, is the spicy fish, as rudeboy, professor_ted, and others pointed out. Of course, I liked both, so no harm done. Just based on one recent sample of each dish, however, I'd have to say that the crispy whole fish was more delicious to me than the spicy fish fillet was.

                I was also favorably impressed by the pork with flower chives. It seemed to have a non-spicy-mustard-like element to it, even though sweet100s mentioned recently that there's a separate but similar pork dish with mustard and onion (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/40359... ). I’ll echo what sambamaster wrote above: If only they made the pork with flower chives with pork belly, too! Thanks for this tip, everyone.

                Other observations on our group’s meal: The twice-cooked pork was back to its usual deliciousness. (Last time, the meat was noticeably dried out.) The spicy wontons were still good. The dumplings—both Zhong and pan-fried—were a bit too dense and sticky for some of my dining companions. Personally, I didn’t love Asia Cafe’s roast duck. I haven’t yet. But I do love this place. I still need to try the Chicken Delight, the periwinkle and sea cucumber offerings, that scallion-pancake-like thing they serve on the weekends, the pork viscera, and the honey-comb tripe. Plus, I’ve barely explored their noodles and soups. I'm looking forward to what's to come.

                1. re: MPH

                  The last time I was in, I saw someone with the mustard pork and it looked wonderful. When I went the first time, I ordered the twice cooked pork, and it was a plate of bacon. And look, I love bacon as much as the next girl, but leftover, that was NOT good. It kind of reminded me of that scene in Better Off Dead when the mom makes bacon but boils it because her husband doesn't like all the fat...

                  1. re: foodiegal71

                    to clarify again, it is NOT bacon. it is made with uncured pork belly, more or less the same cut used for bacon. a large chunk is parboiled, cooled, then sliced thin...then stir fried with the leeks, etc. thus twice cooked. to add to the confusion, there is a similar dish, not available at AC, made with smoked or cured pork and it does taste like bacon somewhat...but what on earth could be wrong with that??? this particular dish is usually made with garlic shoots or sometimes leeks. like twice cooked pork, it is yummy.

                    1. re: sambamaster

                      Oh, don't get me wrong, I loved it! Not a thing wrong with it! It just didn't do well on the reheat. I would like to find the smoked/cured dish. I have a feeling I'd like that a lot.

                      1. re: foodiegal71

                        I could swear that the last time I had twice cooked pork at China Cafe, it was smoked pork, recooked. I noticed a distinct difference between the pork on my dish and on the pork with garlic sauce. So this past week, I asked the waiter and he said that was the case. I said "real chinese style?" and he said yes. The preparation isn't nearly as interesting as Asia Cafe, of course, but there was definitely a smoky flavor to it. I ate it all, plus my obligatory eggroll, white rice, hot and sour soup.

                        1. re: foodiegal71

                          it wasn't great, but I think i had it at Pao's. I think they made it with leeks. Otherwise, head to houston for the great chow at Sichuan Cuisine....

                2. Does anyone here remember when Asia Cafe had the Whole Fried Flounder? They seem to have stopped carrying it, but that was about some of the most sinfully delicious fish I've ever had. It was cheap, too!

                  I'll have to try the spicy fish at some point. The last time I got the crispy fish, it was very disappointing - they were overcrowded and very busy, but it doesn't excuse the runny batter on the inside of the fish. ick.

                  1. I'll happily join the chorus here.

                    The crispy fish made it onto my list of top ten fish dishes after a foray out to Asia Market Cafe today.

                    There's something about the combination of presentation (see pic-the trip from counter to table will make anyone who orders this the center of attention), the atmosphere of the space and the combination of flavors (a tempting mandarin sweet and sour of the sauce, the perfectly thick battering of tempura and the obvious freshness of the fish) and textures (the carrot crunch, battering and flakiness of the fish) that–despite having polished off nearly an entire plate solo–has me already planning another trip north for a repeat of this experience.

                    On rec, we had the spicy wontons and against rec, the SO ordered the salt and pepper shrimp. Both were good; the wontons less spicy than expected, but flavorful, and the shrimp nice, if hopelessly overshadowed by the fish.