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Nov 21, 2007 08:57 AM

Birmingham Chinese food

My family and I went to Wan's in Cahaba Heights last night. It reminded me how much I like their Ma Po tofu.

The sauce could use a bit more kick, but the tofu is soft and it soaks up the sauce's flavor well. The minced pork adds nice flavor and texture. But the thing that sets Wan's version apart is the use of pickled vegetables. Those pickled vegetables appear in several pork/tofu dishes, including the Three Slice Noodles (rice noodles with baked tofu, pork and fresh bamboo shoots).

What's floating your boats in local Chinese restaurants these days?

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  1. Where is Wan's?

    For Chinese, I have been ordering delivery from Chen Express in Crestline Village. They have really delicious food, reasonably priced, reasonably healthy, and fast.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gyp7318

      Yes, we used to order from Chen when we lived in Crestwood. Wan's is in the Cahaba Village on Cahaba Heights Road. It's the plaza with the Starbuck's, Yankee Pizza and the stellar Sexton's seafood shop. Wan's is upper tier for Chinese food in Birmingham (where have you gone Golden Village chef?), which isn't saying much.

    2. Still interested in your take on Shangri-La from this thread or any new input on "Chinese" in Birmingham.

      Thinking about trying Wan's tonight if I can stomach 280.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Dax

        You know, I need to give Shangri-La another chance. Any suggestions on what to order?

        Last time I went, I confess I was too swayed by an episode of (the Japanese) Iron Chef in which Chef Chen recreated his father's specialty of shrimp in chili sauce. I ordered Shangri-La's version and had to don sunglasses to counter the red glow from my plate. It was a red not known to nature...

        1. re: Big Daddy

          Actually no as I have only been once. I do want to try their peking duck.

          1. re: Dax

            My husband loves the duck at SL. We are Chen Express people, since we live in Crestwood...they're fast and they deliver!

      2. I haven't seen any mention of Black Pearl in the Colonade. It's short on atmosphere, but the food has always been excellent, and the portions very generous. I would particularly recommend the Pearl Special Hot and Sour Soup, the Mongolian Beef, the Hot and Hot Fish, and the Salt and Pepper Shrimp. I understand they're fairly busy at lunch time, but we've never been there for dinner when they were more than about half-full, although they do seem to do a fairly steady carry-out business.

        1 Reply
        1. re: iko.iko

          We, too, like the Black Pearl. I'll have to try the salt and pepper shrimp next time.

          I happened to be in Atlanta this weekend and was able to indulge on the incredible salt and pepper squid they do at Hong Kong Harbour on Cheshire Bridge. Killer dim sum, too. Another favorite: Hong Kong noodle soup with roast duck and shrimp won ton. Oh, I wish we could get a place like that here in Birmingham that people would support. (SIGH). Some places tried; they died.

        2. It had been too long so I ventured over to Red Pearl for dinner tonight. I ordered the scallion pancake, the beef with jalapenos, sautéed Shanghai (I think) bok choy, and the double spice chicken. Way too much food, as expected, so it's nice to have a fridge full.

          The scallion pancake is likely the Wei-Chuan straight from the freezer. It's delicious in a greasy, onion-y way, particularly with a little sriracha on top. Whatever, I love them even if they're not the lighter, flaky ones I treasured from a few places in Boston's Chinatown.

          When I ordered the Beef with (julienned) Jalapenos, the waitress tried to warn me that it was spicy, which I had hoped. I had it before and it was actually kind of mild. This time, it has more heat, more due to the 6,732 Thai bird chilies mixed in with the meat and veggies. I admit I love wrapping up some of the meat and jalapenos (I do not eat stir-fried or dried whole bird chilies) in the scallion pancake. Spicy+ greasy+delicious = love.

          The bok choy was good, although a tiny bit oily. I mean it is a simple dish - I really need to try preparing more stuff like this at home.

          Got the double spice chicken to go. Getting home, I opened the box to see chips of jalapeno, what appears to be chicken, and some lightly fried tofu, plus more bird chilies. See a pattern? The first few bites were good; I'll see what happens when the flavors meld longer. I'm not usually a leftover guy, but sometimes, certain well-prepared Asian dishes are often as good or better the next day. Anyway, I did find it odd that there was no mention of the tofu in the dish, as I'm not really a tofu lover, but whatever. I mean they have the "eggplant with pork & bazil (sic) in hot pot" under the Vegetable section.

          Table next to me ate their steamed tilapia in brown sauce in about 2 seconds. When asked if it was good they could not help but just kind of smiling and laughing.

          I also want to get back to try the salt and (I assume) pepper squid plus the sautéed conch with mixed vegetables.

          Also good to note they have a few more traditional dishes such as cold spicy beef tendon and cold spicy pork ear but I'm kind of over those things - consistency is a big issue with me and chewy tendon sends my weirded out radar into overdrive (sometimes an issue with dac biet pho too).

          Anyone tried the various black bean sauce dishes?

          Wishing we had a Tasty China type of place here,


          2 Replies
          1. re: Dax

            Red Pearl continues to provide the best Chinese food in Birmingham. It's really not much of a contest, but Red Pearl and its adjoining market is always worth a stop. Our dishes: Squid in garlic sauce, with perfectly cooked squid in a tangy slightly spicy sauce full of garlic; a spicy tofu dish, with fried tofu and a very rich sauce ( no vegetables). The bok choy was good, although cooked without any adornment (a little broth and garlic would have been nice). We also got the scallion pancakes. Dax, you're right: this is some kind of frozen appetizer, which unfortunately seems to be the pattern there. A little kosher salt sprinkled on top helped. Great meal though, and less than $25.
            I wish they would do more to incorporate the live seafood they have in the market, especially the eel. I may even have been game for something made from the live bullfrog they had that day. Maybe if I spoke the language...

            1. re: Big Daddy

              Red Pearl is my favorite eat-in place. For take out my wife and I always go to Yoe Express on Lorna Road in Hoover, close to the Galleria.