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Sun Ming Chinese, Irmo / Columbia, SC

north2south Oct 11, 2009 08:10 PM

Sun Ming Chinese Restaurant, just outside Columbia in Irmo, SC, is very good. It is not the best Chinese food I have ever had (I have traveled to both China and Knoxville, TN), but it is the best to be found around here, in my experience.

It is a lot better than your standard takeout. It is more authentically Chinese than anything going on at the Miyo's restaurants. And it is a much nicer environment (and less greasy) than Egg Roll Chen, (which does decent Taiwanese fried chicken and also a version of dan dan noodles that does not appear to be on its menu but I swear I have ordered it there).

There is a "traditional Chinese" section of the menu at Sun Ming and we often try to order from that. I consider it a plus that they have chicken feet on the menu, even if I haven't gotten around to trying them yet. I love their salt & pepper shrimp. It is a nice compromise version of this dish. You may have had this at places at which the head is still on the shrimp (no thanks!) or at places that remove the shell entirely (which misses the point, as the crispy, salty, and spicy shell is supposed to be eaten with the meat of the shrimp). Here, they remove the head and butterfly the shrimp, which makes for an attractive presentation, but leave the shells on, for that delightful crunch. The eggplant in garlic sauce is excellent. It comes with pork in it, but we have ordered it entirely meatless and it is rich, with meltingly flavorful eggplant.

We recently tried the whole fried chicken. This has to be ordered the day before. It comes to the table on a large dish, spatchcocked and cut into several pieces. The skin is thin and crispy (no breading), and it is served with lemon wedges and small bowls of salt spiked with cinnamon. It wasn't revelatory, but it was good, and a nice alternative to the standard southern version of fried chicken.

We have tried the "Walnut Chicken Ding," which is a mild dish of chicken, mixed vegetables, and walnuts -- it is rather plain in my opinion but the kids like it. The only thing we haven't really cared for are the fried wontons, which had very little filling.

I have been there several times and have really enjoyed it. I have never seen it full, though, and it would be a sad day if it closed. So next time you are in the mood for Chinese -- go there. And then report back. I'm curious about those chicken feet!