Asian Grill Shan Dong
The Stew: Szechuan Cabbage Soup
Other Food Ordered: Shan Dong Dumplings, Onion Pancakes, Hot Spicy Chicken, Ginger Beef, Sesame Paste Noodles
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Likewise, when the only authentic Mongolian restaurant in the Bay Area is closed on the day you go to eat there, you make the best of it and venture to the nearest restaurant of the geographically closest ethnicity. Apologies for the late blog post–our last FoxStew journey was a bit of a mishap. The border of Mongolia just wasn’t open for us that day, and we had to skip the country all together and travel to mainland China.
But maybe it was a blessing in disguise. We found a popular restaurant in Oakland’s Chinatown named after one of their great regional cuisines: Shan Dong. Ironically, the restaurant does not focus on traditional Shan Dong food, but instead serves a variety of Chinese cuisines labeled from Szechuan to Cantonese to Hunan, meanwhile marketing itself as “Mandarin”.
The ambiance was familiar to any American chinatown: quality food that isn’t necessarily the most authentic, has maybe a bit too much oil, but satisfies more than enough of a Chinese food craving. But Shan Dong goes above and beyond with one important Chinese food element: Noodles.
Their noodles are deliciously homemade. I know because I could see the cooks hard at work, stretching and spinning them, and I know because they were the freshest tasting noodles I had eaten in a long time.
The four of us arrived to Shan Dong very hungry and ready for almost everything. We tried to order a variety of food options: noodles (obviously), meat, soup and vegetables.
Unfortunately (or in reality, fortunately) the only vegetable-ish food we ordered was the onion pancake. That counts, right? It served as a great appetizer and was gone in less than a minute. It’s the typical greasy, starchy starter that sets the tone for a gritty meal and goes especially well with beer.
After the pancakes, we enjoyed a specialty of Shan Dong’s–their house dumplings. Like the noodles, the dumplings are also made in-house. This might have been the most authentic dish in terms of flavor. The soft center of the dumpling was reminiscent of a warm, meaty broth (although to be clear, these were not soup dumplings) and the wrapper dough was exceptionally fresh and light: a perfect meat-to-dough ratio that fits in one mouthful.
After these starters, we enjoyed our soup appetizer: the Szechuan cabbage soup. It was a clear broth filled with cabbage and other vegetables. While it wasn’t the most flavorful soup, it was definitely a refreshing palate cleanser and a soothing mid-meal treat. However, as a huge fan of Szechuan food, it was a bit of a disappointed because there were no peppercorns, chillies, or general spice. But the following dishes definitely made up for this.
We ordered two meats: Hot Spicy Chicken, and Ginger Beef. The beef was sweet and tasty, covered in a ginger sauce very similar to a typical General Tso’s.
The Chicken was also deliciously flavorful. While it did not have the full Szechuan coverage of red chilly peppers, it was still spicy enough to satisfy my cravings.
Finally, the Sesame Noodles stole the show. The noodles themselves were perfectly made. Not too tough and not too soft, they were fresh and thick in a way that only homemade noodles can be cut. It was obvious they had just been cooked and I couldn’t get enough of it. The sesame sauce was equally delicious, rich in flavor to the point that my mouth starts watering from the thought of it.
Sometimes the best meals come from unexpected places. We journeyed into the unnervingly unfamiliar land of Oakland looking for Mongolian cuisine, and instead ended up in mainland Chinatown with some of the most delicious noodles in our bellies.
Dan’s Favorite: Sesame Noodles
Iraina’s Favorite: Ginger Beef
Ned’s Favorite: Sesame Noodles
Gabi’s Favorite: Hot Spicy Chicken
Shan Dong 328 10th St, Oakland, CA 94607