Texoma is not exactly a magnet for diners in the mood for Chinese. Nevertheless, on a raw December day I decided it was time for some hot and sour soup. After a little research on the web, I picked up a friend, and we checked in at Gourmet China, a restaurant slipped into a small strip center on Texoma Parkway about half way between Sherman and Denison.
First a note: In areas without large Asian populations, Chinese-American cuisine usually is considerably westernized to better suit American palates and expectations. Many of the most popular dishes are not Chinese at all, except perhaps in spirit. General Tso's chicken, crab rangoon, beef and broccoli and even the ubiquitous fortune cookie are American inventions, and some more traditional dishes have been modified to use ingredients such as broccoli, carrots and bulb onions not normally found in China.
The back and forth amalgamation of original and host cuisines runs both ways, and some western items have become popular with Chinese diners, who import the foreign ingredients needed to make them. Cashew chicken, chow mein and egg foo young are examples.
The American concept of a “melting pot” of many ethnicities is also found in the American “cooking pot,” and that is not a bad thing. So having taken note of these variances, let's have lunch.
Partly because Chinese-American food is usually prepared quickly, in sizzling woks with variations on a theme using many of the same ingredients, the choice at most restaurants is large. Gourmet China was no exception with a multi-page menu of options.
My friend was somewhat of a regular at the restaurant, so I decided to rely on his suggestions as we looked over the lunch menu. All the lunches came with a choice of hot and sour or egg flower soup, so I was good there. For an entree, he suggested I try Szechuan shrimp with the caveat that they tone down the spices by half, as Szechuan dishes are known for their fiery taste. That was good enough for me, so it was Szechuan shrimp with fried rice, fried won tons and of course, hot and sour soup. My friend opted for moo-goo-gai pan with boiled rice and and egg roll with a cup of egg flower soup to begin with. We had cups of hot tea to go with the meal.
The soups were out quickly, and I went to work. My hot and sour was good for a cold day. I have had versions that were a bit more sour, and this bowl would have benefited from a dash more rice vinegar. I had a taste of the golden egg flower soup and decided it would be a good choice the next time around. The soup is made with chicken broth, sesame oil and white pepper, and when the mixture is hot, a beaten egg is drizzled into the broth creating the wispy strands that give the dish its name. It is also called egg drop soup.
The entrees followed a little too quickly, before we had time to finish our soup. Then my friend got an important phone call that could not be put off (the curse of cellphones) and had to step outside to take it. Not knowing how long he would be, I flagged down the waiter and asked him to take the soup and moo-goo-gai-pan back to the kitchen to keep it warm until my friend returned. No problem, and he whisked the dishes away.
The shrimp were prepared with bamboo shoots and crunchy slices of water chestnuts in a dark brown sauce. There was a touch of heat, but not too much, and if going this way again, I might try the hotter version. The sauce was a little too salty for my taste, but not enough to keep me from cleaning the plate. The won tons were crunchy, with a little bit of pork in the center, but nothing special. A dab of sweet red sauce from the condiment bowl kicked the taste up some.
When he returned from his call, the waiter retrieved my friend's meal, still steaming. The chicken moo-goo-gai-pan is a stir fry with an abundance of vegetables, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, snow peas and the like, laced with with white meat chicken in a light sauce. It was soon gone, too. I got a piece of egg roll and gave it a try. It was hot, having just been fried, but there is not much more to say for it. American style egg rolls with cabbage and pork in an egg roll wrapper are not really Chinese. They prefer spring rolls, a much lighter version with more vegetables and a tender, flaky wrapper. I have had these a few times and wish more Asian restaurants would serve that version of the dish.
Now it was on to dessert, except that there was nothing listed on the menu. We did not not even get a fortune cookie. If we had, no doubt it would have said, “Stay inside; it's going to be really cold.”
All in all, the visit to Gourmet China was a satisfying, though not really a memorable experience. However, since we only touched on the large menu, it is a restaurant that clearly earns a spot on the comeback list.
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