Sunday, August 31, 2008

Roast Duck Noodle Soup - A "What I've Found So Far" Survey

I seem to go through sharp phases, like how I had a Banh Mi phase, a Pho phase, a sit-down Burger phase.. a Who Am I Kidding, I Love Anything Teriyaki relapse phase.. (which I'm still on).

Most recently it has been about Roast Duck Noodle Soup.

I have to say that Chinese Noodle Soups in general had been something I've learned to love. It's easy for me to find the Soup/Broths in these too light at first when compared to some of the heartier soups of Japanese Ramen which I'm more accustomed to. But it didn't take me long to open up and enjoy how the lighter amber broth style of Chinese Noodle Soup (Ramen's origin?) complemented rich meats such as roasted duck.

I'll begin with what started my whole infatuation where now looking back it is the better I've had so far.

The Roast Duck Noodle Soup at Tan Ky Mi Gia off El Cajon Blvd. ($5.50)

Topped with Flat Leaf Chives, Chopped Scallions and Cilantro, this amber soup although light had more complexity in flavor than others I have tried that I enjoyed very much. I noticed some teeny bits of fried pork fat in it as well.

The Duck served on a separate platter was very juicy moist, flavorful and generous (for 5 bucks). Together with the soup, using any of the many condiments never crossed my mind.

The Pot Stickers I've also had were just ok and wouldn't best represent other better dishes that I had here in my opinion. (Sorry forgot to write down its price.. I'll get this food blogging thing down one of these days!)

As far as I know Tan Ki Mi Gia is a Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant and I'm not sure how this plays with the difference in flavor I had with the others. So far it's my place to go for better Chinese overall. Especially for Duck Noodle Soup. But way out in El Cajon and 52nd, just wish it were a little closer!

Tan Ky Mi Gia, 5237 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

So hoping that I would score a bowl just as good as TKMG but much closer, I decided to try out my neighborhood In a Pinch Chinese spot Maxim's Palace.
I'll be honest and say that convenience is usually the motivating factor for visiting MP. It is my stand-by neighborhood joint that allows me the satisfaction of having a hot freshly made BBQ Pork Fried Rice that hasn't been sitting under lamps. And because of that, I appreciate Maxim's and what it has to offer my 'hood. They are also fast. Very fast. I never bother calling ahead for my to-go order because the food is usually out in 5-minutes.

Although not on the menu, they were more than happy to make a Roasted Duck Noodle Soup for me. I never figured out its exact price but by deducting the Pan-Fried Dumplings I also had from the total it seemed a rather high ~$9..

Portion was overall generous though, especially with the Duck.
The soup wasn't stand out but wasn't bad either. The topped scallions helped with adding some flavor here. Although meaty I found the duck rather lean and it also seemed to lack the expected Five Spice flavor.

The Pan-Fried Dumplings ($3.45) were in fact deep fried. Definitely pre-made store bought but it will do in a pinch. Isn't that so with anything deep fried?

More of an experiment this day ordering a dish not listed and dining in for the first time even. Dining at Maxim's makes me feel a little like being in a Scorsese film taken place in NYC and while that's not for everyone, I personally dig it.
Discovering this day the flexible "we'll make it for you" side of the place was also a surprise and a nice thing. I will keep supporting you.. My Neighborhood In-A-Pinch Chinese Restaurant - Maxim's Palace.. :)

Maxim's Palace Chinese Restaurant, 2810 El Cajon Blvd # D, San Diego, CA 92104

So still searching, I was hoping to find a place that would be as good as Tan Ky Mi Gia, maybe not as convenient as Maxim's (blocks away from home) but still relatively easy to get too, or in this case a place where I may find myself more often like Kearny Mesa.
I've read somewhere on the interweb that Sam Woo BBQ had pretty good Wonton Noodle Soup. If so I then imagined that they had a good Roasted Duck version as well.

Wouldn't you? Yum.

I've never sat down to eat at this San Diego Sam Woo located inside 99 Ranch Market. I must say I'm really glad I finally did because prior to, my experience had only been with the bang for the buck hot steam trays located up front.

The sit-down portion while still having great value allows you to order up things made to order from their amazingly long list of menu offerings that was quite something. The Lunch, Dinner and Specials pages given to me this weekend day totaled 15 pages! So I was sort of glad I had already had my heart set on a bowl of duck noodle soup. Watching what others were ordering while I waited was a lot of fun though.

The Roasted Duck Noodle Soup ($4.75).

A good medium sized portion with so-so on the Duck.
But what they did give was pretty meaty. However again surprisingly low on flavor, especially when I knew how tasty Sam Woo's Roasted Duck when purchased a la carte can be.

While I found the broth maybe a bit more flavorful than Maxim's, it wasn't out of the ordinary and did wish there were some chopped Scallions because the Chinese Cabbage didn't do much as a garnish for me personally.

My remedy was the usual generous drizzle of Hot Oil and.. a Pokey at the Ducky.. *Poke-Poke* At the Duck fat that is. By now the soup had a glistening sheen on the surface that I'm a bit more used to when eating large quantities of Egg Noodles (which here were the very thin kind).

The Fried Wontons ($4.50) were great.

Deep fried in Sesame Oil (or at least a blend) the crispy fried pouches had the nutty sesame oil flavor while the contents..

..were of a moist minced Pork and Shrimp filling.

Overall both nice dishes especially for each being under $5. I look forward in returning back again. Though only after more carefully going over the 15 pages I managed to photograph. :)

Sam Woo BBQ Restaurant, 7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd #103, San Diego, CA 92111 (Located inside 99 Ranch Market)

My journey for a good bowl of Roast Duck Noodle Soup in San Diego will be sure to continue.

At least for now I know where I can go when the next craving hits.. :)


KirkK said...

Hey Dennis - The missus loved the Roast Duck with Rice at Tan Ky Mi Gia...mostly because the "drippings" have so much flavor. The BBQ duck is not quite as good. The prices there are right. Maxim's is interesting, I once got major "salt overload" there, and once even perhaps it;s time to return. Thanks for reminding me.

Dennis said...

Thanks Kirk!
As you know Maxim's is usually not a destination spot for most.. But knowing sometimes how thorough your cataloging of the neighborhood eats can be I can totally see you visiting.. ;)

Laura said...

I love roast duck noodle soup. I'm more familiar with the Thai-style, although the Chinese RDNS is just about the same. I really like that Tan Ky Mi Gia gave you the duck separately. Nice!

Dennis said...

Hi Laura! I knew about Roast Duck Noodle Soup but only discovered how tasty they can be rather recently. Mmm, the Thai-style you mention sounds tasty too.. I must try!

Anonymous said...

Dennis- You can get roasted duck and noodles with a small bowl of broth for breakfast for $ fact all the breakfast items are $3.50...and the cafe su da is 30¢ I love Sam Woo!

Dennis said...

Thanks for the tip Cathy! Gosh, additional breakfast pages would make Sam Woo's menu approach almost 20 total. That is quite something.. :)