Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas in Minnesnowta, part II

One of my family's favorite haunts in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is Mandarin Kitchen, an unassuming strip mall Chinese restaurant that turns out absolutely wonderful food. We visit Mandarin Kitchen at least once every time I'm in Minnesota. The service is always very friendly (although this may have something to do with the frequency of my parents' visits there) and the food always hits the mark.

One thing I really love about MK is that they give every patron free soup bookends with every meal. There's a savory appetizer soup and a sweet dessert soup, and both are warm and inviting and very much the stuff of comfort food - at least, they are to somebody who grew up eating Chinese food nearly every day.

Free appetizer soup - pork with bitter melon.

For those of you who haven't tasted jellyfish, it has a crunchy texture that is somewhat reminiscent of calamari, only it's simultaneously crunchier and more gelatinous. Maybe a cross between calamari and seaweed salad. Something like that.

Jellyfish with roast duck seasoned with sesame oil.

One of my favorites: salt and pepper squid. We actually got two orders of this. For six people. And finished both.

Salt 'n' Pepa's heah...!

When the squid is gone, I like to eat the crunchy garlic/jalapeno/green onion bits with rice.

And the next dish goes really well with salt & pepper squid: sauteed snow pea leaves. One of my favorite vegetables of all time - so much better than spinach!

Popeye missed out.

For the noodle lovers: Singapore-style rice noodles. Mmm.


I have a penchant for adding a giant dollop of la jou (hot oil) to my Singapore style rice noodles.


Mandarin Kitchen also offers one of your choice of about ten or so dishes free for every $60 of food you order. The shrimp version of salt & pepper squid was on the list, so we got one of those, too. I personally prefer the squid version, as it's easier to eat. Some people just eat the whole shrimp without peeling it (the frying process makes this easier than you might imagine), but I personally think that even after frying, the shells and legs are still too scratchy and unpleasant to eat and sort of stick in your craw.

Watch out for those beady little eyes.

And for dessert, a (free!) sweet warm bean soup. Definitely beats those lame fortune cookies.


Mandarin Kitchen also has Chinese barbecue:

IMG_1051.JPG IMG_1052.jpg

And seafood tanks with some of the largest lobsters and crabs I've ever seen.



By the way, did I mention how cold and snowy it is there this year? I'm posting this at 1:00 p.m., and it is -13˚F there right now. NEGATIVE 13 degrees, in case you missed that subtle little dash up there. Not including windchill.

Won't be barbecuing for a while.

Almost makes you want to go get some free hot soup at Mandarin Kitchen, doesn't it?

Mandarin Kitchen
8766 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55420
(5/5 stars on Yelp -
link to my original Yelp review)


  1. I am starving after reading this post. I am DEFINITELY going to have to go there next time I'm there!

    And holy cow, I had no idea it was that cold there right now. Wow.

  2. I think Optimista’s description of jellyfish crunch falls short, but as I prepared my description, I feel I was not able to capture it either. It’s not the crunch of a peanut (too hard), nor of toast (not crispy), nor sautéed veg (not crispy enough and not gelatinous), maybe something like raw Vidalia onion (but a completely different flavor). If I were in court and the prosecutor asked me to describe the crunch, I say “go to Mandarin Kitchen” (and I would also have my attorney go for a plea bargain).

  3. At my daughter’s insistence, I recently tried snow pea leaves. They’re delicious. She reminded me that grandma used to grow them, but I don’t remember. Optimista said that they’re so much better than spinach. Well, I wouldn’t even compare them to spinach; more like sautéed bok choy or heart of bok choy (which isn’t even the same veggie). Sorry about the Cantonese, I think blog regulars here would call it bai tsai.

    Uncle H

  4. While I've only ever eaten dim sum at Mandarin Kitchen and never had their Singapore rice noodle, the next time you're in town, you have to try the same dish at Shuang Cheng in Dinkytown. It's the most flavorful version of that dish I've had anywhere, including any Chinatown. And I guarantee you won't need to add any spice to it. They have other great dishes, too, of course, but no free "soup bookends."

    I think I need to eat at (non-dim sum) MK just to get some red bean soup. I haven't had that in ages.

  5. Uncle H, I LOVE your comments - they always make me laugh - thank you!

    MNAngler, thanks for the tip! I'll definitely mention that to my family next time I'm there, although I think it'll be tough to get them to stray from their beloved (and relatively easy to get to) MK! :)

  6. I'd like to think that Chinese Popeye eats dou miao :) Also, the jellyfish w/ duck looks awesome!


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