Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tsing Tao

Taking a little break from Tokyo reviews to write up one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the SF bay area: Tsing Tao, in Albany. Tsing Tao specializes in Chinese-Korean cuisine, which is the cuisine that Chinese immigrants in Korea created/adapted for Korean tastebuds.

Jja jang myun is thick, handmade flour-based noodles topped with a black bean based sauce that includes pork, shrimp and vegetables. In Korea, jja jang myun delivery is as common as pizza delivery in the States. When made right, it is deliciously satisfying. Tsing Tao does it right - best jja jang myun I've had in the bay area.

Koreans call jja jang myun "Chinese" the way Americans call burritos "Mexican", but you won't actually find jja jang myun in China or burritos in Mexico. Jja jang myun was created in Korea by Chinese immigrants the way burritos were created in the States by Mexican immigrants. Chinese-Korean restaurants usually serve up the Chinese version of kimchi, made with regular cabbage rather than napa cabbage and satisfying in its own way.

If you are Korean, Tsing Tao will place a Korean menu in front of you that includes jja jang myun and jjam bbong (handmade flour noodles in a spicy rich seafood broth), but you won't find these on the English menu (at least not the last time I checked).

Order the yang jang pi - flat glass noodles tossed tableside with stir-fried pork, sea cucumbers, egg, shrimp, squid, cucumbers and carrots in a spicy mustard sauce. It is the best Chinese-Korean dish EVER, period. I always order this when I visit Tsing Tao and am never disappointed.

Also order the jja jang myun, which will arrive with the noodles in one bowl and the sauce in another. Pour the sauce over the noodles, mix thoroughly and dig in. Don't forget to wipe your mouth afterward, you'll probably have a black bean mustache. (sorry, unfortunately I don't have photos of the jja jang myun. forgot to take some because was too busy stuffing my face!)

Ah, I miss the bay area.

Yang jang pi - a delicious mix of glass noodles, jellyfish, shrimp, sauteed pork, octopus, sea cucumber, veggies, egg

Food rating: ****
Bang for buck rating: 5

The essentials:
No website
Location: 1479 Solano Avenue, Albany, CA
Average price of dinner for two: $40

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