In Quincy, for the adventurous
Right by a Red Line stop, take a trip into Fuzhou regional cuisine
Quincy, with its sizable Chinese population, has a number of wonderfully authentic restaurants specializing in Cantonese dishes such as chow foon, wonton soup, and steamed whole fish. But for those who have graduated beyond that and are looking for a culinary adventure, there’s Ming Seafood Restaurant.
An adventurous palate is required in a place that offers beef intestine with rice noodle soup, sautéed jelly fish, and goose tongue.
Specializing in Fuzhou regional cuisine, Ming opened in early 2009 in the space formerly occupied by Dee Dee’s Lounge, on Newport Avenue right across from the Wollaston T stop. While there’s no parking lot, there’s plenty of free, two-hour parking on nearby streets.
The interior is spacious and utilitarian, with a refrigerated case of sodas and fish tanks of live fish, eels, and shrimp occupying one side of the room. There are eight square tables, all of which can be opened to form round tables that can accommodate as many as eight diners. The view from the large windows (Newport Avenue and the brick wall of the Wollaston T station) certainly won’t distract you from your dining companions.
Open the extensive menu, however, and you’ll forget about the lack of ambience. The menu is categorized in 15 sections, from Fuzhou signature snacks to casserole hot pots to Hunan dishes. Our family of four made two visits to Ming, but was only able to sample a few of its hundreds of offerings.
Under Fuzhou snack, we tried the homemade pork dumpling soup ($3.50 for 10 dumplings). The dumplings were puffy balls of glutinous rice flour dough (similar to the Japanese mochi) stuffed with a savory pork and veggie mixture. It was a tasty and satisfying snack; however, the “soup’’ was just boiled water.
Of the noodle dishes we tried, the favorite was sautéed fish noodles with shredded pork ($7). The flat rice noodles had a complex saltiness akin to a good fish sauce, a flavor that brought out the freshness of the stir-fried slices of pork.
Sautéed rainbow rice noodles ($8) were also devoured. The orange-tinged noodles, strips of sweet pepper, onions, scallions, chives, cabbage, and pork created a pleasing array of colors, hence its name. Less successful was the oxtail with noodle soup ($6). The thick rice noodles and thin slices of oxtail came in a broth that was too oily and lacking in flavor (no MSG?), despite the liberal use of dried scallops. Also, the oxtail could have benefited from a longer braising.
The squeamish may want to skip over the country style marinade section of the menu. It’s heavy on organ meats, feet, and wing. So of course we had to try the assorted mix ($12), a generous platter of sliced beef, tripe, pork ears, chicken feet, and boiled eggs. All had been marinated in a special soy and herb mixture, imparting an earthy, rustic flavor. A sweet and vinegary dipping sauce helps cut the heaviness of the meat.
For a dinner visit, the star of the evening was the salt and pepper frog ($16). My two teenagers gobbled up the fried pieces that resembled popcorn chicken. They didn’t mind having to spit out the tiny leg bones, but couples on first dates may want to avoid ordering this dish.
Also getting raves was the lychee pork ($10), deep-fried chunks of tender pork, sweet peppers, and cauliflower in a subtle-sweet lychee sauce. It resembles sweet and sour pork (especially its shocking red hue), but more garlicky and elegant. A house oyster pancake ($11) looks similar to scallion pancake, but is made with rice starch instead of wheat flour. The rice starch makes it chewier, which holds up better to the moist oysters.
The braised aged pork with preserved vegetables ($10) is not as scary as it sounds. Fatty pork belly is being rediscovered by gourmet chefs, so you might as well try the classic Chinese version as well. The thick slices of pork belly are braised with sweet and salty mui choy (preserved mustard green) to create an incredibly tender dish that’s comfort food to millions of Chinese worldwide. It may be sacrilegious to some, but I’ve never enjoyed eating fat, so I remove that layer and eat just the lean parts.
If your dining companions balk at the unfamiliar, rest assured that Ming also has lunch special rice plates for $6. Choose from about 30 selections, such as sautéed shrimp, beef with broccoli, or kung pao chicken. They even offer the typical appetizers, such as beef teriyaki and crab rangoon, which is virtually unknown in Asia.
As the saying goes, life is an adventure, so why not take your taste buds on a trip to the exotic?