Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chopsticks 101

Critic Issue 24 - Food Column

Pork Spareribs with Orange Sauce and Vegetables

Judging by the lunch and dinner time crowds, many have already discovered the good, reasonably priced food and great service at Chopsticks 101. The current proprietors have kept the menu they inherited from the previous owner, which comprised of generally Malaysian-Chinese food, but I would attribute their newfound popularity to their new menu, which features a long list of (what I assume are) favourite Taiwanese dishes.

Roast Chicken Leg with Vegetabless

The first thing that I tried from the new menu was the ‘CrispyRoast Chicken Leg with Veges’ which is a bit of a misnomer since the chicken isn’t actually crispy, but delicious nonetheless [Edit: After I wrote this, I discovered that they had crossed out 'Crispy' on the menu and scribbled the more accurate "Roast" in its place]. The chicken is saturated in a nice, savoury, mild but distinct herbal flavour, drizzled with the same tasty sauce (every last drop of which I try to mop up with the rice) and accompanied well with blanched vegetables. It is now my favourite Chopsticks 101 dish, despite some other strong contenders. I also really enjoyed the ‘Pork Spare Ribs with Orange Sauce and Vegetables’, which tasted great, even though it was a little difficult and messy trying to get the meat off the bones. When I did, however, the meat was beautifully, savoury and coated with a yummy, sweet, orangey sauce, which gave it a pleasant combination of savoury and sweet flavours.

Crispy Roasted Pork Belly with Tofu in Earthen Pot

The ‘Crispy Roasted Pork Belly with Tofu in Earthen Pot’ is second on my ‘favourite Chopstick 101 dishes’ list with tasty, savoury pork pieces, tofu, mushrooms and vegetables soaked in delicious gravy, all in one scrumptious, hearty, satisfying, ‘one-pot’ meal. Again, the pork isn’t actually crispy, but it’s still good. Perhaps the nicest surprise of all was discovering that Chopsticks 101 serves decent ‘Sweet & Sour Pork’, which, since coming to Dunedin, has been a bit of a mission to source, even though it is the one of the most common, stereotypical Chinese dishes. Now, I can just go to Chopsticks 101 for a quick and easy sweet and sour pork fix, instead of contemplating cooking it or going for a pricey, proper, three or four course Chinese dinner.

Sweet and Sour Pork

I also love the 'Deep Fried Tofu' which they served topped with sweet chilli sauce and crushed peanuts (I think). Thin, slightly crispy skin, encasing nice, soft, mushy tofu! Mmm...

Deep Fried Tofu

There are several other items on the menu that I have been eyeing, like the stewed and roast duck dishes that I haven’t had a chance to try yet, because most of the time I just can’t resist ordering my usual favourites. Chopsticks 101 makes a great food haunt because, as mentioned at the start, not only is the food good and relatively cheap, the staff are welcoming and friendly, which, altogether, makes it a rather pleasant place to patronise.

Chopsticks 101
380 George Street

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