NE W JERSE Y MONTHLY March 2015 89
Chinese or not,” he told me on the
phone, as server Danny Tran translated. “I cook the way I cooked in
China.” Wan, Tran and other staffers
who live in Flushing, Queens, drive to
Wallington each day after stocking the
van with fish, meat, produce and other
Lan Sheng’s menu roams well beyond the Szechuan dishes that rocked
New York taste buds in the 1970s. Yes,
you can find hot-and-sour soup and
shredded pork with garlic sauce on Lan
Sheng’s multipage menu, divided into
10 categories, not including beverages
But if it swims, flies, walks, hops
or slithers, Lan Sheng serves it. “New
Jersey people have very adventurous
taste,” Tran told me. “They are not
afraid of anything, like frog, eel, pig
feet and duck tongue. One lady asked
for chicken feet.”
I was not that lady. I started happily
with crisp Szechuan pork dumplings
served with roasted-chili vinaigrette.
Even better were steamed Chengdu
wontons (Chengdu is the capital of
Szechuan in southwest China). A hint
of orange peel in the filling heightens
the aroma and flavor. Soy sauce mellowed with a bit of Chinese red sugar
provided the perfect dip.
Cellophane noodles with minced
pork came in a sauce spiced with red
chili oil. This potent oil also anoints
dishes like sesame-fragrant dan-dan
noodles and garlicky ma-po tofu, made
with soft “grandmother’s tofu,” ground
pork and black beans. Other dishes
are “ma-la,” or “numb hot,” from fiery
Not everything is palate numbing.
Enjoyable pork fried rice, for example,
is made with crisp, smoky pork belly.
The pork belly reappears in a dish
called “streaky pork.” The belly is stir-fried with napa cabbage and moderately hot capsicum peppers. The pork
belly was pleasantly crunchy, but the
dish overall was startlingly salty.
Camphor tea-smoked duck had
crisp skin and lush, smoky, satisfying meat. Wok-roasted prawns with
pepper-spiced salt were crisp and
Tangerine beef and tangerine chicken were tender and strewn with peels,
a digestive aid in Chinese medicine.
Whole or sliced fish, pork, shrimp,
duck and rabbit are deftly deep-fried
and served with fresh greens.
—KAREN TINA HARRISON
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