There is no Chinese food quite like the kind you will find in St. Louis. Period. Hands Down. Other cities can’t hold a candle to it. It’s so delicious it’s indescribable, but I will try to do it justice.
For all intents and purposes, I will be referring to the Asian cuisine as “Chinamen” from here on out. It is the politically incorrect term of endearment that us St. Louisans use to describe our beloved hometown staple. And no, we’re not talking P.F Chang’s or Panda Express..We’re talking about the mom & pop shops nestled between liquor stores and nail salons. We’re talking about eateries equipped only to place & receive orders, where seating is minimal and the soy sauce packets are plenty.
So, what makes “Chinamen” so good here in the STL?
1. FRIED RICE
When we say fried rice, we mean business. If your fried rice is light brown with peas & carrots in it..your rice is NOT from the Chinamen. No ma’am. Veggies or not, the complexion of your fried rice must be similar in color to a salted caramel or darker. Real Chinamen fried rice is still delicious sans soy sauce..and if you don’t get high cholesterol just by looking at it…that ain’t the rice for you, boo.
2. FRIED ANYTHING REALLY
As if the fried rice isn’t already heaven, a true Chinamen will also have an artery-clogging assortment of deep fried items to choose from..many of which are not necessarily considered chinese food to begin with. Fried chicken, fried shrimp, fried fish, fried crab sticks, fried mozzarella sticks.
Hell, depending on the place, if you ask them to batter & deep fry a whale’s scrotum they might just do it for you.
3. ST. PAUL SANDWICHES
Ahh, a Missouri delicacy. The St. Paul sandwich is so unique it’s earned itself it’s very own Wikipedia page (no joke, just google it). It’s an egg foo young patty topped with pickles, onion, & mayo on two slices of white sandwich bread…cause you know..buns are for those uppity restaurants. If you really want to intensify this eating experience…ask for it with cheese!
If you ever decide to cross the Mississipi & come to St. Louis, immediately upon seeing the Gateway Arch you need to stop what you’re doing, find yourself a black friend, and have them escort you (during daytime hours of course) to the nearest poverty stricken, borderline gentrified, predominately African-American neighborhood for some Chinamen.
It’ll be the best thing your taste buds will have ever known.
One day my love and I decided to get dinner from our Chinamen of choice, and I realized that with my meatless lifestyle I had to forego my regular order and (gasp) try something new. I settled on a Veggie St. Paul sandwich with cheese. Never one to leave me feeling left out, my husband decided to also try something new on the menu. He settled on Beef & Broccoli. He loved it so much it got my wheels turning. I just KNEW I had to find a way to make a meatless version of his new fave.
I’ve told you all once before…I’m incredibly lazy. That being said, your girl was not about to create her own beef substitute measuring out & kneading mixtures of coconut flour, nutritional yeast & what not. That’s just not my ministry.
I’ve always been a fan of mushrooms, but when you take a portobello cap, slice it and season it a certain way..it’s very reminiscent of beef. I mean, I’d already done something similar with my Mushroom Burgers, but this time, I knew I was on to something.
Now, this here recipe STILL ain’t got nothing on real St. Louis Chinamen, but if you want to stay in the house and save a few coins, give this recipe a try:
Mushroom “Beef” & Broccoli
SAUCIN’..I’m SAUCIN’…I’m SAUCIN…on you..
THE SAUCE PREP
1⁄2 cup beef broth
2 tbsp Soy Sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
THE GOODS PREP
1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 Portobello Mushroom caps, thinly sliced
Salt & Pepper
1 white onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 broccoli crown, cut into florets
- In a small bowl, make your sauce by whisking broth, soy sauce, brown sugar and cornstarch. Set Aside
- In a large wok or skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat
- Add mushroom caps and saute with salt & pepper until fragrant
- Remove mushrooms from the skillet and set aside
- To the skillet, add onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes
- Add garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds
- Add sauce and broccoli
- Cover and cook until broccoli is bright green
- Add mushroom caps back into the pan:
- Stir well and cook for another 2-4 minutes
I think this is pretty amazing on it’s own but you can always pair this with fried rice, but regular rice works too.
Stay (mostly) meatless!