Every time I’d walk by Shun Wang, a Chinese restaurant near my house in Queens, my mouth opened a little. Caramel-brown, glistening ducks hung on a hook inside the kitchen, next to what looked like a chunk of pork belly. I’d want to stay and gawk, but usually some surly Chinese dude in a grease-splattered apron was hanging out outside, smoking a cigarette. So I’d look and hurry on, down into the subway, the laundromat, the hardware store.
Shun Wang was always crowded. But what did they serve? It wasn’t clear. Bright construction paper signs in the window showed Chinese characters only. The only other English item was its health sanitation rating, a piece of white paper taped to the window. It was a C.
“You have to try hard to get a C!” my friend said, when I told her about the place. “No really. You have to try HARD.”
I could overlook the sanitation thing. (I lived in Mexico.) The place was almost always crowded, so I went one day with my friend Jeff.
The duck looked beautiful, shining on its oval plate, already cut into pieces. The skin was crackling and crisp, but the meat was a little rubbery. Was this normal? It was also lukewarm. Tried not to think about bacteria multiplying.
The waitress had helpfully suggested a few dishes, since the menu had probably close to 100 items. (Note to self: research Cantonese food before trying the next Cantonese place. I had learned the place was Cantonese from Yelp, by the way, which had two separate listings for the place.) We tried the salt and pepper beef, which had oomph and spice, and gristle. Neither of us could tear into a piece with our chopsticks.
The rest of the food — fried fish, fried tofu, and pea shoots with garlic — was decent and satisfying. We refilled our tea kettle a few times and lingered.
On the way out, I saw a big plate of crullers. Like churros, sort of, but without the ridges. I asked a man smoking outside what they were, and he said they were donuts. I said, “Savory or sweet?” and he looked confused. I said, “How do you eat them?” He looked at us. “Eat?” I said. He cupped one of his hands, and mimicked the motion of dunking the donut in a bowl of soup.
Shun Wang opens at 7 a.m., so we are definitely coming back for breakfast. Since my visit, the sanitation grade has changed, too. Now it says “grade pending.”
If you know the best things to order at Cantonese restaurants, please let me know — I’m completely new to this type of cuisine and would love to learn more.