Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kim's Dragon (a.k.a. why I feel bad for Drexel students)

Beef w/broccoli

Sorry Drexel kids, the truth hurts, but I'm just gonna put this one out there... your Chinese food trucks... they suck. Forreals. I like to consider myself a connoisseur of fine dining, by which of course I mean mobile kitchens that serve food of Asian origins, and I spend a fair amount of time trying out each of them, noting the subtle nuances that make each one special (for instance... like gratuitous usage of MSG). After exhausting the options available on Penn's campus, going from "Le Anh's" all the way to "The Real Le Anh's," I expanded my horizons and set out to explore Drexel's offerings. My process was simple, I picked the cart with the longest line of Asian people which happened to be Kim's Dragon (Not to be confused with Kim's Oriental... which actually makes me wonder how many people named Kim are going to open Chinese food trucks?).

First thing... the people in the truck aren't even Chinese (I tried ordering in Mandarin and was greeted with blank stares). That's not really something I can hold against anyone, since some of the best tacos I've had were made by Chinese people, and some of the best General Tso's I've had were made by Mexican people, but it just felt... unauthentic? Secondly, the wait time is absurd compared to Kim's Oriental, what would've taken 5 minutes there took more than 15 here. Efficiency fail.

The beef w/broccoli wasn't actually awful, but it also wasn't the dish you'd normally think of. The beef was a tad overcooked, but coming from the back of a truck, it's something I'm willing to overlook. The sauce however, wasn't the standard oil-laden soy sauce affair I've come to know and love. Their rendition was cloyingly sweet, clearly doused in sugar. Like I said, it wasn't awful, in fact, the penetration of the sweet sauce actually made for some damn good broccoli, but it clearly wasn't what I expected to get. It's a $4 experiment that I probably won't try again.

Beef 'chow he fun'

I also ordered a beef chow fun since I had a jonesing for noodles pretty badly. It's a hard dish to fuck up, in my opinion. It's basically soy sauce, a lot of oil, noodles, and beef... stir fry them together. Yet somehow, they did. Catastrophically. Sure they got most of the components in there, the rice noodles, the beef, and even the bean sprouts, but why in the hell is there broccoli... and a single string bean pod? That's not beef chow fun, that's what my mom does when she's cleaning her fridge... throwing random shit together and stir frying them. Then I thought... maybe looks are deceptive. Maybe this dish is spectacular in every way, and that broccoli and a single string bean pod added to beef chow fun was the next big thing!

Bland rice noodles

Nope. That didn't happen. This was the blandest $4.50 I've ever spent. After disposing of the extraneous broccoli and single string bean pod, I went to town on the noodles, which were dry, stuck together, and were cooked with 沙茶醬 a.k.a. "Chinese bbq sauce." That's not what beef chow fun is about... at all. If you're unfamiliar with the sauce I'm talking it about, it's normally used to make dipping sauce for hot pot, not for stir frying noodles. Nice going Kim's Dragon, you failed at one of the simplest noodle dishes known to man. All you had to do was make oily noodles and add some beef to it, but you fucked it up good. Nice. To add insult to injury, the portion sizing... is kind of inadequate compared to Yue Kee or the other Kim's.

Someone actually suggested that it was 'the best Chinese food in the city.' Not only is this an exaggeration gone astray, but it's downright silly (Chinatown is outraged). If they're not even the best Chinese food within a 5 block radius, how can it be the best in Philadelphia? Sorry Drexel, but if this is the best you can muster, I think I'll stick to my Kim's... the Oriental one. PS - It has Chinese people in it.


Anonymous said...


Rodzilla said...

Just reconsidered grad school apps to Drexel

Danny said...

yeaaaa, beef chow fun is something that should be easy to get right. who knows though, maybe their non-chinese speakers can bang out a great general tso's. haha. the price point does sound way better than here in NY, where we also have a Kim's Aunt's cart.

Nicholas said...

munchimonster - I think I'm overstating the problem. Technically, you could just walk 3 blocks West and get Chinese food that's infinitely better :)

Rodzilla - ha, you know you'd rather come to Penn anyway!

Danny - you'd think wouldn't you? It's rice noodles with soy sauce and oil. Get a big ol' wok and stir them together. I was tempted to try their General Tso's, but for some reason I went with beef broccoli. Maybe I'll go back for round 2. Btdubs... I love Kim's Aunt's Kitchen. Best fried fish sandwich ever.

FN said...

@Nicholas - sorry for the totally off-topic comment. Going to Taipei for 5 days next weekend. I've read through most of your Taipei posts and am overwhelmed. Any must-eats or must-go places you could recommend?

Nicholas said...

FN - not a problem! Must-eats would be night markets of course, but which ones?

- Shihlin is a must visit, even if it is a bit touristy. When you go there, go for the 'Hot-Star' chicken, it's a chicken cutlet pounded super thin and fried. It's the size of a person's face. Also get the 大腸包小腸 which is basically a sausage inside a bun of rice. Those two are iconic foods.

- Beef Noodle soup is a big thing for me in Taiwan, while there's a lot to choose from, the one I go back to repeatedly is called 良品 (Liang Pin) near the Taipei Main Station. I wrote a post on it, and in my opinion, it's a life changing bowl of noodles.

- Shaved ice is definitely something to find. One of the best is near the NTU campus on 新生 (Xinsheng) called 臺一 (Tai Yi) that does an awesome red bean and oats shaved ice.

- Traditional Taiwanese breakfast i.e. fried cruller oil sticks and soy milk. At the MRT Shantao station, there's a really famous place called 阜杭 (Fu Hang). There's a bit of a line in the morning, but it's worth it.

- Go to 鼎泰豐 (Ding Tai Feng) to try their soup dumplings. I'm not in love with them for the price, but they are famous, and they're famous for a good reason. They're awesome at what they do, and you'll hate soup dumplings in NYC afterward.

That's the main stuff, but if you feel a bit lost with that list, feel free to shoot me an email and I'll see if I can come up with more specifics. Enjoy it!

FN said...

Nicholas - thanks. This list is great. I arrive Sat morning and will start with the breakfast you recommend!

Anonymous said...

If you did your research on the 'people' in the truck - the cook is half Chinese and half Cambodian. And if you want a 5min food service, go to a McDonald's drive thru or grab a hot dog at a cart.

Nicholas said...

FN - haha a year belated, but hope that helps.

Anonymous - when you put quotes around people, it looks like you're implying they're not people...

but what ethnicity they are was only a side point (which I addressed in the following sentence) in the sense that you would normally expect a Chinese person to know legit Chinese food.

As for the second point that you're trying to make... why is it that every other cart can have 5 min food service then? It doesn't really make much sense to go here if you're paying the same, getting roughly the same, and waiting twice as long.

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