Ding Hao – Chinese Restaurant, Gouger Street

20150116_175047 chilli beef

date of visit: Friday 16 January 2015

Regular readers will know that I am not that big on Chinese food. I loathe saying that because I know that China is a huge country and has a vast range of regional cuisines. I also know that I love Uyghur and Szechuan food so saying that I don’t like Chinese food is a nonsense on so many levels.

However, as a rule, I find the food served in what are usually called ‘Chinese restaurants’ to be a bit bland, a bit same, a bit sweet and a bit alarming in colour. So if we’re eating out, it’s not our number one go-to cuisine. But we have a small child and I am adamant that I should not pass on my culinary peccadilloes to him. So far I’m doing well – he usually loves bananas and I loathe them.

Being school holidays, there were plenty of activities on in town so we headed in to the city and amused ourselves until Andy could meet us after work. We were in Victoria Square, Andy found a sweet park on Gouger Street and we set off, Entertainment Book in one hand and small child in the other.

Master 4 had already announced he wanted salt and pepper squid for dinner so that was our sole requirement (Entertainment Book a bonus!). We didn’t have to walk very far before we came across Ding Hao – on the northern side of Gouger Street and pretty much literally around the corner from the Sir Samuel Way Building. Andy and I have both been to Ding Hao before (for yum cha, on his very first visit to Australia) but it was a long time ago. I have been a bit wary of it due to reports/allegations (that I have been unable to verify) that it serves actual shark fin soup but when you have a small child who has been bellyaching about how hungry he is for over an hour … you manage to push those kinds of concerns to the back of your mind. Hopefully karma doesn’t bite me on this one …

It was only 5:30pm but there were already quite a few people in Ding Hao, even though it looked almost closed from the outside. Without a reservation we were seated, no problems, but I’d recommend booking – especially if you are a larger party or heading there later in the evening. Ding Hao has a reputation as one of the better Chinese restaurants and is definitely popular.

20150116_175052salt & pepper squid

We sat down and had a look at the menu while Master 4 wondered where his S&P squid was … Not entirely sure how spicy the S&P squid was going to be I decided to order something mild in case it proved too spicy (a moveable feast), so I opted for the red pepper beef and Andy chose the chilli beef and we ordered a large serve of special fried rice.

The food came out quickly, and Master 4’s head was blown by the fact that is was all put in the middle of the table rather than handed out to the individual who had ordered it. “But you’ve got mamma’s!”. He kept a fierce eye on his salt and pepper squid, which was too hot to eat so he had to satisfy himself with some rice while it cooled down. Offers of trying the beef were turned down emphatically and any attempt on our part to try the squid was smartly kyboshed.

20150116_175057red pepper beef

While Andy’s chilli beef definitely did have some chilli in it, both beef dishes were rather loaded with capsicum and onion and mine did have a slightly alarming colour to it. The portions were a very generous size and the large special fried rice was also a good size. The three main dishes plus the rice was the perfect amount for the three of us. If you have three very hungry adults, you may want to consider ordering an entrée or two to start though. The salt and pepper squid was actually pretty good – it wasn’t particularly spicy although it was topped with some sliced chilli and onion (and I understand you can request fresh chilli from the waiting staff). The squid was tender but my one criticism would have to be that the pieces were cut ridiculously for something you are expected to eat with chopsticks! Master 4 was both super patient in waiting for the squid to cool down and super deft when it came to eating it – although with plenty of help from both his fork, his fingers and his mother waving chopsticks around and feeding him.

After our Entertainment Book discount, our dinner (three main courses, large rice, two beers) came to just $47 for three people which I think is not bad money at all. I can’t describe the food as revelatory, and the service is nothing special (it’s also not especially awful which is what some online reviews may lead you to believe) but for a decent feed for not a lot of money Ding Hao can indeed hit the spot.

Personally, I won’t be rushing back there but neither will I throw my hands up in horror if compelled to return.

Ding Hao
26-28 Gouger Street
Adelaide SA 5000
phone: 08 8211 7036

Ding Hao Restaurant on Urbanspoon

San Choy Bow

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It’s all hot, hot, hot here in Adelaide (for a few days, at least). We’re expecting 37°C today, and 39 tomorrow so Saturday’s 31°C is looking like a cool change.

With this in mind (and probably a long hot summer ahead), meals need to be light, fresh and quick and easy to prepare. No one wants to heat up the kitchen or spend hours at the stove or even the BBQ.

Andy announced that we should have san choy bow one night this week so we picked up some pork mince on the weekend and I was left to my own devices (the internet) to come up with a meal.

You’ll have noticed that we don’t eat a ton of Chinese food. I’m not a huge fan and the only style that gets me excited for eating out is Sichuan. We have an underused copy of Fuschia Dunlop’s Sichuan Cookery and we frequently eat a spicy chicken stir fry. But that’s it.

I did a bit of googling, searching for an appropriate san choy bow recipe and found that they were mostly unbelievably bland sounding. I found an Anna Gare recipe that sounded like I was onto a winner. Although the list of ingredients looked a little intimidating, I could tell that it was going to provide me with a great base dish.

As always, I used her recipe as a guide and unfortunately the original recipe is no longer on line.

I began by finely chopping 1 and half onions and frying them, in the wok, with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and a generous teaspoonful of ginger*. When the onion had started to soften I added 500g of pork mince and stir fried until that was cooked through.

I then added a generous few splashes of fish sauce, the juice of half a lemon and a good glug of soy sauce. Finally, I mixed through 1 scant teaspoon of palm sugar. I raised the temperature to ensure that the palm sugar was melted through and to boil off some of the sauces. San choy bow isn’t meant to be saucy!

That was my work done for the day. The cooled mince mixture was put in the fridge overnight, ready to be pulled out for a quick after work dinner.

When we were ready to eat, Andy julienned some carrot and finely chopped a green capsicum and hese were stir fried with the pork mixture. To finish, we mixed through some chilli flakes and some sliced spring onion and served in lettuce cups.

A little bit messy to eat, perhaps, but a perfect meal on a hot day!

* We’ve given up buying fresh ginger (which is invariably imported). You can buy Australian ginger paste in small jars from most supermarkets.

Dumplings R Us

date of visit: Tuesday 13 March 2012

We ducked into Dumplings R Us for a quick (and extremely cheap) takeaway lunch. It sits on Rundle Street, near Brunelli and Red Rock Noodle bar, on the site of several ‘former’ venues. Before dumplings, it was a Japanese restaurant/café.

The menu is very reminiscent of Dumpling King and for around $9 you can bag yourself 15 fried pork dumplings. That’s enough to split between 2 people, unless you’re a very greedy chappy. There are a quite a few other dishes available but, given the emphasis on dumplings in the name I expect dumplings to be the star dish.

We turned up around half past 12 and the restaurant was quite busy but definitely not full. Placing our order took a little while and then we sat at a table to wait. This gave me a good chance to observe both the kitchen and waiting staff in action.

Waiting wise, things seemed pretty busy and I think if they’d had on one or two more staff then they’d have all looked a lot less harried. In the kitchen, things seemed under control. The dumplings do all seem to be frozen in bags of 10 or 15 (the two portion sizes) – and as they’re ordered they’re just dumped into pans for cooking. The restaurant also features an ‘Express Bar’ which had a few dumplings under a heat lamp but didn’t seem to be being used.

Back at work the dumplings were unpacked and shared out. We’d ordered fried and they were quite nice and crispy. In our bag we also had some sauces (including the really tasty chilli and onion sauce) so you’re not missing out on too much by opting for takeaway.

Flavour wise, the dumplings are nothing exciting. There’s nothing offensive or wrong with them, but there’s also nothing to make you sit up and take notice. Personally, if I were closer to Bank Street I’d be heading to Mandoo over Dumplings R Us. But if you’re around Rundle Street and you want dumplings in a hurry then Dumplings R Us will sort you out.

Perfectly decent for a quick, cheap lunch on a work day.

Dumplings R Us on Urbanspoon