Posts Tagged spicy

The Dish: Black Pepper Chicken at China Garden

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Monthly Feature, By Jarred Kibbey

Each month, Jarred highlights one of his favorite dishes from around Little Rock.

The second floor of the UALR Bowen School of Law Library likely still smells like Chinese food. Black Pepper Chicken to be more specific. Dinner meal D17 from China Garden to be exact.

I remember the first time I tried China Garden. It was during finals on my 2L year. We had been studying all day and we were stressed, tired, and hungry. A friend suggested we go get takeout from this Chinese place right down the road. I had driven by this restaurant a hundred times and nothing about its bright orange and unkempt exterior made me want to try it, so my response was, “no thanks, I would rather not get food poisoning.” They returned 15 minutes later and raving about the black pepper chicken, so I had to try a bite. I was hooked and demanded that we get takeout from there the very next day.

The chicken bits are perfectly fried and then tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. And like any good fried guilty pleasure, it is plenty salty. If you look closely at each piece, you can see small crystals of what I can only assume are salt or sugar. (note: I have other ideas of what these small crystals could be, but The Mighty Rib asked me to refrain from posting my thoughts). I recently went back there before writing this piece to see if it was like I remembered and it did not disappoint.

To say I ate this dish often in law school would be an understatement. I was a regular there. I frequented it so many times that once after winter break was over the owner asked where I had been. I wasn’t sure what he was getting at, so I asked. He simply responded, “I haven’t seen you, but I know school has started back, because I asked a professor if school wasn’t back in session of if you had graduated.”

Like many dishes that I truly love, I shared this with many classmates, who then shared it with others. During my last year of law school, you could find someone enjoying this dish somewhere in the library almost round the clock, if you didn’t see it being eaten, you could most certainly smell it. That is what I am confident that the smell of black pepper chicken still lingers in the Bowen Law Library.

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Buzz Word: Gumbo with Cheese Grits at Maddie’s Place

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BUZZ WORD … each month a word is posted over on The Mighty Rib Facebook page, followed with a request for reader suggestions centered-around the term. One of the suggestions is randomly picked, dish is eaten, and a review is written.

This month’s BUZZ WORD was “cheese.”

The cheese grits at Maddie’s Place, suggested by Dc, was chosen, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I had recently stole a few bites of Maddie’s shrimp and grits and was more than delighted with the outcome.

Dc recommended I order a bowl of gumbo, but instead of the inclusion of the standard rice, ask for a scoop of cheese grits. Cheese grits … in gumbo?!? Never heard of it, but this is Buzz Word, and if you suggest it, I do it.

And here’s how the conversation went down with our server.

Me: “I would like the gumbo, but instead of rice, I’d like some cheese grits.”
Server: (pause…stares at me) “That can be done.”

Boom!

Well, I honestly couldn’t be more delighted with the suggestion. Heck, I may never order gumbo any other way. The slightly spicy gumbo base had that classic burgundy/brownish hue, along with a deep richness imparted by the flavorful sausage. The creamy grits, once mixed into the gumbo, added a subtle coolness and thicker consistency to the dish. The chopped scallions on top were like icing on the cake.

Kudos, Dc … and thank you to everyone for all your suggestions!

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