Panda Noodle Express
In the odd moment of lunacy we do venture out to eat with our offspring in tow. This was one of those nights. Eating out with two young active boys has to be a military operation. Get in, order food rapidly, eat and get out before they can cause too much mayhem.
This slight pressure did mean I needed help when confronted with the extensive menu at Panda Express Noodles. It all looked good (except perhaps the duck feet, but who knows?) so I enlisted the help of the lovely waitress, to pick me some winners, and fast.
And she did. Dumplings with Sesame, Soy and Chilli sauce ($5), Dry-fried French beans with Minced pork ($13.50), Spicy diced chicken with peanuts ($13.50) and Beef fried rice for the kids ($9.80). As this is a Szechuan eating establishment – while we did eat in, restaurant would be a generous term – it all tends towards the higher levels of the Scoville scale so we ordered everything mildly spicy (except the kids’ meal where we specified no spice).
We’re glad we didn’t order any more piquant than that; the mild still packed a damn good punch. The dumplings had a thick, soft, pillowy, doughy outer and were bathed in a soy, sesame paste, chilli oil sauce. They were excellent with their soft cabbage and pork filling and spicy luscious sauce. You have to put aside any aversions to oily food if you’re going to eat Szechuan style. They are liberal with the chilli oil but oddly it gives no film or off-putting taste at all and while not a fan of excess oil in cooking, I really enjoyed this.
The beans were good but I’ve had this dish in a few places around town and this wasn’t my absolute favourite rendition of it. The beans were nice enough but the pork mince scattered through it seemed a bit heavy handed on the salt or soy (and this is coming from a self-confessed salt addict). What it did provide was a complementary flavour to the chilli in the other dishes – it had no spice – so we were glad we ordered it.
The chicken was the highlight of the night and I am still reliving it’s flavour. It’s hard to tell when the descriptions are all in English but it was definitely a Kung Pao style dish. It was a great balance of marinated cubed tender chicken, onions, courgettes and peanuts stir fried with dried chillies and I imagine a decent whack of garlic. It had the perfect amount of vinegar to add a wonderful tang to the spice. The tenderness of the chicken was a perfect contrast to the soft crunch of the peanuts, courgettes and onions. Despite the huge serving we couldn’t help but go back and back. It was a great dish, well executed.
The kids really enjoyed their fried rice and it was a good sized serving too. Happiness all round and out the door before anyone had a meltdown (parent or adult). Panda Noodle Express isn’t the sort of place I’d go for the atmosphere, but the food makes it worth a visit. It’s not terribly big and not going to win any prizes for style but the food is good, generous and tasty.