Chiang's Gourmet is an unlikely place to find good Chinese food, hidden in a corner just off the freeway, miles north of Chinatown, in a rootbeer-keg shaped building that was once home to an A&W. Nonetheless, people have found it, as it's usually packed with giggling groups of UW students, big Chinese families, and couples sharing plates of the famous house-made noodles.
But even once you're inside, even though the kitchen is turning out dishes like excellent braised pork belly and terrific spicy beef tendon, Chiang's can still be a difficult place to find great Chinese food. Why?
Depending on the day of the week, the look of a party, the whim of a waitress, or any one of the other countless unknown reasons, a table might receive anywhere from one to three menus, not all of which have the good stuff on them. Even if all three menus are dropped on a table, the myriad options could overwhelm any eater. Here's a primer on how to make the most out of your meal.
The most common menu is the largest, featuring a variety of Americanized Chinese foods like General Tso's chicken, Mongolian beef, and egg rolls. This type of food has a time and a place, and that place is not here, where it's a poorly executed afterthought. Any number of people sent here in search of good food have misguidedly ordered from this menu and ended up confused as to why their friend recommended this restaurant—just check the Yelp reviews for proof.
The second menu is the green vegetarian menu. This is good if you are vegetarian. But for authenticity, and deliciousness-seeking omnivores, the third menu—"the "Chinese menu" — is the way to go. (If you go for the northern-style dim sum on weekends, there's a fourth menu, too).
Luckily for English-speakers, this Chinese menu is actually in English, but it can be overwhelming to figure out which dishes will land successfully. On the backside of the Chinese Menu is the "Szechuan Heaven" section, where a number of the house specialties are found.
Check out the slideshow for a photographic guide to the best things to order at Chiang's Gourmet, and let us know your standard order in the comments below!
All dishes are titled as they appear on the menu, typos included.
About the author: Naomi Bishop is a Seattle based food and travel writer. Find her wandering through words and worlds on her blog, TheGastroGnome, where she claims that being a GastroGnome is not about sitting idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages. Follow her explorations of cooking and culture around the world at @GastroGnome. Get restaurant suggestions and locate local eats in the Northwest from her app, Unique Eats of the Northwest.