Thursday, May 28, 2020
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Dumplings that melt in your mouth

There’s nothing like the memories of your first taste of a particular food that blows you away, turns your life upside down and spoils you for life because it was that good. As I venture through the world and tastes that is Asian cuisine–constantly returning to the tried and true–and venturing to try new things, I’m in heaven, simply because I love Asian flavors. Actually in Nassau, when I want Asian, I head to one place–East Villa Restaurant on East Bay Street, but on a recent trip to Freeport, Grand Bahama, I had an opportunity to dine at China Beach, an Asian restaurant at the Our Lucaya Beach& Golf Resort, and I now wish that restaurant was in Nassau so that I could eat there every day.

It’s a menu that’s smaller than I’m accustomed to at Asian restaurants, but it pulled items from all spectrums of Asian cuisine from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Japan in its offerings. As I perused the menu, I just knew that I was going to order dumplings which I like to refer to as delicious little pockets of joy. At China Beach, they offer two types–the Gyoza(fried pork and vegetable dumplings with ponzu sauce) and Jing Wor Tip(steamed pork and vegetable dumplings with a garlic chili dipping sauce). I knew I was going to get my dumplings steamed, because for me there’s nothing more satisfying than an order of steamed dumplings. It’s a satisfaction that I just don’t get from fried, although they do taste good as well.

As my eyes roamed the Rice and Noodles portion of the menu in search of an entree, the words Thai-style Fried Rice with Seafood(wok fired rice with eggs, conch, shrimp, mixed vegetables, onions, scallions, fish sauce and Tom Yam paste), made my heart begin to beat a mile a minute. The last time I’d had Thai Fried Rice was 10 years ago while in Australia. And it isn’t a dish that I’ve ever seen on any Asian restaurant menu in Nassau in all that time. But seeing those words transported me back to the year 2000 and of me roaming the streets of Sydney in search of culinary pleasures and coming across a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant that was on a back street from my hotel. I’d ventured in one evening out of curiosity, ordered takeout of Thai Fried Rice with a side of Thai Fried Chicken Wings to take back to my hotel(wouldn’t have dared to sit in the place, it was a little scary)and it was a meal that changed my life. It was spicy and delicious. At least that is what my memories(remember now that was 10 years ago)are off that meal. For the three weeks that I spent Down Under I got my fill of that little hole-in-the-wall Thai place, but the memories of that meal have long lingered. It’s a taste I’ve been searching for ever since. There was an Asian place that had opened on West Bay Street and has since closed that offered Thai wings on their menu, which I made a mistake of ordering just once in search of recreating my Australian high. Those wings were such a disappointment. They were just wings with some sort of oily sauce on it and not fried crisp and spiced with red pepper flake for that kick like I’d expected.

But I do digress, I ordered the Thai-style Fried Rice with Seafood, at China Beach and even though there Thai fried wings weren’t listed on the menu, I just had to ask if I could get an order by any chance. The chef was quite apologetic but told me that I couldn’t as they didn’t have chicken wings. I ordered the That Fried Rice spicy, and then perused the menu to figure out what meat I’d have with it. Seeing that I always order Walnut Chicken at East Villa, and know that it’s a dish and flavors that I love, I went out on a limb, skipping over the Stir-fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts on the China Beach menu for the Wok Stir Fried Lobster Tail just to get myself out of my Asian rut. Actually the Wok Stir Fried Lobster Tail was new to the menu, according to the chef, so I thought to give it a whirl over the Honk Kong Roast Duck which also caught my attention.

Can I just say right off the bat that I’ve had dumplings and I’ve had dumplings and the China Beach dumplings were the best I’ve ever had. The wappers were silky and delicate and practically melted in my mouth. And the garlic chili dipping sauce added just the right amount of heat. I’m a dumpling lover, but I’d never had dumplings that good until I’d had them at China Beach. If I knew someone that was flying in from Freeport, I’d have them order me a batch and bring them to Nassau–they were that good.

The Thai-style Fried Rice which the chef stir fried with fish sauce actually transported me back to my time at that hole-in-the-wall in Australia. For those that don’t know, fish sauce is one of the basic ingredients in Thai cooking and is used liberally in nearly all Thai dishes. It is made from a mixture of fish and salt that has been fermented for a year to 18 months. And if you’ve ever opened a bottle and taken a quick sniff, the scent will send you running for the hills. It’s that bad. But for some reason, when fish sauce is mixed with food, you don’t get the awful scent, all you get is delicious goodness. And that fish sauce did a really good job on that Thai-style Fried Rice with Seafood. It was actually so good that the focus of my meal ended up being the rice. I could have cared less about the lobster that I’d ordered, because in true lobster fashion, the flavor of the crustacean meat really overpowered the Asian influences, so it was a dish that I can give or take.

The next time I’m in Grand Bahama, China Beach is a must do stop for me. You should make the time to eat there the next time you’re in the second city. You will not be disappointed.

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