Ah, Chinese takeout. I’ve written about it before.
Something is comforting about a leaky, greasy Kraft paper takeout box full of fluorescent stir fry. But as food costs continue rising, you need to know you’re not going to waste your money on a bag full of heartburn and broken dreams.
No demographic is more affected by this than college students, and that’s where Red Ginger, at 1208 Maple St. — right on the edge of Sehome Hill and hordes of hungry, broke 19-year-olds — comes in.
The spatially aware among you may realize this is the former location of New Peking, a recently closed Chinese restaurant with a 37-year run. My decision to do this as takeout, not dine-in, was due to the majority of Chinese food consumed being takeout or delivery. My dedication to the art of the review meant eating food the way you, the people, do is a matter of necessity.
Securely packaged, Red Ginger omits the takeout box for much sturdier polyethylene containers. Munching on my spring rolls ($4.95 for an order of two), I contemplated the mountain of food ahead of me.
The spring rolls were excellent. They had a crispy exterior, but the vegetables inside remained snappy and fresh. I had to resist eating them both to focus on the task at hand. I opted to adopt the methodology used when sampling groundwater — least to most contaminated, or in this case, least to most spicy.
The jasmine rice ($2) did not have any spice and was the perfect accompaniment to the orange chicken ($17.50), a classic American Chinese dish — one Red Ginger made exceedingly well. Distinct pieces of orange zest gave a “realness” to the orange flavor often lacking in orange chicken. This is a decidedly upscale take on a classic dish.
Moving on up, the pineapple shrimp fried rice ($19.95), ordered “mild hot,” had, in my mind, the perfect spice level to be shoveled into one’s mouth. While technically a Thai dish, the beauty of the American Chinese restaurant is the willingness to bring together multiple cuisines under one culturally androgynous roof. The shrimp was plump and generously provided, the pineapple juicy, and the whole dish was abundant in curry powder and cashews. Pineapple fried rice is always one of my favorites. Red Ginger executed it well.
Something for the vegetarians among us was the chili garlic tofu with green beans ($16.95). This finally started to cause a little heat to develop. I’m a huge fan of green beans and of garlic, and this dish had both in droves. Covered in sliced garlic, the beans were cooked just enough to take the allium burn down without making them so soft there wasn’t any texture left. The tofu wasn’t crispy, but it was marinated well and was toothsome enough to make up for the lack of crisp.
Finally, the hottest item and my favorite of the night, I ordered the beef in hot sauce “very hot spicy” ($20.75). I believe this is a lightly adapted version of “Shui Zhu Niu Rou,” Sichuan “boiled beef.”
The beef is cooked in an aromatic chili bean and ginger broth before being layered atop lettuce and finished with a pour of hot chili oil. An absolute knockout dish, this one had me openly and vigorously sweating, even as I attempted to consume every ounce as rapidly as possible. The beef was tender with no gristle and the broth was flavorful and oh-so-spicy.
I could probably eat this one every day until I die, which, sadly, might be soon due to dehydration caused by intense sweating.
I finished the meal off with a few sesame balls ($5.75) filled with sweet red bean paste — a tasty end to a very good meal. Over the next couple of days, I got to test the re-heatability of all the above dishes, and I can say that it was all fantastic.
For science’s sake, I tried the fried rice directly from the box at 2 a.m., illuminated only by the light of the fridge. Even cold, it was also tasty. Everything I tried at Red Ginger was a knockout, keeping the legacy of New Peking alive.
While I can’t guarantee it will get 37 years like its predecessor did, I’ve no doubt its run will be filled with many happy customers.
Red Ginger is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday–Saturday at 1208 E. Maple St. Info: redgingerbellingham.com.