Just back from yet another disappointing “Asian” meal in Des Moines. in recent years, Des Moines restaurants in general have definitely improved but there are still some major holes in the offerings, especially when it comes to Asian food …especially Chinese. When I was a kid in the the 1960s and 70s, Chinese good was the major option available in suburban Detroit. Cantonese….I’m talking the kind of dishes mentioned in Jennifer 8. Lee’s wonderful 2008 book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles (a history of American Chinese food/restaurants that oddly begins and ends in Des Moines), dishes like egg foo young, egg rolls, sweet and sour pork, lo mein, General Tsu’s chicken, Mongolian beef, Kung Pao Chicken, Beef and Broccoli, Chow Mein…nothing too fancy. But the food seemed fresh, with real meat and vegetables.
Later in the 1970s, we started getting dishes like moo shu pork (photo above). But in Des Moines at least, Chinese has been overtaken by Thai and Vietnamese and of course sushi, which is probably the most available and, at a place or two, the best Asian option here. But our favorite Thai restaurant has gone downhill. The Vietnamese place everyone goes to here has never impressed us (we far prefer Saigon Market in Wichita. Yes Wichita.) And Chinese in Des Moines, well I give up after yet another bad meal last night. My major complaint has to do with the poor quality of the meat at Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. The Vietnamese restaurants’ pork tends to be gristly. At the Chinese and Thai places, the chicken and beef are so over tenderized that they hardly resemble meat. The texture is all wrong, sort of vapid, melt in your mouth. Ick. And the favors are either way too salty or way too sweet. And the sauces too thick and goopy.