Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chinese food in Estonia

You may be asking what our last meal was in Tallinn, since our food adventures have seemed so grand up to this point. You ask a question that has a very strange answer. Despite the fact that we had so much amazing fancy food, or maybe because of it, the last day we were in Tallinn my sister requested that we eat at a Chinese restaurant we had spotted in town.

Perhaps a bit homesick for something familiar, or just bored from eating so much feast meat, either way I wasn’t going to deny my sister Chinese food. I was also a little bit curious as well, since I’ve basically been devoid of Asian food since leaving the States.

The restaurant in question is near the entrance to Old Town – one China Inn.

Unreasonably cheap (as my sister would say), it looked oddly mixed with ingredients like, “Indian cashews,” and “Vietnamese sausage,” but generally speaking the dishes were recognizable. So, hopes not particularly high but still interested, we crossed the threshold into the dragon and waited for our Chinese fortunes to be foretold.

We ordered three dishes to share. The first was beef with eggplant.

Swimming in gravy and molten-lava hot, but pretty tasty all around. The eggplant was pleasantly deep-fried without having any heavy batter, and though the beef was an odd variety somewhere between ground and sliced, the texture wasn’t terrible and it wasn’t overcooked.

The second dish was simple green beans with mushrooms.

Once again swimming in gravy, and the green beans were obviously frozen (as they all seem to be here, for some reason), but not terrible. Better tasting than the frozen green beans I had picked up from the Asian grocery store in Helsinki, and covered in delicious garlic. I was beginning to think that maybe the gravy was just some sort of play on local cuisine that we just hadn’t discovered while here.

And the final dish, noodles with chicken.

Though tasty, this dish was only disappointing because it wasn’t what we were hoping it would be. My sister, absolute worshiper of dein mein (plainspeak: crunchy fried noodles with gravy and veggies), was hoping from the English description that this small restaurant would have such a specialty. The fact that this was not the coveted prize was not such a letdown, since it was still quite flavorful, but in the face of finding a favorite treat in a foreign land it would have been a welcome friendly face. Still, we nommed it all the same and it was fairly Chinese.

The verdict: not bad. Not great, by any stretch of the imagination, but passable. If I were living in Tallinn and needed to have my Chinese fix every now and then, I could see myself popping down to this place to get a little something here or there. It was good enough to bring the gravy-filled leftovers home with us on the ferry back to the Helsinki.

It brings up a question that I’m sure will come up as the months start to roll by in my time in Helsinki – will I be able to find nostalgic favorites that remind me of home? Or will I have to make do with what’s here and just enjoy what’s available? Either way, I’m sure I’ll find a solution that works.

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