Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 18. Dinner In Larned, Kansas. Peking Garden Chinese Restaurant.

As you know,
Mr. Hawthorne embarked on a diet
mere weeks before we left for our trip across country.

High protein.
Low carbs.

Can anybody say Portion Control?????

He thinks he's limited to the restaurants he can eat in.
Of course this is not this case.
You can find meat and acceptable vegetables
most anywhere.
Just lay off the pasta, bread, and fried foods.

But nooooooo.
Mr. Hawthorne has wanted to stop at every damn
China Mac restaurant across this country.
He thinks a buffet is the next best thing to white bread.
He likes the soups
and he can pick and choose appropriate meats and veggies.

Rosie is NOT a happy camper.
Of course, Mr. Hawthorne says
I can eat anywhere I want.
Yeah, right.
I can just see me at a Mexican restaurant
scarfing down chips and salsa
and eating a big-ass chili relleno or a chimichanga
while he sits in front of me, wide-eyed and drooling,
and possibly foaming at the mouth.

So Rosie, being the trooper she is,
has eaten more bad Chinese 
than she can shake a chopstick at.

The other afternoon,
our travels brought us to Larned, Kansas.
Mr. Hawthorne cheerfully tells me to pick a place for dinner.
I ask the girl at the front desk for suggestions
and she tells us there's a great Mexican place
right up the road.
Mr. Hawthorne says, behind clinched teeth,
 "That's great! Sure!  We'll have Mexican tonight.
I can just pick the meat out and not eat the tortillas.
That'll work!"

Again, yeah, right.

So we drive to the Mexican Restaurant
and right down the road is ...
you guessed it ...
 a Chinese restaurant.
I notice the twitch in his eye.
And I ask him,
"Do you want to check it out?
God knows we don't want to miss
a Chinese restaurant in Kansas."

A little too quickly,
he answers, "Well, if you really want to.
 I'll just run in and see if it's a buffet."

As God intended, 
it is indeed a buffet.

And that it is how we ended up at ...

... Peking Garden in Larned, Kansas.

I must admit,
it's a little rough on the outside,
but then, that's never bothered me before.
Some of the best places I've eaten on our travels
were holes in the wall.
The way I look at it,
if you don't spend a lot of money on bells and whistles,
then you can concentrate on what's important - the food.

Being the trooper I am,
I forge ahead,
stifling curses under my breath,
steadying myself for what I'm expecting to be another
"I told you so" moment.

I mean it's Chinese.
In Kansas, for crying out loud!

I'm expecting Buddha to appear prominently
in my dreams tonight,
and not in a good way.

Mr. Hawthorne immediately
heads to the buffet and gets soup and meats and veggies.

The waitress brings me this menu card
and asks if I would like to try the special - Pho,
instead of the buffet.

Why yes, I would, thank you very much.

For those of you who don't know what pho is
(pronounced to rhyme with duh not dough),
then you have missed out on one of the great pleasures of life.
Pho is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup,
served with beef (pho bo)
or chicken (pho ga)
along with additional garnishes.
It originated in the early 1900s
in northern Vietnam where the cooks
aimed to please both Vietnamese tastes
and French tastes, hence the beef.
In Vietnam,
 cows were beasts of burden before the French arrived,
not generally a source of beef.
The origin of the word pho
(again, pronounced fuh)
is up for speculation.
Many believe the name comes from the French feu (fire)
as in the dish pot-au-feu, a French beef stew,
which typically uses cartilaginous meats such as oxtails or marrowbones.

I've had pho before
and it's always been heavy-handed.
This pho was done with a delicate, fine hand.

Upon being served,
I was instructed by my waitress
to reach in with both spoon and fork
and bring up and blend whatever goodness had settled to the bottom.
As I did so,
the heady aroma tickled, teased, and seduced my olefactory senses. 

I watched Mr. Hawthorne.
His nose was twitching.

Very simply put,
pho is God's Phood.

I'll be making this when I get home,
but first I need the proper vessel for service.
Rosie makes a mental note to be on the lookout
for pretty Chinese bowls.

Let me try to describe this.
And please know there's no way I can do this justice.

The broth is rich, heady beefiness.
It is sensuous.
There are some robust meatballs in there
and I have red onion, scallions, sliced beef,
cilantro, Thai basil, green peppers, and bean sprouts
all in a hot beef broth.
The flavors are complex, yet delicate.
There's a depth of flavor
that is indescribable. 
And there are flavors I simply can't ID.
Is there star anise in here?

I was asked when ordering did I want mild or spicy.
 I always opt for spicy.
I got spicy, but it was, again, delicate.
Delicate heat.
Exquisitely fine and subtle.
Pleasing heat.
A spicy heat that kissed my lips.
And I have no idea where the heat came from.
I saw nothing in the broth,
like a red pepper, that would indicate heat.
But that sort of heat would be crass.
This was refined heat.

This pho was pure elegance.

The best pho I've ever had.
In Kansas!

Peking Garden Chinese Restaurant
621 Edwards
Larned, KS  67550

Michael Duy Tran, Owner
Rebecca Ngoc Nguyen

I thank you Mr. Tran and Ms. Nguyen
for one of the most delicious meals I've had.
And I thank you, Mr. Hawthorne for your damn diet,
since we never would have ended up here otherwise.

Mr. Tran and Ms. Nguyen,
if you would like to send me your recipe for this soup,
I would be forever grateful.


Lea said...

I am so glad you haven't had to kill Mr. Hawthorne yet. You have far more patience than I would ; )

EAM said...

Rosie, on your way back you should stop here. There are several big Vietnamese/Asian grocery stores where you can buy the dishes. Vietnamese food is about my favorite and it is very light and non-oily. You need the herbs to do it right. I love it but stopped cooking it because Little EAM didn't like it. Oh, and v/n sandwiches are up there with oyster po'boys for sheer bliss.

Anonymous said...

I guess you are now to far west to check out HORTON,KS about 100 miles NNM of Kansas City.. Don Werner of Werner Wagon Works there has built 3 great wagons for me- Box, Spring & Chuck.. He & his wife do reinactments & would be worth a stop for a nice visit-Brother Hawthorne

Marilyn said...

I'm so glad that you finally got another decent meal on your Great American Journey.

Silly Mr. Hawthorne for not realizing that he can get his high protein diet needs at restaurants other than China Macs. You are in beef country now. You should try steak houses. Or some of those brew pubs that I was looking up online that are out west.

Hang in there, Rosie!

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Mar, I just had a filet mignon in Dodge City that was To.Die.For. If only they had made the fries extra crispy.

I'm in Colorado now and I want spring lamb!

Marilyn said...

What, didn't they understand what extra crispy meant? Obviously, the US public school system is to blame! Or not.

Once I asked for extra crispy and I got still frozen! That restaurant didn't get a good review from me.