Tag Archives: rockville

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Kicking Off Chinese New Year with China Bistro’s Dumplings

Xin Nian Kuai Le — Happy Chinese New Year!

It’s the year of the snake, although I’m not sure of the snake’s horoscope characteristics. Please consult your local Chinese restaurant placemats.

To celebrate the holiday, a few friends and I ventured out of the District into the ‘burbs of Rockville for a dumpling lunch at China Bistro.  Dumplings (jiaozi) are considered good luck at Chinese New Year because they resemble the shape of gold ingots.

We arrived a little after 11am, before the restaurant had filled up.  By the time we left, all the tables were taken and waiting customers were eyeing ours. I’d advise going early to beat the rush.

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An order of scallion pancakes.  They were okay, nothing particularly memorable.

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The same could not be said for the eggplant in a tremendous garlic sauce.

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Temperature hot, spicy hot (note the red chili pepper), and with a deep, rich sauce that screamed for rice. This dish was a winner.

From what I’ve read, the main attraction at China Bistro are its twelve varieties of homemade dumplings, with fillings to suit any taste.

Two in our group opted for the vegetarian route, sharing the boiled vegetable dumplings. The other three of us shared two platters of the popular Mama’s special dumplings, filled with ground pork, shrimp, napa cabbage and chives.

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Twelve to a platter. In retrospect it would have made sense to order one boiled platter, and one pan-fried, but when they’re this fresh, I almost think boiled is the better way to go.

Mama’s special dumplings lived up to their billing.  The tender dough was the perfect thickness, and the tasty filling was juicy with broth (much like a soup dumpling).  Dipped into a combo of soy sauce, vinegar and hot sauce, our dumplings disappeared in a hurry.

I don’t think the same enthusiasm was shared for the vegetable dumplings, which were met with a more tepid response.  I saw the filling and it did look dry and humdrum compared to Mama’s special dumplings.  No broth?  Unless you’re a vegetarian, maybe stick with Mama’s.

You know you’re not in DC anymore when the bill arrives. With tax and tip, $10.50 per person. For all that food?  Super, super affordable.

Next Saturday is Rockville’s Chinese New Year parade. Go for the parade, and while you’re in Rockville, make a pit stop for a few dumplings.

China Bistro
755 Hungerford Dr.
Rockville, MA
301-294-0808

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A Trip to Maryland’s Asian Supermarkets

When I first heard that D.C. didn’t have much in the way of Asian supermarkets, my heart sank. As silly as it sounds, finding one was a high priority, along with seeking out good running/cycling routes and a decent movie theater. In NY, shopping at the Asian supermarket, Kam Sen, was part of my regular routine. Almost every weekend I loaded up on Chinese vegetables, canned goods and staples like dry spiced tofu and noodles. Life without Asian groceries? That wouldn’t do.

So it’s with great relief to write this post about these three markets in Maryland. Each requires roughly a 25-minute drive, but hey, I’ll take it. At least I know I can get what I need.

Here are a few first impressions:

Maxim: (not the men’s magazine)

Some reviewers said that Maxim was dark and not as clean as the other markets. The owners must have read that and adjusted accordingly; I found the store to be well lit and adequately clean as Asian markets go. All the necessities were there: canned items, sauces, oils, produce, rice, noodles, frozen goods, meats and seafood. Meat prices were reasonable — for example, pork loin for $3.29/lb, flank steak for $5.29/lb — and I saw several customers ordering fish from the fish tank.

Shelves were well stocked, there was an adequate selection of exotic and unrecognizable items, and I even spotted durian and chow fun noodles (the one thing my NY market shockingly never seemed to carry. Either that, or no one could ever explain to me where they were.)

At the front of the store is a hot food bar.  To me, the food here didn’t look the freshest, like it’d been sitting for a while (this was around 3pm). But there were plenty of people queuing up to order, so I’m sure it was fine.

Finally, like every Asian market I’ve ever shopped at, the service was gruff.  The cashier barked at me to place my items on the conveyor belt, and my wide smile and enthusiastic “hello” were met with stony silence. Oh well, I tried. And I’ll continue to try until someone finally smiles back, dammit.

Kam Sam

This store appears to be Maxim’s rival. It’s only minutes away, and I believe it’s newer than Maxim. But actually, on the inside both stores look almost identical: about the same size with similar items, lighting and layout. Though Kam Sam’s seafood selection did appear larger and the meat case better stocked.

And the hot food bar looked more appealing and fresher to me than Maxim’s. I would have picked up some hot food to go if I hadn’t been making one more stop.

Korean Korner

The largest of the three stores, more like a regular supermarket.. And not just Asian goods here — Hispanic, African, etc. These corn tortillas looked good.

Big selection of kimchi.

And a serious assortment of sauces, pastes, condiments and oils.

There’s also a sit-down area up front where you can order Korean dishes.

Korean Korner had the largest selection of produce of the three stores, but from what I saw, many of the greens and herbs were wilted. They looked old and tired. Smaller meat and seafood selection too. And the store itself was the grungiest of the three. Definitely didn’t feel as clean.

My haul for the day: oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, spiced dry tofu, sesame seeds, rice vermicelli, Asian pears, bok choy, ginger, garlic and scallion cakes. Of the three markets, I liked Kam Sam the best. It was fully stocked, parking was easy, and the hot food bar contained dishes I’d definitely order.

From what I’ve read, there are even more markets to explore, both in Maryland and in Virginia. Eventually, I plan on making my way to all of them.  For Asian groceries, you go where to need to go.

Maxim
460 Hungerford Dr.
Rockville, MD
301-279-0110

Kam Sam
300 N. Washington St.
Rockville, MD
301-315-9558

Korean Korner
12207 Veirs Mill Rd.
Silver Spring, MD
301-933-2000