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EL PASO, TX--Oriental Cafe
Aug. 19, 2013: Note: This is a reprint from my 2007 articles about special Cantonese style dishes at Oriental Cafe in El Paso. The last time I visited Oriental Cafe was in 2010, and at that time I was still able to get the type of authentic Cantonese style food described in this article (Oriental Cafe, Red Lantern, and Moon Star were the only restaurants where I had much success ordering this type of food). In fact, from 2007 to 2010 there was an increase in the number of authentic Cantonese dishes on Oriental Cafe's menu, and special requests seemed to be much more readily available. The following photos give an idea of the type of food that is available, and I believe that if you have a special request there is a good chance Oriental Cafe will be able to provide it.

Jun. 14, 2007:  El Paso, TX. Special Cantonese Style Dishes at Oriental Cafe. Oriental Cafe is gradually introducing authentic Cantonese style dishes to the menu. The main problems seem to be that customers are not familiar with the food so that they want to order it, many of the ingredients are not available or are only occasionally available, and some of the food is more difficult to prepare than the standard stir-fried and deep fried dishes which are the big sellers at Oriental Cafe and other Chinese restaurants.

As a volunteer "test subject" I have been able to sample some of these dishes that I thought were as good as they were interesting. If there is enough interest with other customers, some of these might be made available on a more regular basis. Both of the owners of Oriental Cafe seem to be very good cooks. However, Winnie, the wife, has been particularly interested in experimenting with some of the same dishes that are served in the Cantonese style restaurants of California.

Slow cooked pork ribs with black bean sauce and mustard greens

Pork ribs with black bean sauce made a tasty treat, and the vegetables made it more so. This type of meat takes a long time to cook, and is available in many west coast restaurants if you give them advance notice.

Lettuce wrap with shrimp and a special dipping sauce

Lettuce wraps with shrimp were delicious, and they were even better with a special dipping sauce that Winnie makes.

Steamed fish with black bean sauce

Whole steamed fish with black bean sauce was one of the more delicious dishes I have tried.

A light soup with spinach and tofu

A light soup with spinach and tofu does not take as long to prepare as some of the other soups, but the problem in El Paso is finding suitable vegetables. Some other types of vegetables can be substituted, such as mustard greens.

Chinese vegetable soup with carrots

The owners usually make a daily soup with whatever ingredients are avialable. This time it was carrots.

Pepper beef with cabbage

Pepper beef is usually available to order. This was a different twist, though, with cabbage added as a vegetable.

Chicken with lotus leaf

I like anything made with lotus leaf, such as this chicken dish.

Dumpling with pork and preserved vegetables

The dumpling with pork and preserved vegetables is sometimes served in the lunch buffet. It is a special treat, though, with the restaurant's home made dipping sauce.

Seaweed soup is served cold

In hot weather cold soups are good, such as this soup made with seaweed that is cooked until it becoms soft. The soup is allowed to cool and served either for dessert or the last course in the meal.

Buddha would have jumped over a wall for this soup

This soup was named "Buddha Jumps Over the Wall" because, as the story goes, Buddha smelled the soup cooking and it was so good he jumped over a wall to get it. Although he was a vegetarian, the soup had so many good ingredients that he could not resist this soup made with several kinds of meat. The ones in China include shark's fin, an ingredient that I do not think is available in El Paso. The soup I tried had a complex mixture of other ingredients, though, such as abalone, scallops, ginseng, and bamboo shoots. The soup takes about a day to cook, which explains why the owners do not have the urge to prepare it very often.

May 17, 2007:  El Paso, TX. Chinese Cold Soup at Oriental Cafe.

Cold soup with yellow fungus

Since this blog focuses on reporting different types of food and opportunities for finding them, I was interested when I was served a soup I had never tried before. I do not know its name, but I was told it is popular in California. The soup is good hot when it is first prepared, but afterward is usually served cold, as it was to me. When served cold it is usually eaten after the meal, and its sweet flavor makes a good dessert. The swirly looking matter is yellow fungus that is packaged dry. Many Chinese dishes have an enhanced flavor by using dried ingredients that are then reconstituted when prepared, and I am sure this fungus would taste much different if eaten fresh. Dried fungus is an integral part of Chinese cooking, with black fungus being one of the most important ingredients in hot and sour soup. The cold soup pictured below was rounded out with some plums and mushrooms, for a very refreshing treat.

Feb. 18, 2007:  El Paso, TX. Chinese New Year.

Silken Tofu and Lilly Flowers with Beef on the side served at Oriental Cafe in El Paso
For the New Year Oriental Cafe had prepared a traditional vegetarian dish Silken Tofu and Lilly Flowers that was served with snow peas, fungus, and a specially cooked tofu. The lilly flowers were mixed into clear noodles so that it almost seemed like a "clear" or transparent food, fitting in with the theme of eating vegetables for the purpose of cleansing the body. I thought it was a taste sensation that I hope to be able to enjoy in the future.

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