sublime fried ricePosted: April 11, 2012
In Cleveland you can exit off of I 271 to Chagrin blvd and pass the pricy outer ring suburb houses and their expensive schools and shopping malls as you drive East toward the city. You pass Warrensville Road and enter Shaker Heights where the houses are older, grander. Some mansions tell the story of when Shaker was the most prosperous community in the country, but those days are passing. Still the neighborhoods remain proud, with fine lawns and tulips in red and yellow standing brilliant testimony to days of past glory. The big oak and maple trees are beginning to leaf and the last flowers of dogwood and crabapple trees linger.
Still farther down you will find one more shopping strip, where the high end bicycle shop has long since closed, but the other shops and restaurants still proudly flaunt their wares. Much farther East will take you where you might not want to go, inevitably ending in the “hood”, but my destination is in the shopping strip lining the road.
East China has been there for a long time, started by three brothers of Vietnamese extraction, now only two remain. I have been going there for over a decade first with friends for work and now with my daughter on weekends when we can get away. I assume the standard fare is tasty but it has been many years since I have eaten anything there but their fried rice. Pork fried rice with hot sauce. One little pint filled to over flowing, so hot and spicy that the scent makes your eyes water in the car as you bring it home. It is so spicy, my wife won’t eat it, and the little carton is two meals for my daughter, but for me, one perfect greasy tasty meal that leaves me with a warm glow in my belly.
Fried rice is standard fare, rice, scallions, small pieces of pork. What they do that makes each bite burst with flavor, the pork tastes of Chinese barbecued rib and although I have searched in Chicago in many places, I have never tasted its equal. A bite of rice, a sip of Vernor’s ginger ale, repeat.
My favorite memory there happened a couple of years ago. Megan my daughter and I walked in the middle of a big argument between older brother in the kitchen and younger brother taking orders. Younger brother yap yaping like a little dog and older brother roaring like a lion.
“Yap yap” at older brother, “Can I take your order?”
“Two pork fried rice extra spicy”
Younger brother calls the order back. Older brother growls in acknowledgement. Silence reigns.
Megan and I stand and watch. Older brother’s shoulders tense as he empties the prepared contents into the wok. His face is distorted in anger and he roars and growls toward younger brother. This is all happening in Vietnamese or Chinese, and all we know is we can taste the fury.
“Growl, yap yap”, I am thinking he has knives, he will massacre us all. He is slamming the lids on the wok, and his utensils ring like smith’s hammer on a red hot sword. This is cooking with rage. One minute later, we have our two pints of pork fried rice.
“Thank you very much, see you next time”, younger brother tells us.
We leave with the spiciest best tasting fried rice ever, $3.75 per pint.