Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Glory of Chin Yen

After a very recent medical procedure, I was really ready to finally eat something wonderful and easy on one's digestive system: nothing hot & spicy, nothing difficult to manage, just some really nice comfort food. While I was resting up at home, my dear husband went to pick up some Chinese food.
Chin Yen is one of our favorite restaurants. The food is wonderful, reasonably priced, and the service is fast and professional. It is near the Laurelhurst Theater, so one can pop in for a movie and come out to eat there, or vice versa. Chin Yen has been in the same NE 28th location for many, many years -- as long as I can remember, and I have been living here in Portland, Oregon for some 34 years.
There is a vast selection of menu items, and I am extremely partial to their Seaweed Soup. For this jaunt, however, I opened the package and it contained what was immediately apparent to me was not Seawood Soup, but rather, Seafood Soup; a forgivable error. It was a slight miscommunication, since the two names sound so similar. Indeed, it was very forgivable especially because the soup was so delicious and comforting. I'd never had it before because I was always in my seaweed soup rut. What a nice surprise! Do try their Seaweed Soup also, though, because it is very tasty with many vegetables, bits of beef, a delicious broth, and -- my favorite -- black mushrooms which taste mysteriously like shiitake shrooms. In fact, they are. (More on that story in another blog; I'll tell you about the Lover's Eggplant story, too. We've acquired a bit of Chin Yen history over the years of going there.) I used to go to Yen Chang on SW 12th downtown, just for their seaweed soup. It closed years ago, and I found in Chin Yen the nearest replica.
Steve had General Tsao Chicken, which is a tangy, tasty chicken breaded and fried, as many of you know. It is nearly as familiar a menu item in Chinese restaurants as Kung Pao Chicken. I'd asked for the Bean Curd with Shrooms, a delectable dish. They deep-fry the triangular-cut bean curd, then stir-fry them all up with mushrooms and vegetables. It's a tasty vegetarian venture if you're not in the mood for, or don't eat, meat. We had white rice to pad it all into our stomachs, and last, but, I'm afraid, least, were the spring rolls. They were the only disappointment in this go-round, well layered, deep fried, but nary a spring vegetable in them -- only pork, and very little of that. I returned to the soup and finished with a sated feeling of bliss.
There is something very comforting about Chin Yen's food for Steve and I. We know we will rarely be disappointed, and sometimes one can try something new and adventurous, secure in the knowledge that it will be good food. For instance, I tried a special of shrimp with lobster sauce, all very fresh, stir-fried fare. Or the shrimp with fresh asparagus, in season. They have Shark Fin Soup on occasion, for a boisterous culinary adventure. I haven't had that kind of soup in 30+ years, so I can only say that in the hands of Chin Yen, it is a safe bet.
The restaurant offers specials, often written up on a separate flyer contained within the menu, and though their decor isn't flashy, the surroundings are modest, the booths and tables are comfortable, and they have fortune cookies.