The Great Chinese Food Search

Mar 2, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Food Fun, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, The Great Food Search

by Terrance Mc Arthur

O, the life of a roving food critic!

I’ve been to upscale restaurants, simple restaurants, Middle Eastern food, Mexican seafood, Salvadoran, burger joints, taco wagons, and now…..Chinese Food in Sanger!

The plan was: order Fried Rice, Pork Chow Mein, Sweet & Sour Pork, and Shrimp for judging at each location. Take notes on other dishes and the atmosphere. Go to independent restaurants (Sorry, Panda Express!), and see what happens.

Tea Garden, 1335-10th St., Sanger. 559-875-4335.

What’s it like?—Tucked in behind Super Burger, off of Academy Avenue, it has soft lighting, red lanterns hanging from the ceiling, small booths, a mirrored wall to give a more spacious feeling to the interior, and large photo-posters of Muhammad Ali hitting people.

Pork Fried Rice, Chicken Chow Yuk, and Sweet and Sour Pork from Sanger's Tea Garden Restaurant.

We ordered: Family Style Dinner, $7.90/person

We received: Soup, Pork Chow Mein, Chicken Chow Yuk, Fried Shrimp, Sweet & Sour Pork, Fried Rice, Egg Roll, Won Tons
How was it?—The rice was molded in a flan shape with crumbles of pork on top. The chow mein was very soft, with flavorful slabs of pork. The Sweet & Sour was soft, with a nice crust. The shrimp were battered and stretched out, like they had been tortured on The Rack.

Extra stuff: The Egg Flower soup was toasty and warm. The chow yuk had a sauce that was nice over rice, and included some massive canned mushrooms. The egg rolls were crunchy, and the meal ended with a sugary, syrupy, twisted won ton instead of a fortune cookie.

Pork Chow Mein, Egg Rolls, and Fried Shrimp from Sanger's Tea Garden Restaurant.

China House, 251 Academy Ave., Sanger. 559-875-8838.

What’s it like?—Between Subway and DiCicco’s near the closed Save Mart, it features Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s small, friendly, bright, and very clean.

We ordered:
Plate B—Broccoli Beef, Egg Roll, Chow Mein, Steamed Rice, $4.50; Plate C—Sweet & Sour Pork, Egg Roll, Chow Mein, Fried Rice, $4.99; (6) Shrimp, 5.99; (8) Cream Cheese Fried Won Ton, $4.25.

Take-out from China House in Sanger, Those mammoth round things are shrimp

We received: All that, and fortune cookies.

How was it?—The rice was soft, with carrots, peas, and eggs, but not gooey or gamey. The chow mein had soft, friendly noodles with little bits of carrots and cabbage, with a light overlay of flavor. The Sweet & Sour, which wasn’t super-chewy, had a tangy sauce over the meat, onions, Bell peppers, and pineapple. The shrimp…Wow!…on a small bed of cabbage, were flattened (possibly by a steamroller?) into 4-inch disks with a coating that was crumb-y, but not crummy, and went well with the dipping sauce (repurposed from the S&S).

The happy guy must have tried the food at the China House Restaurant in Sanger.

Extra stuff: The Fried Won Tons were crispy and creamy, and the filling was dotted with spots of seafood and green onion. The steamed rice cried out for soy sauce or that lovely S&S sauce, which really perks up the not-too-crunchy egg roll. The Broccoli Beef was soft and tasty, and the broccoli was GREEN, yet tender, and my fortune cookie contained: Beauty is [should be “in”] its various forms appeals to you…so I guess that means I’m a dirty old man.

Toap Garden, 2644 Jensen Ave., Sanger. 559-875-7920

What’s it like?—Part of Sanger’s Westgate shopping center, along with Me-n-Ed’s and Dollar Tree and 99? Only, Toap Garden doesn’t look very exciting. The floor could use work, there are old beer signs and posters on the walls, and six little koi swim around in what used to be a buffet cart. There’s a TV by the register, and a table full of Chinese newspapers for people waiting for their take-out orders. It’s an easy-going, mom-and-pop kind of place.
We ordered: The “D” Family Dinner, $8.35/person; Wor Won Ton Soup, $6.35.

We received:
Fried Shrimp, BBQ Pork Chow Mein, Fried Rice, Kung Pao Chicken, Hunan Beef, S&S Pork, Paper Wrapped Chicken, and the Wor Won Ton Soup.

Look at the loaded bowl of Wor Won Ton Soup from Toap Garden in Sanger...after several people had grabbed servings!

How was it?—The rice has nice chunks of pork, veggies, and such. The chow mein was alternately soft and crispy with strips of pork happily strewn through it. The S&S sauce wasn’t overpoweringly sweet or thick, a delicate taste; get down past the thin breading, and your teeth will sinfully sink into chewy, succulent pork. The shrimp have a thick coating, but it’s not too crunchy.

Open the foil packet of Paper-Wrapped Chicken at Toap Garden and ...Behold! The Chicken!

Extra stuff: Wor Won Ton Soup is a meal in itself, with shrimp, pork, chicken, chicken-packed won ton wrappers, disks of carrot, and hunks of broccoli doing a liquid ballet in a clear broth. The Paper Wrapped Chicken will burn your fingers getting the meat out of the foil pouch; it’s hot and falling apart, and is a chicken’s answer to BBQ tri-tip.

The Hunan Beef and Kung Pao Chicken are hotsy-totsy, putting your mouth on two-alarm alert; watch out for the little slices of pepper—they are lethal!


Best place for a quiet, romantic evening—Tea Garden.
Best place to take a large, noisy group of friends/family—Toap Garden.
Best place for quick take-out—China House.
And the winner is…China House! The speed of service was surprising, and I want to go back to try the Vietnamese dishes like the pho soups.

What are the best Chinese restaurants in YOUR town? I’m eager to try them.

Check out more food articles in our Food Fun section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.


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