This whole business of eating out, I mean, regularly eating out, is something our kids have always done without thinking.
But for most of us who are Over Fifty, eating out is still considered somewhat of a treat.
My mom married my step-dad when I was in 5th grade, and our family doubled overnight. It was 1971, and we were part of the 30% of American families who were becoming known as “blended.”
Blended is such a mild term for that process.
In my experience, putting two separate, worn out dysfunctional families together under the same roof, sharing bedrooms, bathrooms and a refrigerator was actually more like beating a cake mix at full speed with a hand mixer than blending a refreshing smoothie.
The Brady Bunch made it look easy, though, and by golly, if they could do it, so could we.
So we whipped up a few of our own new “blended” traditions and life did smooth out a little.
Sundays were especially good at our house.
My mom would put the roast on the stove or in the oven before we went to church. By the time we got back home, the whole house smelled of its slow-simmered goodness.
We ate at home every other day of the week, too, and, again, something delicious was always on the menu. Like Mom’s enchilada casserole, or her recipe for pork ribs, cooked in the pressure cooker on a bed of sauerkraut.
Who cared about eating out when at-home-cooking was so wonderful?
And besides, taking seven people out to eat on any kind of regular basis would have totally broken the Farmer Family Bank.
Most families I knew were just exactly like us. They ate at home, too.
If I went home with friends from church, their moms would be rustling up the same kind of grub we had at our house. Meat, potatoes, and something yummy for dessert.
But, as I said, our family was starting some new traditions. We were coming up with ways to get along while we got to know each other. And we were also doing our best to make memories that would give us something good to look back on in the years to come.
One of those new traditions was eating out for Mamaw’s birthday.
Every February 26th, or whatever Sunday was closest to it, Mamaw got a well-deserved break from peeling potatoes and enjoyed one of her favorite things in all the world.
Since Mamaw’s last name was “Howe” we made a big deal out of celebrating her birthday at a place called Ding How.
It wasn’t anything fancy. Just a regular Chinese restaurant on the Boulevard.
It had a large sign situated in the middle of a tall, red Japanese-style pagoda, and a parking lot filled with tumbleweeds and black tar in squiggly stripes where the asphalt needed repair.
It seems like the menu was limited to about three traditional Chinese entrees. Chop suey, chow mein, and my mom’s favorite, egg foo yung.
Whatever I got wasn’t memorable enough to remember it. I mean, it must have good food, because people came from far and wide to eat there and celebrate all manner of occasions.
But, here’s the thing.
From Ding How in Amarillo to Wu Chow in Austin, Chinese food has come a long way, baby.
Wu Chow Ain’t Ding How
I love saying “ain’t” sometimes, especially when it fits. Like when an extra umph is necessary to make the comparison you’re trying to convey.
Such is the case with Wu Chow.
When a friend told me we had to try this place, I knew he was steering us down the right path. All of his previous recommendations had been right on the money. Therefore, there was no need to wonder if this was going to be good.
But, oh my. It was a lot better than good.
In fact, based on my experience, there ain’t a lot that compares with Wu Chow.
Even in Austin.
Chinese food in Austin, Texas is vastly different from restaurant to restaurant, which createss both a chore to choose a favorite, and a delightful search while trying.
Menus are rich with fresh ingredients, adventurous spins on traditional favorites, and always an item or two that requires inquiring of the server, “Tell me about this one.”
The Pictures Don’t Do Justice
Warning: these pictures DO NOT do justice to the food itself at Wu Chow. I tried and tried to get some better photos, but it just wasn’t happenin’.
Therefore, you’ll simply have to trust me on this one – the food was amazing, even though the pictures are not so hot.
Happy Hour at Wu Chow
Located at 500 West 5th Street in the bottom of IBC Bank Building, it’s an easy walk to Wu Chow from anywhere in downtown Austin.
Reservations are always a good idea in Austin, but we didn’t need them for happy hour. There was already a good crowd developing, but the three of us were able to sit side by side at the window area bar stools.
If there was anything with foo or yung on Wu Chow‘s menu, I didn’t see it.
Instead, I was totally enthralled with descriptions of small plate delectables like dry-fried green beans, chicken and taro eggrolls, and a new take on an old favorite, sweet corn and egg ribbon soup.
Egg Ribbon Soup
The egg ribbon soup might have been my favorite of the selections we shared.
I love egg drop soup, but this was different. Crisp kernels of bright yellow corn added a layer of subtle sweetness to the brothy starchiness, which made me just close my eyes and smile at first bite. It was really, really good, my friends.
If you like egg drop soup, you’ll love Wu Chow’s version.
Dry-Fried Green Beans
However…the dry fried green beans could have been my favorite as well.
They were outstanding.
Charred and crispy, so beautifully green. Wu Chow’s green beans are on a whole different level of vegetable goodness.
Basil Chicken Dumplings
My son, Keagon, said his favorite was the Basil Chicken Dumplings.
He a true blue meat-lover, and he also enjoys eating his meat with chopsticks.
Best Ever Chicken Fried Rice
Wu Chow’s chicken fried rice was the favorite of my hubbyman.
I had to agree. This was the best we had ever tasted.
It just seemed so fresh, and there was a very nice buttery quality about the whole dish.
Wu Chow Happy Hour Puts a Smile in Your Wallet
Our total bill was under $35, which would have been even less if we hadn’t tried the iced tea. But, I’m glad we did. So refreshing was that Wu Chow iced tea, with its chunky, clunky ice cubes.
Is there Chinese food in heaven?
From Ding How to Wu Chow, from egg foo yung to egg drop soup, I really don’t know anyone who doesn’t like good Asian food.
I think my Mamaw would have loved it at Wu Chow. But, hey. If it’s this good in Austin, just think what she’s enjoying in heaven.
Encouraging a life filled with everyday intentional adventure, and a taste of something that just ain’t like the rest,
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