The late-night hours and array of grilled skewered meats brought me to BBQ King last week. My priorities switched when I saw “stir fried chicken rac” on the menu, a dish of fried chicken bones resembling a dish I’ve been hunting since eating at Shen Yang in LA.
The young woman who works at the front of the house confirmed that both she and the chef are from Shenyang, a city in northeast (dongbei) China, close to Korea. I asked her to point out the Shenyang specialties, and in addition to the ones I ordered, she was enthusiastic about the candied sweet potato, the fried tofu pepper, the north east wonton, the pork dumplings, and the shrimp vegetable dumplings (shrimp, chives, egg).
Their “cold noodles” are a version of Korean Naengmyeon. The noodles had a tremendous amount of elasticity, like rubber bands, and were pleasant to chew. Fun to eat— the concentration of flavors varied in different places in the bowl (tart vinegar, sesame oil, kimchi, and meaty broth), and managed to stay distinct through most of the my meal.
The “mix cauliflower” was very refreshing. The dish does not contain cauliflower, but strips of potato (crisp like radishes), chunks of cucumber, 1 inch lengths of bean curd stick (tofu bamboo), and peanuts in a spicy vinegar sauce.
The chicken ribcage version of the “chicken rack” I had in LA was a sodium and umami bomb, intense with cumin and taut from crisped up fat— a delicious bar snack that left me with an insatiable thirst for hours. Unlike that, presumably traditional version, the server at BBQ King told me that their chicken bone dish is a wok-based adaptation of a dish that is typically deep-fried. What their preparation lost in skin and crispness, it gained in meat content. They use bones from all over the chicken, and the small bits of dark meat, sinew, and crevices soaked up the sauce and had good gnawing value. The sauce had a faint cumin aroma, and was flavored more by chile powder and black vinegar. There’s a little sugar in the sauce, and I stayed clear of pieces of white meat, which were dry.
The awning says Smiling BBQ, but that closed in 2013.
189 El Camino Real
San Bruno, CA 94066