After partying like an Ox star at home, it was time to have a more intimate meal with just the family. So my wife and I met her mother, my parents and my brother at one of our favorite Chinese/Vietnamese restaurants in the DFW area, Caravelle. Like many Chinese restaurants, Caravelle was designed to double as a wedding venue. Its interior is a roomy dining hall dominated by large, round tables covered in white linen. A bird's-eye view of the mess hall would resemble a teeny weeny white polka-dot bikini. On the main wall are the requisite golden dragon and phoenix hanging above the 15'x15' wooden portion of the floor which doubles as the dance floor. But don't be fooled. Once the tables are cleared off the dance floor, nobody parties quite like a bunch of old Asian folks doing the Cha cha cha.
Our first dish was my favorite. On the menu, it reads as "lobster baked in cheese." However, it's actually chunks of lobster deep fried in some sort of cheese batter. For all I know, it could be dipped in Cheez Whiz and fried. Whatever the kitchen does to the lobster is nothing short of a work of art and I have never been disappointed with this dish, except that one time my younger cousins mutilated and discarded the large claws that were still packed with meat. The rich, salty cheese gives a similar effect of eating lobster with butter. However, the main difference is that this dish is much funner to eat, especially since other diners in the restaurant didn't leer at me for using my fingers. My strategy of attack starts with me going after the tail pieces, then the claws, and lastly the torso. Here's the play by play:
1. Using the chopsticks in my right hand and the fingers of my left, I tear out all the meaty morsels possible, devouring it with some fluffy white rice.
2. Using my razor-sharp incisors, I scrap all the fried cheesy goodness off the fiery-red shell.
3. Drink a large swallow of my beverage, preferably beer.
4. Repeat steps 1 through 3.
I continue these steps until my area more resembles a lobster graveyard than a dining table. Unfortunately, I only get to eat this on special occassions, mainly because I could easily consume a whole plate by myself and eventually be scolded by both my wife and doctor. Only after we ran out of lobster did I continue onto the following dishes.
What's the best way to follow up some deep-fried yummies? More deep-fried yummies! These golden-brown cubes are another family favorite, stuffed tofu. Through a magical process that is akin to open-heart surgery, large hunks of silky smooth tofu were stuffed with minced shrimp. Once plump with meat, the cubes are deep-fried (maybe in the same oil as the lobster) and served to wide-eyed patrons. Though the stuffed tofu could have been a meal in of itself, eating it with some rice helped ameliorate the oiliness. After the involved process of eating the lobster, I welcomed some easy eating...until I burned the roof of my mouth. One thing I always forget about tofu is that it has the same characteristics of a styrofoam ice chest, meaning whatever you put inside remains at the same temperature. If you ever want to make a grown hungry man cry, feed him this fresh from the fryer.
By now, we were tired of deep-fried dishes and so went for this stir-fried plate. Like Matt McConaughey at UT football games, these beef noodles are a common site at our family meals. The dynamics of the ingredients started with the beef, which needs no further elaboration on its deliciousness. Next, the onions and bean sprouts added a nice crispness to make the dish seem healthier. Finally, the flat rice noodles were infused with all the juices from the beef, onions, and soy sauce. When placed infront of me, I can't help but smile.
In an effort to make the meal well-balance, we ordered this plate of mixed vegetables and tofu. The effort would have been successful had the dish not been stir-fried with enough oil to power a lantern. In all seriousness, this plate of veggies was just that, a plate of veggies. Not surprisingly, it was the last dish to be picked cleaned. In my family, food is like the US Army Rangers, no man left behind. We pride ourselves in not leaving with leftovers and we were very proud that night.