How 'Bout Them Knockers: Hunan Express
Each week in 'Knockers' we order from a different delivery restaurant, assessing their efficiency and keeping a running score.
2025 Cedar Springs
Promised Delivery Time: 30-45 minutes
Actual Delivery Time: 40 minutes
Efficiency of delivery: 10
Delivery man's sunny disposition: 9
Absence of MSG: 9
Strangely expensive egg rolls: 2
Grease content in pan-fried chicken dumplings: 4
Veggie variety in the Hunan Delight: 7
Tofu consistency: 8
Heat level of the spicy brown sauce: 8
Overall flavor: 7
Array of sauces and condiments: 9
New Big Wong 92
Tuk Tuk Asian Cuisine 91
Lover's Pizza and Pasta 91
Philly Connection 90
Piggie Pies Pizzas & Pasta 90
See complete 2009 standings here
My first concern was losing the delivery man.
The apartment complex I call home is a sort of Bermuda Triangle of earth tones and reserved parking spaces, a maze of identical hallways and gates whose sole purpose appears to be the capture of unsuspecting visitors.
I hadn't ordered in for months, not since a hapless pizza delivery boy had finally arrived and seemed on the verge of tears after a maddening over-the-phone navigation session ("Ma'am, I'm at number 1304." "What? You went through the gate straight ahead, right, not the one on your right or left? "Um... I went through the green one." "They're all green!")
Preparing for the worst, I told the Hunan Man to call me from the gate for specific directions. He called from a block away and I repeated this instruction, but minutes dragged by without another call.
"Oh, no." I wailed. "He's going to disappear like Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!"
But then there came a knock. And it was good. Hunan Man had successfully navigated the aptly-named complex on his own! And not only that, he was maybe the happiest-looking, sweetest delivery man I'd ever seen. It was something about the smile - genuine and not a bit forced. My friend took the bag of food while I made sure to tip him well.
Eager to see if the food was as miraculous as the mode of transport, we tore into the paper bag and opened the cute little red and white boxes. When we saw the egg rolls, though, we realized it was a good thing we weren't all that hungry. Each order had just one roll at $1.50 each, and they were tiny. I mean, tiny as in two bites tiny (They should be closer to 60 cents each, or $1.50 for two, we decided). As for taste, the sweet and sour sauce made them passable, but the flavor was underwhelming. Next were the pan-fried dumplings. Here, the flavor and sauce both had a zesty tang and good texture, though an excess of grease took away from the experience.
The Hunan Delight delivered on its promise, though. We piled the veggies--broccoli, water chestnuts, carrots, baby corn, mushrooms, celery and bamboo shoots--onto a mound of rice and were delighted to discover that they were neither over or undercooked. The brown sauce had just the right amount of both heat and brown-ness, the tofu was perfectly firm and, whatever flavor the food lacked could be made up for using one of the myriad sauces that came with the order, from sweet and sour to mustard.
It wasn't the most amazing Chinese takeout I've ever had, but it was far from the worst. And the best part? An hour later, we felt just fine.
Sometimes I swear the No MSG notices on Chinese menus are totally fraudulent, a sneaky way to trick nutrition-obsessed customers who are either too drunk or too hungry to rule out mushu, but Hunan seems to honor their promise.
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