“Zou Ji” opened up three weeks ago in Syosset, New York. The Chinese Quest, always vigilant on their quest and search for authentic Chinese food on Long Island, picked up on their scent and got there as soon as we could get at least four of us together. Zou Ji features Dongbei cuisine, which comes from Northeastern China. Northeastern Chinese cuisine is a style of Chinese cuisine in Northeast China. While many dishes originated from Manchu cuisine, it is also heavily influenced by the cuisines of Beijing and Shandong Province, and even Russian cuisine. A strong flavor is very important for Northerners, who achieve this with salt and strong seasonings, compared with the South where chilies and pickles are more used, or dishes are lighter in flavor. Generally, northern dishes are oilier and richer in meat, and make liberal use of garlic and scallions.
Zou Ji is located at 19 Ira Road, Syosset, NY 11791
The strong flavors were very prominent in almost every dish that we had. And we had some dishes this evening that we never had before. So exciting!
Zou Ji is owned by Helen, who named the restaurant after her daughter. Her father, Pan Chai (apologies if I have misspelled his name) was a famous Chef in China. Managing the restaurant is Joe Hawkins. You’re not going to get much more Irish than Joe. And it was the first time we ever saw an Irishman managing a Chinese restaurant. But he did a fine job, displaying his knowledge of Dongbei Cuisine and making sure that we truly enjoyed our dining experience. Joe was well qualified as he spent many years in China. He and Helen have known each other for about 14 years.
Our main waitress this evening was Grace, and her elegance was only exceeded by her laugh. Or, she was just laughing at all of our jokes and shenanigans (I had to sneak an Irish reference in, didn’t I?) out of courtesy 🙂
Enough with the background, I’m sure you’re looking forward to reading, and seeing, the food that we ate this evening. So, Joe and Helen, bring us your best!
Lamb Dumpling and Chicken Dumplings
While we waited for Mee Yong Joo to arrive, the three of us (myself, and Mee Tsu Yan and Mee V. Stoogas – Mee Gonzi Biao was busy implementing something big that probably saved the world or cured the common cold…. the spices in the dishes we ate could have cured a cold for sure!) placed orders for these two different type of dumplings. In my very humble opinion, the Lamb Dumplings may just have been THE best dumplings I ever had in my life. Though they weren’t soup dumplings, they did have a lot of flavor and juices packed in to those dumplings!! The Chicken Dumplings were ok. There were about 10 dumplings in each serving. Many many more that you usually get in one order. The Dumplings were served at the same time that Mee Yong Joo arrived. He has impeccable timing!
We were ready now to move on to some main dishes. The first to be served was…
Stir Fried String Beans – As good as the Lamb Dumplings were, these String Beans were that good and better! Immediately we had two Questie-worthy dishes served to us! The String Beans were incredibly flavorful and seasoned to perfection with a nice spicy kick! Well done!!
Stewed Mixed Vegetables and Pork – Of all the great dishes that we had, I would have to say this was my least favorite. In the stew were potatoes, string beans, cellophane noodles, and some very very fatty pork. I felt that this dish didn’t have a very strong presence.
Having seen a dish being served on the table behind us, Mee V. Stoogas said, “We have to try that!” What was that?
Grilled Fish with Vegetables
The dish comes out in a large metal serving tray and places on top of a portable stove. The fish, Squirrelfish, was already cooked, nice and crispy. The vegetables raw included Mushrooms (the large “stalks” in each corner of the tray), mushrooms, various greens, peppers, and more ingredients that I can recall all in the broth. The dish is left to cook until it starts to look like this:
Everything is then mixed together and you end up with a most delicious main dish. Beware the bones of the Squirrelfish. They are very long and you do not want to end up ingesting one!
Joe, the ever vigilant Manager observed how much we enjoyed authentic Chinese cuisine, so he really wanted to show off some of their best dishes. He treated us to the following:
A Tofu dish that looks just like pasta. And it did! I’m not the right person to judge this dish, since I’m not a tofu fan. I will say though that the consistency of these “noodles” reminded me a lot of conch. VERY chewy!
The other dish was called “Huo Shao” in Chinese. These are on the menu as House Beef Pancakes. The beef is on the inside, obviously, the outside is a kind of thick, crisp, pastry(?). I liked this dish!
We at a LOT of food for just the four of us. We like to guess what the bill will be before we receive it. None of us were even close! $74 including tax! That was some real good eats for not a lot of money.
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)