On a blustery Friday evening, after a long, mind-numbing day of paper-pushing, I found myself in desperate need of something warm and comforting. And what could satisfy my hankering better than a piping-hot plate of noodles? Above standards like mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese, Asian noodles top my list of favorite comfort foods, and when the weather turns chilly, they’re all I crave. So with friends in tow, I hopped over to Mandarin Garden on Shattuck Avenue for a serving of the vegetable chow fun — a delicious and filling meal for less than $7.
Teeming with carrots, zucchini, broccoli and baby bok choy, Mandarin Garden’s chow fun is a veggie-lover’s dream. Portions are beyond generous, and the noodles themselves are substantive without feeling heavy — the broad rice noodles are pan-fried in a dark soy sauce that isn’t overly salty, a welcome change from the majority of pan-fried noodles out there. For texture variety, water chestnuts and snow peas add a hearty crunch to the dish and stand in dramatic contrast to the silkiness of the noodles.
Carnivores might decry my choice in going veg for this meal, but meaty shiitake mushrooms offer a delicious earthy flavor that is unmatched by chicken, pork or beef. Besides, what the chow fun lacks in protein it makes up for in the wide assortment of textures and tastes. Not even my Mongolian beef-eating buddies could say no to a little chow fun.
When the check came — along with a few take-out boxes for the abundance of leftovers — I was pleased to see that even with a shared appetizer, tax and a generous tip, I could throw down $10 and be just fine. A fortune cookie or two later, I left Mandarin Garden with my wallet as full as a college student’s can be and my stomach fuller yet.
Mandarin Garden is located at 2025 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.