By: Jennifer Zeleski
We all have those days. Call in the to-go order after work, grab a handful of soy sauce packets in the midst of your daze, devour the steaming contents of take-out boxes, and of course — crack open the fortune cookie. This is what you might imagine when you’re considering having Chinese takeout for dinner… again.
However, at Hometown Delicious, located at 5103 W. Market St. in Greensboro, having Chinese food is meant to include authentic dishes, rather than those commonly found on your discarded paper menus or within the faded images above the counter at your local stop. If the fact that there is an “American Style Chinese Food” section isn’t enough to give it away as an authentic Chinese restaurant, maybe the setting will.
Red and gold tasseled lanterns hang from the ceiling, and a large wall is covered by a sketched-style Chinese mural, making the space well-decorated and pleasant. There are large, round tables ideal for sharing dishes and passing plates, as well as a variety of booths and two-person seats. The atmosphere would be fitting for any occasion.
Speaking of sharing, the menu is lengthy and filled with dishes that could be easily split between a handful of people eager to try new things. There are cold appetizer dishes, such as spicy pig’s ear and jellyfish with special sauce, and a variety of options depending on your meat of choice. The “spicy trotters” (pig’s feet), stood out from the list of pork options, followed by the braised duck with beer in an iron pot, sautéed shrimp with scrambled eggs and even deep-fried ribbonfish with spicy salt.
None of these were what my boyfriend Peyton and I, attempted to order on our first visit. We looked over the casseroles, stockpots, and griddles, but decided on a few items we knew could ease our way into Hometown Delicious’ authentic Chinese dishes, ones we could enjoy at the table rather than after a hasty drive home with plastic forks and duck sauce shoved into a paper bag.
We decided to start with the Cucumber with Special Sauce cold appetizer, which we didn’t have preconceived expectations. The plate came to the table loaded with large pieces of cucumber mixed with freshly-chopped garlic, and a large spoon for serving. The “special sauce” seemed to be light oil, possibly mixed with rice vinegar or another bright flavor, but it was delicious nonetheless. The cucumber was fresh, and pairing it with garlic made it reminiscent of Greek-style tabbouleh, without the fear of getting parsley stuck in your teeth. If it were possible, the dish made us even bigger fans of cucumber and would be an excellent choice for anyone seeking a vegetarian appetizer or side item. As a disclaimer, it was more than enough for the two of us to share.
For our main dishes, we took to sharing two options: Kung Po Chicken and Sweet and Sour Fried Tofu. Neither had descriptions, so we just went with it. The Kung Po Chicken came in small, bite-sized pieces glazed with a dark brown sauce, large pieces of green bell pepper and a good handful of peanuts tossed in the mix. We were surprised but not taken back that the flavor was recognizable. There were small pieces of fresh ginger, a few bites of garlic, unidentifiable ingredients (of which we devoured and didn’t ignore), and flavorful peppercorns throughout every other bite. It challenged our idea of what Chinese food could taste like beyond the more common sesame chicken, among others. The chicken was about as tender as it could be, and quickly became the favorite of the table, aside from one thing: the green bell peppers. Having not been fans of green bell peppers before, this dish didn’t change either of our opinions on them, but we didn’t leave them all behind, giving a few the benefit of the doubt. One thing to note: be careful when it comes to other types of peppers. The dish had been labeled with one chili pepper symbol on the menu, indicating a mild spice level brought by sliced dark maroon peppers in the sauce. I enjoyed their flavor but regretted enduring the after-burn in exchange for the great taste of the chicken.
Thankfully, the cucumber cut the spice and allowed me to start fresh again when I was ready. The peanuts added a crunch and texture that I didn’t realize the Kung Po Chicken needed, but I respected their presence and their flavor paired with the sauce. It wasn’t sweet or terribly salty, and Peyton enjoyed it enough to pour it over his side of white rice (which we assume comes automatically with each main dish on the menu).
The Sweet and Sour Tofu was the only dish we really knew what to expect and were satisfied with our more common choice. The tofu came in large pieces, fried in a light batter and smothered with an orange sauce. It tasted closer to what would be expected on orange chicken rather than sweet and sour, but it wasn’t sickening in the ways the sauce can sometimes be. Our only issue with it was that we wished the sauce hadn’t soaked through the fried exterior of the tofu, which left it lacking the crispness it needed. Some of the pieces were spared, but others were just too soft to be as enticing. It was the only plate we didn’t clean before finishing.
After taking a few more chopsticks full of rice, we finished full and happy, with a few notes for future visits. Based on the flavor combinations we tried just in our few dishes alone, stepping more out of the comfort zone would be a must the next time around. Also, if there are friends or family with food allergies, be sure to call ahead to ensure dishes could be prepared without those ingredients. Lastly, don’t forget the fortune cookie.
Jennifer Zeleski is a student contributor to YES! Weekly. She is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communications at High Point University.
Hometown Delicious is located in Suite A of 5103 W. Market St. in Greensboro, North Carolina. They are open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day but closed on Tuesdays.