Justine de Jonge is a Melbourne freelance travel writer and blogger who loves travelling the vegan road. She also loves blogging about her vegan travels at www.fireandtea.com .
Published January 14th 2013
Authentic Chinese cuisine in Ringwood
"Ni hao", or hello in Mandarin, is almost always followed by "Have you eaten?" Pleasantries such as these give you a brief glimpse into acceptable Chinese tradition, how guests are received in a home and honoured accordingly. Visiting Panda's Kitchen Chinese Restaurant is almost like being welcomed and honoured in the home of a traditional Chinese family.
Upon arrival we're greeted by warm smiles, and the way in which our humble waiter shows us to our table is as embracing as a comforting hug. We're shown our menus and left to ponder the choices as our waiter dutifully serves us chilled water in glasses.
Panda's Kitchen Chinese Restaurant serves to its guests traditional Chinese meals that are fresh and delicious. Yet, what separates Panda's Kitchen from many Chinese restaurants in Melbourne is its ability to weave their style of Szechuan cooking through its menu. Szechuan, a province in south-western China, is known for its Szechuan cuisine. This distinct style of cuisine celebrates bold flavours and spiciness, incorporating flavours such as Szechuan pepper, chilli peppers and garlic.
Panda's Kitchen delivers a generous menu that hosts many dishes more familiar to the local clientele. Yet, Panda's Kitchen offers an array of house specials such as Kung Pao choices to challenge its guests, offering exciting alternatives to stereotypical meals like lemon chicken or sweet and sour pork.
Entrées of vegetarian spring rolls, served on a bamboo tray with a side of sweetened chilli sauce, and san choy bao lettuce cup bring a light start to the meal. On previous visits, a platter of steamed or fried dumplings, dipped in soy sauce and vinegar, has also proven to be another tasty entrée choice.
Fluffy white rice is then brought to the table in individual bowls featuring Chinese antique white and blue painting. Accompanying the rice is House Special Tofu, light pillows of fried tofu and mixed vegetables gently coated in a garlicky sauce with a hint of chilli; channelling the restaurant's Szechuan flair. A neighbouring plate of crunchy snow peas in a light glaze of garlic and ginger helps to encourage the share-plate appeal of these main meals. Porcelain panda chopstick rests cradle our chopsticks in between mouthfuls. To finish, banana fritters, coated in caramel and honey, are served then consumed.
House Special Tofu and crunchy snowpeas fit for sharing
Panda's Kitchen provides an inviting dining room too, filled with comfy seats and many curios that honour Giant Pandas which are native to Szechuan. The walls are where you'll find hangings depicting cuddly pandas chewing on bamboo or playing with their siblings in their habitat back in China. Pandas immortalised in water-colour paintings, plush toys and little statues smile and entertain us during our stay. Overhead, a pluck of a zheng string and a bow delicately scraping an erhu can be heard, bringing this authentic Chinese dining experience to life.