I've been hearing about Phong Ding off and on for years now, primarily for the "famous baked catfish", but also due to their extensive menu featuring more unusual meats. When I posted a dinner outing to check Phong Ding out, I jokingly mentioned that while I don't necessarily want to eat the entire zoo, I'm open to trying some new things.
Upon being seated and given the menu, we were overwhelmed with all the choices. There were various dishes that featured everything from boar to kangaroo, from ostrich to quail, from snake to frog legs and so much more. It was amazing that we were even able to settle on the 10 dishes we finally ended up ordering.
Of course, I had already called and pre-ordered the baked catfish and wow, what a feast that was. We could have easily just had the catfish for dinner without anything else. First, came out all the fixin's which included all sorts of veggies as well as vermicelli noodles and the wrapper. Soon after, the catfish arrived in all its glory and in what seemed like moments, was stripped clean.
The fish was delicate, moist and tender and I really enjoyed the group's interactive eating. There's just something about eating with your fingers and hands that seems so liberating.
We were all getting kind of full with the catfish, but there were still 9 dishes to go. Of the other 9 dishes, two really stood out for me.
First, there was the charbroiled goat spare ribs glazed with spicy bean curd marinade. I've never had goat spare ribs before and my thought that the ribs probably wouldn't have much meat to it, but surprisingly, the ribs weren't as lean as I thought they would be.
The marinade for this dish was amazing. There was a little bit of heat, but it was a sweet heat. It also had a subtle smoky flavor to it that made it even more appealing. Other than the catfish, this was one of my favorite dishes.
Second, there were the quail eggs wrapped in shrimp paste and battered with crispy sweet rice flakes and served with ginger plum sauce. Once you get over the surprise of seeing green eggs appear before you, this is a really tasty dish.
Quail eggs to me, generally have a gamier taste to them than regular chicken eggs, but the combo of the strongly flavored shrimp paste and sweet rice really cut a lot of that gamey flavor out and just left an egg with really interesting flavor profile.
Another dish that I liked included the kangaroo sauteed with black and pepper and prepared flambe style with wine. This was my first time having kangaroo and it reminded me of goat or lamb just because it had a strong taste to it. I would have preferred less wine but overall, I thought the meat was tender and cooked well.
Overall, we didn't stray too much into the real exotic meats, except maybe for the Kangaroo, but still this was an enjoyable meal and I know that if I ever want to host more of a "Fear Factor" kind of dinner, Phong Ding is the place to go.
To see pics, go to:
2643 N. San Gabriel Boulevard
Rosemead, CA 91770