Authentic Chinese food is rather hard to define, but over time I have come to the place that I know it when I taste it. This is food that for the most part is found only in the Asian District or else is hidden on a “secret menu” (if restaurants have it at all). My mission here, though, is not to just direct readers to secret or hidden food, but to find very good Chinese food that I think people should have a chance to try for themselves.
The issue of finding an “authentic Chinese lunch,” though, is one of the most challenging tasks I have found. Several restaurants, and even some outside of the Asian District, offer delicious and sometimes very exotic Chinese dishes. Most of these are large plates that are meant to serve a group of people “family style” (they would normally order several plates to get a variety of food). This does not usually work very well for lunch, though, when I want a moderate quantity of food and I have to choose just one plate.
American style Chinese lunch specials fit my budget and appetite very well, but over the years after getting used to “real” Chinese food the American style just does not satisfy me unless there are no other options. I do not encourage anybody who is not familiar with Chinese food to pick an “authentic” dish at random off of the dinner menu instead of their tried-and-true lunch favorites. What I would like to offer, though, are some practical suggestions for those who are familiar with more authentic food or those who just think they would like to try it.
Definitely one of the best restaurants for an authentic Chinese lunch is Chow’s at 3033 N. May Ave. For years Chow’s has served dinner only, but it has been open at lunch time since 2011 (it is still closed on Tuesdays, though). There are two pages of “Lunch Special” dishes on the menu (these are the Chinese style selections) and an additional page of “Chow’s Special” dishes (consisting mostly of American style food). All are lunch specials served with soup (hot and sour or egg drop), and a somewhat smaller food portion for the main dish.
A good example of the Chinese style dishes is the Dried Green Beans with Minced Pork. I don’t think this is anything people would find weird or hard to eat. On the contrary, I think traditional Chinese food like this tends to have much sharper and well balanced flavors than Americanized dishes. This is certainly a dish I would recommend trying. (see Chow’s menu)
Grand Village at 2336 N.W. 23rd St. serves the same type of authentic Cantonese style Chinese food found at Chow’s, and has a good selection for the lunch specials. I understand that Grand Village has changed owners since the last time I visited, but I still see good reviews of it (in fact, some say it is even better now). Thus I will include it on this list as another very good lunch possibility.
One item I really liked here was Fish with Black Bean Sauce. There are quite a few other items, though, including everything from salt and pepper pork chop to eggplant with garlic sauce. Grand Village’s menu is available on line. Grand Village is closed on Wednesdays, so between this and Chow’s, diners will always have good options near N.W. 23rd and May.
A good choice in far north Oklahoma City is Szechuan Bistro at 1010 W. Memorial Rd. This restaurant specializes in spicy Sichuanese dishes, and even normally mild items like lettuce wrap have somewhat of a kick to them. I think the lunch menu is somewhat of a mixed bag as far as being authentic. Although I think there are some very good lunches, the best items I have found so far have been from the dinner menu. In spite of my questions, I think the lunch specials are much better than at the average restaurant. I have made available a scanned version of Szechuan Bistro’s menu.
Within the Asian District (near Classen Blvd. and N.W. 23rd St.) there is ample opportunity to get authentic Chinese food for lunch. I have not found much of the authentic food on the lunch specials, but I have found very good selections off the regular menus at equivalent prices. The drawback to ordering this way is that it helps to know a little bit about Cantonese food (Fung’s Kitchen, Grand House, and Golden Phoenix all specialize in Cantonese style dishes). Even for the initiated, though, the problem is that not very many of the best dishes are downsized for a lunch portion. Some smaller items that would make a good lunch choice are pan fried noodles or congee at Golden Phoenix, Fujian tofu or some of the hot pots at Fung’s Kitchen, and rice noodle soup or the hot pots at Grand House. Fung’s Kitchen and Grand House also have dim sum on weekends, but this always falls out of my price range for a typical lunch.
Every restaurant has items I particularly like, but for the narrowly defined “lunch specials” I would suggest Chow’s or Grand Village (or Szechuan Bistro if you are in north OKC).