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17 May, 2010

Handy Kitchen, Durham

Posted in : Dining in Durham - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez

Handy Kitchen
5279 N. Roxboro Road
Eno Square Shopping Center
Lunch Specials: $4.65–$4.75
Dinner Combos: $5.95–$6.95

Handy Kitchen is your standard Chinese-take-out restaurant offering Hunan, Mandarin, Szechuan, and Cantonese dishes. They also call themselves New York-style, which I think is just a clue that they offer the American versions of these dishes that we are used to as I didn’t notice any difference from the Chinese I’ve had on either coast, but I could be wrong (easily so).  They have, of course, the discolored row of pictured dishes above the register, and there was also a specials board, but it seemed to consist of the fried items they already offer on the menu. There are a few tables around if you’d rather eat at the restaurant than take your food home.

I found the lunch prices to be extremely reasonable, especially with the plentiful portion sizes. Lunch includes an entrée, pork fried rice or white rice, and wonton or egg drop soup or a soda.  I chose wonton soup for that last option.



It was my least favorite portion of the meal, largely due to the metallic tang of the broth. There were three huge wontons, chockfull of a dense ground meat that I couldn’t determine whether it was beef or pork. The wrapper was very thick. The broth contained strips of pork and scallions. If the broth didn’t taste off, I would have liked it pretty well. I definitely liked the huge bag of fried wonton strips that accompanied it.

My entrée was Hunan chicken with pork fried rice.

It was a good choice for me, because the Hunan dish contained loads of vegetables: snow peas, bell peppers, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, carrots, baby corn spears, broccoli, and mushrooms (I avoided those). They were all a little overcooked, but I was happy to have that much variety of vegetable. The chicken was fine, and the sauce had a mild kick to it. The pork fried rice had large chunks of pork rather than those tiny little bites common in many fried rice offerings, but they were few and far between. The rice did not have much flavor, either.

The hands-down winner of lunch for me was definitely the shrimp toasts I ordered in addition to the combo meal. I had always been intrigued by shrimp toast, mainly just because I wanted to know what on Earth it could be as I’d never tried it before (Bread made from ground-up, dried shrimp? Layers of mushed-up shrimp spread like jam?).

I found shrimp toast to be delicious. The order ($2.75) came with four large chunks of them, which consisted of a somewhat chewy filling of the shrimp mixed with some sort of egg batter that is then placed on top of a square of bread, then battered and fried. They were definitely extra crisp, which I never mind. The flavorful and vibrant shrimp filling, with a fantastic hint of celery, was worth every bite, and the toast and breading created a great, heavy coating for that lighter filling. I’d definitely recommend them any day.

Handy Kitchen has plenty of vegetarian options, and they also have a steamed menu if you are looking to avoid the calorific goodness of stir-fry. There’s a list of pricier chef’s specialties on the menu, too, which seems to stray some from the standard, Chinese- take-out options. Lake Tung Ting Shrimp with an egg-white sauce, and hot, spiced, shredded beef or chicken in a brown sauce were two of those options. Let me know if you’ve tried any of their more unusual fare, of if they really aren’t that unusual at all.

For me, I doubt I’ll go back unless I have a shrimp toast craving.

1 star

1 star

Reviewed 5.11.10.

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