Christmas Day for Jews = Chinese food and a movie. I know this is a cliché but it happens, for the most part, to be true. Almost everyone I know who is Jewish planned to engage in this December 25 ritual. One of my colleagues, who is not Jewish, recently remarked: “I didn’t get this whole Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Day thing. But now I can see, what else is there to do?”
Traditionally I get together with a group of neighbors on Christmas Day. Picking a movie was easy (The King’s Speech). But picking a restaurant was a little more difficult. I wanted to dine somewhere that I could write about. We all wanted a location that was somewhat convenient. So after dozens of emails back and forth, we finally settled on New Kam Fong in Wheaton. Unfortunately, because I was so intensely focused on the restaurant I missed the email about the location of the movie theater, and ended up at the wrong one. Oops.
New Kam Fong is a relative newcomer to the Asian scene in Wheaton. It has a low-key but pleasant atmosphere. My research results in a desire to try some non-traditional dishes, so I keep my fingers crossed that the group will be open to a little adventure. Nothing as crazy as pig feet with bean curd skin in casserole (on the menu if you are so inclined), but not the standard kung pao chicken either.
I start by ordering the dumplings in hot oil sauce. This is a shrimp dumpling covered in garlic. It has a nice chewy texture and just the right amount of spice. It is my favorite dish of the night. I would return to New Kam Fong just for this. There are other appetizers on the table, but I decide to save myself for the entrees (and take an extra serving of the dumplings).
|dumplings in hot oil sauce|
Our entrees include sizzling lamb with ginger and scallion; sizzling chicken with ginger and scallion (for the non red-meat eaters), sauteed longan (an Asian fruit) with sugar snap peas, scallops and shrimp; crispy eggplant; Singapore noodles with vegetables; and byba (bbq) duck.
The sizzling lamb and chicken are prepared the same way, stir-fried with lots of scallions and ginger. The meat is tender, and both dishes are good, but a little on the oily side.
|sizzling lamb with ginger and scallion|
My husband has become an aficionado of crispy eggplant. He is pleased that this version is light and as promised, crispy. This is not always the case. This dish gets high marks from the entire group.
The scallop and shrimp with the sweet longan fruit is a refreshing accompaniment to the heavier and spicier dishes. It has a subtle but welcome flavor.
|longan and sugar snap peas with shrimp and scallops|
The Singapore noodles with vegetables are laced with curry. We’ve deviated from the menu which includes pork to accommodate the vegetarians in the group. This is a dish I often order at other restaurants. The New Kam Fong version is as good as any I’ve had elsewhere.
The duck is our only real disappointment. It’s a little chewy and there’s nothing much distinguishable about it. Our server is genuinely dismayed when he comes to the table at the end of the meal and finds some of it uneaten and no one wanting to take it home. He encourages us to come back another time to try a different duck preparation. He assures us that this is one of their signature dishes which most of their customers enjoy. We are touched by his concern.
The meal ends with some delicious almond cookies that are delivered with our check. It is a satisfying end to our dinner.
I like New Kam Fong. I’m happy to add another Wheaton establishment to my list of close-by dining options. I will definitely be back to try other items, and to enjoy those dumplings again. In fact, I could actually see them featured on an episode of “The Best Things I Ever Ate” on the Food Network.
The Jewish people are big on tradition when it comes to food. Matzoh ball soup on Passover, brisket and kugel on Rosh Hashana, challah on Shabbat, bagels and lox on Sunday. And although this ritual may not have the same cultural significance, we cannot deny that Chinese food on Christmas is part of who we are.
New Kam Fong, 2400 University Boulevard West, Wheaton
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 3.9
Zagat rating: 24