Chinese restaurants are fine places to eat, but sweet and sour pork pairs so much better with the couch. Chicken chow mein just tastes better when my feet are up and the bathrobe is on.
I start leaning more toward takeout when the days get shorter, but it's a tricky thing. Is the limp or cold food—because that's what you'll get— worth the price tag? Will you regret it because your car still stinks of onions the next day?
Chinese food is one of those oddball cuisines that travel well. Unless we're talking soup dumplings or pan-fried noodles, most dishes don't mind the 15-minute Styrofoam sauna between the time I pick it up and the time I eat it. Lately, that pickup spot for me has been Minh Ky Mi Gia (4644 El Cajon Blvd., Suite 101 in City Heights). It's fast and the most affordable I've found—plus, it's never been scathed by travel.
The BBQ pork egg noodle soup ($5.60) is a no-brainer. The clear broth is savory, hot and packaged separately from the meat and noodles. Once combined, the sweet pork plumps up from the flavorful liquid and tastes damn good. This could be the most economical, comforting meal for two out there.
Chinese broccoli is a lovable vegetable; order it with thin slices of beef ($7.25) or any of the noodle options. It's perfectly bitter and works well with the sweeter sauces. Like most Chinese restaurants, the menu goes on for days with all sorts of combinations and variations of noodles and fried rice. But the folks running Minh Ky are super-nice on the phone and give helpful pointers to the indecisive stoners who call in. At least that's what my friends have told me.
On one occasion, I went for the chicken Chow Fun ($7.25). The wide rice noodles and crunchy bean sprouts were good, but I'd try it with another meat next time because some pieces of bird were tough on the teeth. I felt similarly about a pork dish, so I just stick to the barbecue variety. Beef and shrimp have also been winners.
The house fried rice ($6.95) is another bargain. When I asked the woman on the phone to recommend one of the 10—no joke—different varieties of fried rice, she said to get the house. When I said, "Sure," she delivered what I think was supposed to be a question: "Without ketchup." We got to talking about the house fried rice's secret ingredient. "It makes it sweeter," she said.
The rice wound up being moist, loaded with meat, egg, peas and the usual suspects; it wasn't greasy, which was nice, and just a tad sweet from the red stuff. Knowing it was there, I could put my finger on the ketchup flavor; I think the lady on the phone shouldn't confess to using the stuff. Some ancient Chinese secrets are better kept in the kitchen.