Bettina Gonzalez ’16
I’m a firm believer that good food is not found in the most upscale Michelin star restaurant. Good food is found in the streets, where experiencing the sensation of “delicious” is an escape, a reward from the long tiring days of daily life. Good food is made by cooks, whether home or professional, who want, no, need, to be creative in order to survive the mundaneness of life. Good food does not always come from a restaurant or an experienced chef. It can come from anyone who wants it.
This is not the traditional Food Dudes.
I am not here to showcase restaurants. Those things come and go all the time. I am here to give you a food experience – whether it is in a restaurant or your own place. Because food is always an experience.
Your first time living away from home comes with a harsh realization about life:
Feeding yourself is hard work.
Between classes, work, sports, bingeing on Netflix, extracurriculars, and homework, many of us tend to be too busy to feed ourselves. Of course, there’s still Mather or our other eating hubs on campus to satiate your hunger. But sometimes, if you are anything like the food junkie that I am – craving for something hot, savory, and delicious, something that will satisfy the need for an occasional mouthgasm – food at Trinity just isn’t enough.
And during my first year here at Trinity, I was convinced that the only places for me to have a good cheap meal were few and far between.
That was until last summer.
While working on campus, I ran into a friend, a fellow foodie. She was an alum, a veteran in surviving through the apparent food drought I was feeling at the time. Complaining that I hadn’t had anything decent to eat in a while, she took me on a bus trip that changed my perception of food life in Hartford.
Just a short bus trip on the 39 towards New Britain Avenue (that’s the bus you take to the mall), is A Dong Supermarket. A Dong is an Asian grocery store located in West Hartford. Open since 1989, the supermarket sells a variety of Oriental food products, both prepared and ready to serve, and the usual (or perhaps unusual to some) grocery items.
I have to admit, I was a little intimidated when I first came in. Even though I am Filipino, many of the food items were more or less foreign to me. I was not sure what to get. I stood by the entrance a little perplexed but then I turned my head to left and saw my hunger’s saving grace.
A dozen or so servings of roasted chicken, pork, and duck hung over a glass-case oven. The savory smell was intoxicating and nearly made me salivate. On the other side of oven-display was a restaurant kiosk where one could order the roast of their choice, tightly packed in a foil container, for less than $10 a pound. A little further down the kiosk counter, A Dong also offers a variety of freshly made Vietnamese sandwiches, pastries, and tarts.
I was excited. I was enthralled.
I was hungry.
Turning to the lady behind the counter, my friend and I ordered a whole duck.
“Crispy or regular?” the lady asked. I asked for a crispy one, hoping it would be something close to Chinese Peking Duck. Peking Duck is a Chinese specialty that I was introduced to early in my youth. Foodies go crazy for its perfectly crispy skin and tender meat. The lady nicely complied and grabbed a newly cooked one from the oven. I watched as she masterfully cleavered the whole duck and expertly fit the entire thing in a foil container.
One whole duck from A Dong, which feeds four or five people, costs little more than $18, whereas ordering from a sit-in Chinese restaurant will often cost you upwards of $25 to $30 if you’re lucky. Excited about the bargain, I decided to use my extra grocery money and buy a few other ingredients to make an amazing dinner for me and my friend.
Back on campus, I quickly reheated the duck in the oven for a few minutes, trying to burn some excess fat off. In a small pot, I boiled some white Jasmine rice, the perfect complement to any of A Dong’s roasts whether you get the duck, chicken, or pork. Adding a little more zing to our meal, I sautéed chopped garlic in a hot oiled pan, splashed a little bit of soy sauce, and cooked some bean sprouts until tender. No fancy work needed. Less than thirty minutes to the table and bon appetite!
Even if you are not a huge fan of Asian cuisine (which trust me, I’m not much of one either), this meal is simple enough to give you just a little intro the vast flavors of Asian cooking.
Want to try your hand in a simple, quick Asian-inspired dinner? Then you should definetly make sure to stop by A Dong Supermarket located on 160 Shield St, West Hartford. Check it out even if you’re shopping for food staples or just to try their roasts (don’t forget the sauce!). If you got to the mall, you went too far. Go back – there’s more to eating than the usual corporate chain joint.