Across the river in Gretna, along Behrman Highway, there is a strip mall unlike any other in New Orleans. There are Asian salons and travel agencies, and a phone shop called VN Communications with signs out front advertising money transfers and phone calls to Vietnam (in Vietnamese.) Several restaurants are in the area as well, including Panda King. There are two entrances: one for the normal Panda King, home to an all-you-can-eat buffet; and Panda King Fine Dining, where the push-cart dim sum brunch is offered from 10:30-3 every Saturday and Sunday.
I developed a minor dim sum addiction in Saigon, and I hadn’t had any since returning to the U.S. last fall. Yesterday I made it out to Panda King to gorge.
A number of tables were filled with white people, but the vast majority of customers were Asian, which is always a good sign. The service was quick, with carts bearing all sorts of delicacies appearing almost as soon as you sit down. The options are many, and it’s hard to decide what to take and what to pass on.
Spring rolls, stir-fry bok choy, fish balls, fried crab claws, and noodle dishes were among the first selections. Several kinds of dumplings are available, including crab, shrimp, BBQ pork, and fried taro, a personal favorite.
By the time the dessert cart came by I was about to explode, but I made room for one last egg tart before waddling out. I shall certainly return to do further damage in the near future.
A few doors down from Panda King is the gigantic Hong Kong Market, which I had heard good things about from multiple people. Apparently many of the city’s chefs shop for ingredients here, since much of the produce is fresher than the usual grocery stores.
After walking inside I felt like I was back in Asia, the main difference being people don’t cut in line at the checkout. The produce section presented a kaleidoscopic selection of fruits and veggies, many of which I’ve never seen in the U.S., and the names were displayed in Vietnamese and English.
The market also had live fish, strange cuts of meat, giant sacks of rice, funny signs, a counter where you could buy whole Peking ducks and suckling pigs, and the shitty sweets like Koala’s March cookies that fill every convenience store in Saigon.
Both Panda King and the Hong Kong Market are worth the drive if you’re looking for unique food that isn’t available elsewhere in town.