Banh Mi, Bubble Tea, Mock Smoked Duck at Shing Wang

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In December, we wrote about Shing Wang having introduced banh mi sandwiches on its vegetarian-friendly Chinese menu. "I'll be heading up to 167th real soon to check out these new items," I vowed. Well, I made it up there yesterday, which to me is "real soon," although folks tend to interpret phrases like this differently.

I sampled the banh mi, which is here called "Asian subs" -- along with a terrific mock smoked duck and red bean bubble tea. The sandwich comes on warm, crusty Vietnamese baguette, which owner Christine Kelly calls "the true essence" of the sandwich. A bit of butter and mayo are applied to the bread, which is then plied with cilantro and pickled cucumber, carrots, and daikon. Ham, pâté, and headcheese finish off the "classic"($5), but I tried the "special"($6), which adds pork roll to the mix. It's an extremely fresh rendition, light on the pâté but very flavorful. And there are 13 varieties, including cured pork patty; sardine; roasted eel; and lemongrass chicken. Five of these are soy-based, meaning vegetarian curry chicken, BBQ pork, and even a vegan ham banh mi.

Still, I was even more impressed with the smoked duck.

Shing Wang first opened in April of 2008 as an all-vegetarian restaurant, with soy-wheat gluten faux meats taking the part of chicken, pork, and beef in familiar Chinese dishes like General Tso's chicken. Nowadays there are real meats too, like Taiwanese braised pork stew, spicy curry chicken, lemongrass beef, and so forth. But I'm still intrigued with the mock creations, because Shing Wang does it better than anyone else around here.

The duck, shown in photo, boasts a convincingly crisp skin and ducky texture -- you can clearly tell the difference between this and the real thing, but it's rather tasty, and very smoky, and lends a similar satisfaction to eating duck. It comes with a side of rice for $11.95, making it the priciest item, meat or mock, on the whole menu.

Other soy-based dishes include sweet & sour crispy chicken or fish, chicken drumsticks, chicken rolls, and BBQ pork.

There are about two dozen bubble tea flavors -- cantaloupe, chocolate, green tea latte, papaya, "original black milk", etc. Red bean is my personal favorite, but can't say I've tried even half of them.

I've tried Shing Wang on lots of occasions, and I leave happy every time.

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