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Yen Ching

For decades, Yen Ching has welcomed locals craving fresh Chinese food

Yen Ching beef with shrimp chow mein. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

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ANNOUNCER: Jackie and Dutch head to Lakewood's International District to visit a longtime local favorite, Yen Ching. This little oasis off of South Tacoma Way has presented Mandarin and Szechuan cuisine for decades now.

JACKIE: When you think to yourself that you're hankering for Chinese food, Yen Ching is the place to go. As soon as you enter the doors you're transported. Rich red accents everywhere, a koi pond, artful blossoms adorn each nook and the placemats tell you all about your Chinese zodiac. Even the lighting to me feels just right. I visited almost weekly, nearly 20 years ago when I lived in the neighborhood and don't make it there often enough now. It hasn't changed a bit but has managed to remain polished with a warm ambiance and not feel outdated.

DUTCH: This was my first visit, and considering this is located in the International District, I was a bit disappointed at first by the absence of some of my favorite, but less common dishes that are often found in China. However, once my egg drop soup was dropped on my table chock full of vegetables like that I've encountered in China, my dissatisfaction quickly vanished. This, along with the vegetable chow mien which is also loaded with fresh vegetables, full of flavor and has plenty of noodles to balance out the textures are excellent choices for any vegetarians out there.

JACKIE: We had the chow mien, too, because really, it's a winner for the littles. The dish is more substantial than what most establishments plop in front of you and you can choose a protein like barbeque pork, shrimp or beef to accompany a healthy veggie to noodle ratio. Their hot and sour soup is a crowd favorite with loads of flavor though the sizzling rice soup has always been a personal favorite. Chicken broth sets the foundation with shrimp, mushrooms, water chestnuts and peas swimming happily about. They then place a golden rice crust atop and it sizzles and pops in a satisfying manner.

DUTCH: I went during the dinner hour and ordered both the Mongolian beef and the sweet and sour pork ribs. Both were served in sizes big enough to feed more than myself, which makes for a great lunch the next day at work. It was apparent that each dish was made with care to ensure my satisfaction with the dish. Besides the size of each plate, the flavors were very traditional and not Americanized like many dishes often found in Chinese restaurants.

JACKIE: During lunch several dishes are presented with crispy spring rolls, egg drop soup, fried rice and favorites like sweet and sour chicken for an uber reasonable price. I tried the Yen Ching beef with tender sliced beef and mushrooms marinated in hot sauce and finished with sesame seeds. The dish has a warmth, but isn't too spicy and the portions were plentiful. You will sometimes wait for a moment to be seated but service from the time you're seated on is prompt and warm. Our server paid special attention to our four-year-old, so know that this is a neat place for your tiny humans, too. Their eyes will dazzle at all the sights.

DUTCH: With my sweet tooth, the traditional dessert I was happy to find was the caramelized bananas. If you've never had these - you should. Bananas sautéed in butter and sugar, then served with vanilla ice cream. Again Yen Ching wins with fresh ingredients cooked to order.

Yen Ching, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 8765 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253.582.3400 

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