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Fast Times: Hunan Village Chinese Takeout

I'm not sure if everyone will agree that Chinese takeout is "fast food," but it falls well within that category at my house. We don't really have a "go-to" takeout place here in Houston, so when my husband and I were rifling through our drawer of paper menus we found the old Hunan Village menu that hadn't been touched in about six months. We both seemed to remember some high and low points from the previous meal, and we gave it a go, ordering up several appetizers and a meal to share. We chose steamed pork dumplings ($2.25/4), fried Crab Rangoon ($3.95/8) and the Orange Chicken dinner ($7.95, includes egg roll, rice) to split between us. We ordered an extra egg roll for 99 cents.

The results? Largely the same as our first Hunan Village experience--here are the high and the low points.

The High I think Hunan Village really knows how to do yummy appetizers. I like the way the egg rolls are long and skinny; they come with a bunch of fun little dipping sauces, but they also taste great on their own. The outside of the egg roll is super crispy, but not too bready, and the tangy cabbage inside is piping-hot. They were so good alone, but dipped into some soy sauce I thought they were perfect, with the sweet cabbage playing off the salty soy sauce. The other little dipping sauces were good, but soy sauce was the best. Definitively! Or, at least to me.

The pork dumplings were perfection--light and rich at the same time, with the pork inside was soft and delicious. I hate getting dumplings with gristly bits in them, but these are smooth and the wontons are that blend of sticky and silky that makes me forget fried dumplings even exist.

The Crab Rangoon was another story. I found them to be too heavy, based on the copious amount of fried wonton around the filling. The filling was tasty, but I didn't get as much crab flavor as I would have liked. (For the record, my husband strongly disagrees, and felt these were terrific.) They were good, but I have had better. I just wanted the outside to be a little lighter, or perhaps pulled from the fryer a few seconds earlier so the corners weren't quite so hard; I was looking for a lighter, crispier consistency.

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The Low Alas, the Orange Chicken. I expected something fragrant with orange, but replete with heat from the spicy peppers distributed generously through the sauce. What I got was an increasing flavor of candied orange throughout the sauce. There were occasional flashes of heat, and in those bites there was potential for greatness, but the overwhelming sweet orange flavor just wasn't a hit with me.

The Verdict I'm not ready to write Hunan Village off, because I've eaten some good food from their kitchen. On top of that, every order is exactly right, the food is always hot and fresh-tasting, and whether we are picking up or getting delivery, they always have our order ready when they say it will be ready. I am interested to know if you guys have any suggestions for good, fast Chinese takeout in Houston--thoughts?

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