We continue from India.
China returns in its usual waterside spot across from the rest of the Pavilion.
Wuxi Spareribs replace last year’s Xi’an Pancake and Mala Chicken and Shrimp fill the Bao Bun in place of last year’s Roasted Duck. The “Year of the Piggy” drink is also a new addition, while the other drinks return.
- Wuxi Spareribs – $6.95
- Chicken Dumplings with Chinese Slaw – $4.95
- Mala Chicken and Shrimp Bao Bun – $6.75
- Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles – $6.75
- Jasmine Draft Beer – $4
- Happy Peach with Peach Liqueur and Dark Rum – $8.95
- Kung Fu Punch with Vodka and Triple Sec – $8.95
- Byejoe Punch with Chinese Bai Jui Spirit, Lychee, Coconut and Pineapple Juice – $10.50
- Year of the Piggy: Light Rum, Triple Sec, Lychee Syrup, Lime Juice, and Sprite – $11
Wuxi Spareribs – $6.95
These Ribs gave me flashbacks to what we received just a couple of Marketplaces ago in Italy. Wuxi is a city about two hours outside of Shanghai. Amusingly, it was originally named “Youxi,” which means, “has tin.” Those tin reserves were depleted a couple thousand years ago, so the Chinese did the only reasonable thing, and renamed the city, “Wuxi,” which means, “without tin.” Hopefully that translates to these ribs and they will be metal-free. Perhaps Italy could change the name of their booth to “Senza Nulla di Commestibile,” which is probably not how you say “Without Anything Edible” in Italian.
While plentiful, the meat was on the chewy side and preferred to cling to the bone rather than easily slide off. I’m not sure you can blame it. If I was about to be eaten, I’d put up as much of a fight as a Disney World blogger could reasonably be expected to, sort of slapping around in your general direction. Anyway, the flavor was a lot blander than we would have liked. The soy, ginger, rice wine, and cinnamon should have shown through more. They’re certainly not “bad,” but for seven bucks, there are better choices.
Chicken Dumplings with Chinese Slaw – $4.95
Pan-fried pot stickers are among my favorite things, and I was excited to try a new take on a venerable, if not overpriced, favorite. But this year’s “Chicken Dumplings” are exactly the same as the Pot Stickers that have been served here for years and that minuscule amount of cabbage and carrot on top increases the price by a dollar, which is ridiculous. They were also a little undercooked for my tastes, making for a softer, limper couple of bites.
Here’s what China had served for years. You can see that each dumpling has a little bit of a darker char, making for a much more satisfying, much more crispy bite. Renaming the item and raising the price by a dollar just to add a few strands of carrot that nobody’s going to touch “feels” a bit insulting, and we now have an item that was previously a poor value costing even more money. It’s unfortunate.
Mala Chicken and Shrimp Bao Bun – $6.75
I would recommend this if it arrived with two of the Bao Buns or a $1.75 decrease in the price, but it’s an expensive proposition as it stands. The Mala Chicken carries a nice, if not generic, spice, and the shrimp have a nice snap to the bite, but this amounts to about four bites of food, at least half of which is going to be the soft bun. With a snack credit to spare, you might consider this for a straightforward, spicy couple of bites of comfort food, but it doesn’t stand out as being anything special for $6.75. You do get two sugar snap peas, though.
Here’s last year’s duck version, which was a lot more interesting.
Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles – $6.75
The noodles are largely soft, rubbery, and slightly spicy underneath what is now a disappointing number of shrimp with just two adorning the top of each pile of noodles. There’s a decent amount of heft to the dish, but it’s largely one-dimensional and the shrimp don’t have a ton of flavor on their own.
This ends up being a relatively filling dish that would do a nice job of soaking up the alcohol from the relatively strong drinks served here, but it’s hard to look past the price point given the number of shrimp.
Mango Bubble Tea with Assam Black Tea and Milk – $6.75
This is a bad picture of a cold and refreshing drink that’s creamy without being heavy, and sweet without being overwhelming. It’s one of my favorite non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy in the lingering afternoon heat that will continue into the middle of October. The portion is larger than a lot of the other non-alcoholic drinks that cost around $5, too.
Taste: I love it.
Jasmine Draft Beer – $4
One of these is the Jasmine Draft Beer from China and the other is the Godfather Beer from India. I’ll admit that I was excited to see a replacement for the bottles of Tsingtao that we’ve seen served here for years.
I was much less excited when I saw that it was just another lousy Orlando Brewing Company beer that’s just as skunkily below average as the majority of the rest of their offerings. I’m guessing that the flavor is supposed to balance hops with a floral effervescence, but it tastes largely of peat moss and vermiculite. Who would have thought we’d be begging for Tsingtao’s return.
If you’re looking for a more interesting beer in the area, try the Foo Beer from the Joy of Tea stand to the left of the China Marketplace. Even the Tiger Beer from Lotus House is better. Very troubling.
Happy Peach with Peach Liqueur and Dark Rum – $8.95
China’s drinks end up being among the strongest at the various Festivals, thanks to what are usually heavy pours. You might scope out who is doing the mixing and see how it’s looking before committing, as the non-alcoholic juices are poured first, with the alcohol following, so you can get a better idea about how much is actually poured versus the many pre-mixed concoctions. The fruit juices do a nice job of masking what is quite a bit of rum. There isn’t a lot of nuance here, but it’s a strong drink that packs a punch, which is something that you very rarely see at Epcot these days. The $9 price is also below average.
Kung Fu Punch with Vodka and Triple Sec – $8.95
The Kung Fu Punch is a refreshing, sweet, orange-flavored drink with a healthy pour of vodka on top. It’s always one of the smarter cocktail buys at the Festival.
Byejoe Punch with Chinese Bai Jui Spirit, Lychee, Coconut and Pineapple Juice – $10.50
On the left is the Byejoe Punch, which is perhaps the most refreshing cocktail at the Festival, tasting faintly of pineapple, lychee, and sweet coconut, while still maintaining a surprisingly thin, easy-to-sip consistency. It packs a considerable punch as well. Note that the drink has proven to be so popular that it’s now available year-round from the Joy of Tea.
Year of the Piggy: Light Rum, Triple Sec, Lychee Syrup, Lime Juice, and Sprite – $11
“Year of the Piggy” is new this year, replacing a very syrupy, very green mint cocktail. Lime is the dominant flavor, mixing nicely with the light rum and creating a refreshing, lightly carbonated drink. It’s not as interesting as the Byejoe Punch or as boozy as the Kung Fu Punch, but it comes in somewhere in between. Consider it if you prefer lemon and lime to peach or coconut, but also note that it’s more expensive for no discernible reason.
Overall, China offers some highs and lows. Most of the food tastes good, but is overpriced. It’s a bummer to see the price of the Potstickers rise 25% in exchange for a bite of slaw that’s going to be pushed to the side. China remains a surprisingly good stop for a mixed drink (or two), though.