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Right About The Tiny Fish Part, Sea Monkeys, and Manna

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

A few years ago, Red Pearl in Birmingham was way in the back of Super Oriental Market, which was itself a reinvention of what I'm pretty sure used to be a Quincy's. To get to the restaurant, you walked by the open tanks of bullfrogs, crabs, eels, past lacquered roasted ducks hung whole and other soon-to-be-delicacies, aisles of pantry staples from Asia, and kitchenware -- and once seated in the function-over-form space, rather than accept the menu that was presented with English, you might point to something on the board in Chinese and hope for something completely interesting.

Skip forward a few years, and Red Pearl is still a part of Super Oriental -- you'll still pass the bullfrogs and crabs. but it's now in a completely renovated space up front which happens to look completely luxe compared to the old room.

Red Pearl Chinese Restaurant, Birmingham

We've had more common dishes, like lunch here with the fried rice, General Tso chicken, and duck:
General Tsao, Fried Rice, Duck at Red Pearl Chinese Restaurant, Birmingham

This latest visit, there was double spicy chicken -- spicy but not crazy with perfectly crispy chicken:
Double Spicy Chicken, Red Pearl, Birmingham

I got something I've never tried before -- the crispy baby fish and peanut. We renamed this 'sea monkey surprise' (though it may need to be renamed, see below) because they were tiny strands of...if you didn't know, you'd think either fried strands of Top Ramen or maybe those French's onion bits that people put on green been casserole. But they were indeed tiny little fish. And they were salty and crunchy and spicy and just right.
Crispy Baby Fish & Peanut, Red Pearl Chinese Restaurant, Birmingham

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Back to sea monkeys -- in April, the NYT ran a really interesting article: The Battle over the Sea Monkey Fortune which, among other things, completely ruins the kitschy joy of sea monkeys now that we know about the founder:

His background is the source of great remorse on marketing chat boards, where writers are distraught that someone as visionary as the X-Ray Spex and Sea-Monkey guy could be such a racist head case.

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Browsing the market afterward, there was a display of M.Y. San SkyFlakes which are really just crackers but the word 'skyflakes' made me think of manna -- the flakes that Gd sent down during the exodus from Egypt. "Okay kids, here come your SkyFlakes!"

Sky Flakes, Super Oriental Market, Birmingham

Always thought it was interesting that in Exodus 16:31, manna was described as "like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey" and in Numbers 11:8, it's "the taste of a cake baked with oil." So which is it? But Rashi explained that manna tasted of anything the eater wished (other than a handful of things: cucumbers, watermelons, leeks, onions, garlic), and tasted even better on Shabbos. I just asked the boys what they would have their manna taste like today. Shug said matzah ball soup, Shugie said chocolate milkshake, and Av said chocolate Krispy Kreme. Me? I'm going with Whataburger. 

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Here, the trailer for In Search of General Tso -- it's also available on Netflix.

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