My mom has been wanting to take us to her friend’s sister’s restaurant, Hunan Tea Garden Hunan Tea Garden, for a while now, but it’s in New Jersey and we rarely get out there. To be more efficient, we planned a day of tax-saving shopping (poor Lon) to work up an appetite for the massive meal to come. My mom had pre-ordered all her favorites, several in double portions, and then some complimentary dishes were added, culminating in one of the largest meals Lon and I have ever eaten!

We started with complimentary bowls of Hot & Sour Soup, more sour and more peppery than standard, but not better or worse than standard.

Hot & Sour Soup

Shortly after our soups were done, two giant platters of Ginger and Scallion Sauteed Crabs arrived. We only had 7 people, less then the standard 10 at a banquet table so I don’t know why my mom ordered two platters, but we cleared those dishes! The crabs were perfectly cooked and hard to resist.

crab with scallion and ginger

Eye-catching Salt & Pepper Jumbo Shrimp arrived with tasty heads. Yes, we eat the heads. Lon thinks these were the best shrimp he’s had in the U.S.

Jumbo Shrimp

My mom was so excited to share the Scallop dish with us; she had tried it on her last visit. It was indeed unique, something like a General Tso’s Scallop. Why hadn’t anyone else thought of this before? The execution was excellent: very crunchy coating, tender scallop, not too sweet, and served piping hot. Yum Yum (or as Justin and Lon kept saying “nom nom nom”)! Good thing my mom ordered two servings of this one too.

General Tso's scallops

Midway through, we were introduced to their House Spicy Sauce with scallions and chilies. It was pretty dang spicy but really good.

House Spicy Sauce

Two different platters of soft shell crabs arrived. I didn’t care much for the onion and scallion version that was served over thinly sliced tomatoes.

soft shell crab and onions

I did enjoy the version with black bean sauce over thinly sliced oranges, but my brother and I agreed that we prefer the simple preparations of soft shell crab, where the natural flavor shines through. Extra flavors mask the crab a bit; at least these were very meaty soft shell crabs.

Soft Shell Crab in Black Bean Sauce

The Beef and Peppers dish with bean curd was pretty standard. I was so full already that I only took a few bites, knowing more was coming.

Beef, Bean Curd, and Peppers

The Silk Squash was a nice break: a light vegetable without much added.

silk squash

Honey Ham with Lotus Seeds is a very sweet dish, but for some reason, I like it.

Ham and Lotus Seeds

The steamed buns weren’t as soft and warm as I would’ve liked, but the ham and lotus seeds were nice contrasting textures in a natural honey flavor. We ate these in the traditional way: opening the bun and adding some lotus seed, ham, and coating with the sweet sauce.

Honey Ham Lotus Bun

The Steamed Bass arrived a tad over-cooked and chewy, but I was so full — really, really full — that I was almost thankful I didn’t want it.

Steamed fish

Alas, surprise! There was one more complimentary dish!! A Carp in Tomato Sauce:a mild version of sweet and sour. The flesh was tender and the sauce was perfect. It was a little sweet, a little tangy, and very garlicky.

tomato carp

This was such an obscene amount of food for seven people and several plates were cleaned off. It was a totally enjoyable pig fest, ending with a suitable food coma… I slept all the way home.
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