East China beats China King in Shawnee food battle

By Sarah Fulton

Sarah Fulton, managing editor

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Two small family-owned Chinese restaurants have been serving the Shawnee area for years. China King, 22068 W 66th Street Shawnee, receives the majority of the orders because of its location in the busiest part of western Shawnee. East China, 5556 Hedge Lane Terrace, however, has delighted the crowd living on the other side of Kansas 7 highway.

I decided that this was an ultimate restaurant battle worthy of a feature on Food Network. One restaurant had to come out on top and claim its rightful place as western Shawnee’s favorite Chinese food.

I visited East China first. The strip mall it is located in was basically deserted, but that meant that there were plenty of parking spaces and not a lot of people to deal with. The restaurant was one very long room, divided in half by a wall that separated the dining and kitchen areas. The chairs were an icky brown color and there were boxes everywhere, but overall the restaurant was very clean. A signed picture of a male body builder, who I assume was Chinese, looked down onto customers from its high spot on the top of the fridge.

The lady behind the counter was very friendly and greeted me with a genuine smile. I ordered a large quart of Chicken Lo Mein to go and sat down to wait. The lady called the order out to the cook, who immediately began to make it with a quiet fury. Not five minutes had passed and I was out the door heading towards China King.

However, just getting into China King was a battle. The surrounding strip mall was booming with a liquor store and a tanning salon. It was a miracle that I pulled into a spot with hitting a car or a person. The restaurant itself had large windows that let in a large amount of natural light, but the view of the parking lot was not overly appealing. A large painting of the Great Wall provided something to look at, but was not nearly as funny as the body builder.

The restaurant had a good number of customers, unlike East China, but that meant it was also loud. Between the customer’s conversations, the host yelling orders back to the kitchen and the loud banging of pots, the noise level was a little overwhelming.

When I ordered my Chicken Lo Mein, the order taker said hello and thank you but acted like she did not have the time to deal with me. I sat down feeling a bit ignored. The wait for the food was slightly longer that at East China but was understandable for the amount of customers. After ten minutes of waiting,  I was just ready to leave.

And leave I did. I raced home because I could not wait to have a side-by-side comparison. I consider Chicken Lo Mein to be the quintessential Chinese food, so I prepared myself to be ruthless.

Opening the bags, I was surprised to find that while East China put their Lo Mein in the typical Chinese food box, China King placed theirs into a plastic container. I am a fan of the traditional packing of Chinese food, but my mother was delighted to have another container to add to our mismatched collection of Tupperware.

I pulled out a plate, mentally divided it in half and placed a serving of East China on one side and China King on the other. I was worried about mixing the sides up until I discovered that East China’s Lo Mein had a darker brown color that China King’s.

I then learned that the darker color meant more flavor. East China’s Lo Mein had a wonderful full-bodied flavor.  The sauce had a hint of flavor and stuck perfectly to every noodle and chicken surface. It had a deliciousness that China King failed to match. While the vegetables in China King’s Lo Mein had a nice crunch, it lacked flavor. It was not bad, but after eating the East China it was disappointing.

So, after reviewing all the facts I have declared East China the winner. The little out of the way store faired far better than its more popular companion.  Its food was better, the wait shorter and the staff friendlier. The only thing China King had going for it was the convenient location, but even that was proved to be a negative.  Take the extra time and go to East China.

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