I took a stroll round Bur Dubai a few days ago. In among the hotels, grocery shops, mobile phone shops, pharmacies, cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, laundries and open air markets was a tiny little air-conditioned shopping mall with a little food court. And, in that food court was a little Chinese food outlet. And, what they served me was fabulous, both times I went there.
The name of this establishment is “Qing Wok.” I perused their varied menu. Every item had its own page complete with a photo of the meal in full and mouthwatering colour. I went for the “Beef with Veg Sizzling Plate.” Now, it has been my experience that eating in Dubai malls can be a bit hit and miss. Mall Food is sometimes served lukewarm after being re-heated, which is a bit off-putting. The McDonalds and Burger Kings of Dubai often serve their chips this way, lukewarm and floppy and not at all crispy and cooked 3 hours earlier. In this respect the McDonalds and Burger Kings of Dubai are 100% authentic. (Incidentally, our American friends call “Chips” “French Fries” because they call “Crisps” “Chips” and you have to wonder what is wrong with the English language that causes our American friends to keep changing it).
Let’s forget about bad, reheated, floppy and lukewarm food court items and concentrate on the little Chinese food outlet in the tiny air-conditioned mall. Now, I was a bit pensive about ordering. What if the meal was another re-heated mess? If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that I ordered the “Beef with Veg Sizzling Plate”. I asked the chap on the till if the meal would come piping hot and he assured me it would. He said it also came with rice and promised that everything would be delicious. So, I ponied up the requisite AED 37 or about $10 U.S. or Eight British Pounds (which I would type as “£8.00” if I could find the “£” sign on my UAE-purchased keyboard but I can’t so “Eight British Pounds” will have to do. Sorry.)
I was given a buzzer thingy which would alert me when my meal was ready. I waited about 15 minutes and then it (the buzzer) started buzzing and vibrating and flashing and walking across the table under its own steam. I picked it up before it had a chance to complete its escape and made my way to the serving counter of the tiny Qing Wok establishment. Qing Wok is so tiny that the “serving counter” is also the “Order counter” and the “Pay Here” counter.
Now, a 15-minute wait for a sizzling meal is normally a good sign because chances are it is being cooked from scratch. And so it proved to be. My dish looked AWESOME in its cast-iron cow shaped plate and it was definitely sizzling! The veggies were crisp and fresh, the beef was tender and properly cooked through and the rice was done to perfection. It came with little tubs of soy sauce and chili slices in vinegar. The taste was to die for, which a cow had already done because I was eating it. The portion was generous, I’m on a diet, and with a huge effort I left half of the side plate of rice reluctantly uneaten. Everything in the Sizzling Cow Dish itself had to be eaten, and so it gleefully was. It was delicious. I washed it down with a diet Coke.
I made a “mental note” to return to this jewel of an eatery at some point in the future, as and when I could find a date and time in my busy Dubai schedule. Dubai has so much to see and explore and offer and it’s easy to get caught in the glamour and glitz of this magical city, to have it sweep me off my 59 year old feet, never to return to this little cafe in the wall in a tiny mall in a little corner of Dubai. So, I returned to little Qing Wok cafe the very next day because as I mentioned I’m 59 years old and “mental notes” don’t last very long.
This time I ordered the Seafood Chinese Sizzling Hotplate. I decided against a Diet Coke this time and after I was handed my Walking Vibrating Flashing Light Buzzer I went to McDonalds to order a coffee which is one of the few things McDonalds actually does well all of the time. It’s always fresh and courtroom-lawsuit hot and tasty. The only thing was that it took a long to get because the McDonalds coffee machine was empty so they had to make a fresh batch which in my house takes 5 minutes but Fast Food Experts McDonalds managed to drag the fresh coffee making out to 20 minutes by which time my Qing Wok buzzer was vibrating and flashing and dragging me all over the mall.
Coffee in hand, it was back to the Seafood Chinese Sizzling Hotplate. The experience was identical to the Beef Hotplate, everything was perfect. One important change: no cows had died for me that day but prawns and squid and fish had definitely Bitten-The-Big-One so that yours truly could have another out of this world super-hot, super-fresh meal.
The Seafood Sizzling Hotplate with actual sizzling and bubbling caught on video just prior to being eaten.
It would be an oversight on my part if I did not also pay tribute to the incredibly fresh and tasty cauliflower, onions, carrots, cabbage and sweet peppers which were also sacrificed in order to satisfy my lunchtime cravings. Oh Gallant Fresh Veggies, you went out (and down my throat) in a blaze of freshly-cooked glory, unlike some of the dismal lukewarm and reheated fare I’d been subjected to in one or two of the bigger malls of Dubai.
“Qing Wok Chinese Restaurant” in a tiny mall in Bur Dubai, I salute you!