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Palace Magic

Posted by CDB 1 Jul 2008 7 Comments

So, China Palace (5210 Garrett Rd) has a super secret menu, and Carpe Durham is always excited to explore the unknown.  The traditional menu is offered up on weekends.  By the looks of their website they may shift to offer it more often.  Oh, and there they call it Palace Magic.  I’ve been a fan of their more typical Chinese-American fare since moving to Durham (particularly General Ching’s, and the spicy chicken wing appetizer is a steal–they give you legs and wings!), so I was stoked for the secret menu venture and it did not disappoint.

The scallion pancake was really, really good.  It only got better with a dangerous amount of hot mustard on it.  It is crisp and awesome.  I fantasized about a stack of these pancakes.

Of the four things pictured here, the beef congee takes the cake.  The rice porridge was thick and delicious.  It actually didn’t need the beef.  (I can’t believe I’m recommending against meat in a dish.)  The fried dough was, well, fried dough.  Nothing wrong with that.  The tea stood out as it wasn’t steeped all day and bitter like it seems to be at a lot of other places.  Lastly, the dish hardly visible in the back, the Chinese five spice beef mix most certainly was cooked all day, if not since last week.  There were three different beef, ahem, parts: liver, tripe, and some unidentifiable cut–likely a roast or brisket or the like.  The tripe and the meat were enjoyable and as rich as you might imagine.  The five spice mix was thoroughly incorporated into the meats.  The liver, however, was still liver.  Not a morsel I’ve ever enjoyed, I found the liver to be tolerable and I ate it with rice and a little soy sauce because it was so intense and liverlike.

The spicy dry bean curd with shredded pork was as good as it sounds.  This stir fry of pork, tofu, and hot peppers was a veritable party in the mouth.  The tofu remained firm and helped ease the heat from the peppers, that had flavor that was integral to the dish–bringing more than just the pain.  I highly recommend this one.

If you want to have a super secret feast they have a couple items that require two days advance notice to prepare.  They include Cantonese duck and steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce.


  • weege said:

    The spicy bean curd w/ shredded pork is wonderful and you can get it anytime, not just on weekends. Just ask for their special Chinese menu when ordering.


  • A tour of the Durham food blog scene | Ginny From The Blog said:

    [...] the Carpe Durham blog, you can see mouth-watering inspiring photos of the scallion pancake, beef congee and the spicy dry bean curd with shredded pork ordered off the [...]

  • nick said:

    outside of their weekend specials, their secret menu during the week is pretty overpriced.


  • Phil said:

    Yay for you to find them! I do love China Palace for lunch on the weekends.

    I hope it’s not tacky that I occasionally comment with a link to my own blog on the same topic, but tacky or not, here you go, with a photo of your/my beloved scallion pancakes, and a couple of other things — Chinese greens with oyster sauce (light on the sauce please), and a different tripe soup with wide rice noodles:


    I’ve never thought to put the mustard sauce on the scallion pancakes as you did, but I’ll try to remember next time. I always smear a little of the red chili paste (gladly available on request).


  • Luke said:

    The address is 5210 Garrett Rd, Durham NC 27707 for those who love to google map these things


  • Carpe Durham/Reasonably Prudent Person said:

    Thanks, I updated the post.


  • BobinMass said:

    Had to go to the eye surgeon in South Durham today, and saw China Palace on the way down. The parking lot was full at one on a Friday afternoon, which is a very good omen. Stopped on the way home and just made it in before they closed for the afternoon. My accomplice had the sweet and sour chicken, I had the broccoli and beef, both of us had egg rolls. All was very good, great portions for the price, service was IMMEDIATE, and I was tempted to try to steal some of the hot mustard for home. Some folks don’t understand how great a mustard sauce, or horse radish sometimes, can be when it brings tears to your eyes and stings your sinuses! I’d go regularly if they opened in North Durham!


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