the spot: Gan Shan Station 143 Charlotte St Asheville NC 28801
the eats: Black Bean Chicken, Brisket Fried Rice, Chinese Broccoli, Salt and Pepper Tofu, House Made Dumplings, Korean Cabbage Wraps
the bucks: $10 a dish and meant for sharing. factor about $10-$15 a person.
the full nelson: when you’re craving food from the entire continent of Asia
For a moment, I got caught up in the idea that Gan Shan Station would be the future of Asian restaurant dining in America. Then I paused and realized there was no way the tide of regional specific Chinese, ramen only and Korean fried chicken joints would shift anytime soon. Still Gan Shan Station does tell me a lot about the conscience of American diners in the 21st Century: all Asian cuisines are on the table.
At Gan Shan Station you will find dishes from Korea, Japan, China and Thailand. Its kind of like an all Asian food court one might find in Los Angeles’ famed San Gabriel Valley, a Mecca for many Asian foods, regional Chinese in particular. But we are not in LA, we are in Asheville North Carolina, which might raise an eyebrow or two. Well prepare for some bulging eyeballs as well, because seeing is believing and you have got to gander at the deliciousness going on at Gan Shan Station.
The house made dumplings are reason enough to visit Gan Shan Station, though I must admit I am a sucker for any dumplings when they are made in house. Nice and thick, with a noticeable chew, at Gan Shan Station you have your choice of vegetable or meat filling. If you are with a group, which is the best way to experience the menu, get both. You might want to ask for extra dipping sauce, its salty, vinegary and spicy all at once. In fact, you might as well ask for a bottle of the stuff.
It seems like lately people have been advocating to cook their vegetables like meat(insert the cauliflower steak fad here). I came across an article by Mark Bittman, former columnist for the New York Times and author of several cookbooks, who advocates for cooking vegetables over high heat. Well it seems the Chinese have known this for centuries, as was the case with the Chinese Broccoli, also called Gai Lan, at Gan Shan Station. The char is evidence of high heat cooking and a little chili and garlic never hurts either. I can only assume kids in China grow up loving broccoli; if I had broccoli like this growing up, I would too.
At Gan Shan Station you will find a taste of Korea by way of the ubiquitous lettuce wraps, well marinated savory meats, pickled cabbage(kimchi) and cucumber. The first time fifty times I ate Korean food, I found the flavor experience to be borderline overwhelming. The marinades they use and that kimchi is strong stuff. Then I learned to eat with the lettuce wraps and all became right in the world. This might have been the closest I got to salad at Gan Shan Station, but unlike most salads I order at restaurants, I would order this one again and again. Ok, I do order some salads again but this one is at least light on the dressing.
Black Bean Chicken is a classic of Cantonese cooking, found in areas such as Hong Kong. The signature to this dish is a pan sauce that most prominently features fermented black soy beans. Sometimes braised, in this case fried, the chicken is coated in the intensely savory sauce. Available on its own or in a rice bowl, you’re gonna want to order some version of the black bean chicken at Gan Shan Station. And you thought I was gonna get the Orange chicken . . . .
I’ll keep this short: don’t skip the tofu. You know me and you know I’m not trying to peddle you health fads and this most certainly ain’t that kinda tofu. Smoked and then fried, this is some sheer vegan indulgence and if you need more convincing, go ahead and mop up this stuff with the ginger-shoyu dipping sauce spiked with a little heat from some Szechuan peppercorns. Now move on the next paragraph because I’m late for my yoga class.
Leave it to the special of the day to be the best dish of the day. Brisket fried rice seems to be a dish that is on the verge of trending; I have seen it pop up in Austin at a newly opened, “new school” Asian restaurant called Old Thousand. Like pork belly, brisket is both an amazing entrée and ingredient. At Gan Shan Station, brisket appears as an ingredient and frankly brisket and fried rice were just meant to be. I am an advocate for authenticity, but brisket fried rice is one delicious exception to the rule.
I do love Asheville(especially the Cheap Eats) and I love to support local, and Gan Shan Station makes it darn easy to do both. Freewheeling Asian cookery using local ingredients is a win win. Prices are overall moderate and the food is meant to be shared, so bring a group. And give me a ring because I’m down to nosh on any of these dishes the first chance I get.