Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Crescent Moon, different kind of Chinese, open in Plano and Richardson
Northern Chinese with dumplings, green onion pie, and no MSG.
Crescent Moon Cuisine, newly opened in Plano with another branch coming soon to Richardson, brings a unique version of Chinese food popular in California: Northern Chinese with a greater emphasis on wheat items and Halal/Zabiha meat.
Unlike southern China, Northern China's staple crop is wheat, which emerges in the form of noodles, buns, and specialty breads. About 80% of Crescent Moon's menu consists of dishes you see at other Chinese restaurants, but they have a few items not available everywhere, including dumplings, pot stickers, and green onion pie (sometimes called green onion pancake).
"Where the South eats rice, there's more wheat in the Northern diet," says Naaserden Chang, who owns Crescent Moon with his wife Fatema.
They have an impeccable vegetarian spring roll with shredded cabbage whose spicing incorporates a hint of nutmeg for a unique, sophisticated flavor.
The other thing that's unique about Crescent Moon: no pork.
"In the Islamic community, they don't eat pork, and most Chinese restaurants do a lot of pork products, which is why a lot of Muslims shy away from Chinese restaurants," he says. Both the Plano branch, which opened a couple of months ago, and the Richardson branch, which will open this month, are located near mosques.
Chang, who's been in the U.S. since 1987, knows the culture well.
"My family is from Northern China, we come from generations of being Muslims, through the silk route," he says. "When my father was young, he was part of a unique group of students who went from China to Egypt for university studies. He learned Arabic. He lived in the Middle East. I was born in Saudi Arabia and spent my early years in the Middle East, until my father retired and emigrated to the U.S."
Chang worked for EDS for 23 years until 2008, when EDS was taken over by HP.
"My wife and I asked ourselves, 'What do we want to do?' Go back to the corporate life or start something new?' We said, 'Let's do something unique'," he says. "Our food, the ingredients we use, we try to be as healthy as possible. There's no MSG in our food. That was one of the troubles our cooks had: 'How do we cook this without MSG flavoring?' We experimented in different ways of cooking it, and our food is totally MSG free. People don't get the headache."
From the Crescent Moon website: "Zabiha restricts the slaughter of several animals, like the camel, locusts, and some sea creatures, as they are considered unlawful. Halal means anything which is lawful and permissible as per the laws of Islam. So Zabiha may be considered a form of Halal which ensures that very animal is slaughtered in a humane way, and complies with the Islamic beliefs."
"We are serving halal/zabiha, which has been successful in California, there are a couple of halal Chinese restaurants there that have a great following," Naaserden says. "From my understanding, it means 'hand-slaughtered' -- not machine slaughtered. If you follow the traditional teachings, we shouldn't be cruel to animals. Religion teaches us to be respectful when you slaughter animals, so that they don't suffer."
This more respectful approach comes at a time when animal advocacy groups have released videos revealing the often-disturbing conditions suffered by pigs, chickens, and cows at factory farms in the U.S.
The Plano branch is in a storefront at the northwest corner of Spring Creek and Independence; you have to hunt for it, because its only signage is a small moon on the door. The interior is refined, with stone tables, plush chairs, and a pleasing chartreuse-and-maroon color scheme. On Saturday afternoon, a hi-def TV on the wall aired a documentary about China whose discreet narration was oddly restful.
The Plano menu is "a little fusion," with a few Japanese dishes such as tempura vegetables. But with the Richardson being located closer to the Chinese community, the menu there will be more rigorous.
"When we open that one, we'll do away with fusion and concentrate on Chinese," he says. "We'll do little round dumplings, steamed and served in round steel buckets, and hand-made noodles."
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