China Wok Express is a classic American-Chinese take-out joint incongruously housed in a building with a Swiss red roof chalet type thing going on. I was there at lunch time and the place was jammed with people waiting for take-out or eating at one of its six tables and the phone was ringing off the hook. The restaurant seems to be active in the local community, one wall is papered in appreciation certificates from local organizations. If you eat-in, the food comes served on styro-foam plates, on red plastic trays, with plastic to-go packets of Chinese mustard, soy sauce and duck sauce.
The Dumplings: China Wok Express sells steamed or fried dumplings, crab Rangoon and spicy fried wontons. Unless I am craving some pork fried rice or pork lo mein I normally avoid American-Chinese take-out joints, but the listing of spicy fried wontons on the menu had caught my eye. Unfortunately these pork wontons turned out to be pretty bad. I think they must pre-fry a large batch of wontons and then when this dish is ordered they stir-fry the wontons in the spicy sauce. What you get is fried wontons so saturated in sauce that they have lost their crunch and have taken on a thick leathery texture instead. I only made it through about three of my order of twelve. The sauce is quite good and I think they would have a fine dish if they boiled fresh pork wontons and served them in the sauce.
The steamed dumplings are large, moon shaped dumplings filled with, as the guy behind the counter put it “basically just pork”, although there was a little bit of scallion in the filling too. Typical of American-Chinese restaurants the wrappers were thick and sturdy, and slightly sweet. The filling was serviceable, your basic mildly seasoned pork. But these dumplings were actually very good when dipped in the sauce from the spicy fried wontons. My advice is order the steamed pork dumplings and a side of the spicy sauce.
The Dipping Sauce: The steamed dumplings come with a small plastic tub of soy based dipping sauce, but the tub is really too small to dip the large dumplings in. The spicy sauce that comes with the wontons is a thickened soy sauce, maybe with some hoisin sauce mixed in, that is sweet and spicy, but less spicy than is suggested by its red color.
Location: China Wok Express is on King Street, which is the commercial drag that heads north out of Northampton’s downtown. Look for the building with the vaguely Swiss chalet style red roof, on the left as you drive away from Northampton.