Tag Archives: OK Koala

A Tale of Two Buffalo Wings

Buffalo wings in China can be a culinarily frustrating topic. More often than not, chicken wings are classified as “Buffalo” on a menu, but they taste nothing like the cayenne pepper spiciness one would actually find back in America. A few months ago, on the basis of a tip from a friend, I managed to locate actual Buffalo wings in Nanjing, but that’s the capital of Jiangsu and not Changzhou. Essentially, I had given up on finding this particular dish in the dragon city. However, two possibilities have cropped up recently. I thought it might be interesting to give both a side-by-side consideration. Let’s start in the city center.

Burgeri is a restaurant I have known about for many months now. There were two things that kept me out of this place: 1) I hadn’t really seen anybody eating in there every time I walked by, and 2) I distrust Chinese owned places that do hamburgers — I’ve been burned way too many times. A Canadian friend told me that it was decent enough, and that he had noticed Buffalo wings on the menu. So, I gave it a try.

First, it should be noted that the white dipping sauce in this picture is ranch dressing and not blue cheese. These were largely okay. The sauce used is absolutely Buffalo, yet it will neither set your tongue nor your mouth on fire.

Honestly, Burgeri’s wings tastes like somebody imported only one jug of Texas Pete, and because it might have been kind of expensive, they started using the sauce a conservatively as possible. Back home, these would be very mediocre. However, I’m in Changzhou and not the USA, and the flavor is there — just at a lower intensity. There is little other competition, and so what would suck stateside is an exotic delicacy in Changzhou. So, if you want to eat something that merely scratches a culinary itch, Burgeri will will do that.

One thing has to be noted, though. Burgeri uses a QR code based menu where you scan your table and make your order. There practically is no waitstaff, and the menu is in 100% Chinese. The people running the place do not speak English, or at least nobody did when I visted. So, you have to make your dining selections through either shoving screenshots into a translation app or by trusting the pictures. Now, onto the next one: OK Koala.

In the name of full disclosure, I am like the furniture in this place: always there. The owner is a very, very close, personal friend of mine. If I didn’t say this, somebody could plausibly accuse me of bias. And if you are one of those people, knock it off. We’re talking chicken wings and not intrepid investigative reporting on weighty issues of international implications. Plus, I think I can be honest in letting the details do the talking.

Good wings usually means a pile of tissues from wiping your fingers and face!

While Burgeri’s wing sauce is likely out of a bottle, Koala makes their own on site. Also, the sauce is served separately. This is a very wise thing to do, as it allows the wing eater to control the heat level to their liking. If you want to just do daubs, you can. If you want to slather it on, you can also do that. Also, if one just wants the wings on not the sauce at all, it allows the diner just that. The other difference entails how Koala only sells wings and not drumettes.

Which place has better Buffalo wings? I am inclined to say Koala, but people can try both for themselves and make their own decision.

Xinbei, Near Wanda and Found City Plazas.
Downtown, Near Qingguo Lane

OK Koala: Sunday Brunch with Grandma

“You are asking the wrong person. I am quite antisocial. I don’t know.” 

I said this to a friend of mine, recently. She’s Chinese, and her fiance is an American new to China. In day to day to life, he is surrounded by his future Chinese in-laws.  He’s also surrounded by Chinese, and not his native language. Potentially, he may feel like a stranger in strange land, and she was wondering how and where he could meet fellow expats. As we talked, I realized that trying to use my fundamental lack of people skills as an escape was not going to be helpful to her and her fiance.  So, I thought extra hard for answer.

And then my mind drifted to Satina Anziano. She used to operate Grandma’s Nook in Wujin. It was a bakery that specialized in super awesome multigrain and sour dough breads. Plus there were always homemade chocolate chip cookies and rather illicit and guilty pleasure inducing cinnamon rolls. I mean, who else in Changzhou actually made and sold cinnamon rolls? She used to do Sunday brunch in at her Wujin shop, too. Only, I was always too busy to go. After all, I tend to be an antisocial, brooding, solitary type of guy. I know that’s a problem, and I am trying to get over it. Plus, I had too many part time jobs on Sunday, so I never went.

Satina has since retired and sold her shop. But, she’s still active in the expat community. Her brunches never ended, they just migrated from Wujin to Xinbei. Every sunday, Grandma’s brunches are now available at OK Koala, which can be found just one B1 BRT stop beyond Xinbei Wanda Plaza.

Every Sunday, you can get the sort of heavy breakfast that would be readily available all day in either an Australian cafe or a New Jersey diner. By this, I mean scrambled eggs, toast, potatoes, omelettes, and much more. This is the ultimate comfort food while living in Changzhou. Why? It’s hard to find. if you don’t make it for yourself. Besides OK Koala, the only place to get a breakfast like this would be Pizza Hut. After all, they serve omelettes and hash brown sticks.  Only, the person eating one table over from you will be Chinese, and they will be spooning an expensive porridge into their mouth. And they will likely be more concerned with staring at QQ on their iPhone than talking to you.

Grandma’s brunch’s at OK Koala is a great chance to meet your fellow expats. I went there recently. I realized that it had been forever since I talked to Satina, I went there to find her, only to find out that she had been feeling ill, Still, I hung around, and for the first time somebody showed me what Australian vegemite was, when

Vegemite on toast!

thinly spread onto bread. A New Zealander was also quick on hand that marmite was better. Vegemite? Marmite? It’s all the same to

this Jersey guy.  It’s deliciously sort of bitter on toast. But, honestly, I loved that a Kiwi and an Aussie had a chance to argue their cases in front of clueless American. And, right now, OK Koala is the only place to to have discussions like that on Sunday mornings.

 

 

 

OK Koala: Down Under in the Middle Kingdom

American knowledge of Australian food might be restricted to Vegemite. I don’t even know what exactly that is — other than a darkly colored paste that many Aussies like to slather onto toast. And there is only one reason why I know this.  It was a lyric in the now forgotten (by Americans) Men at Work song “Down Under.” So, I am imagining its a cultural cliche — just the same way that “Fosters is Australian” is also a a cliche.

“Oh, Rich, that’s a shit beer we feed to foreigners,”  an Aussie friend once told me. “Why? We don’t want drink it!”

So, yes, okay, I don’t really don’t know anything about Australian food and drinks. This is why my curiosity was piqued by OK Koala, in Xinbei. It’s a cafe and a bar operated by an Aussie, and it recently underwent a soft opening. In short, all that means it is brand new and that some menu items might not be available, as the Chinese staff undergoes training on how to actually prepare some of the food items.

One thing, however, is readily available. Meat pies! I had three of them last I visited: steak and mushroom, ground beef and cheese, and chicken and leek. All of them were very good and reasonably priced. OK Koala even has sausage rolls. These seemed to have more ground sausage at the middle. So, if one is looking for the Scottish variety (a British sausage link wrapped in pastry dough), look elsewhere. But seriously, this is about as close as you are going to get in city like Changzhou.

While this place wears it’s Australian nationality on it’s sleeve (and why shouldn’t it!), the amount of alcohol available is well stocked and  extremely international. Yes, you can find Australian beer here, but you can even find American micro brew. Hell, the bar even has a bottle of Polish egg-based advocaat, should a weary and homesick Pollack wander in.

And wandering in is extremely easy.  OK Koala is conveniently located. It’s next to the BRT station just one stop north of Wanda Plaza.