Celery gets a bad rap. Granted, its stalks don’t have much flavor. It’s fibrous and pulpy, and that’s not a texture everyone enjoys. But any vegetable can be amazing in the hands of a skilled cook. My evidence is a simple stir-fry at Liang’s Kitchen—thin, tender-crisp slices of celery make up the foundation, but there are plenty of jalapeños, strips of grilled pork, bits of sauce-absorbing tofu and slightly chewy chunks of squid. Spicy and savory, it’s a great complementary dish for a shared feast at Liang’s or on its own (with steamed rice) for a satisfying lunch.
Chinese food in Las Vegas also gets a bad rap. Many complain that we don’t have enough good Chinese food here, despite our array of Chinese fine dining (on the Strip) and authentic regional flavors at super-low prices (mostly along Spring Mountain Road). Liang’s fits in with the latter, although it’s not located in our Chinatown. It’s a friendly mom-and-pop with one of those descriptionless menus that belie soulful cuisine. Pop once flew in the Taiwanese Air Force, which explains the model planes and pilot’s gear hanging on the walls and ceiling.
The level of satisfaction here soars similarly. Pork-stuffed pocket bread ($10) is a must for every visit, a lovely filling of ground meat and herbs inside a crisp, sesame-laden pastry shell. The soup dumplings are solid ($10), but the pan-fried shrimp and chive turnovers are better ($11). You can replace the thin noodles in the rich beef stew ($10) with hand-pulled wide noodles for an extra hearty meal, or splurge on a half tea-smoked or salted duck ($19) or sweet and sour “squirrel shape fish” ($28), a traditional Jiangsu dish of mandarin fish with peas, carrots and bamboo shoots in a nearly cloying sauce.
Liang’s Kitchen will gladly serve orange chicken ($13) or broccoli beef ($13) to those without a sense of adventure—you know, people who don’t like celery—but the food here is so consistently good, you should take some chances. Try tai bai chicken ($17-$32), spicy with dried and pickled chilies and Sichuan pepper. It’s a great example of the powerful flavors packed into every plate.
Liang’s Kitchen 5570 W. Flamingo Road, 702-816-5266. Wednesday-Monday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.