There are thousands of ways to say I love you. You can say it in a different language like in French (Je t’aime), Spanish (Te amo) or say it in Mandarin Chinese (Wo ai ni). You can give gifts showing how much you love someone or share an experience like going on a date to create memories. I was always taught the way to show love and the way to man’s heart in through his stomach. I was raised in the kitchen and my parents taught me early on how to bake and cook for my family. Cooking is my way of showing how much I care for someone. So for your first Valentine’s Day of the new decade, choose your favorite love language, grab that special someone and let someone else show their love by serving you dishes from their family cookbook. Let’s go eat at Ming Dynasty in the Rivergate Shopping Center right beside Ollie’s and close to East Carolina University.

They specialize in Mandarin, Schezwan and Cantonese dishes; provide gluten free, low-fat, peanut-free and vegetarian options; and they have been in business for over 30 years. Enjoy sitting in comfort at artfully decorated tables or plush booths with linen napkins, order a drink from the full bar offering beer, wine and cocktails. Ming’s everyday lunch and dinner menu offers a variety of items from appetizers, chicken, pork, beef, seafood and vegetarian options. They also offer lighter fare’s and gluten free options allowing you to pick and choose items for a truly authentic meal from start to finish.

The restaurant recently updated its space, too, adding decorative mood lightening and cloud sky-panels with colored LEDs for a calming effect. For Valentine’s week, Ming Dynasty will offer a couples special for $40 plus tax and tip from through Friday. Let me tell you all about this happy heart day culinary journey which includes two glasses of wine, two soups, and a choice between two menu options served with white rice.

First, select a glass of wine to fall in love with. One of my favorites is the Kenwood Vineyards Merlot from Sonoma, California. It’s deep garnet in color and has aromas of plum and cherry along with a velvety mouth feel with back notes of deep vanilla and cinnamon. They have so many to choose from, you will have no problem finding a winner with their wine menu.

Now let’s heat things up with a warm bowl of soup. It’s always comforting, inviting and full of flavor. Choose from egg drop, wanton or hot and sour. I selected the creamy egg drop for my starter because it’s my favorite. The glossy yellow soup base is loaded with luscious ribbons of egg. Don’t forget to add in a handful of fried wonton strips for the full effect. They add a nice crunch and are also great dipped in their homemade, thick and sweet plum sauce.

I also added an appetizer to my tasting because I can’t come to Ming Dynasty without eating their crab rangoon. They take a mixture of cream cheese, spices, scallions and crabmeat and add it in the middle of a wonton wrapper. Close it up like a little purse and deep fry it. It comes out flaky, crispy on the outside and when you break the shell apart, the sweet crab and cream cheese mixture is soft and decadent. It’s a little purse of love to add to your Valentine’s meal.

Before I unveil the two entree choices, don’t you just love the moment you see your hot dish coming out, stirred by its amazing presentation and anticipating the taste. This is that moment. The first menu option is the shrimp and beef featuring springy succulent shrimp interlaced, mixed vegetables and steamed white rice. The marinated beef strips are paired with colorful vegetables stir fried in a brown sauce made with wine, oyster sauce, pepper and garlic. It was vibrant with sliced snow pea pods, bok choy, carrots, zucchini, broccoli and mushrooms. It was warm, filling and delightful. The second Valentine’s entree option is the chicken and shrimp with the same delicious veggies. This one has the same fragrant brown sauce. Both dishes were filled with a colorful array of flavors that will take those taste buds to the orient with every bite.

If you can’t make it for the Valentine’s special, then go to Ming Dynasty and enjoy their lunch buffet that features over 20 items. Selections include those dreamy crab rangoon, chow mein, sesame chicken, vegetable lo mein, chicken with broccoli, hot & spicy bean curd, sweet and sour chicken, General Tso’s chicken, seasoned meatballs, pepper chicken, pork with onions, Singapore noodles, steamed rice, chicken fried rice, seasoned potatoes and egg rolls. They have all three soups to choose from, soup noodles, assorted cookies, jello and sweet sugared doughnuts. For the dinner buffet they replace the bean curd with peel and eat fried shrimp and add crispy chicken wings. The lunch buffet is $11.95 and comes with a beverage and the dinner buffet is also $11.95 but does not come with a beverage.

No matter how you show your love to friends, family, or that special someone this Valentine’s Day, say it with food, because food brings everyone together and when you eat great food, no matter if it’s a holiday or not, you are sharing those good love vibes and making the world a better place.

Ming Dynasty is open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4-10 p.m. Friday, 4-10 p.m. and Saturday and noon-3 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. Sunday. If you decide you want to take food home with you, Ming Dynasty provides take-out that is always fast and affordable. You can call in your order to 752-7111 or go online to www.mingdynastygreenville.com.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.