Hot Dish is a wonderful advertising option for restaurants in eastern North Carolina. They can schedule a slot any week to showcase their business and remind readers about their location, menu and more. Restaurants can take part several times a year to feature different elements of their service. This spring, we published part one of a three-part series on Ming Dynasty, featuring their new Hibachi dishes and updated menu. Ming Dynasty has been in business for over 35 years and is located at the Rivergate Shopping Center off 10th Street beside Ollie’s.

Ming Dynasty specializes in Mandarin, Schezwan and Cantonese dishes with sweet and savory elements, layered and textured and rich in diverse regional flavors. Owner Mary Yuen, along with chef de cuisine Steven Zhou and a courteous staff, strive to make sure guests have a wonderful dining experience or easily order take-out. The menu features traditional appetizers like spring rolls, fried rice options, lo mein noodles, beef, pork, chicken, seafood, hibachi items as well as a variety of chow mein and egg foo young dishes.

For part two of my Hot Dish tasting, I’m featuring vegetarian options and low-calorie food. The holidays are fast approaching, so let’s try to put our bodies back in check all while fueling them with low-calorie and vegetarian options that may just turn a carnivore into an herbivore.

Let’s start with the low fat steamed shrimp with mixed vegetables served with a side of white rice. A rainbow of vegetables include crinkle cut sweet carrots, snow peas, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli and Napa cabbage mixed with plump steamed shrimp all nestled in a light chicken broth-based sauce. It’s clean, healthy and a perfect choice for someone on a salt- or fat-restricted diet. They can make this dish gluten-free as well, as they have a special area in the kitchen and separate tools used for gluten-free preparation. If you are not a shrimp lover, you can have these same vegetables with noodles or chicken.

Let’s keep the color wheel turning with a plate of green beans. Fresh French style green beans have been pan seared and lightly sautéed with a tangy brown sauce. The plates comes out heaped with bright green beans, beautiful grill marks, with an al dente bite bursting with vegetable flavor.

Now let’s have some tofu. No, I did not just say a foreign word. I’m sure you have seen tofu as wrapped white blocks in the vegetable isle, but were scared of it, afraid to taste it or just plain didn’t know what it is. Tofu is bean curd made from mashed soy beans that are shaped into a block and compressed. Tofu can be silky or soft, which have been used in vegan desserts like mousses and cheesecakes, to firm or extra firm, which can easily be sliced into chunks marinated and roasted, fried or sautéed. Tofu once marinated or drizzled with sauce soaks up that flavor making it a versatile dish. It’s really a wonder how it can transform itself in so many different ways. It also has a slew of health benefits and contains iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc and B-1. Tofu originated in China and is a staple ingredient in Chinese and Thai cooking and a very undervalued plant-based protein.

I first tried tofu in the Moo Shu Tofu, which is cabbage, onions, mushrooms and marinated fried tofu stir-fry style. It’s served with a side or white rice, dark, rich plum sauce and a side of homemade pancakes, which look a lot like crepes or thin savory pancakes. You take a pancake, add a few spoonfuls of the tofu mixture, a dab of plum sauce and roll it up like a taco. The fried tofu has a slightly fried shell and soft inner flesh that eats like eggs and tasted clean, was open textured and super filling.

Let’s have some more tofu, shall we? Since most people at Ming go straight for the General Tso’s chicken with it’s battered chicken in a sweet, sticky spicy sauce, why not switch the chicken for tofu and have the General Tso’s tofu. The unique flavors of this dish comes from the vibrant sauce made with vinegar, a rich hoisin sauce which is similar to a think honey/teriyaki sauce, garlic, sugar and hot peppers. It has a pyramid of flavors that awaken the taste buds as you eat it, an umami tongue explosion from sweet to spicy. They take big chunks of tofu mixing it with this dynamic sauce that is so dark, rich it glosses and shines on each piece making your tofu look like gemstones.

Ming Dynasty offers take-out service daily, a full service bar, as well as dine-in lunch and dinner service. Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and Sunday noon-3 p.m. Dinner hours are Monday-Thursday 4-9:30 p.m., Friday 4-10 p.m. and Saturday 4-10 p.m. For more information, or to place your to-go order, call 252-752-7111. You can also view their entire menu on their website, www.mingdynastygreenville.com. The final part of the Ming Dynasty series will be at the end of November when we create a family feast just in time for the holidays.

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