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Great-value cold dishes, noodles, soups, sweets, and "shashlik" in the basement food court of Richland Center. Cash only.

Our Review

A highlight of the basement food court in Chinatown's Richland Center, Snack Planet has a long, glossy checklist menu offering an assortment of cold dishes, noodles, soups, sweets, and a surprisingly large array of "shashlik." The last are 36 varieties of meats and vegetables to choose from, each order consisting of four or five little bites threaded onto thin wooden skewers and boiled in a roiling pot of spiced cooking oil, like a combination of hot pot and Japanese oden. On my initial reconnaissance my first taste was eye-opening: a quartet of perfectly cooked quail eggs with a soft, pillowy texture, infused with the slight but unmistakable buzz of Sichuan peppercorn. Sticks of pierced cocktail weenies, chunks of cauliflower ("white broccoli" per the menu), and bean curd sheets were nice too, and in total, a great value. Skewers run 50 cents apiece for vegetarian selections such as lotus root, eggplant, wheat gluten, mushroom, and bok choy, and $1 for fleshier bits like meatballs, fish balls, chicken kidneys, shrimp, squid, and pig's blood. You can easily make a meal of them for $5. But what was truly revelatory was a sampling of the cold dishes: a large plastic takeout container of jellylike wood-ear mushrooms (good for the circulation) and an equally sizable portion of "Laganma chili paste with beef"—a mound of matchsticked bamboo draped with slice after slice of tender beef shank smothered in the spicy, earthy black-bean chile sauce properly known as LaoGanMa, an oft-counterfeited brand with a cultlike following among Asian condiment aficionados. Another big $2.99 "cold dish" called Nanshan spicy chicken had chopped bits of bird bathing in vibrant chile oil, sprinkled with peanuts and cilantro. Considering the portion sizes and quality of these so-called snacks, Snack Planet was offering outstanding value—there's nothing on the menu over $3.50. Read the full review >>

Mike Sula

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Price: $

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