I’ve always fantasized about secret menus that are only known to the insider’s circle that every decent restaurant seems to have.

Anytime I drive past a strip mall with a faded Asian restaurant tucked away in the corner I fantasize that there’s an octogenarian Chinese lady in the back quietly plying her trade for a handful of in the know ex-pats. An example of this sort of woolgathering has played out on the national stage these past few years.

Like most people who love real Chinese food we’ve followed the career of one Peter Chang with great interest.

For the uninformed Chef Chang has built a cult following of underground food sleuths and writers as he cooks his way across the United States in the itinerant style that many people find irresistible.

At one point he landed in Knoxville Tennessee a mere 100 miles from my parent’s farm in rural Knox County Kentucky.

Of course I was 1300 miles away in Austin Texas but I’ve never been much of one to shy away from a food trip so I started planning accordingly.

After a month or so I’d coaxed a few workmates into covering my duties for a week and half, got my bike tuned up and took off for Knoxville, Tennessee the new mecca of Sichuan food in the US.

My father and I ate quite well that day running the table on apps and splitting three entrees with plenty leftovers to take back to the farm.

We’ve lost track of Chef Chang since that day but we have eaten delicious, semi-off the menu, real Chinese food at China Palace up on Airport Blvd since way back in the 90’s.

Of course it had completely fallen off our radar, as sometimes even the best restaurants do, til we read ex-Statesman critic’s Mike Sutter’s piece on his website a few days ago.

Clearly a visit is in order soon but to tide us over til we can get up there we did manage to dig up a photo from one of our dusty old archives we keep sitting around the house.

Til then we’ll leave y’all with a piece from Mick Vann, one of the biggest Asian food hounds in Austin http://www.austinchronicle.com/food/2006-08-11/394201/

and Mr. Sutter’s piece as well http://fedmanwalking.com/content/food-airport-boulevard-part-2

and a very fine piece on Chef Chang http://www.oxfordamerican.org/articles/2010/feb/24/todd-kliman-chases-perfect-chef/

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