Balancing Chinese Cuisine with Southern Hospitality
Wilmington might be a relatively small town when compared with others around the world, however, incredible culinary experiences exist in this corner of the country.
Double Happiness Chinese Restaurant has been serving authentic Chinese food to residents and visitors of Wilmington since the early 2000s.
“We started Double Happiness around the year of 2004,” says owner MAY CHEN. “My husband (Jamie Zheng) and I were newlyweds, and we had a dream to open our own restaurant.
“We felt Wilmington needed more authentic Chinese cuisine besides just the dark oolong tea, egg foo young, and chow mein.”
Chen says the couple wanted to offer authentic Chinese history and the culture through their dishes.
“The story behind the spring roll, the dumplings, and the ants climbing the tree; why the sauce served with the spring rolls is called duck sauce; is there General Tso’s chicken in China; etc.,” she says. “That’s how Double Happiness started.”
The essential goal of a Chinese meal “is to attain the harmony of taste, texture, aroma and color by balancing the principles of FAN and T’SAI foods,” they explain on their website. “FAN foods include rice, noodles, grains and dumplings. Vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood are T’SAI foods. All of our meals are prepared with the goal of attaining this balance.”
In a relatively short time, Double Happiness has become a staple for Wilmington diners who are looking for authenticity and genuine service.
So much so that in 2018, Double Happiness opened its second location in Ogden – at 7122 Market Street.
“As Wilmington grows rapidly, we felt there was a need to fulfill for our customers,” Chen says. “We had customers tell us that they drove all the way from Jacksonville, Hampstead, Leland, etc. to our Wrightsville Avenue location (4403 Wrightsville Avenue), so we started to consider a second space. When the opportunity came up for the location, we went right for it.”
One of the most heartwarming features of the way Chen and her husband run Double Happiness is through strong relationships with their customers.
“To me, a business’s success is not only based on how well the business runs,” Chen says. “I have gained so many friends, and they became family through Double Happiness. I will call that a success.”
When pressured to narrow down her list of favorite menu items, Chen says the dishes that stand out to her are the dry wok chicken, the shrimp with ginger scallions, the shacha shacha fish, and the Sichuan eggplant.
Each of these dishes is a favorite among customers, as well.
Like many other businesses in the area, the COVID-19 shutdown in the spring was difficult for the restaurant owners, who were left wondering how long it would last and how to keep the doors open in the meantime.
“When COVID hit, we were closed for more than a month,” Chen says. “It was an extremely difficult decision, and ultimately, it was hurtful one, too. We have longtime employees that had started a family here, and we really appreciated and wanted to put all of the employees’ and customers’ safety as our priority.”
While many restaurants in the area have returned to limited dining-room seating, the team at Double Happiness is managing to maintain a strong business model solely through no-contact pickup.
“We will continue to do that until all our staff members are ready for dine in,” Chen says. “As small business owners, we are truly thankful for this community, especially during this unique time.
“We will continue to give back as much as we can,” she adds. “And, because of their continued support, my husband and I are able to provide the opportunities to our children that we didn’t have when we were kids. This town has made my American dream come true!”
To view more of photographer Megan Deitz’s work, go to megandeitz.com.
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