Archive for the ‘Chinese’ Category.

Chinese Restaurants

Restaurants have a very long history in China. At a time when fine food in western Europe was confined to a handful of great monasteries, the Song Dynasty capital, Kaifeng, supported hundreds of commercial food businesses and a rich gourmet culture….

Ju Xiang Yuan Restaurant - 641 Somerset st. W, Ottawa
Creative Commons License photo credit: C John Thompson

Some of the city’s restaurants were so renowned that the emperor himself ordered out for their specialties; they could also cater the most elaborate banquets, in their own halls or at the homes of the wealthy. Kaifeng’s many eateries also included teahouses where men could sip tea, gossip, and order snacks or full meals, as well as wineshops, which were more popular at night….

China’s vibrant restaurant culture continued unabated through the end of the Qing Dynasty. The English clergyman John Henry Gray [in China: A History of the Laws, Manners, and Customs of the People, (London: Macmillan, 1878), Volume II, Chapter 19, page 64], one of the few Europeans with a serious interest in Chinese food, summed up the typical nineteenth-century urban eatery thus:

The restaurants are generally very large establishments, consisting of a public dining-room and several private rooms. Unlike most other buildings, they consist of two or three stories. The kitchen alone occupies the ground floor; the public hall, which is the resort of persons in the humbler walks of life, is on the first floor, and the more select apartments are on the second and third floors. These are, of course, resorted to by the wealthier citizens, but they are open to persons in all classes of society, and it is not unusual to see in them persons of limited means. At the entrance-door there is a table or counter at which the proprietor sits, and where each customer on leaving pays for his repast. The public room is immediately at the head of the first staircase, and is resorted to by all who require a cheap meal. It is furnished, like a cafe, with tables and chairs, a private room having only one table and a few chairs in it.

… All guests, rich and poor, entered the restaurant through the ground-floor kitchen, where they could judge for themselves the skill of the chefs, the quality of the roasted ducks, chickens, and pigs hanging from the ceiling…and the facility’s cleanliness. When the Chinese immigrated to the United States, they carried this style of restaurant intact to their new homeland.

Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States,” by Andrew Coe (Oxford University Press 2009), pages 94-96, ISBN 0195331079.

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New York tips: Tulsi, Jones Wood Foundry, Golden Mall

(From Tyler Cowen)

1. Tulsi, web site, 211 E. 46th, between 1st and 2nd, New York, NY, 212-888-0820. The most authentic Indian food I’ve had in the U.S., ever, get the vegetables. Not a cheap mom and pop, but by Manhattan standards this is reasonably priced for its quality. [Google | NYT| MY Mag | Yelp | Village Voice]

Jones Wood Foundry, web site, 401 East 76th Street, New York, NY, 212-249-2700. An excellent gastropub. [NYT | MenuPages | NY Mag | Yelp | Village Voice | Yelp]

2. Incendies joins Of Gods and Men and Even the Rain as one of my favorite films of the year. It is French-Canadian, set in Lebanon, and involves a journey of family discovery; I read it as an explicitly Christian movie.

3. Flushing, Queens, Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main Street, Flushing, NY, go eat the Chinese food in the basement food court. For visitors, convenient from LaGuardia airport by taxi. [Serious NY Eats | Chowhound | Village Voice]

If you live in New York, or visit frequently, this is my best blog post ever.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Fuleen Seafood Restaurant

Recently I shepherded a group of 7 amigos to the Fuleen Seafood Restaurant … Classic Cantonese cuisine with nice service and a very good value. Another great place to bring a group of hungry amigos for a delicious Cantonese dinner in Chinatown. The dishes I ordered … perriwinkles in black-bean sauce, flour-coated fried oysters, prawns with walnuts, garlic-scented sauteed chicken, garlic sauteed pea-shoots, fermented bean-curd sauteed water spinach, chow-mein with prawns. Fresh cut Florida oranges for desert. The total bill was $125.00. We were allowed to bring our own red wine … come soon for a very frugal Manhattan-Yankee dinner in Chinatown …
Fuleen Seafood Restaurant, 11 Division Street, New York, 212-941-6888 [MenuPages | NYT | NY Mag | Yelp | Citysearch]

There’s Still Time to Enjoy Summer!

Francesco, Lucu, Giacomo and I drove to JFK airport to pick-up Mieta from Rome. Afterwards, we drove to Joe’s Shanghai in Flushing for 3 bamboo baskets of very soupy pork dumplings … Shanghai sauteed pork/soy-sauce noodles and a steamed yellow-fish with ginger and scallions … very good food.
Flushing is a great place to enjoy Chinese food and the #7 subway is so very efficient. Three-year old Luca loves soupy pork dumplings with white rice! I can’t wait to go with you to their branch on Pell Street …
Joe’s Shanghai, web site, 13621 37th Avenue, Flushing, Queens, 718-539-3838 [NYT | NY Mag | Gayot | Yelp]
Subway MTA map | schedules | HopStop | Interactive Transit Map

King’s Seafood Restaurant

Another great discovery for Fine Cantonese cuisine in Chinatown … King’s Seafood …. a very fine replacement for the defunct Nice restaurant … the menu comprising: Beijing duck, jumbo prawns with walnuts and broccoli in a mayo sauce, Hong-Kong style T-bone steak (medium rare), half-chicken in garlic sauce, salt-and-pepper pork chops, the whole flounder done two-ways, chicken chow-mein, beef chow-fun, saute “dao-miu” with garlic … duck meat with green chives …. a very sumptuous dinner for everybody to enjoy … for less then $30 a person…bring your own wine or champagne …
I also went there to try their dim-sum lunch …. very, very good food and service but 2.5 times more expansive then Chatham ….
King’s Seafood, 39 East Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, 212-233-3359 [Yelp]

Chinese Restaurants in America

Chef's Ma Paul Tofu
Chef’s Ma Paul Tofu (Wu Liang Ye Restaurant, NYC)

What most Americans know as Chinese food would be more properly termed American Chinese food, a category that includes chop suey and lemon chicken, dishes born in the U.S. Given, as Lee points out, that there are about 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S., “more than the number of McDonald’s, Burger Kings, and KFCs combined,” Chinese food might be our national cuisine. “Our benchmark for Americanness is apple pie,” she writes. “But ask yourself. How often do you eat apple pie? How often do you eat Chinese food?”

Chinese restaurants are ubiquitous, usually taking the form of urban carryout shops and suburban buffets. But how did these restaurants flourish across the American landscape? For the most part they are independently run, so how is it they seem to share similar characteristics, such as gigantic menus filled with egg rolls, garish red sweet and sour sauce, and General Tso’s chicken?

Each chapter answers these questions and more, examining soy sauce, the distinctive shape of takeout boxes favored by Chinese restaurants, and fortune cookies, which Lee discovers are Japanese in origin.

West eats East: A fact-filled look at Chinese food, which just might be America’s national cuisine,” by Bich Minh Nguyen,, March 1, 2008


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Chinese Taste

Since the start of the current wave of Chinese immigration in the 1980s, gifted Chinese chefs have jammed into enclaves like the San Gabriel Valley in California and Flushing, N.Y., competing with one another, complaining about how hard it is to get Americans to give their cuisine a chance. The real problem is the American diner or, more precisely, the relationship between diner and chef. Chefs don’t know how to step outside of all-Chinese communities and market their cuisine to the mainstream. And most American diners want to stick to the Chinese food they already know.

The food they know is what chefs call Meiguorende kouwei — food cooked “to American taste.” This cuisine uses a short vocabulary of standard sauces with big, pungent flavors. The sauce tends to lead, usually with a combination of flavor notes. As Linda Huang, owner of Chung King in San Gabriel, put it, “It’s sweet, sour and a little spicy.”

The other food of China is Zhongguorende kouwei, food cooked “to Chinese taste.”
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Finding this kind of cooking in America doesn’t require insider knowledge. All it takes is will and persistence. When you go to better Chinese restaurants, ask for the best “Chinese taste” dishes on (or off) the menu, and refuse to budge until you get them.

Double Happiness,” by Nicoel Mones, The New York Times, August 5, 2007
Here are some of the Chinese restaurants we recommend.

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Best Shanghai’s “soupy pork dumplings”

For the best Shanghai’s “soupy pork dumplings”
in Manhattan, please go to the Grand Sichuan, 24th Street & 9th Avenue at Chelsea. Very well prepared fresh whole fish in a delicate sauce for $18.95. Beef tripe and tongue in a very hot red-sauce. Garlicky cool cucumber slices. Silky soft bean curd ma-po to-fu is very hot and spicey for $8.95. I love the string-beans for vegetables. The service is very polite and efficient. Can get very crowded at the prime dinner time. 229 9th Avenue, 212-620-5200 [openlist | Yelp]
For the very best in Flushing, please go to Joe’s Shanghai …. including soy-sauce braised pork shoulder, crispy fried wheat noodles, Shanghai bok-choy and prawns. Very crowded and busy at dinner time. 13621 37th Avenue, Flushing, 718-539-3838 [openlist | Yelp]

Sweet-n-Tart Cafe

Sweet-n-Tart Cafe … after picking-up my niece from the JFK airport, we went to this delicious Hong-Kong Cantonese eatery for a late breakfast. Very good tasting, fresh and crunchy Chinese brocoli with oyster sauce … deliciously smooth won-tons of shrimps, ground pork, scallions and watercress … freshly made rice noodles wrap with fried bread …
A very typical Hong Kong Cantonese style breakfast. Very good service, too! Yes, swallowing clouds … aka … won-tons …
Sweet-n-Tart Cafe, web site, 136-11 38th Avenue, Flushing, NY, 718-661-3380 [openlist | NY Mag | Newsday |

Authentic Chinese cuisines

When authentic Chinese cuisines reach our shores, we can expect a revolution in ingredients and styles that will change the way we prepare food for years to come.
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So, we welcome Chinese chefs to share their authentic cuisines with us. American palates, unlike those of previous generations, are ready for the real stuff.

Eating Beyond Sichuan,” by Nina Zagat and Tim Zagat, The New York Times,
No way this will happen because Americans will have much difficulty to acquire the Chinese palate. For example, the Chinese appreciate the texture of the jelly fish, pig’s stomach, beef tripe … Americans will vomit. I have seen Americans at wedding banquets pushing away a bowl of shark’s fin soup. What a bloody waste. They have no idea.
Also see

Post by Peter