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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