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  1. The following is a true story. A couple of years ago when I was writing my Asian Dining Rules book I was in a Chinese restaurant and I spied, behind the cash register, a copy of a magazine called Chinese Restaurant News. I asked to look at it and, although the thing turned out to be in Chinese, I was able to extract an email address. This led me to Betty Xie (pronounced "shi-eh" or close to that), the editor-in-chief of Chinese Restaurant News, which is the industry journal for America's 43,000+ Chinese restaurants. I interviewed her and, in addition to an actual interview I included in the book, I found her to be a wealth of information about an industry that -- on account of the language barrier and the fact that the bulk of Chinese restaurants are small family businesses without publicists, investor-relations departments, public filings, etc. -- can be tricky to research. A little less than a year after that (this takes us to a little over a year ago), Betty invited me to something at the Javits Center in New York called the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in the USA awards, followed by a gala banquet at the New Yorker hotel. I had never heard of the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in the USA awards, but the invitation indicated that this was the fourth annual iteration of said awards. I thought to myself, "It's going to take a long time to give out 100 awards." (We call this "foreshadowing.") It was a spectacle of expectation-shattering proportions. The area of the Javits Center that was set aside for the awards ceremony -- and as you can imagine it was a large area -- could not contain the crowd. Martin Yan was there to present the awards, as was Miss Asia. It turned out that the Top 100 is a bit of a misnomer. It's actually the top 100 restaurants in each of 10 different categories (e.g., buffet, takeout, Chinese regional cuisine). This makes sense from a taxonomy standpoint, because you don't have buffets in Ohio competing in an apples v. oranges showdown with Grand Sichuan International in New York. Needless to say, giving out 1,000 awards takes a lot longer than giving out 100 awards, especially when the owners of each winning restaurant need to be photographed with Martin Yan and Miss Asia. Incidentally, I say Miss Asia singular because that's how it was represented, however there were actually six or seven Miss Asias in attendance representing various subdivisions of Asia. Miss India was particularly winsome. At the time I thought about using a photo of me with Miss India as the jacket photo for my book, but we opted to go with a cover design that didn't include a photo. The banquet was even more of an off-the-hook happening than the awards ceremony. It was like a cross between a wedding, an inauguration ball and a variety show on Chinese-language cable television. There were something like 10 very good courses of food and an incredible amount of beverage served to hundreds of people, and my editor Gail and I were I think the only two non-Chinese-speaking people in the room. All the speeches, videos and later the karaoke, were in Chinese. Occasionally I could pick out English words like, "New York City!" or "Martin Yan!" I kept thinking, "This spectacle is occurring here and no white people know about it." At the time I wrote a short front-of-the-book piece about the awards for a magazine (which I think still hasn't been published). In researching that story I learned a little about the awards process. A restaurant applies for an award and, presumably, pays a fee to cover the evaluation process. A "mystery diner" working for the AboutFace corporation visits the restaurant anonymously and files an extensive report, which forms a big percentage of a restaurant's score. There's also a consumer-feedback component and an editorial panel that evaluates the restaurant based on reputation, standing in the industry, etc. All these numbers are crunched together and the rankings come out of that. This past October my book came out. Soon after, Betty Xie contacted me and said she wanted to do a story in Chinese Restaurant News on me and the book. She interviewed me and a few weeks later the November issue of Chinese Restaurant News arrived in my mailbox. Some time in the course of the previous year or two, I had kind of forgotten that the magazine is in Chinese. Here's an idea of how the article looked: I thought it might be culturally insensitive to be as amused by seeing myself giving an interview in Chinese as I was, however I showed it to several Chinese people and they assured me they found it even more bizarre and hilarious than I did. Shortly after that, Betty contacted me again. The fifth annual awards were coming up and, she said, they're really planning to up their game this time (Chinese Restaurant News and its parent company, which also publishes several other industry magazines, are the driving force behind the awards). The awards ceremony and gala were to be held at the Rio hotel in Las Vegas. And, most relevant to me, they wanted to publish a dining guidebook covering all the award-winning restaurants, in English, and they wanted me to be the editor. It seemed like a fun opportunity, so I said yes. Within days I started getting emails from various staffers at Chinese Restaurant News, including one asking what flights I wanted to be on in order to give my speech in Las Vegas. What speech in Las Vegas, you may ask? I had no idea and, as I write this, I will be giving the speech in about 40 minutes and I'm still not quite sure what it's about. I mean, I know it's about the book but I'm not exactly sure what I'm expected to say. Then again, I was not sure what I was expecting to say last night either. At the welcome cocktail reception, Betty Xie got up to speak in Chinese. What I heard was along the lines of, "chinese... chinese... LAS VEGAS... chinese... chinese... RIO HOTEL!... chinese... chinese..." and then, ominously, "...chinese... chinese... DINING GUIDE... chinese... chinese... EDITOR... chinese... chinese... STEVEN SHAW!" All of a sudden she's motioning for me to come up on the stage. She thrusts a microphone into my hand and whispers "Say something Steven." So I give a little impromptu speech about what we're doing, then people applaud, then someone comes and gives my speech again, in Chinese. More applause. I go down to get off the stage and go get a drink, and a Chinese couple comes up to me. The matriarch says they own a restaurant in South Carolina, can she have a photograph with me? Sure, I say. So her husband photographs her with me, then she photographs her husband with me, then someone else photographs all three of us. By now a small line has formed of people wanting to be photographed with me. I estimate I was photographed with about 70 different people. It took about 40 minutes. I have to go give my speech now. I'll check in later with an update if I can. For now, I'll leave you with a page from the event brochure. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post: all true.
  2. Inspired by some wine I bought, I want to take a stab at Szechuan style cuisine. Help me prepare Szechuan or Szechuan style food in my home kitchen. Right now, I am looking for the spicy Szechuan food (though I understand it's not always spicy). I do have some Szechuan peppercorns. I also understand that chilies are a big part of the spice in this style. Living in Texas, I am no stranger to chilies. Both fresh and dried. Fresh jalapenos and serranos are comon items in my kitchen. For dried, I have guajillos and arbols on hand. Do these work in Szechuan cooking, too? What about meats? Beef, pork, chicken.. I like it all. Seafood, too. (shrimp, scallops, etc.) For preparation, I want to start with pretty easy and not too many ingredients. Simple stir fry is always good. something I can knock out pretty quickly on a weekday if I do some prep work the night before would be awesome. Easily obtainable ingredients is key, too. So, tell me what to do! I want to get cooking.
  3. Can someone tell me how to make tofu dumplings like the sister in Eat Drink Man Woman was making? I can't find anything here or online. Or were they made up for the movie?
  4. I picked up a small container of pork fu at the asian market I usually go to. Its dried shredded pork flavored with soy. How is this generally used? The results of my googling haven't yielded much that looks very...well...asian. Thanks in advance
  5. I have read and been told about several methods for seasoning a Chinese Yixing teapot. All assume you are going to use only one type of tea for the pot. One suggests boiling it in a pot with used tea leaves of the type you plan to use in the pot, then letting it soak for a few hours. Another suggests steeping new tea leaves in it for three hours. A third method, told to me by a Chinese aquaintance, who says it is used by tea professionals in China, is to steep new leaves in it and then leave it in a cool spot for three days. I have tried a modification of these that worked okay, but not as well as I expect that the three day soak would producce. What method do you use? Any of these or something different?
  6. Yesterday I saw, for the first time, some FRESH ju ju be on sale in the Milpitas 99 Ranch market. I never had the fresh ju ju be before, only the dried one in Chinese soups. I didn't what to expect so decided not to pick up the whole bag (more than 30 in all). Have you eaten fresh ju ju be? How would you describe the taste and texture? Are they crispy like fresh pear/apple?
  7. Apologies if you've also seen this on Chow, but I need to spread my net... I would like to get a nice selection of Chinese cured meats for someone in Montreal who is a former Chinese chef. He is very particular abut the quality of Chinese foodstuffs and I would like to get him something that may not be readily available in Mtl and is of very good quality. Some things may include: lap cheung (Chinese sausage), guan cheung (pork and liver sausage), lap yuk (chinese bacon), lap op (dry-cured duck legs). Am willing to go anywhere downtown or near the Pacific Mall / Hwy 7 area. Recommendations for good Chinese roasted duck or pork would be great as well. I'm planning a trip to Montreal the second week of Oct. and I would like to bring a nice selection of items. Any other suggestions for special savoury Chinese foods would also be great I used to buy Asian cookies and pastries from T&T as gifts but he's now borderline diabetic and I need to change my approach. Thanks.
  8. A few restaurants in our town serve the dish "Empress Chicken" ("Kwai Fai Gai" in Cantonese). Invariably, they serve the chicken chilled. Not in room temperature, but chilled in the refrigerator. To me it seems that Empress Chicken is just the same as White Boiled Chicken (Bak Jum Gai). Am I off? What is the difference? And why chilled? I can understand serving it in room temperature. But why deliberately refrigerate the chicken before serving?
  9. Many years ago in Vancouver I discovered that the Chinese restaurants there didn't try to "withhold" food from Westerners (with such famous lines as "You won't like that") as so many US restaurants have historically done, so while I was there I became a regular at a place near my hotel and pretty much feasted on all the things they had to offer and all the things in the tanks, and I certainly ate the heads-on shrimp (salt and pepper style). When it was too late and we were leaving the last night I asked the guy who had gotten to know me (as an adventurous eater) what he thought the best preparation of the live shrimp was and he said without hesitation "Egg Foo Young". So how would you do it? I mean, would they take them in and shell them, or cook them and shell them, or what would they do? I took it from the way he said it and how willing he had been all week to let me order stuff that this was a traditional preparation?
  10. In a recent topic, "egg drop soup" was mentioned as one of the iconic American-Chinese dishes. Not being American-born, I just don't understand why this simple soup has been accepted and regarded as almost a representative of Chinese food. To me, the soup is rather simple: Chicken broth (or some other broth) with some carrots or green peas or water chestnuts added, and some egg-stir "dropped" in, and thickened with corn starch. It is almost over-simplistic. I doubt it if you can find "egg drop soup" on a menu in Hong Kong or elsewhere in China. So what makes egg drop soup so popular in the USA? (Or Canada/Europe/Australia)
  11. I'm having some troubles with my wok and I was wondering if maybe some of you guys could offer a little insight. It's a 12" flat bottom wok that I use to cook on an electric stove top, I'm not sure what kind of metal it is made from, but it has little ridges on the underside. Anyways, I season it regularly with expensive peanut oil and have never had a problem with it. But over the last week or two it has been losing it's non stick. Fried rice has been sticking to the bottom in huge quantities, noodles in broth have been sticking and even pot stickers and vegetables. Sure, rice and noodles stick a little anyways, but the amount that sticks now is just ridiculous! I am not doing anything differently, and I'm cooking over high heat, using the same oil as normal and stirring everything like I normally would. It's just when I put things in after the oil it sticks right away to the bottom of the wok. I have seasoned the wok in an attempt to restore it, but oddly enough when I put the cold oil into my hot wok it smoked and then burst into flames as I was swirling it around. And this is with the same oil I have used for ages, Knife Brand Peanut Oil. Not recycled oil, fresh from the jug. What could it be that I'm doing wrong? I take care of it very well, but for some reason it is mad with me. It's only a year and a half old, and it's the first cooking vessel I ever got. What can I do? Thanks, this forum is great. My wok
  12. No idea. Where can I get good Chinese food in Regina? I mean the Chinese that involves chilis and pork and fermented black beans, not so much dim sum, dinosaur Cantonese, etc. I've been gone from the city for a couple years, so I really have no idea where to start. The last place I ate was called Beijing Something, near a hotel downtown, and it looks like it has a sushi place neighboring it now (Wasabi), maybe owned by the same people. Feel free to suggest places outside of Regina, too. I know the best Thai food isn't in Regina or Saskatoon, so the best Chinese could be in Radville or Weyburn, for all I know.
  13. I've been here in China for about six weeks now, and almost every restaurant in Beijing, Xi'an, and Xinjiang has a bowl or a jar full of this oily, crunchy spice paste here at table. It's a deep red color, and has a smoky, slightly gritty flavor. It seems to be especially popular in the Islamic lamian joints. In any case, I adore it, but I've never seen it anywhere at the often very hardcore Chinese restaurants I frequent back home in California. I suspect it's more of a Northern thing then a Southern thing, since I didn't see it anywhere in Hong Kong. In any case, what is this stuff and where can I buy it in the Bay Area? Thanks!
  14. Am trying to work out the Chinese name for these boiled dumplings. The filling is generally made only of prawns and cloud ear funghi, and perhaps bamboo shoots - with a "fun gor" type wrapper; that is, a frilly wheat flour type, not rice pastry. And in yum cha restaurants where they serve from carts, these are always kept on a dedicated cart with boiling water, and a serving boiled to order at the cart - sometimes this is the same cart that serves the gai lan with oyster sauce. Dipping sauce is generally a mix of soy, sesame oil, sugar, sliced scallions, ginger and chilli. I simply cannot hold out till next yum cha visit to ask the trolley ladies, so please sally forth with your wisdom, dear eGulleteers!
  15. Can anyone recommend a good Chinese cooking class in Beijing, Chengdu or Hong Kong? My wife and I are going to travel to China on vacation and have enjoyed these types of classes in other countries and thought there must be something similiar in China. We are looking for a half-day or full-day class. Thanks for your help.
  16. I am curious about this Shanton Broth that's frequently mentioned and used by Iron Chef Chinese, Ken kenichi. Google search turned up several versions. I am just wondering, since Shanton is a distirct of Guandong, if there is an origianal version of this Shanton Broth. Morimoto'sShanton Broth used in his Crab soup recipe.
  17. I picked up a can of "Bailing mushrooms" on one of my jaunts to Winnipeg. I hadn't seen this type before and was curious. Opened it last night and the mushroom was huge! It was cut into chunks and looked like abalone. It sliced like abalone and had a similar texture when you bite into it. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and didn't take any pictures. I had stir-fried it quickly with some asparagus - thinking to have a quick supper with the mushrooms and rice. I googled it today and it is "abalone-like". My brother went to Wpg. this weekend, and I've sent him in search of more. Anyone familiar with this fungi?
  18. Hello! Does anyone have a recipe for a Hunan sauce that is going to be served with noodles? I want to make a large enough quantity for 20 people for dinner and my preference would be less veggies more sauce. I think about 2 quarts of sauce is what I am looking for. These are the ingredients I have in mind . Chilli Bean Paste Chilli Sauce Green Onions Ginger Garlic Soy sauce Rice Vinegar Stock or Water Cornstarch Pepper Red Chilies Sugar Sesame Oil Am I missing anything important? Will adding wine make it any better? Proportions of ingredients would be mighty helpful. Also can this be prepared a day in advance with the veggies in it? Gracias!
  19. I recently received an email from Zagat linking to this list of, purportedly, the 8 best Chinese restaurants in the city. According to this list they are: Pacificana 813 55th St., 2nd fl. (8th Ave.) Phone: 718-871-2880 Wa Jeal 1588 Second Ave. (bet. 82nd & 83rd Sts.) Phone: 212-396-3339 Shun Lee Palace 155 E. 55th St. (bet. Lexington & 3rd Aves.) Phone: 212-371-8844 Tse Yang 34 E. 51st St. (bet. Madison & Park Aves.) Phone: 212-688-5447 Oriental Garden 14 Elizabeth St. (bet. Bayard & Canal Sts.) Phone: 212-619-0085 Phoenix Garden 242 E. 40th St. (bet. 2nd & 3rd Aves.) Phone: 212-983-6666 Philippe 33 E. 60th St. (bet. Madison & Park Aves.) Phone: 212-644-8885 Nice Green Bo 66 Bayard St. (bet. Elizabeth & Mott Sts.) Phone: 212-625-2359 I think we can do better than this list.
  20. Wikipedia has a brief explanation. I only discovered this recently and I've gotta say this is a must have sauce. If you only have two Chinese sauces in your fridge, you need a spicy one, and then shacha. I've gotten the one by Lee Kum Kee. It's quite mild and not spicy at all, with a lot of anchovy-like flavor. On a single bowl of noodles, you could use a quarter of the jar if you like a lot of it.
  21. "Thousand Year Old Egg" (pei dan) is just a nickname. It doesn't take a thousand year to make them. Nor will they last a thousand year. As with most Chinese food items, the package does not include any suggestion on the optimal consumption date, nor expiration date or production date. I used to think Thousand Year eggs can last a long time in the cupboard. I obviously am wrong. Recently I discovered a couple of boxes of Thousand Year eggs hidden deep in my pantry. Maybe it has been over a year. Can't tell how long. One box: the eggs shrank and turned rubbery. Another box: the eggs turned "mouldy". The eggs are already fermented! I didn't think fermented food can turn mouldy. Not only dry, the taste had turned nasty. So my question... if anybody knows: what is the optimal "consumption" life for Thousand Year eggs (pei dan) once bought from the store?
  22. Hey all, Hope you'll entertain a question from a newbie to this forum: I've been purusing a vegetable stock recipe from Eileen Yin Fei-Lo's "From the Earth" vegetarian cookbook, for which she lists "buckthorn seeds" as an ingredient. I can't remember having been at such a loss over an ingredient in awhile... couldn't find it in any local Chinese groceries or medicinal dry-goods shops, and, even weirder, can't really find any information about it online. Google searches mostly just seem to turn up sea buckthorn oil. Does anyone have any idea what this ingredient is, and perhaps what some alternative names are? Is it really that obscure? She also calls for red dates, which seem much, much easier to find. Thanks!
  23. Hi there. Today I attempted my first Szechuan Duck and it was good for the taste but the presentation and the skin far from ideal. I consulted Barbara Tropp and Irene Kuo. The recipes are the same, although Irene Kuo doesn't mention the duck air drying after steamining. I do not have access to a Chinese market so I relied on a French canette, that if I'm not mistaken is a female duck (?), the weight was just below 2 kilos. I marinated it for 2 days, then steamed for 3 hours and let dry on a rack for 3 hours. Unfortunately, I don't have a fan. My wok was not big enough to accomodate the duck so I had to fry it in a big pot. The duck was so tender, that I was afraid it would fall apart in the oil, but it didn't. The duck lost a leg when I tried to flip it over on the breast side. I didn't even attempt to fry a second time. The taste was good. But the skin, expecially on the breast side was not crispy and the duck was very very fragile. After 2 hours of steaming the duck was already tender, but after the last hour of steaming I still found a good amount of fat and liquid in the steaming bowl, so likely it was necessary to render more fat. I guess a Pekin duck doesn't have so much fat but what about the cooking time? Irene Kuo says that the long steaming is necessary otherwise the inside will not be juicy and the skin not crunchy enough... I consulted also A. Nguyen here and she steamed the duck for 2 hours. Any experience with this preparation? Thanks
  24. Anyone know what that stuff is? I've been trying to figure it out since about 10 minutes after I ate it in the Muslim Quarter of Xi'an in late 2008. It's some kind of starch, mashed or rolled very small, and chewy mutton or lamb or some other strong-flavored meat. I think it had a five-spice powder flavor, or at least star anise. The receptionists at my hostel told me the starch was wheat, but their grasp of non-hostel related English was limited, so I can't be sure of the accuracy of that information. Yeah it was DELICIOUS, and I'd like to make some attempt at replicating it, but clearly I need a little more information before I step down that path...I googled everything I could think of back in 2008, but didn't find anything. Anyone have a clue? Or know of a better place to pose this question? Cheers! edit: hmm guess maybe this should've gone in China: dining. Sorry! Though I am looking for a recipe...
  25. Used to wait tables at a Chinese buffet in Alabama years ago. The owner had to finally ask me to cut down on eating three plates of the cold mussels... now it's summer, and I'd love to reproduce it. As I remember, the mussels were dressed pretty simply in a classic combo of flavors (soy, sesame, garlic or shallot, ginger, ?scallion, a bit of sweetness). I could wing it, but would rather draw on a traditional method. Anyone else know this one? Advice? Bupkus on Google...
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