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International Chinese Food


Utenya
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Living my whole life in the United States and I am first generation Chinese, being the first born in the States (it gets confusing depending on which culture you come from), I've pretty much only experienced Chinese-American food eating at "popular" Chinese food restaurants like Panda Express or P.F. Changs. Sweet and sour pork, kung pao chicken, general tso's chicken, and walnut prawns seem to be big mainstays of the Chinese-American "fast-food" scene in the states and highly popular. People who haven't been to Chinese banquets or authentic Chinese food restaurants declare their love for Chinese food. These dishes are not found much in authentic Chinese dishes from the mainland if at all, but adapted to foreign tastes. Many of the proteins seem to be dumbed down to be more appealing to their foreign customers. Lacking the textural elements that are high prized in Chinese cuisine, like jellyfish, wood ear, niu jin (not sure of the translation) or the ridiculous amount of offal consumed by Chinese. I won't even get started about the diversity of critters consumed as well.

I was wondering if the Chinese-American dishes such as listed above are prevalent in countries other than the United States, or are there more authentic dishes being served due to popularity. I did visit Italy and by insistence of my father, we ate at a Chinese restaurant X_X...don't ask. And the dishes were quite similar to the fare I would expect in the United States. Which comes to my question, internationally, outside of Asia, are Chinese dishes similar to the US ideal of what Chinese food is? The deep fried batter coated meats sauced with particular sauces, egg rolls, potstickers. Or are they more authentic? Japan and Korea have definitely taken Chinese food and made their own versions of popular dishes. Off the top of my head Ma Po Doufu is very popular and well known in both countries. I know that there are Chinatowns across the globe which do try to replicate authenticity for their own denizens, but I am thinking more along the lines of popular Chinese restaurants outside of the Chinatown enclave.

I'm particularly looking to see responses from non asian countries close to Asia yet having a completely different culture. For example Australia.

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Hi: a quick answer, though not from Australia. There have been small Chinese communities in many parts of India for several generations, who have developed a unique fusion: Indian-Chinese. It is Chinese food adapted to local tastes and using local ingredients, and served through Chinese restaurants (I don't know what the Chinese in India eat at home and would love to see an article or cookbook about that). Many Chinese restaurants in East Africa are run by Asians (of Indian origin) and serve Indian-Chinese food (Okra Manchurian!!)

It's too large a topic to cover fully here plus I don't have that much knowledge of details. The food is much beloved in India, and includes things like Gobhi Manchurian (cauliflower made into balls with a red sauce, pun on Gobi desert), and too many others to list. The menus cater to vegetarians much more than in China or elsewhere, and include ingredients like paneer (though recently this is changing over to tofu). I don't know what any Chinese person from China or elsewhere would say about this style.

ETA: Google has tons of hits on Indian Chinese food, and Wikipedia has a link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Chinese_cuisine

Edited by Milagai (log)
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Hi I am writing from Australia and am a fourth generation not of Chinese extraction.

Our "Chinese" food took a decidedly similar turn to yours with sweet and sour pork (with pineapple pieces) taking a fairly central place early and mid last century.

An interesting thing happened in the latter part of last century. For political reasons that are not relevant here, our Chinese and other Asian populations expanded rapidly and our Government embraced the concept of multiculturalism (all cultures living together) rather than a melting pot approach. As a consequence, our culinary horizons broadened markedly. All manner of Asian ingredients are available not only in Asian grocery stores but also in mainstream supermarkets. A number of our more prominent chefs, for example Neil Perry, have embraced Asian cooking and not really done them up as fusion food but rather taken the time to understand them from their original perspective and then play with them while retaining the essence of the original. It would not be going too far to suggest that most Australian homes have a wok and most would endeavor to make some sort of stir fry on a regular basis.

That having been said, traditional ingredients and preparations are typically available in many restaurants but will often not be offered to the mainstream diners unless they specifically ask for them. I remember well in the late '80s asking for chicken's feet and having all the restaurant staff watch the Gweilo devour them.

There is a wonderful history of Chinese food and culture in Australia called Banquet (ten courses to harmony). Written by Annette Shun Wah and Greg Aitken, it details the evolution from sweet and sour pork restaurants to where we are presently. Chinese have contributed greatly to all aspects of Australian life: their food has gone from exotic and unknown through being modified for local palates to the mainstream position it holds today.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I'm sorry that the only Chinese food you have had in the states is Chinese American. At least in some areas you can find pretty good Chinese food - even Las Vegas it appears. You do have to leave the chains behind and search out the good stuff. I can easily find far more authentic dishes, not all of which I am likely to eat regularly, but still try when I can. I can find stinky tofu, mapo dofu, dan dan noodles, jellyfish, fermented cabbage and lamb - and on and on.

The Chinese food I have experienced in other Western countries has been on par with the US (or far worse - cubed frozen carrots and peas in mixed vegetable dishes!), though in London, we had wonderful noodles even 30 years ago.

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A small linguistic point: the cuisine encompassing sweet-and-sour pork, sesame chicken, etc., is not really "Chinese-American." Calling something Chinese-American implies that it's something Chinese-American people eat, just as Italian-American cuisine is the cuisine of the Italian-American immigrant community. But Chinese-Americans do not eat the Americanized food that is served at the average Chinese restaurant in America. That food is an adaptation designed for mainstream American palates. It is, I believe, more properly called "American Chinese" cuisine.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Hi I am writing from Australia and am a fourth generation not of Chinese extraction.

Our "Chinese" food took a decidedly similar turn to yours with sweet and sour pork (with pineapple pieces) taking a fairly central place early and mid last century.

An interesting thing happened in the latter part of last century. For political reasons that are not relevant here, our Chinese and other Asian populations expanded rapidly and our Government embraced the concept of multiculturalism (all cultures living together) rather than a melting pot approach. As a consequence, our culinary horizons broadened markedly. All manner of Asian ingredients are available not only in Asian grocery stores but also in mainstream supermarkets. A number of our more prominent chefs, for example Neil Perry, have embraced Asian cooking and not really done them up as fusion food but rather taken the time to understand them from their original perspective and then play with them while retaining the essence of the original. It would not be going too far to suggest that most Australian homes have a wok and most would endeavor to make some sort of stir fry on a regular basis.

That having been said, traditional ingredients and preparations are typically available in many restaurants but will often not be offered to the mainstream diners unless they specifically ask for them. I remember well in the late '80s asking for chicken's feet and having all the restaurant staff watch the Gweilo devour them.

There is a wonderful history of Chinese food and culture in Australia  called Banquet (ten courses to harmony). Written by Annette Shun Wah and Greg Aitken, it details the evolution from sweet and sour pork restaurants to where we are presently. Chinese have contributed greatly to all aspects of Australian life: their food has gone from exotic and unknown through being modified for local palates to the mainstream position it holds today.

I imagine that a lot of the early history of Chinese food in Australia is similar to the experience in the USA, simply because of the movement of the Chinese people between the two countries (gold fields for instance).

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Indian Chinese has several faces depending on the original extraction of the immigrants [e.g. Hakka vs. Cantonese, and where they settled & when eg. Ah-chipur , Howrah district, West Bengal, then Kolkata, Assam tea gardens etc.]

But the most important watershed may be described as BNW and ANW, Before Nelson Wang and After NW. Nelson Wang had his roots in Kolkata and was familiar with the specific and several distinct styles of both restaurant and home cookery available for PUBLIC consumption there.

Mention may be made of the flagship Chung Wah, Peiping, Waldorf, Jimmy's Kitchen, and one more whose name I forget, that defined CHINESE cookery as experienced in the restaurants of old Calcutta. This was an excellent Cantonese and Hakka cooking with a single concession to Indian tastes in the form of Fried Chili Chicken, that came in several redactions in each of these institutions [for they WERE institutions].

Some while ago, I was speaking with the restaurateur SLY LIAO, who has his own non-Chinese restaurant in Washington DC, but hails from Kolkata, albeit from a younger generation. His BIL in NYC though, remembers the Good Old Days. We were reminiscing ad mourning the elision of history that is so characteristic a part of Indian life. Nelson Wang may indirectly share the blame in several different ways, because, basking in his new-found glory, he never has chosen to set the record straight about what constituted Chinese Restaurant Cookery in Calcutta until the late 70s.

Calcutta, since 1757, was the capital of the british empire in India. This situation lasted until 1912. Its proximity to South-east Asia also made it an attractive destination for Cantonese and Hakka immigrants, to a greater extent than the rest of India. Here settled perhaps the largest Chinese community in India, one whose roots stretched back a couple of centuries. The village of Achipur in Howrah district, just south of the city, for example, is named after it founder, an eminent Chinese settler whose honorific Cantonese form of address, Ah-chee, is incorporated into the name!

For these reasons, Calcutta remained at the apex of Indian Chinese cookery well past Independence in 1947, up to and including the early 1970s. Nelson Wang moved to Bombay in the mid 70s and began to cook highly spiced food to cater to the tastes of the newly rich frequenting the hotel restaurants of that booming metropolis, in sharp contrast to a Calcutta being strangulated [then & now] by Marxists devoted to Mao and to China far more blindly than any Chinese [to this day, even!].

That type of food was a complete departure from the cookery of Nelson’s formative years, what was then offered in the homes and street vendors of Tangra or the restaurants on Park Street, Theater Avenue, or Central Avenue. There was an excellent signature dish from Peiping restaurant named FISH BALLS IN TOMATO SAUCE that might have been the precursor of his MANCHURIAN GARBAGE which is nothing but pakoras or fritters doused in a ketchupy sauce, with the addition of alliums, ginger and green and dry red chilies. No wonder Indians with palates turned to bronze and tongues to tanned leather love it. It is the only way they can allow their sense organs, brains and parochialism to taste anything: Bring everything own to their own level of sheer idiocy and call it Chinese. Curry house cookery returns the favor in spades in Britain!!!!!

There might be nothing wrong with this Gobhi xyz tastewise, but to call something Chinese bring us into Lewis Carroll territory that I ha rather not get into. We in India are the masters of semantics and epistemology, ad there are massive branches of Buddhist and Sanatana philosophy devoted to logic, proof an these subjects alone, ad having spent too much of my life on these, I am not wiling to get drawn into arguments about the meaning of “China”, “Chinese”, “authenticity”, “relevance” et al.

It is just my strong opinion that there is a phenomenon that should be termed the POST WANG COOKING FASHION in India. What that might have to do with China or Chinese cookery beyond the use of ketchup, soy sauce, and wheat noodles, and the incorporation together in the same dish of some vegetables like sweet pepper, carrot and cabbage + stir fried noodles with sauce, is up to the reader to decide.

The REAL CALCUTTA CHINESE COOKING, now that has several interesting ethnic strands and exquisite dishes well worth taking about.

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I'm sorry that the only Chinese food you have had in the states is Chinese American. At least in some areas you can find pretty good Chinese food - even Las Vegas it appears. You do have to leave the chains behind and search out the good stuff. I can easily find far more authentic dishes, not all of which I am likely to eat regularly, but still try when I can. I can find stinky tofu, mapo dofu, dan dan noodles, jellyfish, fermented cabbage and lamb - and on and on.

The Chinese food I have experienced in other Western countries has been on par with the US (or far worse - cubed frozen carrots and peas in mixed vegetable dishes!), though in London, we had wonderful noodles even 30 years ago.

I think my post wasn't clear. Perhaps because as Steven explained it should be called American-Chinese food. I've had great Chinese food in the states, and authentic too. There are several great dim sum, cantonese, sichuan, and banquet restaurants around my vicinity, and frequented them many times growing up. The purpose of this post was to see how Chinese food in countries other than America have developed, and if they are similar to American-Chinese food.

Edited by Utenya (log)
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A small linguistic point: the cuisine encompassing sweet-and-sour pork, sesame chicken, etc., is not really "Chinese-American." Calling something Chinese-American implies that it's something Chinese-American people eat, just as Italian-American cuisine is the cuisine of the Italian-American immigrant community. But Chinese-Americans do not eat the Americanized food that is served at the average Chinese restaurant in America. That food is an adaptation designed for mainstream American palates. It is, I believe, more properly called "American Chinese" cuisine.

That's a very good point, Steven. I'll be sure to change how I refer to the cuisine in the future.

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There is a wonderful history of Chinese food and culture in Australia  called Banquet (ten courses to harmony). Written by Annette Shun Wah and Greg Aitken, it details the evolution from sweet and sour pork restaurants to where we are presently. Chinese have contributed greatly to all aspects of Australian life: their food has gone from exotic and unknown through being modified for local palates to the mainstream position it holds today.

Does that book cover the last few years of Chinese cuisine in Australia? For the vast majority of the history of Chinese cuisine in Australia, it has been Cantonese cooking that has been the dominant influence. But in recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in restaurants offering other regional Chinese cuisines like Sichuan and Shanghai food.

The other development in Chinese cooking has been a move towards refining Cantonese food. In Melbourne, places like Lau's Family Kitchen and, Tea House On Burke have followed the lead of the Flower Drum in trying to source better quality ingredients and better techniques to produce better food. There are some who feel that these restaurants are merely "westernising" Chinese food, but I feel that it's more an issue of refining food (as the French have in their culinary history), and imho, that's a good thing.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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There is a wonderful history of Chinese food and culture in Australia  called Banquet (ten courses to harmony). Written by Annette Shun Wah and Greg Aitken, it details the evolution from sweet and sour pork restaurants to where we are presently. Chinese have contributed greatly to all aspects of Australian life: their food has gone from exotic and unknown through being modified for local palates to the mainstream position it holds today.

Does that book cover the last few years of Chinese cuisine in Australia? For the vast majority of the history of Chinese cuisine in Australia, it has been Cantonese cooking that has been the dominant influence. But in recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in restaurants offering other regional Chinese cuisines like Sichuan and Shanghai food.

The book was published in 1999 so it doesn't cover more recent movements. Yes, Cantonese is predominant, as evidenced by Australians eating 'Yum Cha' rather than the 'Dim Sum' of our American and UK brethren. The authors do mention both forms of cuisine and mention some (mainly Sydney) restaurants cooking in those styles but at that stage they were typically located away from Chinatown.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Yes, Cantonese is predominant, as evidenced by Australians eating 'Yum Cha' rather than the 'Dim Sum' of our American and UK brethren.

Both 'Yum Cha' and 'Dim Sum' are Cantonese. One goes to 'Yum Cha' and eats 'Dim Sum'.

Always wondered about the difference, wonder why we call it Yum Cha rather than Dim Sum; of course we do have it "with tea" :smile:

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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In The Netherlands, every Chinese restaurant serves babi panggang (grilled pork covered with sweet,thick, gloopy sauce) and you can pick between bami, nasi or white rice (this being the least popular!).

The other dishes (not very exciting.. black bean chicken, koe lu yuk, kung po etc.)do not at all taste authentic (lots of sauce, same vegetables in everything, lots of starch and too sweet),

However, authentic Chinese food is easy to obtain if you happen to be Chinese. Most Chinese (by this, I mean Chinese, not Indische restaurants) have separate menus for Chinese (or Chinese looking!) patrons (and I'm sure anyone who asks for it will be given one as well).

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  • 2 weeks later...

I lived in China for close to 5 years, and I can tell you that Kung Pao Chicken 宫爆鸡丁 and anything Sweet and Sour 糖醋 (though as covered in numerous threads here, the Colonel is now far more ubiquitous than the General ever was in mainland China) can be found at many big banquet restaurants, with the differences being marginal at best.

There was even a cheap, student lunch place near my apartment that served single dishes like the ol' Kung Pao or Pepper Beef (青椒肉丝) on top of a mountain of rice. Chicken was boneless, and the overall flavor was, aside from the higher chili heat value, basically the same.

What I don't understand (and any Chinese or Chinese-Americans please, please weigh in on this) is why, why on earth, aren't dumplings (and by this I mean the water boiled 水饺 kind) more popular here in the US (or UK, EU or AUS)? Talk about mid-western, rib-stickin' food. I think a place that served 7 kinds of boiled dumplings (could offer steamed and seared for early converts) and some cold northern dishes would take off once people realized it wasn't China Garden Buffet or Panda Express. I once knew a foreigner working in China for his American company who almost never partook of anything other than McD's, KFC, and UBC Coffee House type fare, but ate dumplings at least once a day without fail.

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What I don't understand (and any Chinese or Chinese-Americans please, please weigh in on this) is why, why on earth, aren't dumplings (and by this I mean the water boiled 水饺 kind) more popular here in the US (or UK, EU or AUS)? Talk about mid-western, rib-stickin' food. I think a place that served 7 kinds of boiled dumplings (could offer steamed and seared for early converts) and some cold northern dishes would take off once people realized it wasn't China Garden Buffet or Panda Express. I once knew a foreigner working in China for his American company who almost never partook of anything other than McD's, KFC, and UBC Coffee House type fare, but ate dumplings at least once a day without fail.

Unrelated but I've noticed that dumplings seem to become a touchstone for Chinese immigrants around the globe. Even though it was mainly northern Chinese who made and ate them in China, outside of China it seems like every family knows how to make them. I think it's mainly to do with the social aspect of it. It's a dish which is far more amenable to many hands in the kitchen.

As for why it's not more popular in restaurants, my guess is it's because they're fairly labor intensive to make and the economics of it don't work out. You have to have someone in the kitchen fairly skilled and committed to making them.

PS: I am a guy.

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But Chinese-Americans do not eat the Americanized food that is served at the average Chinese restaurant in America. That food is an adaptation designed for mainstream American palates. It is, I believe, more properly called "American Chinese" cuisine.

I've created topics several times similar to Utenya's here, but using FatGuy's conclusion that the Chinese food in America is something that's been "dumbed down", (or, "Americanized") to please American tastes by the Chinese people who are cooking it in restaurants.

So I've always wanted to know (and have asked several times) if this means that in France, the Chinese food there is "Frenchified" to be more appealing to French tastes. While this could be something much (much) simpler than the concept of "fusion", it has always struck me that it could be culinary bonanza.

Why, just imagine if the Chinese chefs who found themselves in France eventually resorted to thinking "We'd better throw some Foie Gras in here, or nobody will eat it!"

However, for as many times as I've been in France (and Italy, for that matter), I have never wanted to give up the opportunity for a French (or Italian) meal to check this out first hand.

I seem to remember that eventually in one thread where I posed this, I got the answers from Gulletteers that the "Chinese" food in other Western countries is as terrible in it's own way as "American Chinese" food is here.

But I'm still hoping that some day somebody'll post the story of going for Chinese food in France, and finding it "Frenchified" to please the local tastes. One can dream.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

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But I'm still hoping that some day somebody'll post the story of going for Chinese food in France, and finding it "Frenchified" to please the local tastes.  One can dream.

I can't quite do that, but I have been to a Thai restaurant in Italy, and all of the dishes were sorted into antipasti - primi piatti - secondi piatti. I got the distinct impression that people ate rice dishes/noodle dishes, and then followed with meat. It was all a little bizarre.

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RE:

What I don't understand (and any Chinese or Chinese-Americans please, please weigh in on this) is why, why on earth, aren't dumplings (and by this I mean the water boiled 水饺 kind) more popular here in the US (or UK, EU or AUS)? Talk about mid-western, rib-stickin' food.

I think this is related to the Chinese immigration history. By and large most of the early Chinese immigrants (in the 19th century) to the US/Canada and elsewhere were Cantonese. Most of the Chinese restaurants in the US/Canada were Cantonese style (though Americans may only know them as "Chinese" food). Cantonese have their version of "Dumpling" in soup, which is called Wonton. Some US-Chinese restaurants (read: Chop Suey houses) do offer it on their menus. They commonly call the item "War Wonton Soup". Cantonese make wonton differently than Northern Mainlanders' dumpling. Wonton: shrimp and ground pork, seasoned with sesame oil, white pepper, salt, etc., wrapped in yellow square wrappers. Mainlander's dumpling: ground pork only, some shredded vegetables, leek, chive or the likes, seasoned with salt/garlic, soy sauce, etc., wrapped in white, thick, doughy square or round wrappers.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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A dumpling house could make several different kinds of dumplings, from each region.

Actually, I think there are lots of dumpling houses in New York (see THE BEST: Chinese Dumplings) and the Din Tai Fung chain that's mostly in Asia with a few shops in California.

I agree with you that it has a lot of potential, and you would think you would see more all over the place.

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But Chinese-Americans do not eat the Americanized food that is served at the average Chinese restaurant in America. That food is an adaptation designed for mainstream American palates. It is, I believe, more properly called "American Chinese" cuisine.

I've created topics several times similar to Utenya's here, but using FatGuy's conclusion that the Chinese food in America is something that's been "dumbed down", (or, "Americanized") to please American tastes by the Chinese people who are cooking it in restaurants.

So I've always wanted to know (and have asked several times) if this means that in France, the Chinese food there is "Frenchified" to be more appealing to French tastes. While this could be something much (much) simpler than the concept of "fusion", it has always struck me that it could be culinary bonanza.

Why, just imagine if the Chinese chefs who found themselves in France eventually resorted to thinking "We'd better throw some Foie Gras in here, or nobody will eat it!"

However, for as many times as I've been in France (and Italy, for that matter), I have never wanted to give up the opportunity for a French (or Italian) meal to check this out first hand.

I seem to remember that eventually in one thread where I posed this, I got the answers from Gulletteers that the "Chinese" food in other Western countries is as terrible in it's own way as "American Chinese" food is here.

But I'm still hoping that some day somebody'll post the story of going for Chinese food in France, and finding it "Frenchified" to please the local tastes. One can dream.

It is my understanding that Chinese rarely eat dairy products. Can you imagine a French meal without cream and cheese :biggrin:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Last night I went to a Chinese Restaurant in Adelaide, South Australia, called T Chow and wanted to share some of the dishes from the specials board with you:

Black Bean and Chili or Salted Cabbage with Duck Intestines

Braised Fish Stomach with Chinese Mushrooms

and for a more local flavour:

Green peppercorn sizzling crocodile.

Dishes that I had from the main menu were:

Oyster Omelette

Pork Belly and Taro Casserole.

The style is Chiuchow/Teochew cuisine (hence T Chow)/Chaozhou cuisine.

My dishes were delicious and many non-Chinese locals were enjoying the food.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Similar state of play in the UK - most chinese restaurants and takeaways offer a generic and dumbed down menu. Most restaurants actually do prepare authentic dishes, but they are never on the English language menu. There are a few around now that have realised that some westerners are after more authentic flavours, but they are still the exception rather than the rule.

I love animals.

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Last night I went to a Chinese Restaurant in Adelaide, South Australia, called T Chow and wanted to share some of the dishes from the specials board with you:

Black Bean and Chili or Salted Cabbage with Duck Intestines

Braised Fish Stomach with Chinese Mushrooms

and for a more local flavour:

Green peppercorn sizzling crocodile.

Dishes that I had from the main menu were:

Oyster Omelette

Pork Belly and Taro Casserole.

The style is Chiuchow/Teochew cuisine (hence T Chow)/Chaozhou cuisine.

My dishes were delicious and many non-Chinese locals were enjoying the food.

One of my favourite restaurants in Adelaide. If you go back you must try the Hot and Sour Beef Tendon Hotpot

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      Potatoes 2 or 3 medium sized. peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

      Carrot. 1,  thinly sliced

      Dried wheat noodles.  8 oz. Traditionally, these would be a long, flat thick variety. I've use Italian tagliatelle successfully.    

      Red bell pepper. 1 cut into chunks

      Green bell pepper, 1 cut into chunks

      Salt

      Scallion, 2 sliced.
         
      Method

      First, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and marinate in 1½ teaspoons light soy sauce, 3 teaspoons of Shaoxing and 1½ teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside for about twenty minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

      Heat the wok and add three tablespoons cooking oil. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns and chilies. Fry on a low heat for a  minute or so. If they look about to burn, splash a little water into your wok. This will lower the temperature slightly. Add the chicken and turn up the heat. Continue frying until the meat is nicely seared, then add the potatoes and carrots. Stir fry a minute more then add 2 teaspoons of the dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the light soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the Shaoxing wine along with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium. Cover and cook for around 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are done.

      While the main dish is cooking, cook the noodles separately according to the packet instructions.  Reserve  some of the noodle cooking water and drain.

      When the chicken and potatoes are done, you may add a little of the noodle water if the dish appears on the dry side. It should be saucy, but not soupy. Add the bell peppers and cook for three to four minutes more. Add scallions. Check seasoning and add some salt if it needs it. It may not due to the soy sauce and, if in the USA, Shaoxing wine.

      Serve on a large plate for everyone to help themselves from. Plate the noodles first, then cover with the meat and potato. Enjoy.
       
    • By liuzhou
      Way back in the 1990’s, I was living in west Hunan, a truly beautiful part of China. One day, some colleagues suggested we all go for lunch the next day, a Saturday. Seemed reasonable to me. I like a bit of lunch.
       
      “OK. We’ll pick you up at 7 am.”
       
      “Excuse me? 7 am for lunch?
       
      “Yes. We have to go by car.”
       
      Well, of course, they finally picked me up at 8.30, drove in circles for an hour trying to find the guy who knew the way, then headed off into the wilds of Hunan. We drove for hours, but the scenery was beautiful, and the thousand foot drops at the side of the crash barrier free road as we headed up the mountains certainly kept me awake.
       
      After an eternity of bad driving along hair-raising roads which had this old atheist praying, we stopped at a run down shack in the middle of nowhere. I assumed that this was a temporary stop because the driver needed to cop a urination or something, but no. This was our lunch venue.
       
      We shuffled into one of the two rooms the shack consisted of and I distinctly remember that one of my hosts took charge of the lunch ordering process.
       
      “We want lunch for eight.” There was no menu.
       
      The waitress, who was also the cook, scuttled away to the other room of the shack which was apparently a kitchen.
       
      We sat there for a while discussing the shocking rise in bean sprout prices and other matters of national importance, then the first dish turned up. A pile of steaming hot meat surrounded by steaming hot chillies. It was delicious.
       
      “What is this meat?” I asked.
       
      About half of the party spoke some English, but my Chinese was even worse than it is now, so communications weren’t all they could be. There was a brief (by Chinese standards) meeting and they announced:
       
      “It’s wild animal.”
       
      Over the next hour or so, several other dishes arrived. They were all piles of steaming hot meat surrounded by steaming hot chillies, but the sauces and vegetable accompaniments varied. And all were very, very good indeed.
       
      “What’s this one?” I ventured.
       
      “A different wild animal.”
       
      “And this?”
       
      “Another wild animal.”
       
      “And this?”
       
      “A wild animal which is not the wild animal in the other dishes”
       
      I wandered off to the kitchen, as you can do in rural Chinese restaurants, and inspected the contents of their larder, fridge, etc. No clues.
       
      I returned to the table with a bit of an idea.
       
      “Please write down the Chinese names of all these animals we have eaten. I will look in my dictionary when I get home.”
       
      They looked at each other, consulted, argued and finally announced:
       
      “Sorry! We don’t know in Chinese either. “
       
      Whether that was true or just a way to get out of telling me what I had eaten, I’ll never know. I certainly wouldn’t be able to find the restaurant again.
       
      This all took place way back in the days before digital cameras, so I have no illustrations from that particular meal. But I’m guessing one of the dishes was bamboo rat.
       
      No pandas or tigers were injured in the making of this post
       
    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and led us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      It sometimes seems likes every town in China has its own special take on noodles. Here in Liuzhou, Guangxi the local dish is Luosifen (螺蛳粉 luó sī fěn).
       
      It is a dish of rice noodles served in a very spicy stock made from the local river snails and pig bones which are stewed for hours with black cardamom, fennel seed, dried tangerine peel, cassia bark, cloves, pepper, bay leaf, licorice root, sand ginger, and star anise. Various pickled vegetables, dried tofu skin, fresh green vegetables, peanuts and loads of chilli are then usually added. Few restaurants ever reveal their precise recipe, so this is tentative. Luosifen is only really eaten in small restaurants and roadside stalls. I've never heard of anyone making it at home.
       
      In order to promote tourism to the city, the local government organised a food festival featuring an event named "10,000 people eat luosifen together." (In Chinese 10,000 often just means "many".)
       
      10,000 people (or a lot of people anyway) gathered at Liuzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre for the grand Liuzhou luosifen eat-in. Well, they gathered in front of the centre – the actual centre is a bleak, unfinished, deserted shell of a building. I disguised myself as a noodle and joined them. 10,001.
       

       
      The vast majority of the 10,000 were students from the local colleges who patiently and happily lined up to be seated. Hey, mix students and free food – of course they are happy.
       

       
      Each table was equipped with a basket containing bottled water, a thermos flask of hot water, paper bowls, tissues etc. And most importantly, a bunch of Luosifen caps. These read “万人同品螺蛳粉” which means “10,000 people together enjoy luosifen”
       

       
      Yep, that is the soup pot! 15 meters in diameter and holding eleven tons of stock. Full of snails and pork bones, spices etc. Chefs delicately added ingredients to achieve the precise, subtle taste required.
       

       
      Noodles were distributed, soup added and dried ingredients incorporated then there was the sound of 10,000 people slurping.
       

      Surrounding the luosifen eating area were several stalls selling different goodies. Lamb kebabs (羊肉串) seemed most popular, but there was all sorts of food. Here are few of the delights on offer.
       

      Whole roast lamb or roast chicken
       

      Lamb Kebabs
       

      Kebab spice mix – Cumin, chilli powder, salt and MSG
       

      Kebab stall
       

      Crab
       

      Different crab
       

      Sweet sticky rice balls
       

      Things on sticks
       

      Grilled scorpions
       

      Pig bones and bits
       

      Snails
       
      And much more.
       
      To be honest, it wasn’t the best luosifen I’ve ever eaten, but it was wasn’t the worst. Especially when you consider the number they were catering for. But it was a lot of fun. Which was the point.
       
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