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Eating Chinese in New Jersey


Rosie
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Dinner tonight was at a new Chinese restaurant called Lotus in West Orange. It was fair. We had watery cold(semi-warm actually) sesame noodles, Hunan chicken with an off taste and very good stir fried tofu with a hot sauce. The last time I went out for a really great Chinese dinner in NJ was at Sally Ling's in Westwood and they closed. Where do you like to go for Chinese food?

Rosalie Saferstein, aka "Rosie"

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I think I've mentioned them before but..

1) Silver Pond in Fort Lee

2) Taiwan Noodle House on RT 46 in Parsippany (also a branch in Teaneck)

3) Noodle Chu on RT 46 in Parsippany

4) Hunan Cottage on Rt 46 in Fairfield

5) Mr. Chu on RT 10 in East Hanover

6) Penang on RT 10 in East Hanover

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Quote: from Rosie on 8:45 pm on Aug. 5, 2001

For the record---Penang is Malyasian, isn't it?

Yeah, but it shares a lot of dishes with Cantonese food (aka their really amazing Chow Fun at Penang) and other regions of china.  Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), along with Malay is one of the two official languages of that country.

The owners of Penang are Chinese expats several generations removed I beleive.

Here is a good web site I have found with lots of great malaysian recipies:

http://www.sintercom.org/makan/recipe01.htm

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Went to Peking Duck House on Piermont Road in Closter yesterday for dinner -- excellent, excellent chinese food. Not only does the place have the full three-course Peking duck service but it also has some very authentic Sichuan food as well (in addition to really good renditions of American-chinese favorites), the closest analogue being Grand Sichuan International in NYC. We had a hot and spicy shredded pickled pork with dried bean curd that was just divine, and their presentation of Chicken Soong in lettuce leaves was about the most elegant I have seen in NJ, only to be matched by Mr. Chu on RT 10 in East Hanover, i think.

Peking Duck House also has a mongolian grill plus a pretty extensive wine list, which has stuff thats really well matched to the cuisine too (you can get Gewurtztraminer by the glass!!!!). They also had a few featured american style desserts there that looked really nice (a dark chocolate cake they had sitting in a display case looked particularly inviting)

Definitely recommended if you are in the area and are looking for something different.

They have a brunch on sunday which they bill as a dim sum brunch, and I suppose its pretty good, but from what I understand the actual "dim sum" variety may not be that impressive. I bet the chinese chafing dishes are awesome though.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Neither have we... there are too many serious chinese and other asian restaurants in the area.

I'm not really keen on American style chinese food but I suppose when Rachel is craving the ice cream and chinese food combination we'll go.

Quote: from Rosie on 10:16 am on Aug. 7, 2001

What's your opinion on Baumgart's? I've never been.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Sorry, but we have yet to find a chinese restaurant in NJ worth the effort. We only go to NY. Pings and Sweet and Tart in Chinatown and Grand Sichuan International on 9th Ave. bet. 50th and 51st. St. Steve Shaw (alias the Fat Guy) recommended that one on his forum and we have gone there at least 4 times in the past 2 months. Fabulous. This is real Chinese. No stupid duck sauce (where did that come from anyway) on the table.

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Pings is very good, as is grand sichuan, henry, I've dined at both places with Fat Guy and they are some of my favorites in manhattan.

But you clearly havent tried any of the places I have mentioned.... otherwise you would not have made such a statement! :)

Quote: from Henry on 5:12 pm on Aug. 9, 2001

Sorry, but we have yet to find a chinese restaurant in NJ worth the effort. We only go to NY. Pings and Sweet and Tart in Chinatown and Grand Sichuan International on 9th Ave. bet. 50th and 51st. St. Steve Shaw (alias the Fat Guy) recommended that one on his forum and we have gone there at least 4 times in the past 2 months. Fabulous. This is real Chinese. No stupid duck sauce (where did that come from anyway) on the table.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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In answer to Mr. Perlow's list of favorite chinese restaurants I must relate to this forum what happened to me and my wife a few weeks ago at the Silver Pond in Fort Lee. We went back there for the first time in atleast 4 years and were seated towards the rear of the restaurant close to the fish tank. After a few moments we realized that there were 3 dead fish on the bottom of the tank. We also noticed that the water in the tank was absolutely filthy and when we walked over the stench was horrible. I called over the owner (a tall rather heavy set man) and showed him the dead fish he immediately called a waiter over to remove the fish. When I turned around my wife was already out the door and needless to say I quickly followed her. My poor wife almost gagged thinking that, had we sat in front of the restaurant away from the tank we might actually have ordered a whole fish from that tank. In my mind there is no room for filth.

Hank

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Mr. Perlow, I only read your comments about the Peking Duck restaurant after reading your list of favorite NJ chinese restaurants.  I and every single one of my many friends and family are of a totally different opinion of this restaurant so there is absolutely no merit in our continued discussion of chinese restaurants as we seem to be worlds apart in the taste and preparation of chinese food.

P.S. I did try 2 other restaurants on your list and never thought to make the effort to go back.

Hank

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Quote: from Henry on 5:12 pm on Aug. 9, 2001

Sorry, but we have yet to find a chinese restaurant in NJ worth the effort. We only go to NY. Pings and Sweet and Tart in Chinatown and Grand Sichuan International on 9th Ave. bet. 50th and 51st. St. Steve Shaw (alias the Fat Guy) recommended that one on his forum and we have gone there at least 4 times in the past 2 months. Fabulous. This is real Chinese. No stupid duck sauce (where did that come from anyway) on the table.

I tend to agree with you. We have found a take-out place in Livingston that we like but it certainly is not worth driving to. Some people like Noodle Chu and Hunan House. Also, I haven't been but others have told me that they like Cathay 22. We did not like Chengdu 46 at all and they always win "best of."

Rosalie Saferstein, aka "Rosie"

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I have to say, I am a bit shocked to hear about your experiences at Silver Pond. I've been there probably a dozen times this year (maybe more) and I'd have to say its one of the cleanest HK-style restaurants I've ever been in. Maybe it was just a bad night. Fish, you know, like, die occassionally.  For what its worth Steven feels Silver Pond is superior to most dim sum restaurants in Manhattan, so I dunno.

Silver Pond caters primarily to Japanese and Korean clientele, who are much more discerning about cleanliness in restaurants than -MOST- Chinese. So I would tend to think this was an aberration.

As to Peking Duck House, well to each his own. Thats what this board is all about -- everyone is entitled to their own opinion -- and certainly I'm not going to try to enforce my opinions on others.

Can you tell me -what- exactly you don't like about Peking Duck House, though?

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I've only ever been to Silver Pond for dim sum, so I can't speak to the quality of the whole fish or dinner-type dishes served there. I'm certainly of the opinion, however, based on repeat visits, that the dim sum service there is top notch, probably as good or better than Ping's (my top pick in Manhattan, along with Triple Eight Palace, for basic dim sum). Similar, actually, but with fewer lukewarm specimens being peddled.

Dead fish cannot easily be excused, but then again it sounds as though there was a quick and correct response when it was observed. Still, that story does give me pause, no doubt about it.

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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Quote: from Hank on 8:27 pm on Aug. 9, 2001

I and every single one of my many friends and family are of a totally different opinion of this restaurant so there is absolutely no merit in our continued discussion of chinese restaurants as we seem to be worlds apart in the taste and preparation of chinese food.

Hank, the only Chinese restaurant I've ever been to in Jersey that was good was Cathay 22 -- and, regretfully, most of the good stuff seems hidden away on the "Chinese only" menu and dumb American slobs like me are presented with a menu with exactly two pork recipes: moo shu pork and pork in garlic sauce. Thankfully there are some good dishes on the menu, including spicy dumplings and these little eggplant puffs and dandan noodles and kung bao chicken, etc. I am trying to get the courage to ask them to translate the !@#*$!@$ Chinese-only menu.

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By the way, I keep hearing how great noodle chu on 46 is -- I wish I could say my experiences there were good. Three visits, three disasters. Disgusting soggy scallops, the blandest pan-fried noodles I've ever had, "spicy" mushy dumplings that my grandmother could have popped into her mouth 8 at a time without reaching for a drink. Bean curd soup was okay.

IN Eatontown (Monmouth County) there is a place called Far East Taste that I thought might break the trend. Noodles are a little better there, and there are a couple of nice soups. But I don't know who he has working in the kitchen with him -- invariably (and I do mean invariably) we found pieces of bones in stir fries, or chicken that tasted like it was freezer burned, or huge pieces of hard onion in a dish whose onions were otherwise soft, etc. I worry about food safety when I taste two pieces of pork that I have to spit out because of the off taste while the other pieces taste good. My wife won't go with me there anymore.

At least the dumplings are SOMEWHAT smaller and less doughy than the usual embarrassing NJ dumplings.

There is good Thai food to be found though, which is what we usually opt for when sick of Cathay 22.

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Fat Guy. I began reading your reviews about a year ago and since then you have become my absolute bottom line, top line restaurant guru. Your recommendations and marvelously unbiased reviews have steered me to some amazing restaurants including The Peacock Alley, Grand Sechuan Int., Tocqueville and Aquavit just to name a few. With that said and with all due respect, I have a problem with your saying that the Silver Pond dim sum is as good as Ping's which I think is first rate and how about the Shun Lee Cafe after the theatre crowd leaves. I said we had not been back there in at least 4 years and the reason was simply that to us the food had gotten pretty bad and does not come close to some rest. in NY. Also, your comment that at least the restaurant immediately did something about the dead fish I CANNOT buy. Why did I have to make them aware (lots of waiters and the owner constantly walking by)that they had dead fish, and in an absolutely filthy tank that stunk. Were they all blind and with stuffy noses? I don't think so. No wonder the fish died. With that said Steve, I still love you and hope that you  review restaurants for many more years and continue to make those invaluable recommendations. You are by far IMHO, the best NY has to offer and that certainly goes for NJ also. P.S. Just got back from some great Sushi at the Wild Ginger in Englewood. We go often. Just heard tonight that Daniel and his sous chef (lives in Tenafly) frequent it also. They have good taste.

Hank

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Hank, in light of praise like that, I hardly have the spirit left in me to fight!

Most of how I'd answer your arguments is pretty much by repeating what I've already said: 1) Repeated dim sum experiences at Silver Pond during the past year (the only time period during which I've been) were outstanding; as good or better than any in the area for what I previously described as "basic dim sum" (this category would not inlcude Shun Lee, Funky Broome, et al.), and I have never been for any meal except dim sum. 2) The fish incident does give me pause, as I said, but at the same time it's not a dealbreaker for me. If I dine at most any restaurant (even ones at the very top of the pyramid) three four times in the course of writing a review I almost always see at least one thing that would blow a health inspection. Acting immediately to resolve the problem does not excuse it, but it means something to me nonetheless.

Let me also make another point: A restaurant that exposes its ingredients, especially live ones, to the world is likely to reveal a lot more flaws than one that does everything behind closed doors. Yet behind closed doors is where misbehavior is most likely to occur.

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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FYI - We only go to Silver Pond for dim sum.  We went a few times for dinner and were not impressed for the price.  Also, for your edification, we brought Fat-Guy to both Ping's and Silver Pond.  We brought our very good Chinese (from China) friend to Silver Pond and she thought it was better than any place she had been to in Chinatown.  She has since brought us to Ping's (we brought F.G. on our second visit), which we all agree is equally as good, but not as convenient to get to (for us).

As for Noodle Chu, once again, it is primarily for dim sum unless you are really interested in true Cantonese cuisine.

For dinner, I'd highly recommend Hunan Cottage on Rt. 46.  The Chinese menu is available in English and there are many, many interesting selections.

As for Cathay 22 and Chengdu 46, IMHO they are both way past their prime.  Cathay 22 was at the height of its popularity nearly twenty years ago, I don't think its been able to maintain its quality.

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Last night we went to one of my two favorite restaurants, Sezchuan Delight on Central Avenue in New Providence.  I went there frequently during the last of my years at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, and Danny created a fabulous, reasonably-priced retirement luncheon for me that the memory of which still makes my mouth water.  (And, BTW, I DO like "that orange sauce", for whatever that makes me!)  We arrived at 6:00pm to a 99% empty restaurant.  By 6:30 there was a line at the door, but never once were we hurried or pushed.  2/3rds of the patrons were Chinese, and regulars.  One of Danny's talents is creating something that isn't on the menu, aka, salted fish, chicken and tofu in a wonderful sauce.  I will say no more ... experience it for yourself!  My other favorite is Hunan Taste in Denville.  In both places, the noodles are particularly crisp and the fried dumplings are not greasy, among other pluses.  And I do like the atmosphere at Hunan Taste, with the wonderful fish tanks and there is a bar with a decent wine selection as well.  (BYO in New Providence, but next door to a liquor store!)  Enjoy!

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Quote: from RPerlow on 1:06 am on Aug. 12, 2001

As for Cathay 22 and Chengdu 46, IMHO they are both way past their prime.  Cathay 22 was at the height of its popularity nearly twenty years ago, I don't think its been able to maintain its quality.

I'm not sure what to say about you thinking Cathay 22 is "past its prime." It may not be cutting edge but you can eat well there and it's nearby -- aka Not in Bergen County/Hackensack/Englewood. Any restaurant 20 years old probably meets the definition of past its prime. Unless you want to travel then the choice -- between Cathay 22 and the 800 "hunan woks" in the area with the colorful photographs of General Tso's chicken above the counter -- is pretty easy.

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What I mean by "past it's prime" is that it was better 15 years ago than it is today.  If you like it, and you're right, its probably better than a lot of what's out there, then fine, go there. "Nearby" is a personal thing.  It may be nearby to you, but I won't be going out of my way to get there.  I never said the restaurants I recommended were the only ones that were good in NJ.  How could I personally possibly have eaten at more than a fraction of the chinese restaurants in NJ?  And just because the ones I recommend are near me doesn't mean that you can't feel free to post about the ones near you.

Also, keep in mind that there is a huge asian population in Bergen county.  Especially where we live(d), in Tenafly and formerly Fort Lee.  Because of this there are lots of Korean, Chinese and Japanese places to choose from near us.  In a town with maybe one or two regular or take-out chinese restaurant, the "best" places are fewer and farther between. Hence the willingness to travel a little further for them.

I just want to know why we get "yelled at" for suggesting places that are near us?  I don't know any places in the Scotch Plains area so how can I suggest them to you? Once again... feel free to post about the places near you (or far away from you) that you like.

Actually is Millburn near you?  I've heard that JJ's on Millburn Avenue is good (from my brother), but I haven't been there.  I also have fond memories of both Hunan Spring and Hillary's on Morris Avenue in Springfield from when I lived in Short Hills.

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Rachel: I wasn't yelling. If you look at my initial message about all Jason's recommendations being in his area (which I think must be in another thread, cause I don't see it here), the "yelling" was meant to be a joke. It was an attempt to get people from other areas to chime in, not to get you to spend your life visiting out-of-town restaurants and reporting on them.

I did post about a few restaurants that I like, but being very new to the area, I don't have a lot to say about the local places just yet.

And I don't think most of us need to be told that some places are worth travelling for. With all due respect -- going from Scotch Plains to Englewood is not what I'd call travelling "a little further." I've driven 100 miles just to go to a restaurant, and I will again. But most of us are looking for regular stops on our lists.

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      I'm going to start with some of the simpler issues - later it may get ugly!

      1. Chinese people eat everything with chopsticks.
       

       
      No, they don't! Most things, yes, but spoons are also commonly used in informal situations. I recently had lunch in a university canteen. It has various stations selling different items. I found myself by the fried rice stall and ordered some Yangzhou fried rice. Nearly all the students and faculty sitting near me were having the same.

      I was using my chopsticks to shovel the food in, when I noticed that I was the only one doing so. Everyone else was using spoons. On investigating, I was told that the lunch break is so short at only two-and-a-half hours that everyone wants to eat quickly and rush off for their compulsory siesta.
       
      I've also seen claims that people eat soup with chopsticks. Nonsense. While people use chopsticks to pick out choice morsels from the broth, they will drink the soup by lifting their bowl to their mouths like cups. They ain't dumb!

      Anyway, with that very mild beginning, I'll head off and think which on my long list will be next.

      Thanks to @KennethT for advice re American-Chinese food.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      Your wish is my command! Sometimes! A lot of what I say here, I will have already said in scattered topics across the forums, but I guess it's useful to bring it all into one place.
       
      First, I want to say that China uses literally thousands of herbs. But not in their food. Most herbs are used medicinally in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), often in their dried form. Some of the more common are sold in supermarkets, but more often in pharmacies or small specialist stores. I also often see people on the streets with baskets of unidentified greenery for sale - but not for dinner. The same applies to spices, although more spices are used in a culinary setting than are herbs.
       
      I’ll start with Sichuan peppercorns as these are what prompted @Tropicalsenior to suggest the topic.
       
      1. Sichuan Peppercorns
       
      Sichuan peppercorns are neither pepper nor, thank the heavens, c@rn! Nor are they necessarily from Sichuan. They are actually the seed husks of one of a number of small trees in the genus Zanthoxylum and are related to the citrus family.  The ‘Sichuan’ name in English comes from their copious use in Sichuan cuisine, but not necessarily where they are grown. Known in Chinese as 花椒 (huājiāo), literally ‘flower pepper’’, they are also known as ‘prickly ash’ and, less often, as ‘rattan pepper’.
      The most common variety used in China is 红花椒 (hóng huā jiāo) or red Sichuan peppercorn, but often these are from provinces other than Sichuan, especially Gansu, Sichuan’s northern neighbour. They are sold all over China and, ground, are a key ingredient in “five-spice powder” mixes. They are essential in many Sichuan dishes where they contribute their numbing effect to Sichuan’s 麻辣 (má là), so-called ‘hot and numbing’ flavour. Actually the Chinese is ‘numbing and hot’. I’ve no idea why the order is reversed in translation, but it happens a lot – ‘hot and sour’ is actually ‘sour and hot’ in Chinese!
       
      The peppercorns are essential in dishes such as 麻婆豆腐 (má pó dòu fǔ) mapo tofu, 宫保鸡丁 (gōng bǎo jī dīng) Kung-po chicken, etc. They are also used in other Chinese regional cuisines, such as Hunan and Guizhou cuisines.

      Red Sichuan peppercorns can come from a number of Zanthoxylum varieties including Zanthoxylum simulans, Zanthoxylum bungeanum, Zanthoxylum schinifolium, etc.
       

      Red Sichuan Peppercorns
       
      Another, less common, variety is 青花椒 (qīng huā jiāo) green Sichuan peppercorn, Zanthoxylum armatum. These are also known as 藤椒 (téng jiāo). This grows all over Asia, from Pakistan to Japan and down to the countries of SE Asia. This variety is significantly more floral in taste and, at its freshest, smells strongly of lime peel. These are often used with fish, rabbit, frog etc. Unlike red peppercorns (usually), the green variety are often used in their un-dried state, but not often outside Sichuan.
       

      Green Sichuan Peppercorns
       

      Fresh Green Sichuan Peppercorns

      I strongly recommend NOT buying Sichuan peppercorns in supermarkets outside China. They lose their scent, flavour and numbing quality very rapidly. There are much better examples available on sale online. I have heard good things about The Mala Market in the USA, for example.

      I buy mine in small 30 gram / 1oz bags from a high turnover vendor. And that might last me a week. It’s better for me to restock regularly than to use stale peppercorns.

      Both red and green peppercorns are used in the preparation of flavouring oils, often labelled in English as 'Prickly Ash Oil'. 花椒油 (huā jiāo yóu) or 藤椒油 (téng jiāo yóu).
       

       
      The tree's leaves are also used in some dishes in Sichuan, but I've never seen them out of the provinces where they grow.
       
      A note on my use of ‘Sichuan’ rather than ‘Szechuan’.
       
      If you ever find yourself in Sichuan, don’t refer to the place as ‘Szechuan’. No one will have any idea what you mean!

      ‘Szechuan’ is the almost prehistoric transliteration of 四川, using the long discredited Wade-Giles romanization system. Thomas Wade was a British diplomat who spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese. After retiring as a diplomat, he was elected to the post of professor of Chinese at Cambridge University, becoming the first to hold that post. He had, however, no training in theoretical linguistics. Herbert Giles was his replacement. He (also a diplomat rather than an academic) completed a romanization system begun by Wade. This became popular in the late 19th century, mainly, I suggest, because there was no other!

      Unfortunately, both seem to have been a little hard of hearing. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked why the Chinese changed the name of their capital from Peking to Beijing. In fact, the name didn’t change at all. It had always been pronounced with /b/ rather than /p/ and /ʤ/ rather than /k/. The only thing which changed was the writing system.

      In 1958, China adopted Pinyin as the standard romanization, not to help dumb foreigners like me, but to help lower China’s historically high illiteracy rate. It worked very well indeed, Today, it is used in primary schools and in some shop or road signs etc., although street signs seldom, if ever, include the necessary tone markers without which it isn't very helpful.
       

      A local shopping mall. The correct pinyin (with tone markers) is 'dōng dū bǎi huò'.
       
      But pinyin's main use today is as the most popular input system for writing Chinese characters on computers and cell-phones. I use it in this way every day, as do most people. It is simpler and more accurate than older romanizations. I learned it in one afternoon.  I doubt anyone could have done that with Wade-Giles.
       
      Pinyin has been recognised for over 30 years as the official romanization by the International Standards Organization (ISO), the United Nations and, believe it or not, The United States of America, along with many others. Despite this recognition, old romanizations linger on, especially in America. Very few people in China know any other than pinyin. 四川 is  'sì chuān' in pinyin.
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