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Various Chinese cuisines


Toby
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This week's "$25 and Under" review in the New York Times covers a Cantonese place and mentions several authentic-sounding dishes:

http://nytimes.com/2002/10/09/dining/09UNDE.html

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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This week's "$25 and Under" review in the New York Times covers a Cantonese place and mentions several authentic-sounding dishes:

http://nytimes.com/2002/10/09/dining/09UNDE.html

My Chinese class took our professors there in 1974 for an end-of-year party. I remember the flounder and the clams. The food was wonderful then. I can't wait to go eat at the new place in Queens.

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I remember Sun Lok Kee from a long time ago and had the imprssion that it had gone downhill considerably over the years. Perhaps it had, or maybe I just hit it on a bad night or two and then stopped going there. It may also be that I wrote it off because it was so crowded, which should be an indication that it was really good, except that I recall it being crowded with caucasians. My prejudice that a restaurant in Chinatown needs to have an Asian clientele to be reliably good may be outdated. The rise in sophistication and appreciation of Chinese food has really grown among New York's European descendants over the years.

Speaking of good Chinese food, return visits to the Ninth Avenue Grand Sichuan impress me, but not quite as much as meals in Dim Sum GoGo. The amazing thing about Dim Sum GoGo is that I've never had to wait on line for dinner.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Thanks for the great post, Toby. It made me miss home. I have the great fortune of having many Cantonese friends due to growing up in Vancouver. My memories are very much like yours. My Cantonese friends are the ones who fueled my food obsession and made me appreciate subtle flavours and textures. These friends have been getting married the last few years, so I go to a delicious Chinese banquet at least once a year.

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  • 2 months later...

I've come to realize (y'all probably realized this long ago) that although I love Chinese food, I don't know much about it beyond what I call "Chinese food for Jews." In my mind, there are two classes of food that I understand: Hunan/Sezchwan (what is the accepted spelling of this?) on one side; and Cantonese/Mandarin on the other. If someone said we were going to a Hunan or Cantonese restaurant, I would have a pretty good idea of what types of dishes to expect.

But can we discuss the more formal distinctions that separate the different types of Chinese food. What distinguishes Cantonese from mandarin from Shanghai(nese?)? Hunan from Szechuan? Yunan? Etc.?

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I ate a meal at a Hunam restaurant in Beijing. The food was so hot and strong, it nearly took the enamel off my teeth. I was astonished to see one of the women at the table shoveling this in like it was Heinz baked beans.

Even in the US I never experienced Hunam food that hot.

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Hakka cuisine was considered "low" food, using offal and less desirable ingredients in post-war (WW2) Hong Kong.

Here's a more academic description:

Hakka (meaning "guest family") are believed to be migratory clans of northern Chinese who moved southwards centuries ago; many of them settled in Hong Kong's New Territories more than 200 years ago. However, with regard to the cuisine appearing in Hong Kong's restaurants, Hakka cuisine has only developed since the late 1940s, by migrants from mainland China living in Shek Kip Mei villages. This cuisine flourished during the 1960s and 1970s when Hong Kong was undergoing rapid economic change. However, by the late 1970s, Hakka cuisine was largely replaced by Cantonese, Beijing, Southeast Asian and Western cuisines in Hong Kong; Hakka cuisine is not thought of as "high class" cuisine, and thus as Hong Kong became wealthier, it went into decline. Hakka cuisine has survived only with difficulty in the past decade. But Hakka cuisine continues to be well known in Hong Kong, and is thought of as "big and rough," "salty taste-oriented" as well as simply "low class" and "low status."

Sounds like the kind of stuff Wilfrid goes for.

Here's how one restaurant describes Hakka food gone upscale:

Hakka dishes are normally cooked in a variety of ways - steam, fry, stew, saute or braise. Hakka's cooking emphasises on the importance of maintaining the original taste and freshness of food. 

Famous dishes such as special "Hakka" Sliced Belly Pork, "Hakka" Meat (Pork) Cake with Salted Fish, Special "Hakka" braised fish head with sticky home-made rice wine and lettuce, Special "Hakka" Tempura (Crab meat deep fried with shredded spring onions) will give you the original taste of Hakka cuisine.

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There's a whole thread on Indian-Chinese food on the India forum, with this description of the Hakka:

The Hakka (meaning "guest people") were people who were driven from northern China by the Mongols (about 13th century), eventually settling in Guangdong province in southern China. They adopted elements from the cuisines of the regions they settled in; eventually their cooking most resembled Cantonese food, but they do have some distinctive dishes, such as stuffed bean curd, salt-baked chicken, 8 jewel stuffed duck, preserved vegetables with fresh bacon. Many of the Chinese who settled in Hawaii were Hakka, as were those who went to India, probably to work on tea plantations and gradually migrating to Calcutta.

There's also some discussion of Hakka noodles in India on that thread.

If you read James Michener's Hawaii, the woman married to the guy who got leprosy was Hakka Chinese, and there's some sense in the novel about why the Hakka were considered "low" and "rough" by the Cantonese.

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Thanks jaybee & Toby for those excellent references, which I had not seen before.

The Hakka restaurant did serve salt baked chicken as well as salt baked prawns, but I thought I had seen those offerings in other Chinese restaurants as well (but maybe not). Also a special marinated and deep fried duck, which I did not get to try.

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That sliced pork belly has got to be the best food in the world, if well prepared, of course.

Can you tell I have some hakka blood running through my veins? :biggrin:

Unfortunately I never paid attention when my mam prepared this (100 times) or anything else for that matter. Next time I go home I promise myself to watch her carefully and take notes.

Now, who said that hakka was low class?

:angry::wink::shock::hmmm:

(just kidding, I don't give a hoot)

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I used to eat at two Hakka restaurants in San Francisco -- Ton Kiang (out on Geary) and Mon Kiang in Chinatown. Mon Kiang went through several name changes, ownership, but they had a wonderful stuffed bean curd with lots of other ingredients cooked in a clay pot.

I think the Hakka were historically regarded as outsiders because they migrated down from the north into already settled lands and were stuck having to farm the poorest land; somewhat of an analogy might be made between the Creoles and Acadians in Louisiana.

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Hakkas were nomadic people and unfortunately their culture and language is diminishing as they inter marry with other cultures. Hakka cuisine is actually really delicious, and there are differences between the cantonese Hakkas and the Taiwanese hakkas. The cuisine has changes somewhat due to the geographical influences. For example a lot of hakka cuisine in Taiwan has blended with southern Taiwanese cuisine. Heavy on garlic and ground pork. Certain suburbs with a predominant hakka population like Chong-li in Taiwan have specialized restaurants which serve more traditional hakka food like this soup with sliced pork and pickled mustard greens.

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  • 7 months later...

Can some erudite sinophile shed some light on the various spellings for this region? In light of the recent thread on Peking (Beijing) duck, I was reminded of the times I happened upon a newfound spelling for this area and its people. Which is the Wade-Giles version, and which is not? With the exception of the pinyin version, why are they so seemingly far off from the actual pronunciation?

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Chaozhou would be the pinyin, Chiu Chow in all likelihood the wade-giles. Not sure about Teo Chew.

Bear in mind you have a second complicating factor, which is that although chaozhou is mandarin chinese romanised using pinyin (ie the Standard way of doing it nowadays), Chiu Chow and Teo Chew are probably the pronounciation of the same words in Cantonese, then romanised in Wade-Giles or another system. ie the written word is the same in both mandarin and cantonese but both the pronounciation of the word AND the romanisation system probably vary between the examples you have cited above?

Clear as mud? Exactly. Just as it was meant to be, otherwise everyone would be able to understand the Specials menu in the restaurants, and they'd be no special braise xo jellyfish tendons left by the time we get there ;-)

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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Bear in mind you have a second complicating factor, which is that although chaozhou is mandarin chinese romanised using pinyin (ie the Standard way of doing it nowadays), Chiu Chow and Teo Chew are probably the pronounciation of the same words in Cantonese, then romanised in Wade-Giles or another system. ie the written word is the same in both mandarin and cantonese but both the pronounciation of the word AND the romanisation system probably vary between the examples you have cited above?

this is very important.

A key way of thinking about Chinese is this:

Written Chinese is the same everywhere. There is no written Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghaiese, etc.

Regional variants only refer to oral language.

The only extent that you can say region affects the written language is that within certain regions you are maybe more likely to use certain terms to say particular things. A Cantonese person may use different terms to say something than a Shanghaiese person. Regional preferences, if you will. But if that person wrote out what he/she said, it would be understood by anyone who reads Chinese, regardless of their region.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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A key way of thinking about Chinese is this:

Written Chinese is the same everywhere.  There is no written Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghaiese, etc.

Regional variants only refer to oral language. 

Got it. Since I'm an ABC, I grasp this perfectly well. But Teo Chew? C'mon. Granted I don't speak any dialects, but I'm really curious which dialect has Teo Chew as the name for Chaozhou. The hard consonant 'T' seems a pretty far reach if I'm reading the transliteration correctly.

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A key way of thinking about Chinese is this:

Written Chinese is the same everywhere.  There is no written Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghaiese, etc.

Regional variants only refer to oral language. 

Got it. Since I'm an ABC, I grasp this perfectly well. But Teo Chew? C'mon. Granted I don't speak any dialects, but I'm really curious which dialect has Teo Chew as the name for Chaozhou. The hard consonant 'T' seems a pretty far reach if I'm reading the transliteration correctly.

i'm abc too.

i got a feeling that's the prounciation from the area.

you ever heard old chinese folk, who still have the heavy country accent?

it's pretty much a heavy country accent from wherever they are, on top of regional differences.

you know, something like a sub-dialect.

that's probably romanized based on how they pronounce it there.

in cantonese, something like "heurng ha hua".

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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A key way of thinking about Chinese is this:

Written Chinese is the same everywhere.  There is no written Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghaiese, etc.

Regional variants only refer to oral language. 

Got it. Since I'm an ABC, I grasp this perfectly well. But Teo Chew? C'mon. Granted I don't speak any dialects, but I'm really curious which dialect has Teo Chew as the name for Chaozhou. The hard consonant 'T' seems a pretty far reach if I'm reading the transliteration correctly.

hmm....that happened to be the ethnicity of one of my grandfathers, who was originally from the Santow region of Canton.

The word Teo Chew, as far as I know, does not follow a particular transliteration method, but is the pronunciation in the original dialect of the name people from that region.

Chiu Chow is Wade-Giles for Teo Chew. The hard T is quite prevalent in that dialect. My grandfather's last name, in fact, was Teo. In Mandarin dialect that character is pronounced Zheng.

The Teo Chew chinese diaspora took them mostly to Southeast Asia, and in turn to Paris. A large part of the Chinese population of Paris are actually Teo Chew.

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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A key way of thinking about Chinese is this:

Written Chinese is the same everywhere.  There is no written Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghaiese, etc.

Regional variants only refer to oral language. 

Got it. Since I'm an ABC, I grasp this perfectly well. But Teo Chew? C'mon. Granted I don't speak any dialects, but I'm really curious which dialect has Teo Chew as the name for Chaozhou. The hard consonant 'T' seems a pretty far reach if I'm reading the transliteration correctly.

hmm....that happened to be the ethnicity of one of my grandfathers, who was originally from the Santow region of Canton.

The word Teo Chew, as far as I know, does not follow a particular transliteration method, but is the pronunciation in the original dialect of the name people from that region.

Chiu Chow is Wade-Giles for Teo Chew. The hard T is quite prevalent in that dialect. My grandfather's last name, in fact, was Teo. In Mandarin dialect that character is pronounced Zheng.

The Teo Chew chinese diaspora took them mostly to Southeast Asia, and in turn to Paris. A large part of the Chinese population of Paris are actually Teo Chew.

Teo Chew is sort of the anglicized pronunciation of the original dialect of the name people from that region. Teo Chew / Teochew / Teo Chiew is commonly used in Malaysia and Singapore to refer to the Teo Chew / Chiu Chow/ Chaozhou community here. The "Teo" bit sounds like "duh" with a T in place of the D when it's spoken in the Teochew dialect.

Don't know about the Wade-Giles system but we use Chiu Chow in Cantonese to refer to the people from the Teo Chew / Chiu Chow/ Chaozhou region.

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