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Chinese cuisines that haven't travelled abroad


Pan
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What's distinctive about Shaanxi-style food? Yunnanese? (Partly answered with the fish soup and so forth described in Ellen's report on her trip to China in the Adventures in Eating Forum.) Anything specific to Anhui or Hubei provinces? And what are the odds of any of these things (especially those from inland provinces) becoming available abroad? Finally, why do you think food from Sichuan, also a landlocked province, has made such an impact in places with very small numbers of immigrants from Sichuan?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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well there are three things

1. People from those area migrating abroad

2. Suitable ingredients being available in those new areas

3. The dish being agreeable to the overseas palate.

I think quite a lot of the pseudo-chinese food in the west are due to

people migrating over and wanting some food from home, unable to get the right ingredients so substitute whatever is closest realising it taste ok and repackaging in it and flogging it as chinese. :raz: the chow mein is born

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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We've gone way past Chow Mein and Chop Suey in the US. Sichuan and to a lesser extent Hunan food is available, and there are a lot of things Grand Sichuan may be, but very watered-down for non-Chinese palates isn't one of them. And then, there are the Sichuan-style restaurants in Chinese neighborhoods like Flushing, with very largely Chinese clienteles but, sometimes, coverage in the mainstream press.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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UK is still completely cantonese! and in chinatown it very good cantonese.

A lot of restaurant advertise as peking or sichuan but they may have one or two dishes that are vaguely similar just that teh Uk public can't really differentiate anyway ho hum .

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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UK is still completely cantonese!  and in chinatown it very good cantonese.

A lot of restaurant advertise as peking or sichuan but they may have one or two dishes that are vaguely similar just that teh Uk public can't really differentiate anyway ho hum .

Yes and it is a great shame - My search for a decent Sichuan restaurant turned up exactly nil. I've seen an add for one claming to be Sichuan somewhere in the New Forest - I might try a trip, but I'm not hopeful.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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What's distinctive about Shaanxi-style food? Yunnanese? (Partly answered with the fish soup and so forth described in Ellen's report on her trip to China in the Adventures in Eating Forum.) Anything specific to Anhui or Hubei provinces? And what are the odds of any of these things (especially those from inland provinces) becoming available abroad? Finally, why do you think food from Sichuan, also a landlocked province, has made such an impact in places with very small numbers of immigrants from Sichuan?

About Sichuan --- Do you think maybe its isolation was penetrated because of its safety, during the Japanese war? Many Chinese fled to Sichuan Province. Not just the Nationalists, but people like Cecilia Sun Yun Chiang, ho wrote "The Mandarin Way" (a cookbook).Also, General Stillwell and his Flying Tigers were stationed there. All these people came away with Sichuan eating experiences. Credit has also been given to Craig Claibourne for helping further its popularity. Sichuan cooking was the new guy on the block and it started to take over Cantonese as THE Chinese food to experience.

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Jo-Mel: I humbly suggest that it was Gen. Claire Chenault who led the Flying Tigers, and they were in Yunnan Province, not Szechuan. So solly. :shock:

You are right though, that cowardly Bandit King, Chiang Kai Shek and his rapacious entourage, the Koos, Soongs, etc. all repaired to Chungking in advance of the Japanese rather than have some of his troops wasted in battle. You see, the US gov't gave them billions $$ in military and financial aid to maintain his military, based on the size of his army. Alas, the $$ went straight into "hiding", leaving millions of starving soldiers to ravage the countryside looking for food.

Coming back to food :wink: , there was a time in the fifties and early sixties when everything "exotic" and foreign had to be "hot and spicey". Hence you see the anomally of people pouring great gobs of crushed chilis on Polish cabbage rolls, foo yong, spaghetti, etc. I mean the culinarily naive public almost "demanded" to be titillated by the almighty chili. Once someone "discovered" szechuan cuisine, the floodgates opened and that style shot up in popularity.

But, that would not normally account for the rapid growth in popularity of Szechuan cooking. What you needed was the business acumen of the Chinese restauranteurs(bless their pragmatic hearts) who were in North America at the time, 99% of whom were Toisanese or Cantonese. Hey, we knew a good thing when it comes barging into our cash registers. :biggrin: I mean, a lot of the chow mein and chop suey houses picked up on the trend and either added a few items or re-badged their restaurants to be "authentic" purveyors of Szechuan Food. :laugh::laugh:

Edited by Ben Hong (log)
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What you needed was the business acumen of the Chinese restauranteurs(bless their pragmatic hearts) who were in North America at the time, 99% of whom were Toisanese or Cantonese. Hey, we knew a good thing when it comes barging into our cash registers. :biggrin: I mean, a lot of the chow mein and chop suey houses picked up on the trend and either added a few items or re-badged their restaurants to be "authentic" purveyors of Szechuan Food. :laugh:  :laugh:

Yeah, a lot of people don't realize that Cantonese/Toisanese folks are shopkeepers at heart, and don't give a flying fig if what they serve in their restaurants are in any way remotely representative of their native cuisine as long as they can laugh on the way to the bank. Instead, they save the real Chinese cooking for home.

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Ben-----

Jo-Mel: I humbly suggest that it was Gen. Claire Chenault who led the Flying Tigers, and they were in Yunnan Province, not Szechuan. So solly.

{{{{{Batting head!!}}}}} I really DO know that it was Claire Chennault of Flying Tiger fame, flying the 'hump between Kunming and India ----- and Vinegar Joe Stillwell who led the China/India/Burma Forces, and whose museum is in ChingQing.

I got my Generals mixed up!

Was there ever much immigration of Sichuanese to the West?

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Jo Mel, until very recently, I doubt that there were identifiable groups of Szechuanese who migrated to North America. Certainly not the critical mass that one would infer, given the vast number of "Szechuan" eateries on this continent. The vast majority of Szechuan food that you get here would be cooked by "other" people. :biggrin::rolleyes: . But there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, as some famous practitioners of French cuisine are non-French. As long as the food appeals to you and it is well prepared, who cares??

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I can't verify or refute that. I do know that there is a guy with a cart right near the railroad tracks where Main St. meets Kissena Blvd. in Flushing who sells Xinjiang-style barbecue (really, kebabs). His stuff is cheap, but just OK.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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What's distinctive about Shaanxi-style food? Yunnanese?  Anything specific to Anhui or Hubei provinces?

The famous dishes out of Shaanxi are typically the handmade noodles, even in China thats really the extent of Shaanxi food that you see. Yunnan has more interesting foods, but in China its only recently catching on. There are a growing number of places in Beijing and Shanghai, the most famous is Cha Ma Gu Dao or "S'Silk Road". There is absolutely nothing special about Anhui or Hubei province, let alone its cuisine. The main reason these haven't picked up in the West is because it is rare that people from these provinces make their way to the US. Sure, immigrants from Sichuan weren't the ones that started the Sichuan/Hunan food craze in the US, but these foods are such bastardizations of real Sichuan food anyways. It seems that some enterprising Cantonese or Fujianese probably were looking to offer something new and so added some spicy dishes and thus created the craze. Yunnan, Shaanxi, and many other provincial Chinese foods don't lend themselves easily to adaption like that of Sichuan/Hunan and thus only someone really committed to authenticity could pull them off. Further, as I said, even in major cities in China, these cuisines play very minor roles...

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We've gone way past Chow Mein and Chop Suey in the US. Sichuan and to a lesser extent Hunan food is available, and there are a lot of things Grand Sichuan may be, but very watered-down for non-Chinese palates isn't one of them. And then, there are the Sichuan-style restaurants in Chinese neighborhoods like Flushing, with very largely Chinese clienteles but, sometimes, coverage in the mainstream press.

You left Shanghai-style food off that list. Some of that is penetrating the U.S. too.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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But Jon, I think the Shanghai cuisine is in fact cooked mostly by Shanghainese immigrants, whereas the Sichuan and Hunan food is not primarily cooked by immigrants from those provinces, I daresay (with some exceptions).

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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chengb02, have you tried the food at Spicy & Tasty or Sichuan Dynasty in Flushing? If so, do you consider it a real bastardization? I'd also be curious for your opinion on how authentic (yeah, I know, that word again) the Hunan offerings at Grand Sichuan St. Marks are. I'm a regular customer of that establishment and have been told that the chef is from Hunan, and they hired him specifically so that they can feature more Hunan food than at other branches of Grand Sichuan.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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But Jon, I think the Shanghai cuisine is in fact cooked mostly by Shanghainese immigrants, whereas the Sichuan and Hunan food is not primarily cooked by immigrants from those provinces, I daresay (with some exceptions).

Pan, absolutely right (please see my prior post). In the past 20 years or so, since the liberalization of the immigration laws to Canada and the relaxing of the rules for exit visas from China, we here have seen a small but noticable influx of Shanghai people. Of course with them come the eateries. I have had some very good meals in Shanghai restaurants, but for the life of me, I can't discern those from the Cantonese dishes. Except for the wide use of sugar, the red-cooked dishes, special dishes liked tea-smoked duck, salt water duck, I would say that Shanghai and Cantonese cuisines share the throne as kings of Chinese cuisines. Both do amazing things with fish and seafood. :wub::wub:

Szechuan people are not a readily identifiable group yet in Canada, even in Toronto with its 600,000 Chinese. However, there are a gazillion "Szechuan restaurants". :laugh:

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chengb02, have you tried the food at Spicy & Tasty or Sichuan Dynasty in Flushing? If so, do you consider it a real bastardization? I'd also be curious for your opinion on how authentic (yeah, I know, that word again) the Hunan offerings at Grand Sichuan St. Marks are. I'm a regular customer of that establishment and have been told that the chef is from Hunan, and they hired him specifically so that they can feature more Hunan food than at other branches of Grand Sichuan.

Pan, there are many legitimately "authentic" Sichuan/Hunan restaurants in the US, my point is not that they don't exist, but that the traditional Chinatown residents from Guangdong and Fujian were looking for a way to get more people in restaurants and so they added some spicy dishes and called them Sichuan/Hunan dishes and that is what started it all. As I'm not very familiar with a lot of NYC Chinatown places, a lot of pretty "authentic" offerings can be found but much of what is currently on menus is not.

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A lot of regional Chinese food hasn't travelled as much as it might deserve to. One of the biggest omissions in my opinion is Taiwanese, which seems to be thin on the ground in Britain, and certainly is in Hong Kong. Yet the food in Taiwan is magnificent, although a layman like me has trouble picking out the authentically native from the imported (and adapted, not always with success) mainland regional styles.

As immigrants from Fujian make up a disproportionate element of mainland immigration to Europe, North America and elsewhere, it's also perhaps surprising that Fujianese food hasn't caught on as a big trend yet.

Regional food is certainly popular in Guangzhou, with just about every province of China represented; the big ones seem to be "northeastern" (Harbin etc), Hunan, Sichuan, and Xinjiang. Maybe one day they'll make their way abroad. Among the others (from my memory only, I'm sure there are many more) were Guizhou, Shandong, Yunnan, Jiangxi, Mongolian.

There's also Buddhist vegetarian, which is big in Taiwan, less so in meat-mad Hong Kong, and - as far as I know - practically non-existent in the rest of the world. Given the enormous variety of Chinese food in China/Taiwan/Hong Kong, it's a real pity that it's so poorly represented abroad. As someone said above, in Britain, it tends to be Cantonese and more Cantonese. Not very inspired.

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There are a fair number of Chinese restaurants in New York that are owned by Taiwanese people, but only a few of them feature Taiwanese food specifically. I like Taiwanese food. Fuzhounese food has been getting increasing representation in New York, but seemingly, only as very inexpensive little shops and restaraurants that cater to an almost exclusively Chinese clientele. There's a little Fuzhounese eatery in New York's biggest Chinatown -- Flushing, Queens -- that I go to every Thursday before work to get fried sesame buns for lunch, and I'm not sure I've ever seen another non-Chinese person in there other than me.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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One more thing worth noting about Sichuan food is that it has long been very highly regarded among the Chinese as one of their great - if not greatest - culinary traditions. If you can get to Sichuan, you'll soon know why. So its possible that another reason Sichuan appeared among Chinese restaurants in the West is because in the Chinese banqueting and fine dining tradition, Sichuan is seen as the equal of Beijing or Guangdong.

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