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i had a friend who now lives in ireland tell me that the local chinese restaurant serves stirfried bangers. here in vancouver with very few exceptions you get the same white washer version of chinese food. but the more i thought about it it kinda made sense to me. they may not be authentic in regards to the recipes. but in actual fact the principals i find are being more strictly adhered to than the top of the line chinese restaurants. they use what they have. local things that they get at the grocery. i remember an episode of iron chef where the challenger was a chinese chef who read a book by some other chinese chef who said that you should only use local igredients with the exception of tofu and pork. so in that sense aren't these white washed places actually the more authentic chinese?

bork bork bork

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i had a friend who now lives in ireland tell me that the local chinese restaurant serves stirfried bangers. here in vancouver with very few exceptions you get the same white washer version of chinese food. but the more i thought about it it kinda made sense to me. they may not be authentic in regards to the recipes. but in actual fact the principals i find are being more strictly adhered to than the top of the line chinese restaurants. they use what they have. local things that they get at the grocery. i remember an episode of iron chef where the challenger was a chinese chef who read a book by some other chinese chef who said that you should only use local igredients with the exception of tofu and pork. so in that sense aren't these white washed places actually the more authentic chinese?

great notion: i'll recall this to add even more to my enjoyment

of indian-chinese cuisine (drool)!

milagai

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While I'm hardly an expert on Chinese cuisine, I think you make an excellent point, it's about principals. That having been said, do you think certain basics, available about anywhere, helped define the cuisine -- ginger, garlic, scallions, soy sauce, black beans, etc.? Also, I'd be interested in having you elaborate on: "but in actual fact the principals i find are being more strictly adhered to than the top of the line chinese restaurants."

And what do you recommend in Vancouver?

"Last week Uncle Vinnie came over from Sicily and we took him to the Olive Garden. The next day the family car exploded."

--Nick DePaolo

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I agree. And the same is true of any cuisine. However, if you are served a plate of tomatoes and basil with a little salt and they want to call it chinese because "that's what we found in the market", then I would say that the dish isn't very chinese. I think there are some principles in the philosophy of the cuisine that have to be respected. Chinese gastronomy is the oldest in the world, and it has evolved to what we eat today. It's very complex in the flavors and textures. Just as an example, in the same dish you are likelly to find salty and umami (with the soy sauce and hoisin) sweet (molasses, sugar, honey), sour (limes) and bitter (in some of the fruits, sauces and even the tea they drink)

But you're right, chinese cooking is the escence of the food, not the ingredients.

Follow me @chefcgarcia

Fábula, my restaurant in Santiago, Chile

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I agree. And the same is true of any cuisine. However, if you are served a plate of tomatoes and basil with a little salt and they want to call it chinese because "that's what we found in the market", then I would say that the dish isn't very chinese. I think there are some principles in the philosophy of the cuisine that have to be respected. Chinese gastronomy is the oldest in the world, and it has evolved to what we eat today. It's very complex in the flavors and textures. Just as an example, in the same dish you are likelly to find salty and umami (with the soy sauce and hoisin) sweet (molasses, sugar, honey), sour (limes) and bitter (in some of the fruits, sauces and even the tea they drink)

But you're right, chinese cooking is the escence of the food, not the ingredients.

Ditto, molto DITTO. :cool: Right on.

A long time ago (early 1950s) while growing up in a northern Quebec mining town, there were no fresh veggies except carrots, turnips, onions, celery, cabbage and potatoes. It's amazing how "aythentic" everything tasted with the addition of a few Chinese flavouring agents like soy and oyster sauce, pickled vegetables, black beans, bean sauces, 5-spice, star anise, etc. etc. to various preparations of those dreaded "veggies".

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To me, a dish is "authentic" Chinese if it is prepared in a way that would appeal to the tastes of someone who grew up eating "Chinese-style" food. For instance, a Chinese immigrant to America might add a very non-Chinese ingredient like okra to a stir fry. But as far as I'm concerned, that's still Chinese because the dish is still being prepared to appeal to Chinese tastebuds.

However, there are dishes that pop up in certain restaurants that I do not consider Chinese because they were created with the specific purpose of appealing to the tastes of their non-Chinese clientele. Things like crab rangoon, fortune cookies, etc. are not things that a classically trained Chinese chef woud naturally dream up after moving to America. Those types of dishes are served only to non-Chinese customers and never served within Chinese-American homes.

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I have to agree with some of the later responses. Certainly it is more about the ideals than strictly adhereing to particular ingredients. That, however, only goes so far. Certainly it means that use should use whatever produce is being grown locally than having exotic asian versions flown in. Bangers, however, don't really count as a raw product in my book. It is something prepared. If one has the means to make a british style sausage, one likely has the means to prepare a chinese style sausage.

As an American chef who's embraced Asian foods, I take great care in not creating "fusion". That said, quality is more important to me than authenticity. That is, it is more important for the food to reflect where it is being made than reflect the region it was inspired by (though it should certainly do both). When I worked at a Oliveto in Oakland, CA, the chef at the time explained his food to me by saying it's what he hoped a young and inspired Italian chef would make if he was turned loose in Oakland for the day. That's an important distinction that I've carried with me throughout my career.

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Things like crab rangoon, fortune cookies, etc. are not things that a classically trained Chinese chef woud naturally dream up after moving to America.  Those types of dishes are served only to non-Chinese customers and never served within Chinese-American homes.

Not necessarily....

I am Filipino-Chinese-American (born and partially raised in the Philippines) and I can attest to having had Americanized interpretations of Cantonese staples such as sweet and sour pork for dinner when I was growing up. (Yes, the kind with chunks of Dole pineapple, although if memory serves, Mom used water chestnut powder to coat the pork.)

Soba

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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That's a really great quote about Oliveto. But we might want to be careful when talking about fusions of Chinese cuisines with whatever cuisines they encounter in other countries. Chinese people in places like Malaysia and Thailand embrace fusion and make fantastic food!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Not necessarily....

I am Filipino-Chinese-American (born and partially raised in the Philippines) and I can attest to having had Americanized interpretations of Cantonese staples such as sweet and sour pork for dinner when I was growing up.  (Yes, the kind with chunks of Dole pineapple, although if memory serves, Mom used water chestnut powder to coat the pork.)

Sweet and Sour pork really is a traditional Cantonese dish, and there are many variations made within Chinese American homes, which is why I didn't mention it.

OTOH, I've never heard of Chinese-American grandmothers spending Saturday mornings making crab rangoons, egg foo young patties (which is completely different from the traditional Chinese dish) or fortune cookies. Never.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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Perhaps not, but somewhere out there I'm sure there is an amah slaving away on a hot stove, stuffing cream cheese into wonton skins.

You can never tell. :wink:

Sweet and sour pork is a traditional Cantonese dish but the Americanized version is so far off the mark that it might as well be its own version. Ditto for moo shu pork (more egg, less pork).

Soba

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Perhaps not, but somewhere out there I'm sure there is an amah slaving away on a hot stove, stuffing cream cheese into wonton skins.

You can never tell.  :wink:

Even if I taught my Toisanese grandmother how to make fettuccine alfredo that wouldn't make it Chinese. :laugh:

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Perhaps not, but somewhere out there I'm sure there is an amah slaving away on a hot stove, stuffing cream cheese into wonton skins.

You can never tell.   :wink:

Even if I taught my Toisanese grandmother how to make fettuccine alfredo that wouldn't make it Chinese. :laugh:

Isn't that a bit limiting?

I'm not Italian but I can make a mean minestrone invernale. What makes it Italian isn't necessarily the person behind the stove.

Soba

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Perhaps not, but somewhere out there I'm sure there is an amah slaving away on a hot stove, stuffing cream cheese into wonton skins.

You can never tell.   :wink:

Even if I taught my Toisanese grandmother how to make fettuccine alfredo that wouldn't make it Chinese. :laugh:

Isn't that a bit limiting?

I'm not Italian but I can make a mean minestrone invernale. What makes it Italian isn't necessarily the person behind the stove.

Soba

I think you misunderstood. I'm actually agreeing with you. My grandmother could make either fettuccine alfredo or crab rangoons and still neither dish would be Chinese.

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Ah, lol. Must pay attention to work (not eGlutton) on a Friday afternoon.

The "A" word can be so tricky sometimes. I have my own issues with fusion food -- namely that most fusion tends to blur the boundaries of taste and become mostly one note wonders -- but that's a separate thread.

Authentic Chinese food to me is something that respects the source cuisine and attempts to replicate it with a reasonable amount of substitution, taking into account modern taste. Some renditions of authentic Chinese are more authentic than others. The soup dumplings at China 46 come to mind (vs. the xiao long bao at say, Joe's Shanghai), for instance.

Then, to some people, something is authentic because it matches up with their expectation of what it ought to be, not necessarily with how it ought to be. The type of food served by Shun Lee West in NYC comes to mind.

Both versions of Chinese food are equally valid, in my opinion. They're both authentic, but to different sets of people.

Soba

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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I personally don't have a problem with the cook with what you have, but it's the over-salting, over-sweetening, over-thick and over fried white washed Chinese food that I have a problem with calling that authentic Chinese food. The food I've eaten at Chinese friend's homes and at the better restaurants in Chinatowns is vastly different to the food we're served at the more white-washed places.

Anyone else ever see the movie "Waiting for Guffman"? There's a scene in it where two couples are eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant (in Blane Missouri), the husband of one of the couples explains to the other couple that their friends who had visited China told them that they can't get a sauce as thick, and a sweet in China as they can in America and that everything there was steamed and not fried.

If it's cooked with similar staple seasonings then I'd definitely say it's more "Chinese" than if it's cooked from some mass-produced sauce that comes in a 5 gallon bucket that has corn syrup as its first ingredient.

Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

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Perhaps not, but somewhere out there I'm sure there is an amah slaving away on a hot stove, stuffing cream cheese into wonton skins.

You can never tell.  :wink:

Soba

I might be reading the above incorrectly. Do you mean crab ragoon is authentic Chinese?

Is cheese a traditional Chinese ingredient? The first time I had cheese was from a British lady living next door when I was a youngster in HK.

The only cheese I knew until then was Chinese Cheese: fuyu... and somehow, I can't imagine that in wonton skins. :wink::laugh:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I immediately wanted to agree with Chefkoo about the priciple of cooking in that you use whatever ingredients are freshly available to you where ever you are. Is it not exactly what terroire means? That was also the same priciple operating when great classic dishes such as Chicken a la Kiev and Veal marengo were concocted for the first time. The regional classification of dishes I suspect depends on who produced it and for whom. Hence, a chinese army chef would most likely have produced entirely different dishes if he found himself in the same situation as Napoleon’s cooks. He would have produced General Cho’s chicken!

Gato ming gato miao busca la vida para comer

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Perhaps not, but somewhere out there I'm sure there is an amah slaving away on a hot stove, stuffing cream cheese into wonton skins.

You can never tell.   :wink:

Soba

I might be reading the above incorrectly. Do you mean crab ragoon is authentic Chinese?

Is cheese a traditional Chinese ingredient? The first time I had cheese was from a British lady living next door when I was a youngster in HK.

The only cheese I knew until then was Chinese Cheese: fuyu... and somehow, I can't imagine that in wonton skins. :wink::laugh:

I am saying that there are two kinds of "authentic Chinese". There is the authentic Chinese which we (you, sheetz and myself) know to be authentic and there is the Americanized "authentic Chinese" exemplified by crab rangoon, chicken Soong and fortune cookies. They're both valid, just not to the same sets of people.

Soba

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I am saying that there are two kinds of "authentic Chinese".  There is the authentic Chinese which we (you, sheetz and myself) know to be authentic and there is the Americanized "authentic Chinese" exemplified by crab rangoon, chicken Soong and fortune cookies.  They're both valid, just not to the same sets of people.

Soba

Then perhaps there needs to be different names to distinguish between Chinese and Americanized Chinese styles of cuisine, similar to how Mexican and Tex-Mex distinguish between those two styles.

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There is, lol.

The best authentic Americanized Chinese, in my opinion, can be found in this thread:

King Yum Polynesian Chinese Restaurant

181-08 Union Tpke., Fresh Meadows; 718-380-1918

kingyum1.jpg

King Yum, established in 1953, is the oldest continuously operating Chinese restaurant in Queens (Wo Hop, in NYC's chinatown, opened in 1939). This makes it probably one of the oldest in the country as well.

(edit: Hawaii has some that are considerably older -- Wo Fat in Honolulu opened in 1882 (rebuilt twice) and Lau Yee Chai (demolished and moved locations in 1968) since 1929, and San Francisco has Hang Ah Tea Room, 1920. None of these have continuously operated under the original owners/families to my knowledge, however).

King Yum's original owner, Jimmy Eng, 84 and still going strong in the restaurant biz after 51 years, is a man of legend. He doesnt look a day over 60.

All of the Tiki/Polynesian fixtures you see here, including the bar and all the bamboo accoutriments (all the walls in the main dining room are paneled with bamboo, the place looks the restaurant that used to be in the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney world), are ORIGINAL. The restaurant appears as its was, back in 1953, with little or no changes. This also goes for its food -- it was created for a simpler time in our country's history, and when this particular neighborhood -- Hollis Hills/Hillcrest/Fresh Meadows -- was 90 percent Jewish. You know the adage about not opening a Chinese Restaurant unless you have Jews in the area? It was probably started because of the huge success of this place. The local synagogue is only about 300 feet away, just down the block.

kingyum10.jpg

This is a shot of their Subgum Wonton Soup for 2 -- it contains fried wontons, as well as big slices of roast pork, white meat chicken, shrimp, bok choy, mushrooms, water chestnuts and snow peas.

kingyum11.jpg

A portion of the wonton soup in a retro chinese soup bowl.

kingyum12.jpg

kingyum13.jpg

These are King Yum's famous egg rolls. As you can see from the closeups, these contain ample amounts of roast pork AND shrimp, and even the cabbage has a strong pork taste in it, due to the penetration of the grease. These are AWESOME egg rolls and are the benchmark to which I compare others to.

kingyum14.jpg

kingyum15.jpg

kingyum16.jpg

Shun Lee West runs a distant, distant one hundred and fiftieth by comparison (in my opinion). YMMV.

As for authentic Chinese? Well...I can name a half dozen places but very few beat Mom's and Grandma's cooking. I have yet to find a restaurant that can make lion's head meatballs that beats the version my grandmother makes.

I think a better question to ask is "What does authenticity mean to you?" and to keep in mind that there's more than one valid definition.

Soba

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So what is authentic Chinese/Chinese cooking? I took classes with Nina Simonds and have several of her books. Since she apprenticed in China, I've assumed her stuff is the real deal. She does occasionally offer a recipe that uses ingredients not common in China, but cooked in the manner a Chinese chef might employ, the sort of thing I believe chef koo is referring to.

Also, tell me more about authentic moo shu, please. I take it to mean it has more eggs, hence the name.

"Last week Uncle Vinnie came over from Sicily and we took him to the Olive Garden. The next day the family car exploded."

--Nick DePaolo

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Also, tell me more about authentic moo shu, please. I take it to mean it has more eggs, hence the name.

Do you want hoisin sauce on your Moo Shu? Did you know that hoisin on Moo Shu is like catsup on steak?

I just wanted to point this out again.

Anyone know why? Anyone care?

Yes eddie, please enlighten us tourists... :biggrin:

MOO SHU PORK

Moo Shu Pork is a northern Chinese egg dish typically wrapped in wheat flour pancakes. In Chinese, the words ‘Moo Shu’ are the name of the yellow cassia flower, a poetic reference to the look of the scrambled eggs in the dish. Moo Shu Pork first became popular in the US during the late 60’s and early 70’s. There were so many exciting things about it! Here was a delicious new dish that was fun and authentic, and you could eat it with your fingers.

Classically prepared Moo Shu Pork is a stir-fry of scrambled eggs, pork shreds, tiger lily buds, shredded bamboo shoots, tree ears, and scallions. It does NOT contain: carrots, cabbage, nappa, ginger, garlic, mushrooms, chicken, beef, or shrimp.

When properly made it is ‘dry-cooked’. This means that the finished dish should have no visible sauce. There are liquids that flavor it, but they are used in small quantity and then reduced away during stir-frying. The distinctive aroma of an authentic Moo Shu Pork is created by the subtle muskiness of the sautéed lily buds combined with the smell of the just warmed sesame oil. When cooking Moo Shu Pork, the goal is to bring out this subtle musky aroma and combine it with a tasty/savory background of flavor.

More information can be found in this thread in the China forum.

Soba

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A refrigerator contains some chicken, celery, onions, and noodles. The cabinets have the usual household condiments.

So what will a Chinese or a Caucasion cook do?

Chances are chicken noodle soup or a fricassee will be made by one and the other will do a noodle pancake or the like.

Why? Habit? Tastes? Tradition?

The thing is --- I would do the chow mein thing or a lo mein or a pancake with the chicken/vegetable topping ----and I'm not Chinese!

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About the naming of Moo Shu Pork.

I understand naming the dish because of the egg/cassia connection. So why aren't the characters for 'gui' (cassia/osmanthus) used instead of mu xi -- wooden rhino (literally) but meaning 'sweet-smelling osmanthus' or 'scrambled egg' in De Francis? I've sometimes seen the 'gui' on a menu, but more often it is mu xu-- wooden whiskers, ---I guess for the shredded bamboo and lily buds resembling whiskers.

'Tis a puzzlement!

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      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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