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Old 04-10-2004, 11:09 PM   #1
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Why is good (Americanized) Chinese food so hard to find?

Yeah, I know the reason... So many cultures, so many styles in China... Plus all the different ways it's been Americanized...

I'm just getting more and more bummed realizing that if I move any further away from home, I'll no longer be able to get the Chinese food that I've been eating since before I could walk. :(

There are only 4 restaurants I've ever found that make what I'm used to and enjoy. And they're all within 20 minutes of each other in Cleveland. And the owners of three of them all used to be cooks at the fourth (or rather, the first).

At least once a week, I've always gotten a quart of won ton soup, and a quart of chicken chop suey, and spent hours savoring the goodness. Now that's been cut to once a month... And probably, in another 14 months, once a year. :(

Oh sure, I've tried it plenty of other places... But it's never the same. Just at the 4 places here in Kent... Well, at one, the soup is very dark and just impossible to eat... I sent that down the drain. Another is greasy and bitter. A third is sharp, bright yellow, and has no vegetables in it... That's palatable, at least. And the fourth... Well, they don't serve soup in the summer, so they can just go to hell. I didn't even try the chop suey. :?

Anybody know enough about Americanized Chinese cuisine to help me figure out how to make those for myself? I suppose I should just ask them, but... I dunno, I feel wrong asking someone for the secret to their livelyhood.

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Old 04-11-2004, 03:35 AM   #2
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Well let me tell you my friend. Good American Chinese is not easy to come by. At least where I live. There are SO many places. And 80% of them suck. THing IS...... I dont know your taste. So its VERY VERY tough to give you a suggestion. Sucks..... I know. :? ME... myself Im on a quest to eat UN-Americanized Chinese food. I havent found a place YET! Anyhew, I just cant recomend a place or recipe. I would have to know MUCH more about your favorite dishes.
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Old 04-11-2004, 10:39 AM   #3
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Yeah. *scratches his head* Cripes, it's been over a month since I even had it, I can barely remember what it tastes like.

Tell ya what, I'll get back to you after next weekend.

One thing that maybe someone can answer in the meantime. They don't stuff the won tons up here... Instead they have slices of pork floating loose in the soup... And on the the ends of the pieces, which you can tell was the original surface of the cut of meat, it remains a bright red even after being cooked in the soup... Any clue what that is?
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Old 04-11-2004, 09:15 PM   #4
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I belive that they stir fry it 1st in a red sauce that it mildly sweet. I used it before years ago and I cant think of the name. :? But the sauce has a red dye in it. Best I can do for now. :?
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Old 04-11-2004, 11:16 PM   #5
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Making Chinese Restaurant food at home is a daunting task. There are no cookbooks on the subject. The only recipes you'll find are online - usually "interpretations" of what people eat and usually wrong.

To be honest, unless you are very good friends with these restaurant owners, I highly doubt they'd share their recipes with you. I have long hoped that eventually I will be financially able to bribe either an owner or chef into giving me their recipes. Same thing for Indian food. Tons of cookbooks, all of it authentic, none are the adulterated westernized version I'm looking for.

Your best bet is a combination of two things. Eat the food frequently so you have a good memory of it in your head and keep trying to cook it at home. It also helps to read the authentic cookbooks just to try to trace the history of the dish and see what possible ingredients might be in it. Some of my recipes have lists of 20-30 potential ingredients. Each time I make the dish I try a different one, judging the outcome against the restaurant version.

As far as the red pork is concerned, that I can help you with. Here are a few quotes from previous discussions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by kitchenelf
scott - you are in luck!! LOL The process to get the pork that way is called "red cooked". You can do chicken the same way. Just do a google search for "red cooked pork" or red cooked chicken" that should help.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ironchef
the red pork that is used is called "char siu". it's basically a chinese roast pork. i believe in most asian sections of larger supermarkets, you can buy packaged char siu mix to marinated your pork with. just follow the directions on the package
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Old 04-11-2004, 11:46 PM   #6
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Thanks for that, Scott. :)

Hmm... If I can just get the soup down, I'll be happy. There's the won tons, the pork, the bok choy, some green onions... And ginger I'm pretty sure, providing the heat. I gotta really look and taste closely this coming Thursday.
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Old 04-12-2004, 12:17 AM   #7
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Ironchef has nailed it. Its Char Siu. Here is a recipe to make some yourself that I got from another site. Note the Red Dye.

Char Siu marinade:
Add 1 T minced garlic and/or 1 T minced ginger
Add 2 t Chinese five-spice
Substitute 1/2 cup pineapple juice for the hoisin
Substitute wet bean curd for the hoisin (found in Asian markets)
Add 1 T toasted sesame oil
Add 1 T hot bean paste for a spicier marinade
Substitute Japanese mirin (sweetened rice wine) for the sherry.
Many recipes add up to 2 T of red food coloring. I find this unnecessary.

Instead of pork butt, use pork spareribs and grill over a charcoal fire.
Marinate a whole pork loin, and roast as you normally would.
Char Siu Shrimp with Bacon: Butterfly shrimp and marinate in char siu sauce 30 minutes. Wrap shrimp with bacon, skewer, and grill till cooked through.

I hope that helps. :D
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Old 04-12-2004, 12:41 AM   #8
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Mmm... I might just try the char siu on it's own first. 8)
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Old 04-12-2004, 02:22 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scott123
Same thing for Indian food. Tons of cookbooks, all of it authentic, none are the adulterated westernized version I'm looking for.
Where are you Scott? What kinds of things are you looking for? I'm not sure if what we have here would be what you're used to, but I might have some contacts I could rangle recipes out of for you. The Houston area, especially the suburb of Sugarland, has become something of a little India. My university also has a very heavy Indian and Pakistani population - somebody's bound to have family in the business.
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Old 04-21-2004, 02:22 AM   #10
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Ramydam, thank you for the offer. I have to admit that I've taken so long to reply because I don't know where to start :)

I have about 30 recipes for each dish I'm trying to replicate, but none of them are exactly what I'm looking for. Maybe I will think of a more specific question later, but right now if you find someone with family in the business, I would love to hear their recipes for any of the following dishes:

Murgh Makhani/Chicken Tikka Masala
Lamb Meatballs in a cream sauce (kofta?)
Saag Panir
Chicken Tikka
Matar Paneer
Chana Masala
Mango Chutney

I am located in New Jersey. I'm 90% positive that the Indian restaurant food that I'm trying to replicate is primarily Punjabi.
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