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GB 04-23-2006 12:19 PM

Interesting Chinese Food Experience
My wife and daughter and I went to a new Chinese restaurant the other night. My brother, who has good taste in restaurants, recommended it to us.

We were seated and a waitress came right over to take our drink and appetizer order. She had a very heavy accent and was quite difficult to understand. We ordered the Peking Ravioli and on the menu it said it came with 6 pieces. When we placed the order I swear she said "Five?". So I pointed to the menu where it said (6) and repeated my order. After this went on a few times I finally figured out she was saying "fried?".

The app came and was delicious. Possibly the best Peking Ravs I have ever had. We then placed our order for our main dishes. The reason I titled this thread the way I did is that there were ingredients on the menu that I had never seen in a Chinese restaurant. There were a few dishes that had bacon in them. I am used to pork being used, but have never seen bacon in any Chinese dish. We decided to try the Szechuan Double Cooked Bacon.

I asked the waitress about it first, but again we had a lot of trouble understanding what she was saying. It sounded like it was bacon cooked in bacon fat and possibly some peppers and onions. The Homer Simpson in me won out over the more sensible little voice in the back of my head (MMMM bacon fried bacon). The dish came and sure enough it was a plate full of bacon. I have to say it seemed very out of place, but tasted good. I would not order it again, but I am glad we tried it. My wife felt weird about just eating piece after piece of bacon so she did not :lol:

The other interesting dish we got was the Cumin Rubbed Dry Beef In Chili Sauce. Again, I had never heard of cumin being used in Chinese food, but it sounded very interesting. We ordered that and the waitress asked if we like cumin. We said we did. She asked again "do you really like cumin?". Again we said yes. She then asked a third time so I told her I use it all the time in my cooking and assured her that we both enjoy it very much. I figured it must be pretty heavy on the cumin if she was asking so much so I asked her if the dish went heavy on cumin. She said "no very light". OK that seemed strange to me that she asked so many times if we really liked it if they went really light on it. This dish came and was excellent. They most certainly did not go light on the cumin though. It was very heavily spiced. I can see why she asked. I bet a lot of people take one taste and spit it out if they are not used to that flavor. This was by far my favorite dish of the night. I am not sure where the chili sauce came into it as there was no sauce noticeable, but it was very dry (as the name implies). the edges were almost jerky like, but the inside of the meat was tender and delicious.

Out third dish was Chicken with Asparagus. Nothing out of the normal with this dish, but it was very good. The chicken was cooked perfectly as was the asparagus.

As we walked out my wife made an observation. She noticed that we were almost the only Caucasians in the place. Yep we will go back again :chef:

Gretchen 04-23-2006 01:02 PM

I would bet that the double cooked bacon was uncured pork belly. It is used a lot in Asian cooking. Was it smoked? This would be called a bacon confit in Frank Stitt's Birmingham restaurant. I have a recipe of his I am dying to try.
The chili sauce could have been the garlic chili sauce that is often used.

GB 04-23-2006 01:09 PM

I bet you are right Gretchen. The bacon was not smoked.

auntdot 04-23-2006 02:17 PM

Many years ago used to go to Chinatown in NYC all the time. Got to know some of the waiters (used to help one out with the homework) and a few owners/chefs.

Learned to read the basics on the Chinese menu (long forgot that) which really helped.

We would often tell them just to make, oh, three dishes or however many we felt llike, and they would very often amaze us.

Remember a banquet I threw for ten people for an occasion, and all were floored.

Almost nothing resembled what most folks thought about as Chinese food, including regular cured, smoked pork chops, and each dish was better than the previous.

A good Chinese food chef can make food sing, as can any chef.

Now we live in the world of egg foo young.

Which I have nothing against, and sometimes we enjoy that stuff, but it is a big change from the lovely whole cooked fish, the fish and ham bits, the oysters, the baby eels, and the list goes on, that we used to get routinely.

I really miss that time.

GB, enjoy, I envy you.

fireweaver 04-23-2006 04:10 PM

one of my best girlfriends happens to be first-generation chinese (as in, her parents immigrated here, cantonese spoken in the home), which has opened a whole world of cooking up for me that i may not have been brave enough to test-drive on my own.

houston actually has a chinatown-area, with this *huge* restaurant right off the highway called ocean palace. the entire upper floor of the place is basically a ginormous hotel ballroom, full of long neat rows of tables. the experience of going there on a saturday for dim sum is absolutely riveting. my friend's boyfriend and i were the only non-asian people in the whole place, and conversations with the servers were carried out in a cantonese/mandarin/hand gesture system. just like you were noting there GB, this is NOT the same stuff that you find on a "chinese food" buffet...

my italian friend from work (same situation, actually, her parents also immigrated, and italian is spoken in the home) says the same thing is true for european ethnic cuisine, that what we get at american restaurants is NOT what one gets at all in italy.

just one more excuse to eat our way across the world, right?

BreezyCooking 04-23-2006 04:58 PM

Sounds delicious - Homer Simpson bacon & all - lol!!

Speaking of Chicken With Asparagus, that's what I'm making for dinner tonight - Chicken With Asparagus in Black Bean & Oyster Sauce.

GB 04-23-2006 05:06 PM


Originally Posted by fireweaver
GB, this is NOT the same stuff that you find on a "chinese food" buffet...

Back in the 80's I had the oportunity to go to some "authentic" Chinese restaurants in Bostons Chinatown. Unfortunately this was before I was a foodie and open to as many new things as I am now. You had to know this place was a restaurant as there was no sign outside. It looked like we were walking into an apartment. The menu was in Chinese, no English at all. We had out guide order for us. There was no such thing as chicken fingers, egg rolls, or any of the other things Americans think of when they think Chinese food. I was too scared of trying things that I did not know what they were back then so I had an awful time. I have a feeling if I was there now it would probably be one of the best meals I have ever had. I really feel like I missed out on something special.

One things I was able to appreciate though was how the dishes looked. They were so colorful and beutifully presented. True works of art.

Constance 04-23-2006 07:14 PM

When I was 10 years old, my mom and dad took me on a road trip, taking the long way to San Francisco to see my aunt. This was 1957, and my dad had his first brand new car..a rust colored 1957 Chevy. It was a very memorable trip, and one of those great memories was our trip to Chinatown.
Aunt Inez was a cool lady, and she knew all the great places to go. We went to a family owned restaurant, which was divided into small rooms of 4-5 tables for privacy.
I was young, but a very curious, observant child, and I was thrilled by the whole experience. The restaurant looked very exotic, with lots of hanging tapestries and brass, and the staff was all Chinese. They did speak excellent English, though.
As GB said, the food was a work of art. It was served family style, with plates, bowls and pots of lovely dishes set in front of us. I remember in particular a silver footed serving bowl with assorted steamed vegetables layered in colorful ribbons...carrots, peas, rice, etc...forming a perfect mound and decorated on top with fancy cut vegies.
The tea was fantastic, and I liked the soup they served in little porcelain bowls with spoons to match.
They served some kind of little crispy fried egg fritter, that may have been egg foo young. The fried prawns...great big things, done in a tempura batter...were fantastic.
There were some things I didn't try, because I was 10 years old, and not into mixtures and strange vegetables yet. But I l did learn how to use chop sticks.

I don't know what Chinatown is like today, but in 1957, it was a wonderful, magical place. Exotic scents filled the air everywhere we went, and the little shops sold kimonos, exotic silks, brass things, Chinese fans... anything the tourists might want. We went to a little open market, and I bought some leechee nuts to try out.

Andy M. 04-23-2006 09:17 PM

Chinatown is San Francisco is a magical place. a host of little hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve great food. Stores that carry a wealth of both great and cheapo Chinese goods. It's a great experience. I had the good fortune to travel there on business one time with a Chinese-American woman who took me on a personal tour. WOW, I had a great time.

riverli 04-24-2006 08:10 AM

dear GB . bacon is used very offen in china now.the material used in china more than every one can imagine.even in china, even a famous kitchenr can not know how many kind material are used in meal.
of course,no one can tell how many kind cate in china.I am being in the mainland of china for 33 years .but i can not tell the number of cate in my city.
Cumin Rubbed Dry Beef In Chili Sauce is a famous dish of xinjiang province meal.xinjiang is a provice of china.i love this dish and some time i cook it my self .i have falled to cook this dish for some times.lol.by the way ,tell you a truth ,in xinjiang provice ,the dish is cooked with mutton.i think that the restaurant wish to adapt yours taste to use beef.

GB 04-24-2006 08:17 AM

riverli thank you for your first hand experience! I think I would love the dish with mutton. I bet a lot of people in the USA would not be daring enough to try that though which is probably why they use beef instead. Mutton in this dish would be delicious though.

ironchef 04-24-2006 07:30 PM

The Xinjiang Province was a major part of the "Silk Road", which was one of the biggest trade routes in ancient times through Asia, Europe, and Africa. Because of that, many dishes from the Xinjiang Province contain flavors and ingredients not thought of by most in the Western world as being traditional Chinese cuisine.

riverli 04-25-2006 12:22 AM

yes ,ironchef is right.many dishes from xinjiang province are not similar with the traditional chinese cuisine.In xinjiang province many popular dishes are made by mutton and beef,but the most is mutton.
xinjiang is the biggest province in china.it is about 1,600,000 square kilometer ,but few people live there ,about 20 million.as you know ,there are about 1300 million people live in china.
l love some dishes's flavors of xinjiang .i love a kind of mix round noodle very much. it can be easy cooked.it taste good and cooking technique is simple. i will test more times then
report the recipe for friends

GB 04-25-2006 07:01 AM

I think this must have been my first experience with Xinjiang Province cuisine. I look forward to trying more. The flavors were excellent.

Robo410 04-25-2006 07:35 AM

WHen I am in the DC area I like to go to an out of the way place called Joe's noodle house. really. menu on the wall in Chinese. all asian families. I tell the hostess who is happy to interpret, two dishes one meat one fish, one hot, lots of greens, brown rice please. I've never gotten the same thing twice, she remembers even if a year has passed. Generally it's the specials..what has come in fresh. Amazing cuisine. The most amazing dark green leafy veggies...crisp tender, sweet, take to HOT spice well, ... want some right now...!! btw, Alton Brown did dark leafy greens last night...wonderful show.

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