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"Polynesian" style Chinese restaurants

Hi all! I'm looking for some verification that I am not crazy down here in Florida! My husband and I are both originally from New Hampshire (Nashua) and we were just talking about the Chinese restaurants up there. Chinese food in Florida IS NOT THE SAME! Specifially, the egg rolls. Here they are filled with chunky pieces of cabbage and carrots and sometimes have a tiny shrimp stuffed in there. But up in Nashua the food was more of a Hawaiian or Polynesian kind - the egg rolls were filled with something chopped and shredded very fine. I don't know if any of the restaurants we used to go to are still there -- The Kahala, Haluwa, and Singapore??

Does anyone know what I'm talking about?! And, even better, would anyone happen to have any kind of recipe for those egg rolls?! I would LOVE to have it!!

Thanks for any insight ;-)

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  1. You're not crazy. I think the Polynesian – Chinese thing is unique to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Rhode Island not so much (anymore) and Maine not at all. I cannot comment on the places you mention but the most famous of this genre is a place in Saugus, MA called Kowloon. It’s grand (huge). A lot of the places in MA have gone down in quality and focus more on strong drinks and Keno (which I’ve heard referred to as “Tiki Bingo.” The more Scorpion/Volcano bowls one consumes the more bold one becomes as it were.)

    Nor can I comment on a specific egg roll recipe, but I can venture a guess that you will not find a lot of menus serving “American Chop Suey” down in Florida.

    8 Replies
    1. re: bewley

      Thank you!! I have the hardest time trying to describe the food to people down here! No "American Chop Suey" on the menus, but ironically, we have a local guy who carves tiki totems out of palm tree trunks! I think we have the "atmosphere" mastered, although I can't say I've seen any flaming volcanoe drinks in coconut bowls recently!

      Toooo bad ;-(

      1. re: bewley

        there's also the hukelau in chicopee, which even still does the cheesy hawaiian floor show thing.

        http://www.hukelau.com/index.html

        i have not been there in many, many years though. i'll admit i have a nostalgic soft spot for this kind of chinese-american food, though, as inauthentic and generally low quality as it tends to be.

        1. re: passing thru

          That looks very similar to a place in Lynnfield, MA called “Bali Hai.” You can see it while driving north on I-95, on the left just before the 95-128 split. We enjoyed the food and the bartender, who, I think may actually have been from the Pacific Islands, made the most potent drinks. (After only two we were out-the-door.) No floor show however, which makes your recommendation more special, though we would have seen it in double if there was one. We’ll have to check that out.

          Thanks.

          1. re: bewley

            Update on the Bali Hai. The govt has installed a noise barrier on that stretch of 128 and you can no longer see the restaurant as you pass by.

          2. re: passing thru

            Oh the Hukelau! When I was growing up we BEGGED to go to this place. No floor show at the time, but had a bridge over a goldfish pond that we threw pennies in. Shirley Temples and the sterno gently glowing under the PU-PU platter- good times, good times.

          3. re: bewley

            I am from up in Mass also, Newburyport. If here is a good Chinese restaurant in the southwestern part of Florida that knows how to cook good ole Boston/New England Style Chinese Chop Suey I haven't found it in my over 30 years of being here. It's really a simple receipe, my Mother use to make it all of the time when I was a youngster. We use to get a flank steak and have it sliced as thin as possible, cooked very slowly in a frying pan with some butter and a little water. Not to let it burn, cook until very tender. Chop some celery in small pieces, mushrooms, lots of finely chopped onions, and cook with the beef slowly. Stir his a lot so that it wont dry out, add water occastionally. Wash and steam brussle sprouts until nice and soft. Mix this all together, add some soy sauce to your taste, and let it thicken. This is where I am loss I can remember if my Mom used baking soda or white flour to thicken the suey. She would also chop up chessnuts and boil them until tender, adding them to the mixture for flavor. With a nice bowl of white rice or mashed potatoes I was in heaven. I remember her saying the longer you cook it adding a little choy sauce now and then will really make the flavor come to the top. I don't think I left anyhing out.

            1. re: bewley

              Portland/Westbrook Maine USED to have the Polynesian style Chinese. Hu Ke Lau, The Polynesian Village and I think maybe the Hawaiin Hut would also fit the bill.

              1. re: soxlover

                I think there was a HuKeJau at OOB too.

            2. I asked my husband about these places (he's from Nashua, too). He says the Kahala and Singapore are long gone, but Haluwa is still there.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Roundelay

                OHHHHHHH!!! You guys are KILLIN' ME!! The sterno and the PU PU platter - funny! We have Bo Bo platters here in FL. They are sorta the same - teriyaki on a stick, spare ribs, a couple of crab rangoon wantons - if you're lucky - otherwise you get some kind of really weird looking "shrimp toast", and of course, the chunky cabbage egg rolls.

                And we seem to have a lot of mongolian buffet chinese restaurants and those "hole-in-the-wall, order by number take-out" places in the strip malls. There really aren't any old-fashioned, sit down on a plastic covered chair with the zodiac placemats under the glass tabletop places either. Come to think of it, I don't think I've had my fried rice served to me in the big silver dish with the dome cover since I moved here!

                Oh well - I haven't been back to Nashua in about 20 yrs. I imagine a lot of things I remember are gone now.

                1. re: Roundelay

                  Sorry to say say, Al locked the doors at Kahala for the last time a couple of weeks ago.

                2. I laughed out loud when I read your post as my wife and I had the exact same feeling about Florida Chinese when we lived there for one year after we got married in 1980. The rice was yellow with peas of all things. The eggrolls were awful and the Lobster sauce was white or yellow depending where you got it. My benchmark has always been the Aku Aku in Cambridge so I know what you mean. Funny, but anytime a friend or family member visits me from Florida they ALWAYS want, in order, Chinese, fried clams, and Pizza.

                  1. Hey Babe...I got a kick out of your remembering all the old "haunts" I used to go to the Singapore a couple of nights a week. I then moved to CA and wondered where all the good food went. CA's chinese is totally different, took a little getting used to, but somethings I actually got to liking and I miss them, now that I'm back here in NE. I have heard that the "Lilac Blossom" in Nashua is absolutely the best in the area now. Anyone been there lately?

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: othervoice

                      Oh yes - fried clams and pizza! Thanks for reminding me!! Let's see, do you all prefer the rubbery strips or the big fat ones with the bellies?! We have quite a few decent seafood places here, but I can't say I've been to any comparable to, say, Markies (?? not sure about the name) in the Hampton Beach area? Pizza - eh .... Bizzarro is the best around the Melbourne area. They are genuine Italian guys and make a nice thin crust that you can fold up and eat a slice nicely. I guess I just don't consider Dominoes and Pizza Hut to be "Pizza joints". Gotta be the neighborhood pizzeria. I think what we need in this town is a Chinatown and a Little Italy!!

                      I've never been to CA, but my husband did live in San Bernadino for a while back in the 80's. I'll have to ask him about the food out there ...

                      1. re: BabyBee

                        When I was growing up, we'd go to South Pacific, in Newton. Every so often, as a special treat, my parents would order the pu-pu platter.

                        American Chinese food must be very regional. When I moved from Boston to NYC, I was shocked to find that the fried rice was very light in color and had peas (darker, no peas in Boston), the fried noodle were wide in NYC (like fried fettucine), not skinny (like fried spaghetti) as in Boston and a few other things I don't remember.

                        1. re: marcia2

                          Lobster sauce is dark brown in Boston, pale in NY.

                          1. re: GaryLovesFood

                            Every sauce at Chinese restaurants I've been to in the area has been dark brown - and all taste the same. ;-)

                            And I miss the smoky wok flavored yellow fried rice (with peas, carrots, onions, and meat of your choice) that I cut my Chinese food teeth on in NY.

                      2. re: othervoice

                        Lilac Blossom is very nice, but cannot hold a candle to Chen Yang Li which is a couple miles east on the same road. I know it closed for about a year adn changed hands, but it is back in business. The Li in Bedford is also stellar.

                        (in reply to original post)
                        As for the "old school haunts" that had sterno roaring in the pupu platters, the Zodiac placements under the plastic tablecloths... and the most INCREDIBLE eggs rolls on earth were at a small but very good restaurant called Fung Wong in Clinton Ma on the Lancaster border on Main St. I still miss those incredible egg rolls!

                      3. Fall River, MA had The China Royal...complete with dancers and music . It was originally supermarket, converted to a Polynesian restaurant and now it is........gone and in it's place??? CVS...ahhh