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Should I drive my students 400 miles for Chinese food?

Our school, located in Oakland, spends one week each spring offering mini-courses outside of the usual curricular offerings. I've put together courses on chocolate, Hollywood, Minor League Baseball, and artisan food producers of the Bay Area, among other topics. This spring I hope to offer Chinese Food 101. The goal of the course is to help the students avoid ordering sweet and sour pork and chicken chow mein for the rest of their lives. I'd like to introduce the kids (grades 9-12) to a range of Chinese regional cuisines. I have not yet decided if it will be a full day course (allowing us to visit 10 restaurants) or a half day course (which would limit us to 5). Regardless, I'd love your suggestions for the best exemplars of Cantonese, Szechuan, Mandarin, Hakka, Hunan, Shanghainese, Manchurian cooking, etc. to be found locally. Additionally, I'd love guest speakers who could talk to the kids about a given cuisine, perhaps joining us for the relevant meal. Bay Area suggestions should be made on this thread:

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

I'm also considering dragging the kids down to LA for a night, but only if it would mean a significant improvement in quality or the possibility of trying something that is simply unavailable in the Bay Area. If there are places in Monterey Park, Alhambra, Rowland Heights, etc. that you feel meet these either of these criteria, please let me know.

Thanks!

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  1. Well, there are certainly things you'll experience in the San Gabriel Valley that's not available in the Bay Area. Just the whole Asian suburb issue can be a whole semester on sociology, ethnic studies, politics, etc. But I think driving for two days round trip for one night is not worth it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PeterL

      I was hoping to get more than one night out of it. Depart early and hit one place at the early dinner hour, hit something else late. Then do early lunch before driving back. Would that be worth it?

    2. I'm Taiwanese and grew up in Silicon Valley, about 45 minutes south of where you are now. The San Gabriel Valley is definitely a focal point for great Chinese food in Southern California. However, there's very little down here that you can't find in SanFran's Chinatown or amongst the Chinese centers in Silicon Valley. I would advise against making the *six* hour drive. You won't notice a significant return on investment.

      On the other hand, there are some amazing Vietnamese restaurants/eateries squirreled away in Little Saigon (Westminster & Garden Grove) offering items you won't find up North. Having the largest concentration of Vietnamese ex-pats in the US down here makes for awesome eating. Furthermore, SGV boasts an under-appreciated offering of fine Filipino restaurants, a cuisine I never encountered up North. The Torrance area has a number of Japanese eateries that put SanFran's paltry Japantown to shame. If you really want to give your kids a trans-Asian dining experience, driving down certainly isn't a bad idea.

      - Chubbypanda

      http://epicurious-wanderer.blogspot.com/

      4 Replies
      1. re: Chubbypanda

        Also the Thai and Korean in LA blows SF choices out of the water

        1. re: Ernie

          Thai, yes. Korean, you've got some real contenders in North Silicon Valley.

          - Chubbypanda

          http://epicurious-wanderer.blogspot.com/

        2. re: Chubbypanda

          I thought about doing a wider range of Asian cuisines, but decided to go for depth rather than breadth. I'd be totally down with doing a week of Thai or a week of Korean at some point. Of course if I did Thai, I'd want to take them to Vegas!

          1. re: lexdevil

            SGV is certainly one of the best area in the nation to sample all facets of Chinese cuisine. The streets are thick with the enticing aromas of food. I have a friend who is stridently against living anywhere else but the SGV because he doesn't think there's anyplace that can equal the kind of food he gets to eat there (well except China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan).

            I took another friend from NY to SGV and he became dizzy with excitement just by the drive around Monterey Park.

            But that said, I don't know how it compares to what you have in SF.

            The resident expert (and Jeopardy champ) on SGV and Chinese cuisine on this board is Jerome. Hopefully he'll chime in soon!

            I am in agreement with everyone else about Vietnamese food.

            Little Saigon in Westminster is just about the mecca of Vietnamese food in California (dare I say the U.S.)? And we're lucky for it!

            http://elmomonster.blogspot.com

        3. I agree about the korean but not on the thai, where do you go?

          in SF I mainly went to khun phoa.

          1 Reply
          1. re: xdrixn

            Thai Town and there is a place in Alhambra called Green Papaya that is excellent

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. Is there Islamic Chinese in SF? What about Chiu Chow or HK cafe style places?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Ernie

                Plenty of HK cafe style places. Chiu Chow is mostly via Southeast Asia offered up by Chinese families fromm Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam, though there is one spot in Milpitas that is more along the lines of Chiu Chow-Hong Kong seafood. In SF proper, Old Mandarin Islamic holds the fort and there are about six or seven other Islamic chinese places scattered around the bay.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Yes, there's now more Islamic Chinese food in the Bay Area than down here in L.A. these days.