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Aug 5, 2007 07:46 AM

"Authentic" Chinese food in Flushing?

In today's NYTimes Magazine food column

the claim is made that for a distinction between "Meiguorende kouwei" cooked to American taste and "Zhongguorende kowei" cooked to Chinese taste cuisine. Of course the second is a lot harder to find in the US. But the article goes on to say to say that it can be found in California's San Gabriel Valley and in Flushing! Unlike California, Flushing is a subway ride away, but where to go.

OK Chowhounds, where do we find Zhongguorende kowei?

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  1. Pretty much anywhere in Flushing. While American-style Chinese places are in the far majority nationwide, and in the majority NYC-wide, in Flushing they are a small minority, if they even exist. However, and this is a big however, most great Chinese restaurants will still have some American-Chinese dishes. Stay away from those dishes and order in the realm of the region that the place represents. Some learning may be required.

    You should try some notable places from a few different regions. Search the boards to find some good recommendations. My current favorite there is the Chengdu stall in the farther Main St. food court. But you have to know Chinese to order there. Spicy & Tasty is highly recommended, and has English on their menu. Try their cold dishes, especially ones with the red (spicy) oil.

    (I'm not sure why it is repeating my post twice here...)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Andrew Hyatt

      Thanks to this now classic thread, you don't have to know Chinese in order to order at Chengdu or any of the other stalls. Of course, it helps. But, thanks to lots of photo links and translations, I was able to successfully order the Dan Dan Mien and the Hot and Sour soup, and to know which stalls serve what. Happy eating.

    2. I have trouble with the basic premise of the article. There are now multiple Chinese enclaves in the NY, LA, and Bay Areas, with scattered places in other urban areas, with authentic food from several regions, but mostly Cantonese, Shanghai, Fuzhou and Sichuan. Chinese food really varies by region, and many regions have little or no representation. Though many restaurants seem to use Hunan interchangeably with Szechuan in their names, I don't know of any authentic Hunan restaurants. The only Yunnan place I know is a little snack place in Brooklyn. Shandong is a major culinary region, but other than dumplings at snack places in Chinese neighborhoods, Shandong cuisine is generally hard to find. There are several Northern Chinese Muslim restaurants around the country. Chinese food is no more monolithic than French or American cooking, probably less so. The article talks about Chinese food without really taking the distinctions into account. It's overly simplistic. Sichuan cooking is as different from Cantonese as Milanese from Sicilian or Burgundian from Provencal.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Peter Cherches

        Why does the article make readers who are after their first sampling of authentic Chinese think that they have to trek out to Flushing? Authentic representatives of the big regions can be found in Manhattan. Some examples are: Sichuan (Grand Sichuan Chelsea), Shanghai (Moon House and Yeah Shanghai in Manhattan Chinatown), Fujian (Nice on East Broadway), and Cantonese (several places).

        Another silly aspect of the article is how it recommends patrons ask their server for "Chinese taste" dishes and then "refuse to budge until you get them".

        There are going to be some baffled servers in Flushing.

        Having a laowai asking for "Chinese dishes" is not likely going to necessarily register as "zhongguorende kouwei". And even if it does, that is going to be useless in Flushing precisely because the beauty of Flushing is the diversity of regional cuisines. Even if there are no, say, Yunnan places in Flushing, there is a refreshing amount of regional diversity in Flushing of major regional cuisines. More so than any of the other NYC Chinatowns.

        What is asking "Chinese taste" at a Shanghai restaurant going to get you? You want “Shanghai taste”, but even that is such a vague phrase. You’re apt to get the reply, “All our food is Shanghai.”

        The article also directs us to ask for authentic fare when we are at “better” Chinese restaurants. What does this mean? Is, say, Grand Sichuan Chelsea considered a “better” restaurant? It has typical drab décor and frequently abysmal service. And yet, the food is some of the best Sichuan this side of Chengdu.

        If you want to go to Flushing, authentic Chinese places in Flushing is one of the most popular topics of this board. A few searches using search terms such as, "Sichuan Flushing" or "Shanghai Flushing" should get you pointed in the right direction.

      2. If you go to flushing, i suggest you head there with some friends and order the family meals - usually 3 dishes with rice plus soup for $18 or something like that. Those are the dishes most patrons there order, and many of them are typical home-style dishes (albeit cooked in restaurant style). For general Chinese, I think that noodle place on Prince st. has good rep. I usually go to Gu shine. However, the absolute best place to go imho, if you can put sanitation and DOH standards briefly away, is J&L mall across from the flushing PO. A lot of time you can just point and the dishes. that and the place across from starbucks with red sign selling fried dumplings.
        As for the article, I'll be kind and say that the article was probably written for general audience, not Chowhounders.