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Authentic Chinese food in Phoenix

It's not easy to find good authentic Chinese food in the Valley. Most of the food out there is very Americanized. I grew up in Hong Kong and have traveled lots to Shanghai and Beijing so I think I know the difference.

I'm excited that we have the three restaurants at the Chinese Cultural Center - Golden Buddha (above average dimsum), Lao Ching Hing (good Shanghainese food on the Chinese-only menu) and Szechwan Palace (good Sichuan food on their English menu and even better stuff on the Chinese-only menu). It's a shame that these places don't think the authentic dishes will be appreciated and don't bother to translate them.

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  1. I went to Lao Ching Hing with xanderbear yesterday and he was complaining that he wouldn't be able to order the authentic Shanghainese dishes without me. So I got obsessed and spent last night and this morning translating the Chinese-written portion of the menu. Referencing memory and Fuchsia Dunlop's excellent cookbook 'Sichuan Cookery', I managed to piece together most of it.

    See attached pdf - if it doesn't come out right maybe someone can advise on how I should do this as I'm a Chowhound newbie. Thanks.

    1. Reattaching translated menus as separate files...

      2 Replies
      1. re: heleny

        Attempt at attaching menu did not work out. If you're interested, please check out the pictures at:
        http://www.yelp.com/biz/lao-ching-hin...

        1. re: heleny

          Awesome, thanks for that! Now that we know what's on the menu, what do you recommend - are there any standout items not to be missed?

      2. Welcome to CH Helen!

        Here are a few others to try:
        Nee House
        Diamond's Chinese
        Hope Kee
        Tao Garden

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        Nee House
        13843 N Tatum Blvd Ste 17, Phoenix, AZ 85032

        Tao Garden
        2050 N Alma School Rd Ste 36, Chandler, AZ 85224

        Diamond's Chinese Restaurant
        4402 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

        Hope Kee
        7575 W Cactus Road, Peoria, AZ 85381

        2 Replies
        1. re: andyeats

          Thanks for the tips, Andy. Unfortunately, Diamond's was a major disappointment. I ordered a crab stirfried with ginger and scallions - there was no ginger or scallions and the crab was over-battered and over-fried. Nee was disappointing last year but I read in the Chinese papers that they hired a new chef from either LA or NY (can't remember which) so I should try them again.

          Tao and Hope Kee are a bit far for me but I'll definitely give them a try when I'm in the area.

          1. re: heleny

            Nee has a new chef? We hated our one visit (horrible service and food to match) but maybe a new chef will have improved things. People rave about it and it's fairly close to us, but that one visit has put us off for a couple years now.

        2. There's been some recent props for Asian Cafe Express on Main St. in Mesa, close to Tempe. It's a newly opened place from the former chief of Gourmet House of Hong Kong near downtown PHX. I know the latter has been both a foodie fave and too divey for others - but I really have no idea as to its history/management/ownership, etc.

          In any case, it should be judged it on it's own merits. From what I read in NT, they are serving a big menu of good fair @ takeout prices. Sounds like a good place for a Chowhound gathering!

          3 Replies
          1. re: tastyjon

            I was frequenting Gourmet House for a while until one of the female servers there told me the whole story about how her brother Michael Leung sold GHHK, retired to HK and decided to get back into the business here so opened ACE. I've been going to ACE ever since.

            GHHK is good and I especially like that they have a long-boiled soup which apparently is mainly consumed by their staff but it's not the same when the chef only works for the owner. I understand because I own my food business and make all the food that we sell.

            Getting back to ACE, decor's not great but the place is clean. Michael has been in the kitchen every time I've eaten there and his wife manages the front. The dish that all Hong Kong food critics benchmark a casual Chinese restaurant by is the Dry-fried Beef Rice Noodles (Gon Chow Ngau Ho). It takes great skill and heat control of the wok to make sure the rice noodles don't stick together while using the minimal amount of oil. When it arrives at your table, you should be able to taste "wok hai" (literal translation is breath of the wok) - it should be slightly smokey, not burnt - and there should be almost no oil on the bottom of the plate. Even in HK, this is not easy to come by. On 9 out of 10 occasions, Michael has cooked it perfectly. I also like his salt and pepper squid (no large chunks like most places, just the tentacles). The bittermelon with spareribs is also another winner that is authentic and delicious.

            The thing is most authentic casual Chinese food can be cooked with what's stocked at Lee Lee's Market so I don't think it's a matter of sourcing the right ingredients. It's more a problem with the demand. It's really a chicken and egg situation. If restaurants don't take the risk and offer authentic dishes, diners will never learn about them. I think Chowhounders should take the lead and show restaurants there is a demand however small.

            1. re: heleny

              i love ace. their pork skin with turnip is fantastic.

              1. re: winedubar

                Stopped in for lunch on Friday and loved it. The scores of specials posted all over the walls in addition to the regular menu made me smile... this is a chef who loves to cook and defintiely a place I'll be coming back often yet not making a dent on the offerings. I ended up ordering the dish posted on the wall next to me - Singapore noodles. Huge plate for $6.95, half of which is for dinner tonight. We should do a weekend lunch here!

          2. Nice to see you in this venue, Helen. I agree about Nee House and ACE. Both have impressed me. Then again, I appreciate Americanized Chinese food when well prepared. There's room for all levels of authenticity. Thanks for the translation of the LCH menu. That will come in handy when I get around to trying the restaurant.

            -----
            Lao Ching Hing
            668 N 44th St Ste 112, Phoenix, AZ 85008

            1. Phoenix has the talent to make authentic Chinese (mainly Shanghainese, Cantonese and some Northern dishes), but not the deman or clientele.

              When I spoke to Michael Leung about this he said most of the time he doesn't even bother sourcing the ingredients necessarily to make the non-Americanized Cantonese dishes because no one orders them, and when they do they don't like'em.

              [Shrug]

              1. There's definitely a place for both authentic as well as Americanized Chinese food when done well. The Jade Palace on Shea does a darn good job with the Americanized version and shows that well-priced Chinese food can be served in a tasteful environment with good service.

                -----
                Jade Palace
                9160 E Shea Blvd, #101, Scottsdale, AZ 85260

                Asian Cafe Express
                1911 W Main St, Mesa, AZ 85201

                1. Since the center of the Phoenix area Asian community has been said to be the intersection of Dobson Road and Warner Road in Chandler (an article in the Republic stated that a significant percentage of the area's Asian population lives within a five mile radius of that intersection), naturally a lot of the best authentic Chinese restaurants are in that area. Tao Garden on Alma School Road and Hong Kong Best Cuisine at 1116 S. Dobson Road in Mesa are as good as what you will find in the suburbs of Los Angeles or San Francisco, and there are quite a few other good authentic restaurants in Chandler, Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert.

                  1. I live in the West Valley, and it's really surprising to come across an independent restaurant that's worthwhile. Big Buddha in Surprise is fantastic though! The only Chinese food I've had here in AZ has been at the take-out style, not too fancy places. This is the only place that's cooking up food that's really great. I even overheard once how they work to develop new dishes, and only get them out on the menu when they're perfect. Everyone who works their is just genuinely interested in serving the highest quality food. They've definitely got all of the basics covered, they just prepare them very well.

                    One of my favorite examples of what their doing is the Won Ton soup. They have a super basic broth that has this garlic oil in it. The flavor is subtle, but works so well! Big Buddha's at the 303 and Greenway. The restaurant is always crowded (never really a long wait, though). I've tried places across the valley and this is by far the best.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Ready2Eat

                      I'm not sure I would consider Big Buddha to be "authentic" Chinese. It's fine for what it does -- basically an upscale Panda Express; but authenticity isn't one of its selling points.

                      Sort of like California Pizza Kitchen -- the food there is fine and fills a certain culinary niche, but authentic Italian is not one of them.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        ha ha

                        "upscale Panda Express", what a PERFECT comparison!!

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I dont think its like an upscale Panda Express. Big Buddha is a sit down full service restaurant. Their website is www.bigbuddhaaz.com.

                          1. re: danil34

                            upscale = sit down, real plate settings and silverware.

                          2. re: ipsedixit

                            Since you've touched on non-authentic Chinese food in Phoenix, can you give me a quick take on Chino Bandito. I saw it on an old episode of Dinners Drive Ins and Dives. Looks like a place I'd like to check out next time I'm in Phoenix.

                            No need to sell me on authentic Chinese food in Phoenix since I frequent the SGV in LA.
                            http://chinobandido.com/

                            1. re: monku

                              I think Chino Bandido is ok. Food is tasty enough and the combo of Mexican and Chinese (or Korean) isn't really that far-fetched.

                              An LA equivalent would be like getting a lunch special at Yang Chow's and then heading over to Tito's for their beef/cheese burrito, and mashing them together and eating it all at once. .

                              1. re: monku

                                Jerk fried rice is actually pretty good.

                          3. My Chinese friends tell me that China King has some of the better dim sum in town (I like it, but know next to nothing about what's authentic or not and have nothing to compare it to). They also go to Golden Buddha, Nee House, and ACE. I've been to ACE. I liked what I had. Oddly enough, my Chinese friend thought it was an off night. Shrug. I like Wong's Place on Baseline in Tempe, but they grimace and scrunch their noses when I say that. I don't ask why. I don't want to know! We really only go there for the occasional order of house chowmein (I know - not authentic), Szechuan pork, Beef and Black Shrooms, and Salty Fish Fried Rice.

                            I'm more about Pho at the moment. And Lee Lee is on my regular shopping rounds. My husband is from Eastern Europe, and Lee Lee is the only place I can get some of the meats and things to make his mom's recipes, odd as that may be.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Jen76

                              China King is Great for dim sum....the selection is much more varied on the weekends than it is during the week.
                              I had lunch there last Wednesday...and had the 'Usuals'....spareribs w/ black bean, chicken feet, sticky rice shu mai and turnip cakes. (my bill came to $12)

                              All were great, hot freshly made....the selection was limited.

                              I would definitely give it a try.....

                              -----
                              China King Buffet
                              1050 W Ray Rd, Chandler, AZ 85224

                              1. re: ciaogal

                                Yes, I love the dim sum at China King, but I've never had dim sum anywhere else so have no reference point. My friend tells me it's decent, but much more limited than in, say LA for instance. But, LA has more variety than most places anyways, so...

                                I like the Chinese Broccoli, BBQ Pork buns, these flat rice noodles stuffed with beef (or shrimp), and these baked buns filled with something sweet and delish. My friend translates them as "chicken butt buns" (meant to be silly) since they look like chicken tails. I think - phonetically - they are called gai mei bao.

                                1. re: Jen76

                                  Should be more like "pretty chicken buns" ... classic case of something being lost in the translation.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Oh yeah...she figured she was mistranslating, but it's funny so we stick with it. Kind of our own little joke.

                              2. re: Jen76

                                Have not gone in to the China King for Dim Sum but have had dinner there many times. Thursday is a great night to try it as they do a wonderful lobster which is only 9.95 a pound Thursday night. Great tilapia also. Pick your own right out of the tank. Wor Won Ton soup is also excellent. Have never had a dissapointing experience there and frequently my wife and I find ourselves to be the only non-chinese customers in the restaurant.