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Jun 18, 2010 10:15 AM

Old New York pseudo-cantonese style chinese food in the bay area?

I see there are a number of chinese-food related posts.
Let me add a new request to the mix.

I grew up in New York City (Queens) in the 60s and 70s.
The chinese restaurants at the time were definietly not genuine.
I think it was initially chinese immigrants cooking for New Yorkers and figuring out what they liked. I remember, I think my favorite was a place called Lum's.

This was all pre-szechuan. In the 70s, NYC discovered szechuan, and in the next ten years the old cantonese style places died out. For a while there was Bill Hongs, which got it almost right but was rather expensive. There's still one more on the upper east side that's okay, and costs a fortune, I think it's Shun Lee Palace.

The "cantonese" dishes that were favorites were:
-- egg rolls (the big fat ones, not skinny spring rolls)
-- butterfly shrimp (I think there may have been bacon involved in this one)
-- sliced roast pork (pale pinkish meat that was red at the edges)
-- wonton soup
-- chow mein (does not resemble the real thing. No noodles except crispy ones to sprinkle on top)
-- lobster cantonese
-- shriimp with lobster sauce
-- sweet and sour pork (fluorescent in color)

When I go to real, genuine chinese restaurants here in the city, it's a completely different experience.

Does anybody know of a restaurant in the bay area that will take me back to my childhood?

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  1. Yes, Virginia, there are old style Cantonese places around, but very hard to find. There is not much demand for stuff that is popular in the East...what we call lo fon chow mein (crispy noodles). You may still find places with egg foo yung and moo goo gai pan, but they are few. Time and Chinese food marches on.

    5 Replies
    1. re: OldTimer

      Where where where?
      Any hints or suggestions?

      1. re: OldTimer

        Wow, I just put a post up asking about this! I want to find Moo Goo Gai Pan - I didn't realize it was Cantonese....the hunt continues. My fiance is from NY and I'm from Michigan. We desperately are looking for one of these, plus someone who does crab rangoon.

        1. re: sandaili

          Crab Rangoon, Trader Vic's Emeryville. Also on menu at Alice's Restaurant. No, not the one that old people remember, thank you Arlo, but the one in San Francisco.

          1. re: sandaili

            Crab Rangoon was invented at Trader Vic's. There are branches in Emeryville and Palo Alto.

            Moo goo gai pan is an East Coast thing. I first heard of it on Seinfeld.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              MGGP, you must have missed the mention of it in "With Six You Get Eggroll" with Doris Day in 1968.

        2. This question has actually been asked before, although not answered to anyone's satisfaction.

          There are lots of old-style Americanized-Chinese restaurants, around, though, especially in the older suburbs (Alameda has several of them). Your phone book is probably full of them. They're just not the kind of places that people on chowhound talk about, because most people are looking for the opposite. You may not find everything you're looking for because there are some coastal variations in the dishes -- chowfun has been looking for East Coast style shrimp with lobster sauce for years now.

          BTW, I don't know why everyone seems to think it's hard to find egg fu young. I see it on lots of menus, even for some otherwise more "authentic" places.

          1. Here is last years thread about the search for chow mein with crispy noodles.

            6 Replies
            1. re: wolfe

              That should keep me busy for a while....

              1. re: pauliface

                When you leave the Bay Area if you're feeling adventuresome - take a look in small rural towns at the local Chinese restaurants. The menus out in the hinterlands are more frozen in time ...... not that they don't have some more contemporary dishes ( walnut prawns are everywhere it seems) but you're more likely to run into the old standards. Last time I was in the foothills ( Jackson ) I read the menu at a Chinese restaurant and it had all the old favorites: sweet & sour, moo goo gai pan etc.....

                1. re: gordon wing

                  I know the NY old style Cantonese/Americanized style you are looking for.Where I work in Newark N.J there are a dozen of these places that deliver this food with the fettucini width fried wonton strips to sprinkle on top chow mein(that's the mein,the dish is mostly chowed vegetables),Moo Goo Gai Pan,shrimp w/lobster sauce,egg rolls,not spring rolls,etc.I like Edna Ray(formerly in Los Gatos now in Willow Glen)down San Jose way for retro,tasty,not destination,not a dive,with nice ambience,good service,food.Not exactly NY style 'cause the family(Chef/owner)came from Hong Kong to the Bay Area,Still retro indeed.

                  1. re: casalbore spirit

                    Interesting how a lot of the East Coast Chinese have enculturated their menus to appeal to African American and Latino tastes,offering fried chicken wings,seafood,carne asada,plantains,onion rings,hot sauce and offering a bilingual English/Spanish menu.The same people/chefs adapting to the culture they are presently living amongst,

                    1. re: casalbore spirit

                      Overseas Chinese have always adapted food for the country and tastes that they settle in, Thailand, Brazil, the U.S., Mexico, even Germany...and of course the East Coast. There's a couple of very good documentaries about it.

                      I'm really curious about Chinese-Mexican cuisine along the border and around Calexico/Mexicali. There's a lot of crossover as it is, cilantro, seafood, etc. The spicing however sounds very cool.

                      On a critical note...the produce on the EC is so lacking, the Chinese food I had there was very disappointing. I know it's gotten better in Queens and NYC but given it's a produce-driven cuisine, it's an issue to me.

                      1. re: casalbore spirit

                        The Latino influences in New York City are because a large community of Chinese immigrants to Cuba moved to NY after the revolution. Here's an article on the subject: