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Chinese Food In Boston. What's different than elsewhere in the US

Growing up in Brookline, around the corner from Golden Temple, I lived on Cantonese style Chinese food. Since moving out of the area I've missed the lobster sauce, egg rolls and other dishes that are unique to the Boston area.

I'd love to find some recipes for dishes prepared "Boston style", since FedEx deliveries from Golden Temple do get expensive. Does anyone know what other Chinese dishes are prepared differently in Boston than else \where in the country, and where on the web I can get some of these local recipes. Thanks


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  1. Where are you located now?

    I didn't think lobster sauce and eggrolls were unique to (or any different in) Boston, as they are readily available where I came from (MI).

    The only Boston-specific differences I can think of, are in the names - dumplings being called 'Peking Ravioli' and the General being named Gau...

    5 Replies
    1. re: Prav

      I agree. I never thought of Boston Chinese as terroir!

      1. re: Prav

        Actually, the lobster sauce is different in Boston than where I'm from, at least (Long Island). I grew up with a white sauce with egg in it. In Boston, it's brown with meat, or it used to be when I ate meat.

        1. re: Prav

          I thought olobster sauce was peculiar to boston? egg rolls definitely are not.

          1. re: Prav

            Prav, I know I have a few years on you..:) Peking Ravioli and Gen gau's chicken were introduced to the US in the mid 60s..and Joyce Chen helped popularize them in Boston; but David Keh is generally regarded as the driving force behind these "other" Chinese cuisines besides Cantonese.


            1. re: Prav

              In some parts of the US (such as CA.), the American name for Peking Ravioli is "potstickers." I've heard that Joyce Chen invented the term "Peking Ravioli" to give English speakers an idea of what they were in for.

            2. for recipes, try The CHinese Kitchen by Eileen Lo (don't know whether this is available online or not) whom the NYT called the "Cantonese Julia CHild". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eileen_Y... If you want to get a bit more adventurous, here's a great little book http://www.amazon.com/Dim-sum-Rhoda-Y...

              1. Having traveled the country, I can say with some experience that the Americanized versions of Chinese food differ only slightly from region to region. One thing that this region misses is what's usually called "Almond Boneless Chicken," which is breaded breast deep fried, sliced and served with a brown sauce. I've seen it in from the rural South to the northern Midwest. There is also a common version of so-called Lemon Chicken - deep fried with a sweet sauce - that isn't done much here. As for lobster sauce, you can find versions from nearly white to dark brown across the country.

                I walked into a carry out place near my mother's house in Florida, asked where they were from - Fuzhou - and when I asked if they had anything from home was told "They don't like that here."

                6 Replies
                1. re: lergnom

                  > when I asked if they had anything from home was told "They don't like that here."

                  LOL. Did you follow that up with "how's your beef and broccoli?" :-)
                  Sadly true of a lot of surburban places here too...another good clue is not to go into a place called "yum mee chinese food" :-)

                  1. re: lergnom

                    Yes! I remember the almond/lemon chicken concoctions. They were always called 'Almond Ding'. I asked a waiter what the 'ding' meant, he quipped that it's Chinese for when the microwave was done cooking it. ;)

                    1. re: Prav

                      Good one! Ding 丁 or Ding1 means diced, or cubed.

                    2. re: lergnom

                      Lemon Chicken is big in the Upper Midwest. Springfield (Missouri) is home to Cashew Chicken. Isn't the Chow Mein Sandwich from New England and/or Boston?

                      1. re: scoopG

                        I've always thought of it as more of a fall river thing

                        1. re: jgg13

                          Chow mein sandwiches originated in Fall River and are (or used to be) available throughout Southeastern MA and RI. I know Emeril, a Fall River native, has waxed nostalgic about them on one his cooking shows (here's his recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/em... ) They were a pretty common school cafeteria lunch dish once upon a time.


                    3. Was happy to hear WGBH-Daily Dish recipe for Chinese dumplings ( get the recipe at WGBH.org) Sometimes known as "Peking Ravioli", we eat them with relish at Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown, but will try this recipe!

                      Gourmet Dumpling House
                      52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                      1. Two things that come to mind are Chicken Fingers and Beef Teriyaki. They seem to be unique to New England, or maybe just the East coast. I couldn't find them at any of the restaurants in San Francisco. I would love to find recipes for these things, but for some reason the only thing I can find is people complaining about how Chicken Fingers are different in Boston and impossible to find elsewhere...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sonus

                          The beef dishes are mostly renames of the same thing: slices of beef in a somewhat sweet, salty sauce. It used to be called steak kew and similar names but teriyaki has become more common. Remember that Chinese restaurants, especially the ones you find in strip malls across the USA, get their menus from a handful of places that produce them for this trade. That business has been going on for over 100 years.

                        2. I've noticed that some Chinese restaurants serve dinner rolls with the meal. Is that unique to the GBA?

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: whs

                            Dinner rolls and butter in American-Chinese restaurants is at least an eastern New England thing, not just a metro Boston thing, and it's usually a good indicator you should get up and leave.


                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              Years ago, we were offered a choice of fries or rice a Chinese restaurant in Rutland, VT. Rolls and butter included of course.

                              It was the start of a long and enjoyable Chinese home cooking hobby for my bro who lived there..:)

                              1. re: 9lives

                                did the fries come with ketchup? or duck sauce packets?

                                1. re: barleywino

                                  When i lived in upstate NY they always gave your the dried chow mein noodles and duck sauce when you sat down, only saw that in NY. I recall someone telling me how they hated the chinese in that area, which i thought was quite good. When i asked them why, they said because the fried rice didn't have peas and carrots in it like they grew up with....

                                  I do think that the dark brown, meaty "lobster" sauce that we have at places like Golden Temple is not very common in other parts of the country. Other areas seem to have what looks more like egg drop soup...

                                  1. re: hargau

                                    Fried chow mein noodles and duck sauce were a staple in Northern New Jersey, too.

                                    1. re: celestialmundane

                                      Fried chow mein noodles and duck sauce when you sat down were also common in Connecticut

                                      1. re: Albie

                                        And in Delaware, as well (at least in the 80's).

                                      2. re: celestialmundane

                                        The fried Chow Mein noodles and "duck sauce" were very common in NYC's Chinatown in the 50s and 60's.

                                        Shrimp w/lobster sauce was always white in NY..brown elsewhere.

                                    2. re: barleywino

                                      In my old neighborhood, french fries came with gravy! Can't seem to find those anywhere else but Southie ............ especially popular at 2AM when the bars close!

                                    3. re: 9lives

                                      Fries would be hilarious...as would dinner rolls :-)

                                    4. re: MC Slim JB

                                      Braintree 5 Corners back in the '50's & '60's - French bread & butter dipped in duck sauce, spareribs, and chicken wings, and the liquor soaked cherry from my 'rent's Manhattan! Yummy times for a kid! (Whereas my kid grew up dining on Thai, sushi, and calamari!)

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        My one American Chinese food experience in Portland OR involved dinner rolls, forks, and a lot of mustard to go with my brown fried rice and whatever combo.

                                      2. re: whs

                                        Way back in the 1940-50s in Cleveland, the few Cantonese-Americanized restaurants served bread and butter. I have no idea whether they still do. At the time, there was nowhere else to go.

                                      3. What about the Mussels Gratin at Hei La Moon?

                                        Hei La Moon
                                        88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: tatsu

                                          That's HK "western style" food, not the other way around

                                          1. re: tatsu

                                            Love those at Chau Chow City.

                                            Chau Chow City
                                            81 Essex St, Boston, MA 02111