I've just returned from two years in Hong Kong to California -- and was struck by the juxtaposition of our last meal in HK at a great Sichuan restaurant (San Xi Lou) and my first meal in SF at a nouveau-yuppy Mexican restaurant (Gracias Madre). These cuisines seem deliciously compatible, starting with the chilis, the pork, the poultry, the cilantro, the sweet corn...
Does anyone know of any Mexican-Sichuan fusion restaurants?
And what are the benchmarks of Chinese-Mexican cross-polination in Mexico or the US?
We will be traveling to Mexico in November and I'm curious how Chinese and Mexican gastronomic traditions have mixed.
Any thoughts much appreciated!
The majority of Mexican-Chinese cuisine is Cantonese (and it is a big presence) and it is in Northern Baja, Mexicali is the center and this comes from the history of the railroad and farm workers who were imported from China.
I hear that there is a Mexican/Chinese fusion cuisine happening.
I do not know of any Sichuan (Szechuan) cuisine that is worthy of note near here, except for Ba Ren in San Diego.
re: Gypsy Jan
Hi Gypsy Jan,
Thanks for these starting points on the topic. I will read more about Chinese in Mexicali, and also about Ba Ren.
I think almost every Chinese community I've heard of outside of China is predominantly Cantonese or Taiwanese. I've actually never heard of any concentration of Sichuanese outside of China...
Perhaps if anyone else catches this thread and knows -- they'll enlighten. Or maybe I should email Fuchsia Dunlop ;-)
In any case, thank you!
OK, I will weigh in here with a little history lesson and a little restaurant information. At one time in my life I was a Chinese chef in a restaurant in New York, but I have subsequently lived in Mexico for more than 30 years. I've spent years investigating the Chinese/Mexican connection.
Most of the Chinese who came to North America in the 19th and very early 20th centuries came in order to work constructing the railroads in the USA. Most of the Chinese railroad construction workers were from the province of Canton, and ONLY Chinese men were allowed into the USA (more on that in a minute). If a Chinese man could cook, he became the gang cook (railroad slang) for his particular railroad construction crew.
Due to immigration quotas, none of the Chinese men were allowed to bring their families into the USA. Many wives and children traveled from Canton to the port of Veracruz, on Mexico's east coast, and from there made their way to the Mexico/USA border. Some sneaked across as undocumented aliens, while others were turned back. Here's a little known historic note: the original immigration checkpoints on the USA side of the Mexico/USA border were installed to keep *Chinese women and children* out of the USA.
If you're a woman with no marketable skill other than your skill in the kitchen, what's the best way to make a living for your family? Of course: prepare and sell food. From those original Chinese women, a great tradition of Chinese restaurants grew up along both sides of the Mexico/USA border. All of them were and continue to be Cantonese.
As the new Chinese immigrants to Mexico spread throughout the country, their cooking traditions spread as well. Today, there are hundreds of Chinese restaurants--almost entirely Cantonese--everywhere in Mexico.
When you come to Mexico City, I would be glad to help you find the Chinese restaurants that are also coffee shops; that's a long tradition here. The tiny remains of Mexico City's Chinatown, located on Calle Dolores in the Centro Histórico, has a few, and there are more scattered throughout the city. They're worth a trip just for the historic aspect.
I do know ONE restaurant in Mexico City that specializes in Sichuan and Hong Kong food. The owners are from Hong Kong. The restaurant is way, way off the beaten tourist track--it's way way off ANY track. If you're interested in going for a meal there while you're in Mexico City, let me know and I'll take you. Email: email@example.com.
Apologies for my slow response and thank you for this wonderful information!
I can certainly research and read on my own, but if you know the history offhand...
Who brought the Cantonese railway workers to Mexico? Was it a Mexican? A Chinese? An American? Did the workers come voluntarily? (I know that books have certainly been written on the history of Chinese railway workers in the West.)
And thank you very much for offering to introduce us to the Sichuanese restaurant in Mexico City. I don't know yet whether we will make it to MC in November, but know we will sometime in the not-so-distant future.
Chloe, the Chinese railroad workers--all male--were brought to the USA, not to Mexico. Their families were not allowed to accompany or join them--USA quota system at work! You'll find a portion of the history of the Chinese railroad workers in the USA at http://cprr.org/Museum/Chinese.html and at http://www.asian-nation.org/first.shtml.
The male workers' families (women and children) came to Mexico and tried to cross the Mexican/USA border without USA permission. Some succeeded, others were turned back: hence the large Chinese population particularly on the Mexican side of the border.