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Field research for a trip to China!

Hi wonderful hounds,

I am going to China in August, and before I get there, I would love to educate myself about the regional cuisines by testing out some of the different specialties. I would love recommendations for authentic places/dishes at those places that might represent the different cuisines (although I recognize I may not be able to try all of them in the Boston area). FWIW, I live in Somerville, but I have a car.

Here are the places I am visiting in China: Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Guilin, and Hong Kong.

Thanks so much in advance!

P.S. Recommendations for books/websites also much appreciated!

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  1. Hmm.. for Sichuan cuisine, Gourmet Dumpling House, maybe Chili Garden in Medford. They still don't get it as hot as you'll get at a restaurant in China. Figure out how to eat a soup dumpling - don't use a straw. I was only in Shanghai, and had Sichuan, Hunan, and Hot Pot. Dinner's were best with a lot of people around a round lazy-susan table. No dinner was that expensive. There are chains, and they aren't that exciting to eat at.

    Frankly, nothing compared to walking around, especially at night or early morning, and trying out random street stalls. Stuff is rather cheap, so don't have a lot of big bills. I hope you have a guide that speaks the language, makes ordering and paying a lot easier. Don't expect anything rare or medium rare - they don't like pink in their proteins.

    3 Replies
    1. re: grant.cook

      Golden Garden and Shangri-La in Belmont are pretty good too..

      Note - make sure you look for regional specialties on the menu.... often these are listed as specific regional specialties or as daily specials. Sometimes they are in Chinese. A lot of restaurants feel pressure to keep the canned American-created dishes (General Gau's chicken, crab rangoon) on the menu to satisfy the masses.

      1. re: grant.cook

        Two other bits of advice, only one of which is tied to food.

        1) Its a long flight.. I saw a guy bring a "cup o' noodles" raman type thing onto the plane. Late at night, he went and got hot water from the crew area - crafty way to get a snack

        2) ANY over the counter drugs you think you could possibly need bring with you - decongestants, allergies, bug bites, etc. You can't just walk into a drugstore and point to the Sudafed...

        1. re: grant.cook

          Every flight that I've taken to Asia will have instant ramen noodle on board (it's not advertised....just ask and the staff is happy to add hot water). No need to sneak them on board! Chuckle!

      2. If you don't mind a quick drive up to Malden, Fuloon will give you very good Sichuan stuff. The owner/manager (Diane, I think) is always there and is always very nice--tell her about your trip and maybe they can cook you a culinary "tour" of the region.

        3 Replies
        1. re: emannths

          Thanks to both of you for your replies! Driving to Medford/Malden is no problem. I hav wanted to try Fuloon for a while, so maybe that will be our first stop!

          1. re: rebeccact

            The cooking at Fuloon, imho, is more like the cooking in Beijing. Yes they have lots of Sichuan dishes on the menu, but they taste a lot more like Sichuan dishes as prepared in Beijing than in Chengdu. Which is not a bad thing, just in terms of research think of it more as an example of Beijing than Chengdu.

          2. re: emannths

            If you do make it to Fuloon before your trip ( and I hope you do) They will provide a menu with pictures o many of the dishes, so you can see what the dish looks like, also, the menu describes the dishes flavor profile so you know what you're getting into.

          3. I gather Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe in Chelmsford has food from Xian. The lamb soup is the region's main specialty.

            2 Replies
            1. re: lergnom

              Another place I have been meaning to try! Thanks! Is the food at Gene's generally specific to Shaanxi or are there just a couple things on the menu from that region?

              1. re: rebeccact

                Gene's is fun, and very Shaanxi, but the total menu doesn't have a dozen items, less if you ignore the egg rolls and chicken fingers. The noodle dishes, the stuffed breads and the lamb soup are all typical of Shaanxi.

            2. This is a pretty broad topic, and I have never seen all the info you are looking for put together in one place on Chowhound before.

              Of the places you listed, the most obvious cuisines would be Sichuan in Chengdu, Cantonese (Yue) in Hong Kong, and Shandong in Beijing.

              So here's a few recommended restaurants, you will have to look them up if you want to find recommended dishes:

              Cantonese: Best Little Restaurant (Chinatown), Peach Farm (Chinatown), Winsor Dim Sum, (Chinatown)
              Sichuan: New Shanghai (Chinatown), Gourmet Dumpling House (Chinatown), Chili Garden (Medford), Sichuan Gourmet (Billerica and Framingham), Zoe’s Somerville,
              Shandong: China King (Chinatown), One of the Kind (Allston in Super 88 Food Court)

              1 Reply
              1. re: nickls

                Wow-- thanks for this awesome summary! I will be sure to report back.

              2. Hong Kong is pretty well represented in Chinatown, to the point that you can cover a lot of ground in terms of different types of food establishments. I recommend Great Taste for bakery items and milk tea, Cafe de Lulu for "cha chaan teng" diner style, Hei La Moon for dim sum on carts, and Best Little Restaurant for "casual white tablecloth" style. None of these would be destination places in HK but they all serve good food and will give you a good example of the style.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: rebeccact

                    I'd add HK Eatery in C-Town for the roast meats and rice plates.