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Your First Exposure to the Exotic

What was your first exposure to exotic cuisine? And by exotic, I mean food that your mom never prepared, and likely never would have even thought to cook. Also, how old were you when exposed to the exotic?

When I was 16 or 17 (in 1984) I went to a Thai restaurant with a couple of my college student cousins and one of their buddies. I knew zilch about Thai food, and ordered Gai Ga Pow (hot and spicy chicken) and wonton soup. It changed my life frankly. That Gai Ga Pow, which I have never been able to replicate, remains one of the top-most delicious things I have ever eaten.

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  1. It is 1969 and we are heading for the summer trip out west. Had my first Mexican in Provo, Utah. Had it again in Las Vegas. Boasted about to my Uncle in San Diego. He was so scandalized, he took us to a white table cloth Mexican restaurant that evening.

    We were boasting about the fine food at Taco Bell.

    5 Replies
    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

      "Fine food at Taco Bell." That's an oxymoron if I've ever heard one.

      1. re: DatatheAndroid

        Taco Bell 2013- agree.

        Taco Bell 1969. Meat was meat, salsa was fresh, it was good. Great for a first time experience.

        1. re: DatatheAndroid

          When I was younger, I had a coworker from Arkansas. He ate at Taco Bell for almost every meal. His explanation was "You can't get food like this where I come from"

        2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

          While I would never call Taco Bell "Mexican gourmet," there WAS a time, when it was somewhat interesting, and especially if one had little experience with American-Mexican cuisine. My first experience was earlier, with similar fast-Mexican "inspired" dishes. For me, it was a "who knew?" moment.

          Hunt

        3. 15, after the last day of Mandarin Dialect summer school a classmate and our moms went to what was then the best Szechwan place in town. I had no idea Chinese could be like that, I saved the napkin, by then smeared with sauce and sniffed it regularly for months. about 6 years later had Thai (yes Gai Ga Pow too) similar revelation. I can almost replicate it if need be. almost, if I'm really jonesing. but I'd rather wait until I'm near a good place.

          1. Age 21, raw shellfish bar at a friend's tiny wedding on Nantucket. The wedding was alcohol-free, but open (raw) bar. Yowza.

            1. 1980 - Fort Erie, Ontario - Maywah's Restaurant - I was 15, sneaking across to Canada from Buffalo with a boyfriend. 'Chinese Dinner for 2B' - egg rolls, spare ribs, sweet and sour chicken, fried rice, some other entree I have since forgotten, bottomless green tea, and yummy almond cookies. It was a new world for me. There may be 'better' Chinese, but I remember the excitement of those 'new' flavors even today. And 6 years later, that boyfriend proposed to me, after dinner at Maywah's, overlooking the Niagara river.

              1. I was about 10ish, when I went to Spain with my grandparents. And paella was it for me. All of my favorite foods heaped on one plate! And so many flavors within, spicy, savory, it blew my little kid mind.
                I loved those yearly vacations, I always knew there would be something different for me to try.

                2 Replies
                1. re: alliegator

                  oh yeah Spain, i found there was not only other people who weren't afraid of garlic, but a whole country full of 'em! (that of course formed only one aspect of my attraction)

                  1. re: hill food

                    Sadly. I've not been back since. That'll need to be remedied. I need a drive specifically to store my bucket list. Sigh...

                  1. re: alliegator

                    I love Thai basil chicken and when I get to my local Asian store I always get Holy Basil.

                  2. Chinese/American, probably when I was 6 or so.

                    1. I first had pizza when I was in college -- about 20 yrs old.

                      My first taste of Chinese food (and actually it was Chinese-American) when I came to USA in 1982 -- 25 yrs old.

                      Those were exotic to me at the time!

                      1. I used to order frog legs at a catfish restaurant when I was eight or nine. I thought that was very daring and sophisticated.

                        In fifth grade, my class studied France and we cooked French onion soup. Those onions smelled heavenly. Later that year, we went on a field trip to EPCOT. I ate French pastries from the French pavillion bakery. I was so proud of my elegant self eating French food.

                        28 Replies
                        1. re: Tara57

                          Growing up, we never saw Frogs' Legs on any menus on the MS Gulf Coast, but then did go out at night, and gig large bullfrogs, to sautee their legs. We tried to speak French, when we'd eat them, but failed horribly. Still, they were great, and it was not for several years, that I was able to actually order them in a restaurant - ours were better! Same to be said for our recent trip to Burgundy. As a child, we had better Frogs' Legs. Such is life, even with a Michelin star - some dishes are just better as a child.

                          Hunt

                            1. re: hill food

                              You do have that one correct.

                              We all had Whamo blowguns, that we modified, used carbide "miners lanterns" on our head, and a little pram to ply the local canal. Those bullfrogs were giant. Heck, even the leopard frogs had hind legs, bigger than what one sees nowadays. We looked like a scene out of "African Queen," hunting those frogs.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                I made a hat rack out of our gigger. joke's on the guests!

                                some folks turn up their noses. easier to just let them breed.

                                1. re: hill food

                                  my dad tells tales of frog gigging and pan frying "legs as big as chickens" I was quite disapointed as I was served the tiny little things on my plate at a restraunt with him.

                                  1. re: girloftheworld

                                    I understand.

                                    While tasty, we have now done a half-dozen, or so, frog's legs dishes in France. They are tiny!

                                    Back when I was a child, the front legs were twice the size, of what we have encountered. Guess that a Mississippi Bullfrog is unknown in France. If we could import one, it would instantly become the "king of the pond."

                                    Why, I have seen a Mississippi Bullfrog eat a 4' gar fish!!!!

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Ya' know Texas root graphs saved France's wine industry saved from phylloxera root louse perhaps we can we can do the same with a little frog mingling?

                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        No way! Really? A friend at work grew up in Alabama and talked about going water skiing with the alligator gars nipping at their swimsuits. I looked them up and was blown away- those suckers are vicious- looking!
                                        I hate to ask, but can you describe the battle?

                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                          Gars are shy. I water skied, fished, and swam 7 years on Lake Sam Rayburn, and the only gar I ever saw was mounted over the door of the bait and beer shop. But they are indeed mean looking, prehistoric almost.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              My dad took my 6yo daughter crappie fishing in his boat for the first time a few weeks ago (he takes her fishing often, but off his pier), and within about 5 minutes she caught a small alligator gar. Screamed and threw the gar, pole and all into the lake.

                                            2. re: Veggo

                                              Wow. I guess it's a good thing they're shy. Apparently most of the really really big ones have been fished out most places, except where somebody introduced them to a lake on their property and years later opened up a buck-a-fish type of enterprise. Even the small ones look pretty darn intimidating, though.

                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                Veggo,

                                                Those were rather land-locked, freshwater gars. In my youth, we fished the smallcraft harbor, and then the deep harbor, in Gulfport, and often caught saltwater gar. Once, out of the deep harbor, we managed to land one, that was about 4' longer than our 9' pram. We lashed it to the side, and made our way back to the dock in the smallcraft harbor. When we later hung it from a limb, 10' above the ground, it folded. We sold it for about $5.00, to some locals, and were glad to do so.

                                                Once, in the smallcraft harbor, I hooked one, that I fought for about 3 hours. Finally, just as I had it up to the pier, the danged thing opened its mouth, and spit out the hook. So much for that one.

                                                The locals, who fished for gar, would use a piano wire noose, as it was almost impossible to set the hook in a gar's mouth. We were not so inclined, as we were also catching sharks, in the same area.

                                                Hunt

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  They're tough. A gar will live out of water for a few days. Toss 'em back in the water and they'll swim off as though nothing happened. They have sharp, rock-hard scales like chain mail. An ancient and formidable fish.

                                        2. re: hill food

                                          In MS, we could gig with barbs (or darts with barbs), but in near-by LA, no barbs were allowed.

                                          Now, did the hat rack have barbs????

                                          Hunt

                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            Hunt - of course it still had the barbs, that was the joke (actually I'd also lashed deer antlers to the gig - they were the 'hooks')

                                            I prefer the smaller legs, I bought some a few years ago and they were the size of drumsticks, it just felt wrong.

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              Thank you for that update.

                                              Back down South, ours were the size of a contemporary chicken drumstick, but so, so much better.

                                              The tiny versions, all around France, were good, and tasty, but one had to eat 2-dozen, to match one leg from Mississippi.

                                              My mother would buy a frog's leg frozen pack from India, and the legs were large, and quite tasty, but that was a zillion years ago, and she would only do that, if we were not taking the pram down the canal, as she knew that we'd come back with plenty of giant legs for dinner.

                                              Hunt

                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                Your mother got frog legs from India in Mississippi back then? Wow. I'm amazed.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  I am guessing now, but would say that it was a product that A&P carried. They came 4 to a pack, and she thought they had to be from Louisiana, until I read the fine print to her - India.

                                                  Hunt

                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    wait are we talking about the same tool? ours are like a trident - but with 5 points (a quintdent?)

                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                      I spent a lot of weekends with my Grandparents going from Chicago to their cottage in Southwest Michigan on the weekends year round. Stopping at the supperclubs enroute, my biggest dilemma was whether to order lake perch, smelt, or frog legs. This was from about 1958 to 1965. For whatever reason, they were not considered exotic in that neck of the prairie at that time.

                                                      Always with a light dusting of flour and cooked in butter. Just like the smelt.

                                                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                        You must have stopped at Phil Smidt's in Hammond IN, then. It was the best place to go for lake perch and frog legs in the 70s, 80s and 90s, too.
                                                        Yellow lake perch was commercially fished back then, so it was easy to find at restaurants around the South Shore of Lake Michigan. Sadly, the perch are gone..but the memories of breaded and buttered perch with a side of frog legs are permanently etched in my taste buds.

                                                        1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                          We always took US 12 and old M 60 as the toll road was too expensive.

                                                          Thank you for filling in Phil Schmidt's. There was also Wagonwheel around Michigan City and something like 7 Crown or 7 Gold Doors??? Hard to remember these things when you where on either side of 7 years old.

                                                          And my parents never allowed school to get in the way of traveling and experiences.

                                                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                            I lived in Michigan City from 1975 to 2003, so those places were long gone before I moved there! I had some pretty wonderful lake perch in those years.
                                                            I'll have to ask some of my native MC friends if they remember the restaurants you mentioned.

                                                      2. re: hill food

                                                        Hill Food,

                                                        There were "trident" gigs sold. In MS (if I remember the differences correctly) the tines had barbs, but the same sort of gig was sold in LA, but barbless.

                                                        I could be mis-remembering this, but also think that similar limitations existed for flounder gigs. Maybe someone will correct me, or refresh my feeble memory.

                                                        In our case, we would take treble hooks (basically a trident, but with an arch, like a regular fishing hook), heat them up, and then straighten them out, so that the barbed "hooks" were then straight, pointing in the same direction. We would tie monofiliment fishing line into the eye, and to the "front sight" of the blowgun. Next, we too plastic electricians' tape, and formed a bit of a "cone," around the eye and monofiliment. We would trim that into a rough circle, just larger than the ID of the tube on the blowgun. We would feed the monofiliment line into the blowgun, and then push that treble hook into the tube.

                                                        With a good blow, that deformed treble hook would fly out, but still be attached by the monofiliment line. Then, the tube would be used sort of like a fishing rod to bring the frog into the boat.

                                                        Now, remember that we were using carbide miners' lanterns, so illumination was poor. In the water, the eyes of a bullfrog are not totally unlike those of a water moccasin. Every now and then, we'd dart a moccasin, and then quickly try to cut that line!

                                                        We never used a gig, or not that I can recall. We used the Whammos, instead.

                                                        Hunt

                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                          well you boys were hard-core...

                                                          we just had a broom handle with that pointedy thing down there on the end

                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                            Those were available, sort of, from the hardware store, but were used mostly for flounders.

                                                            Now, gigging flounders was fraught with danger too. While a water moccasin's eyes could look like those of a bullfrog a stingray could look like a flounder!

                                                            Hunt

                                      2. Mine is in 1982 in Vero Beach Florida and I was 10 at the time.
                                        We were over from the UK on holiday and got friendly with an American family. One day they had a bbq. I'd never even heard of a bbq let alone had any barbequed food. The chicken I had was like no other chicken I'd ever tasted. I didn't know it could taste that good.

                                        1. Despite living most of my life in a middle-of-nowhere mining town in Nevada, I grew up eating Laotian food (my parents had dear friends who were refugees) and Italian food (my dad lived their for several years). My parents also fiddled around with Chinese food, making dumplings and such, as well as Mexican food. I have a pretty clear memory of making tamales with some friends. I really don't remember my first exposures to those cuisines, though.

                                          I do however, have a very vivid memory of the first time I ate Indian food. For some reason, my parents and I were in Las Vegas (probably one of my dad's mining conferences). We went out to eat late one evening to this tiny little Indian restaurant WAY off the Strip. I was in my middle teens at the time, but I remember it feeling so magical to be in this quiet little restaurant, with strange music and aromas wafting through the air. I know for sure that we had lamb vindaloo, garlic naan, and basmati rice. Oh, and I think tandoori chicken (because we could see the tandoor through a little window in the restaurant). I've eaten a lot of Indian food in the 20+ years since then, but none of it has stuck in my memory like that particular meal.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: senorahb

                                            Growing up in the 70s, my mom prepared plenty of Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Cajun and German food, but alas, no Laotian. Still, by the standards of the age, our table was remarkably varied, thanks to mom.

                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                              Same here, minus the Cajun and plus Greek! I still remember thinking moussaka was a "normal" thing to eat and being very surprised when a little friend came over for dinner and was nonplussed by it. Our neighbourhood was pretty WASPy. So is my mum, come to think of it, but she has always been adventurous with food, for whatever reason.

                                              My first exotic food was Kraft Dinner at a friend's house when I was about 10 -- mum made macaroni and cheese from scratch with good sharp cheddar, onions and Worcestershire sauce.

                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                That's funny, I never thought of Cajun as exotic, yet that was one of the cuisines my mother did from scratch (no boxes) and very well. She was raised in New Orleans and Mobile, so it was just home cooking to us.

                                                I still use her gumbo recipe (minus the okra 'cause my picky husband and kids won't eat it!).

                                                1. re: Isolda

                                                  Both Cajun and Creole are still considered "exotic," by many. As I grew up with it, I had not even thought about it.

                                                  Way back when, I suppose that raw oysters would have been considered exotic by someone in Iowa. Now, not so much.

                                                  Hunt

                                            2. When I was a kid we lived in West Texas, and the most exotic thing I'd eaten was Tex-Mex. Then after 6th grade, we moved to Colorado, and my new best friend at my new school was Palestinian. When I went to his house after school one day, his Mom served us dolmas for a snack! I had never seen such a thing, and had to have an explanation of what the thing that looked like a rolled up leaf was, but liked it when I tried it. Then she followed that with hand-made baklava for dessert, and I was hooked! Later when we were teens, she wanted to teach me how to make that baklava (she even made her own pastry), and I wasn't interested in cooking at that point in my life. Deeply regret that I didn't take her up on that offer, and still love middle eastern food!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: arashall

                                                If you don't mind my asking, whereabouts in west Texas did you live? The Big L is my stomping ground.

                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                  Canyon, but we had good friends in Lubbock and visited a lot.

                                              2. Growing up in a multicultural household, we regularly had bone marrow, goat meat and bird's nest soup on the menu, so I suppose "exotic" is all in the eye of the beholder. It was probably around 2nd grade when I first tried frog legs at a Thai restaurant. But I was probably around 6th grade by the time I had my first taste of Southern collard greens. That was likely about the same time the local news declared it safe to try my first Lender's bagel, the safety bagel slicer having recently been invented to protect us neophytes in the Middle West.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: JungMann

                                                  Interestingly, my first "exotic" food I can remember was a bagel as well. I remember feeling the challenge of ordering it at my Jr High cafeteria even though I had no idea what it was, and because many other kids were enjoying it. I thought it was going to be as sweet as a doughnut (since that was my frame of reference of what this thing looked like, and I thought the white creamy stuff was whipped cream).
                                                  Every time I try a cuisine or dish I've never had, I'm always reminded of my first bagel.

                                                2. When I moved to So Cal in my Sr. year of HS (from PA) in 19mumblemumble, I had never had Mexican food of any type. I made a friend who was born and raised in Mexico City and her family invited me home for dinner.

                                                  O.M.G. previous to that it had been Taco Bell only.

                                                  The following year when I was a freshman in college, I had my first taste of Chinese food. O.M.G. II

                                                  1. When I was around 12, we went to a Japanese restaurant in SF. I ordered sukiyaki and sashimi. First time for both a raw egg and raw fish. Enjoyed them both and continue to to this day.

                                                    1. I grew up eating what some people consider"exotic" there are pictures of me sucking down oysters and escargot at 3 but I will say the first truly tranforming meal I ate was when I 10 at Uhicko .. the layers of flavor and the whimsical paring was something that was just magical..kurobuta pork belly, black lime, espresso fish caramel, coriander citrus...Yoki Berry with its asian pear,atlantic salmon, dinosaur kale, yuzu The famous Jar Jar Duck with duck three ways, candied citrus, endive, apple­wood smoke each dish was an amusment park in my mouth...I felt like Remi in Ratuolie when those little colour bursts were exploding.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: girloftheworld

                                                        Perilagu's definition of exotic was "food that your mom never prepared, and likely never would have even thought to cook." By that standard, my first 'exotic' foods are things that would be considered very mundane in USA (pizza, Chinese-American food, as I mentioned upthread). On the other hand, some of the things I'd eat as a kid (not frequently but several times a year) -- such as cane rat and mopane worms (not at same time) -- would certainly be considered exotic here in America.

                                                        1. re: drongo

                                                          My definition means literally anything can be considered exotic, depending upon the circumstances and location of your rearing.

                                                      2. Growing up a Navy B.R.A.T., I was exposed to the "exotic" almost from birth. My favorite was the 3-1/2 years in Hawaii.

                                                        1. Hmm, to be perfectly honest I have no idea. I suppose the first time that I had really exotic cuisine was during my first trip to New York City when I was 15. I had oxtail soup from a Korean restaurant. The soup tasted like soap. I loved the kimchi that came with the soup, though.

                                                          1. When I was 16, back in the early seventies in Columbus, Ohio, my long haired friends and I used to hang out at head shops and hippie restaurants up near OSU. Which happens, hilariously, to be on High Street. (Well, it was hilarious in 1972, anyway)
                                                            Near the campus was a little hole in the wall Mediterranean restaurant in an old Victorian house. The restaurant was called 'Shalom', and my first taste of flame grilled kebabs with peppers,onions, and tahini sauce on pita bread was mind-blowing. Never tasted anything like that in my middle class Catholic life before, ever. And to top that off, I had my first taste of baklava there, too. Wow.

                                                            1. Young Canadian's first trip to Los Angeles in early 60's, first time for BBQ at My Brother's in Woodland Hills. I think it's still there. Wasn't any in Toronto at that time now we have many.

                                                              1. It’s the beginning of the school year in 1977. Fleetwood Mac is still comin’ outta every AM radio you happen past – “Thunder only happens when it’s rainin . . . ’”. The Yankees had yet to beat George Brett.

                                                                Dad had moved us from the Shore to Edison. I’m a toehead kid. I don’t belong there, but that’s where we are, so I try to be “good”. I even sign up to take violin lessons at school.

                                                                In my violin lessons, during Third period, I practiced with a skinny, little, Indian kid, plastic glasses and all. If you saw him in a movie, you’d call his character a cliché. Cliches happen. He was pretty cool though, and I enjoyed playing the horrible music we were capable of together

                                                                One day, getting’ off the bus, some kids gave “Nik” a hard time in front of me. I stood up, pushed back hard, and barked long enough for the other kids to back down before his Mom came out, broom in hand. She invited me in.

                                                                To me, the rich perfume in the house was what I would’ve imagined frankincense and myrrh to smell like. She was frying vada, and asked if I wanted a “donut”. I was a ‘hound, I s’pose, even then. I clobbered two of ‘em and had to go home to Mom and explain why I couldn’t finish my hot dog.

                                                                I ate dinner with Nik’s family about once a month before they moved away in the Spring. Dosa. Curry. Biryani. Those meals are likely the reason I am the way I am today.

                                                                Funny thing is, Nik used to love comin’ to our house and have Mom’s Sour Cream Chicken.

                                                                14 Replies
                                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                                  When I was a junior in college, my friend's parents invited me to visit them in Virginia. His mother apologized that they ate very plainly compared to what I was used to being Asian and living in New York and all, but I must have scarfed down 3 servings when she introduced me to Frito casserole. I brought home her recipe and have been making it ever since. 3 or 4 years later another Virginian introduced me to ranch chicken. Up to that point, I had never even imagined one could batter food in ranch dressing.

                                                                  1. re: JungMann

                                                                    Frito casserole? An Ol' Virginny version of Frito pie?

                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                      It was what everyone else would call Frito pie, but I think she was from the Midwest where casseroles rule the day.

                                                                      1. re: JungMann

                                                                        Then I can see why you were blown away.

                                                                        When the Khantessa and I began seeing one another in grad school, I made chili dogs for her in her abode. The girl, a Pennsylvanian, had never eaten chili dogs before, and wolfed down four with a big load o' tater tots. Neither of us will ever forget it.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              You're both right. A match made in chili dawg heaven.

                                                                        1. re: JungMann

                                                                          LOL Frito Chili hand pies rules the day in the Midwest at every high school or county fair concession stand!

                                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                                            They served Frito pie (in the bag, with a scoop of chili and cheese plopped in there) at my daughter's kindergarten when we lived in Texas. The cafeteria had to make extra because Frito pie day was when all the moms (food snobs that we are) showed up to buy lunch.

                                                                            1. re: Isolda

                                                                              Isolda - in SoCal they were called 'Pepper Bellies'

                                                                              we were so excited on those days.

                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                I have never heard the term, "Pepper Bellies." Learned something new from this thread!

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                      2. re: MGZ

                                                                        MGZ, funny thing is, I was a kind of a "Nik" kinda kid, sorta, myself.
                                                                        Both my parents were from Greece and mom was from the Greek island of Cyprus that has a variety of Greek food beyond what one will find on the mainland of Greece.
                                                                        My father was a world traveler and speaks over 7 languages (food is an international language ;-) and is a 'gourmet' of cooks.
                                                                        My house was one where all the neighborhood kids in the 70's and 80's would gather for not just a huge variety of Greek food, but Italian, Mexican, 'exotic' ingredients, etc...(still can't find a competition worthy Manhattan clam chowder that can come close to comparing to dads recipe)
                                                                        In fact, our neighbor who was of Italian descent and who had just moved out from Brooklyn asked MY mom for her lasagna al forno recipe! THAT is what I'M talking about!

                                                                        Conversely, an occassional 'tuna casserole' or mystery meat and canned Campbells condensed soup 'bake' or 'casserole' was a fun time with my friends at their house. I guess that was "exotic" to me?
                                                                        The 'hot dog', as you say, was enjoyed at my own 'towhead' friends kitchen, usually with ketchup and a slice of american cheese offered since I was visiting....

                                                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                          I've stood up for a lot of Niks in my life. It's pretty much my soft spot. Worst beatin' I even took was when a buddy of mine, a Nik named Herman, was scorin' with some guy's former girl. Herman was, shall we say, past the point that he should have had to wait for such an experience. It was his time.

                                                                          I took more than a few solid shots from the ex-boyfriend and his four buddies while Herman and the girl slipped out the back window of the apartment. I stood firm, but some fights you lose for the right reason. There is a reason God made ice afterall.

                                                                          The next day, I'm sittin' in my dorm, sippin' from a bottle of Mezcal, and nursin' my wounds.

                                                                          Herman, unscarred, shows up with a bag of weed and just drops it on the dresser.

                                                                          "Sorry."

                                                                          "You'da done it for me."

                                                                          "Not sure. That's why I brought you this. I still owe you. Anything else I can bring?"

                                                                          Now, in Central PA, in the 80s, a ham and cheese sub came warm and slathered with mayo. At first I hated 'em. So not Jersey style. But, like that cute, awkward girl who keeps showin' attention to you, the treat started to grow on me. I ask for one of those sandwiches and a six of Chesterfield Ale (along witth a pack of Zig-Zags).

                                                                          I just asked Mom for her Sour Cream Chicken recipe. Trade fror the lasagna al forno recipe?

                                                                          1. re: MGZ

                                                                            Maybe just a pack of Zig-Zags :-)

                                                                      3. I guess I would have to say it was just this year, eating Thai at age 24. I've been a notoriously timid eater most of my life.

                                                                        But in reality, my mom pretty much WAS my exposure. We are of Scandinavian and mixed European decent, but she spent two years in South Korea. She made bulgogi (or pool kogi, as she had it spelled in her little notebook) quite often when I was a kid. I still haven't gotten up the courage to eat the kimchi or pickled radishes, though.

                                                                        1. Around 1991, after about a dozen dive trips to Cozumel, a group of 13 Mayans had befriended me and wanted to initiate me as an hermano and teach me some Mayan customs and secrets. 14 of us had a weekend fiesta in the jungle with a huge 3 foot red fish baked in the ground pibil style in banana leaves. Smouldering under the smoky leaves was a large foil package of trigger fish livers. I was required to eat several to become an hermano. Strong oily stuff, and they all had a good laugh watching. I wish my photo album of the weekend was digital. Copious quantities of beer and rum.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                            Reminds me of a M*A*S*H episode where Hawkeye complains about a "river of liver and an ocean of fish."

                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                              I can just see y'all trekking through the jungle with a roll of foil :)

                                                                            2. Probably 1987 in St. Louis. On a trip with the newspaper staff in undergrad. My parents did not eat/serve seafood much at all. We might have catfish or bass from a farm pond. We had a shrimp appetizer. Shell on. Didn't realize the shell was on. Bit right in.... hastily fixed that and later went on to order a shark steak.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                Heh. Reminds me of the time my Yankee uncle-by-marriage hawed into a tamale with the husk still on. Not long after that he was grilling the best fajitas I've ever eaten. Quick study, my uncle.

                                                                              2. stepfather was Italian, so pancetta, risotto, etc. were all staples...

                                                                                I had a friend with British parents in high school, and she took me for Indian buffet when I was 15. I loved it! To this day, a good curry and naan is one of my favorite meals, and I pretty much only use basmati rice.

                                                                                Oh my goodness, I just realized it was earlier in life... My best friend at age 12 had a Dutch mom and Indian dad, and whenever I stayed for dinner he'd make curry because I loved it so much. It was very yellow, bone-on, with potatoes and rice. My best friend and her brother were always so mad at me for liking it, because they grew up eating it and wanted McDonald's. This was around '81.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: C70

                                                                                  Sounds like a vindaloo with lots of turmeric. Was it pretty hot?

                                                                                2. I have always been a pretty adventurous eater but there are two memories that stand out.

                                                                                  In 2009 my wife and I made a trip to Las Vegas. We had dinner at what I believe is the most under rated steakhouse on the strip; Charlie Palmer Steak in hte Four Seasons. Neither of us had ever had beef carpaccio before so we ordered it and it changed our lives.

                                                                                  Again in Las Vegas, this time in 2011 at RM Seafood in Mandalay Place. We ordered the beef tartare and it was revolutionary.

                                                                                  I guess there is something about raw beef in Las Vegas.

                                                                                  1. As young kid, MANY YEARS AGO, blue cheese dressing was "exotic". It cost extra in restaurants/diners... therefore, for "adults". My Dad always got it and I loved it at first bite!

                                                                                    Had escargot for first time at 30-something at a little French place in Philly. It came bubbling to the table in dish with DEEP holes... lots of garlicky butter and chopped hazel nuts in bottom. After the escargot disappeared, took copious amounts of nice crusty bread to sop up all that butter.

                                                                                    1. 2 times come to mind. The first was when I was about 10 - 12, in 1954 or 56 in Boston. After driving around (this town is nothing but paved cowpaths, from my father driving) we stopped and he went up the street and came back with Pizza. It was so different and wonderful.
                                                                                      The second time was when my son was home on leave from the Navy and took me to a Japanese Restaurant for sushi. He swore I would love it, but I was quite skeptical I could possibly like raw fish!! He wins, I do love it to this day. Thanks Rick for opening a wonderful door for us.

                                                                                      1. Does foods like brown bread in a can or TV dinners count?

                                                                                        I was lucky to be born to two people who loved to cook and even more to experiment in the kitchen. Pretty much everything was made “from scratch”. They would make special trips into Boston to hit the Asian markets in Chinatown and to find spices/ingredients not easily found where we lived. Dad’s leaning were mostly Asian inspired. Mom was all over the place but she did favor Indian and Mediterranean cuisine. Don’t get me wrong we ate our share of basic American food too-steak, burgers, pasta, meatloaf, etc but when I left for boarding school and college there was really no cuisine that seemed totally “exotic” or foreign to me.

                                                                                        However when I was about 6-8 I spent the weekend at a friend’s house, circa 1968, her mom served brown bread from a can that looked the way canned cranberry jelly looks-ridges and all- along with pork chops and apple sauce. I was fascinated by the bread but boy did it taste nasty. I also experienced my first TV dinner that weekend along with Tang. I came home raving about the packaged meals but alas they were way too much $$ for my mom to buy for her 5 kids or at least that’s what she said. Hindsight being what it is I think she just didn’t like them.

                                                                                        1. I grew up eating Sonoran Mexican food and standard American fare, It was around 1969 that I first went to a Chinese place with my friends (I was 16). It was cantonese style (I didn't know what that was from shinola back then) I thought it was the best thing I ever ate. That started a lifetime love affair with food and cooking.

                                                                                          1. Having grown up in a household where calf's liver, brains & kidneys made regular appearances, I was still very impressed with my first sweetbreads at a local restaurant when I was about 12 (and they've been a must-order for me ever since at any restaurant that offers them).

                                                                                            I also remember my first Korean meal at a local restaurant which was nothing like the "Chinese" food I was used to -- I had "beef cooked in egg" or something like that, and it was fantastic.

                                                                                            My mom's BF was Greek, so there was a lot of that in our household, but I never considered it exotic.

                                                                                            Now, the stuff you could get at the local PX -- not us, of course, Germans weren't allowed inside -- like chocolate pudding that came in cans (!), Swiss Miss sample packs of milk flavorings (eggnog being my favorite), Cool Whip and Kraft Mac n Cheese.... *that* was exotic to me.

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                <"Having grown up in a household where calf's liver, brains [sub: tripe] & kidneys made regular appearances, I was still very impressed with my first sweetbreads at a local restaurant when I was about 12...">

                                                                                                Oh my! Lingua! This is me. Somewhere around 10 - 12 y/o. French (?) restaurant across the street from Boston's Symphony Hall's stage door.. Father takes us for dinner after a concert. I order Sweetbreads not knowing exactly what they are. Not only are parents astonished but waiter visibly shaken. Parents nod, "yes". I am elated and enthusiastic. Loved them and still do.

                                                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                                                  I so would've been that little pup askin' you out all the time. Once those pimples cleared up, you'd probably have said "Yes".

                                                                                              2. Very first exposure was at the Ports of Call restaurant in Toronto, "Polynesian" food in an "exotic" atmosphere...I was 10. We ate in the Bali Hai room (my mom was crazy about "South Pacific")...
                                                                                                http://critiki.com/location/?loc_id=536

                                                                                                39 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                  The passing of tiki restaurants/bars saddens me. They reached their peak before I was old enough to appreciate them and vanished before I had the opportunity to. Of course, it was all about the atmosphere, but atmosphere in a restaurant is very important to me.

                                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                    This was the classiest place I had been to, too.

                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                      PK,you would have enjoyed the Trader Vics at the Plaza Hotel in its day.

                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                        And, Polynesian Village in the Somerset, Boston... back in the same day.

                                                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                                                          We were big Trader Vic's fans back when there were Trader Vic's.

                                                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                            I noticed there was a Trader Vic's in Portland last time we were there and there seems to be one in LA too. Not as cool as the one that used to be in Vancouver http://spacing.ca/vancouver/2012/09/1... but still there...

                                                                                                            1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                              There was a Trader Vic's in DC at the Capital Hilton in the 70s and early 80s. The rum cups were awesome! We tried duplicating them at home, but never could get 'em quite right.

                                                                                                              We had cocktails at the original TV's in Emeryville about three years ago and watched from the deck as Horse Island burned.

                                                                                                            2. re: buttertart

                                                                                                              There's a Trader Vic's at the Hilton in Berlin.

                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                And there is still a Trader Vic's at the Hotel Okura in Tokyo.
                                                                                                                Still purveying those monstrously huge cocktails, too.

                                                                                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                  Did see that there's one in Dubai????? There's everything else there :)

                                                                                                            3. re: Veggo

                                                                                                              Uh oh. Flashback. Just prior to the Trader Vic in the Plaza closing, when I was a freshman in college, I took a certain young lady there for dinner. Alas, since we were only 18, we couldn't order any of the tropical cocktails so we only had the food. I'm thinking the appeal of TV's rested primarily on the cocktails which preceded the food as the food by itself wasn't anything to get excited about. We were probably the youngest by 30 years. Still had a nice time. The staff was very nice to us.

                                                                                                              1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                You must be younger than me. The drinking age in NY used to be 18. My hockey team in CT used to go there for that reason.

                                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                  That was a national law pass in the mid 80s.

                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                    It was in the late 70s (in DC and Florida, at least) and it only lasted a year or two into the Reagan era before the punishment freaks overturned it.

                                                                                                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                      Illinois and Louisiana and I think Texas were also younger. Kansas allowed 3.2 beer at 18. only LA was able to hold out against the Feds threat of withholding highway funds as they were awash in oil money back then.

                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                          cool stuff, I always wondered why back in those days there weren't travel guides listing ALL the weird and myriad rules in the US - which county in KY is 'dry', which town in IL is 24/7 etc.

                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                            Even today, that would be useful.

                                                                                                                            One of the best wine lists that I know, is in a dry county in TN.

                                                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                              The last dry town in CT went wet about two years ago. Growing up our country club was in a dry suburb of New Haven, so we had to 'purchase' our own liquor from the 19th hole club. All members of the club were owners and so they could be served their own liquor. NO guest could buy a drink. If an outside organization wanted to use the plkace for an event, a member had to sponsor, the member was billed and reimbursed by the outsider.
                                                                                                                              In the late 70s and early 80s I had a sewing factory in Monticello, KY. It was in a dry county. If you drove 10 minutes south you were in Tennesse and could buy alcohol. BUT the Tenesee stires closest to the border would charge drivers of cars wioth Kentucky plates $6 for a six pack of Bud, when the regulkar price was $2.25. There was a can machine in the men's locker room of the Monticello country club that vened beer (illegally) for $1 per can. No alcohol was served at the club, otherwise.

                                                                                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                I see that odd liquor laws were not relegated to the Deep South. Until about 1965, there were three liquor laws on the Mississippi roles:

                                                                                                                                No one could sell, purchase or consume liquor.
                                                                                                                                If one sold, purchased, or consumed liquor, they had to be at least 18 years old.
                                                                                                                                All liquors sold, purchased, or consumed in MS had to have a "black market" tax stamp, paid to the County Sheriff, who was also the Tax Collector.

                                                                                                                                That changed, with a referendum on liquor laws, by county. Some went dry, and some went wet. During that period, when voting was being done, the residents of the Gulf Coast would just drive to the MS/LA state line, where a package store was doing a gangbuster's business. Forget the name, but my father created and built their neon/plastic sign. They were blown away by Hurricane Camille, and never rebuilt.

                                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                      I must have led a very sheltered life. I don't think I was aware that Woodbridge was 'dry' but then, that area was beyond my "place", anyway.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                        Mucho, we love you and nothing was ever beyond your place.
                                                                                                                                        Veg

                                                                                                                                      2. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                        Yes, and Woodbridge CC had the same plan. But now both are gone/bankrupt/ Woodbridge was taken over by the town as a municipal golf course. What will become of Oak Lane is unknown. Unfortunately, the club only owned half its land. It had a 60 year land lease on the rest (and was dumb enough to build othe clubhouse and pools and tennis courts on the leased land). They couldn't handle the new land rental terms offered, so it probably will become an expensive 9 hole golf community with clubhouse and amenities. When it closed the kitchen had been leased out to the operators of Leon's restaurant.

                                                                                                                                      3. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                        yes, Woodbridge was dry for a long time, but not the last town in CT to go wet. Easton is the last holdout, not because of a local statute, but because there is no place to buy iy. There is a general store and a gas station that were grandfathered in their zoning reg, but the town is non-commercial. Bridgewater was the last dry town, but while you can't get a drink in the non existant restaurants or liqour store, there is a local farm producing wine and you can get a taste there.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                      This would indeed be very helpful!
                                                                                                                                      I takes me to a memory when out in the "boonies" somewhere outside Atlanta, the man and I went on a new furniture and outlet binge shopping day we got a bank alert that we had no money at all due to some wacky debit number theft.
                                                                                                                                      We spied a Ruby Tuesday ahead and intended to have a much needed drink---it was dry on Sundays. DRY!
                                                                                                                                      No money + no alcohol = a very short fuse.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                                          Interesting. IIRC, in Georgia (maybe it was only Atlanta), back when, a place had to do more than 50% of their business in food in order to serve alcohol on Sundays. Still ridiculous.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                            Fulton and Dekalb Counties, I recall.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                              Atlanta is Fulton with a small amount in DeKalb.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                              It's still pretty much like that here in West Georgia. There aren't any bars, per se. Just restaurants that serve alcohol. Sunday drinks finally were approved a few years ago. Still waiting for Sunday sales at the stores to be lawful.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                                                                                                Just know that you're not alone. There are many states with weird and antiquated liquor/sin laws.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                More than 40 years ago when I went to college in Philadelphia, only hotels could serve liqour on Sunday mornings. The bar I worked at had three rental rooms on the top fllor in order to qualify as a hotel. So drinkingmen's breakfast was available from 8am Sunday's. Only booze in the area Sunday mornings, area restaurants started Sunday brunch at noon.

                                                                                                                          2. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                            Oh, I forgot about the pressed duck at the Kahiki in Columbus, Ohio, along with the flaming meatball on a stick and the tiki glass of pineapple slush. That was my first exotic food, before the shish kebabs I mentioned up thread.

                                                                                                                            1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                                                                              I was just going to post about the Kahiki!!!!!! My grandparents lived in Columbus and my parents took us to the Kahiki for the first time when I was probably 7 or 8 - I was totally enthralled! My experience of "Asian" food up to that point was limited to La Choy chicken chow mein from a can, so you can probably imagine how overwhelming their menu was for me. I ordered something that seemed impossibly exotic (but wasn't), like General Tso's chicken and potstickers - and loved every bite! So sad that place is gone.

                                                                                                                            2. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                              South Pacific. My father took my mother to see the original cast when it came to Boston before opening om NY.... Ezio Pinza & Mary Martin et al. The original cast album was heard day and night for ages. I can almost sing each song word perfect even now... But I really think I actually ate Chinese/Asian food for the first time when groups of us would storm Boston's Chinatown after "away" high school football games

                                                                                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                Wow...my mom only knew it through the movie (damn fine movie) and the movie cast album. i know all the words to all the songs too.
                                                                                                                                We would VERY occasionally get "Chinese" takeout or go to a restaurant when I was a kid, my mother didn't like it. And it was about as far from real Chinese food as it could be without being libelous.

                                                                                                                            3. A friend introduced me to caprese salad in college circa 2000, which my casserole, down-home cooking mom never would've made. Also sushi, though even I can't even make it to this day without sloppy results.

                                                                                                                              1. Growing up in the SF bay area I didn't know that, Mexican, Chinese, or Japanese food were exotic. Thai and Vietnamese were virtually unheard of at that time. Italian was something everyone cooked - well some kind of pasta or pizza at least.

                                                                                                                                I think the first time I tried something exotic on purpose was in 1975, before the Senior Prom my date and I went to this exciting new restaurant that had recently opened in Ghirardelli Square called The Mandarin. Before it came along most of us had no idea there was anything aside from Cantonese even though Cecillia Chiang had actually started with a smaller place about 5 or 6 years earlier. It was a very very good meal, but for two of us it cost OVER $20! At a Chinese restaurant! Fortunately I had been warned and had the cash to cover it. Probably the first time I ever had more than $20 in my wallet.

                                                                                                                                We had sizzling rice soup, Mongolian Beef, some kind of vegetable hunan style, and noodles of some kind, i seem to remember there were shrimp somewhere along the line as well. Wish I could remember better.

                                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                  Sizzling rice soup sound interesting (and vaguely familiar). Can you describe it?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                    The Mandarin was excellent, Ms. Chiang was a trailblazer. Nice atmosphere, too.
                                                                                                                                    The soup would have been along these lines: http://chinesefood.about.com/od/rice/...

                                                                                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                      yep, thats it. crisp rice squares (think rice crispy treats minus the marshmallow) dropped into the hot soup; snap, crackle, pop!

                                                                                                                                      At the time i didn't know who Ms. Chang was or any of the backstory, but it was an eye opening meal. My parents were particularly impressed that I picked someplace so different for an important meal.

                                                                                                                                      http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                                                                                                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                        Nice article. I first had sizzling rice soup at the Empress of China, which with Kan's was the third of the three fancy Chinese restaurants in SF at the time. Was back at the Empress for a cocktail last time we were on the left coast. Fun.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                        Funny that something like sizzling rice soup seemed exotic at the time, isn't it?

                                                                                                                                      3. We ate Taiwanese food at home, so my first exposure to exotic food was Old Country Buffet. For a hungry kid sick of healthy Asian home cooking, this place was a meat-and-carbohydrate paradise. Mountains of mashed potatoes, lakes of gravy and a carving station with roasts so big they looked like geological formations. My brother and I quickly learned to stake out a table near the fried chicken station, so we could descend on it like frenzied piranhas when a fresh batch came out of the fryer, and we once managed to deplete not one but two whole pans of their molten chocolate brownie dessert.

                                                                                                                                        This was my first exposure to "American" food so for a long time I thought this was how White people ate at home, all the time. My eating habits are (slightly) less gluttonous now but I will always have a place in my grease-encrusted heart for the OCB.

                                                                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                                                                                                          Exactly the point. You got to see the grass on the other side. In the end, ain't that what makes food grand. The myriad combinations of meats and spices? The

                                                                                                                                          1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                            When we moved here I had this friend Delany she use to walk to our house everyday after school instead of going to her own while her mom was at work. Her older sister,who was suspouse to watch her, didn't mind. Anyway, my mom started getting phone calls. What kind of bread do you use? What was the soft gooshy cheese you had? Because Delany would go home and talk about food she would have at house.What is werid heer mom and mom became really good friends and the familys did and food sort of brought the two families together.We would have them over for dinner and play board games and have a great time.They moved after five years. My mom and I made her a cook book with pictures from all our times .We still talk and email but it reallly doesnt compare to sitting in the sun porch eating artichchoke and Ice tea and playing with our American Gril dolls.Or my mom making Kelly a cup of of hot coco from ganche in the fridge after a hards day work and her saying "holy shit no wonder delany says the packets at home are gross now!"

                                                                                                                                          2. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                                                                                                            That's funny. We ate mostly Asian and Middle Eastern food at home which left my brother and I very curious as to what Americans ate if they didn't eat rice with their meals. When an OCB opened up near our house, we thought we had it figured out and we followed the diners' lead piling mountains of mac n cheese next to our fried whiting and washing it all down with unlimited sodas. Mountains of mac were the golden paved streets of our American dreams.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                              Bloody hell, but this is turning into a revealing--and hilarious!--thread.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                                                                                                              I had the same experience!!! Taiwanese parents and very tasty flavorful food at home but oh boy was Old Country Buffet a treat.

                                                                                                                                            3. Probably in 1976 when I moved from Atlanta to SF and had (rack of) lamb for the first time. Mother never fixed it cause her experience with the animal had been mutton. I was hooked. Basically all my food exotica began in SF. I still remember the first time I had dim sum. Also in about '76. I just stumbled into a spot on Grant Ave., pointed and ate and loved. I thought it was the most amazing thing and went back to work and told my boss about it. He was so ho-hum I wanted to slap him :)

                                                                                                                                              23 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                Oh lamb! Despite raising and showing dairy goats for years we didn't eat goat in the house. We would eat it at dairy goat shows/seminars. But we NEVER had lamb. At grad school a friend did a whole bone-in leg of lamb on the grill and I was hooked. I've tried to get the rest of the family interested in lamb but no dice.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                                                                  Oh goat!!! :) Years ago in SF, a little Mexican joint was written up for their goat birria (I understand it can be done with lamb). We went there and the darling little lady denied that it was goat but rather lamb. After we cleaned our plates and I asked once again she admitted it was goat. Guess she wasn't sure we gringos were up to it :)

                                                                                                                                                2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                  I dimly recollect my first dim sum. If fact, I made it myself.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                    You made it? Having never tasted it, how would you know if it was 'right'? Especially the wrapper.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                      Never said they were right. But I loved them. So did my fambly. The nuclear kin clamored for me to make them for as long as they lived. My dim sum were a huge hit. But they may not have been right.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                        Then let me ask another question. If you'd never had them, how did you even know about them or know what was in a particular one? Did you have a dim sum cookbook? How would you know that har gow, for instance, has shrimp in it? If you didn't have a cookbook, how would you know what flours to use in the wrappers? That just fascinates me.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                          Nothing so complex. My mom had a Chinese cookbook that contained a recipe for dim sum. I simply cooked the dim sum according to the recipe.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                      My first dim sum was out of Jeff Smith's cookbooks when I was a young (25) wife and mom who needed a Project. Smith translated "dim sum" as meaning "little jewels that tug at the heart" and that tugged at me. Plus, they seemed like appetizers, and that had tremendous appeal. I think I made nearly every dim sum dish he offered. I had great success with the Frugal Gourmet dim sum recipes as a novice, and when I finally had a "proper" dim sum service, thought my home-cooked versions compared quite favorably. It was a great feeling of accomplishment! Now, I'm slowly becoming just too lazy, sadly.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                        I have two maybe three of his books. Do you remember which one it was? I always liked him and he was one of my first "mentors" :)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                          The book I referenced was "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China-Greece-Rome." There's a discrete section on dim sum; it's a decent variety. I own most of Smith's books; his "Our Immigrant Ancestors" was an incredible first step into a lot of the food styles I cook today (and seemed exotic then!). I, too, always found him engaging, and in all honesty must name him the most instructive cookbook author I encountered as a young cook.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                            Oh, goody, I have that book! Will check it out. If you really want to get into dim sum again, check out Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings. I attended a class she gave in SF a few months ago. She's great.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                              What kind of dishes are most of those dim sum recipes for?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                There are a lot of variations on what one can do with a shrimp filling and with a pork filling - dumplings and toasts and bean-curd skins, whatnot. (And as far as I'm concerned, most things made with shrimp filling or pork filling are good by description.) A couple of rib recipes, a tripe recipe, a meatball, a squid. And that-which-made-me-feel-brilliant: steamed BBQ pork buns. All were good, and I learned some technique.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                                  Mostly dumplings, tho? I might have to check it out then.

                                                                                                                                                                  I missed the DOTM dumpling thang on the HC board, b/c I've always been kinda intimidated by the whole 'makin' yer own dough'.... and the filling, and all that jazz. I know I could use wonton wrappers and such, so maybe I just have to DO it some time.

                                                                                                                                                                  I've made ravioli, but that was also a massive PITA :-)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                    Smith's recipes did allow for using purchased shu-mei skins. I only made my own dumpling dough once. Once. (I never liked making pasta either, despite being really good at it, to my dismay.) It wasn't really worth it for the outcome (likely inexperience with that dough), but it was worth it for the bucket-list. And I should elaborate: among the things-to-stuff with filling in Smith's dim sum were peppers and eggplant and mushrooms. Frankly, those were my favorites, not being a dough-leaning person.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                  We're not where the cookbook is for a couple of days. Looking forward to checking it out.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                    Pages 94 to 110. I'm pretty impressed.

                                                                                                                                                                    His wheat starch dough is similar to but different from Andrea Nguyen's in Asian Dumplings. But the book is from '89 so techniques for home cooks may have changed.

                                                                                                                                                                    Her recipe is
                                                                                                                                                                    4-1/2 oz (1 cup) wheat starch
                                                                                                                                                                    2-1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) tapioca
                                                                                                                                                                    1/8 t salt
                                                                                                                                                                    1 cup just boiled water
                                                                                                                                                                    4 t canola

                                                                                                                                                                    I'm going to make some of these definitely. Thanks for pointing this out.

                                                                                                                                                                3. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                                  I love that you used discrete, cayjoan.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                                I never owned one of the Froog's cookbooks, but I used to watch one of his shows on PBS. He was entertaining and a good teacher. But I never saw him do anything with dim sum. Heck, I don't recollect him doing a great deal of Asian, period, on that show.

                                                                                                                                                                No, the sum total of dim sum cooking experience, springing from mom's cookbook, consisted of making wrapper dough, rolling it out as thinly as possible, cutting circles with a cookie cutter, placing a dab o' the shrimp-and-veg filling in the center of each, sealing each dumpling with care, and then steaming them while the slavering horde gnashed their teeth with impatience. We dipped them in Mongolian hot oil.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                  A tortilla press, of all things :), makes wonderful dumpling wrappers.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                    Believe it or not, I've never attempted making tortillas. And given that there's a Mexican joint down the road that sells terrific fresh tortillas for $2.50 a dozen, I probably won't anytime in the near future.

                                                                                                                                                                    PS--It's been close to 20 years since I've made dim sum, and the cookbook that yielded those glorious dumplings is sadly long-gone.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                      I don't make tortillas with my tortilla press! I only use it for making dumpling wrappers :) I also buy freshly made tortillas but for, IIRC, <$1 for 40.

                                                                                                                                                                      My first dim sum cookbooks are about 20 y.o. old. I should take a look at them now that I have a current one with such easy dough recipes.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                    I don't remember any Asian cooking other than stir-fry-ish things on his show either; I was working solely off the book instruction for the dim sum. The pen-and-ink illustrations weren't much, but they gave me a decent idea of how to Do It.

                                                                                                                                                                    I first learned to make sushi from the Froog, too. And had good luck. Your original OP is a great question (first exposure), but I'll add on my experience as a cook first approaching making to-me-exotic food: Jeff Smith taught me a lot.

                                                                                                                                                            2. Back in the 70's, being told to dress nicely because we're going to 'Win Schulers' in Michigan......but really, Dad bringing home 2 lb.s of fresh Morels and sauteing them in butter, that was a game changer. Also, oystering in FLA waist deep at low tide, Dad showing me how to knock off the 'trash' on a oyster shell before I put them in my burlap sack. I accidentally broke one open and asked what I should do with it, he said eat it. My older brother made Oyster Stew with our catch. I was 10, growing up in Indiana. Haven't been the same since....

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: 3MTA3

                                                                                                                                                                Two pounds of morels! Be still my heart. And, yes, just sautéing in butter. A perfect food.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: 3MTA3

                                                                                                                                                                  I'm from Indiana, too. Michigan City. Win Shuler's was on our way to visit family near Detroit, and that's where I had my first taste of lobster. I was 20 years old, newly married, and had always wanted to try it. I still love lobster. My next goal is to have it in Maine.

                                                                                                                                                                  In MC, we used to go morel hunting in the wooded areas around town. I'm not adventurous about wild mushrooms, but morels are pretty easy to identify.

                                                                                                                                                                2. Mom cooked basic Eastern European Jewish American food. But mom and dad were from NY and we dined out at ethnic eateries at least once per week from the time I was 2. Italian, Chinese (Cantonese), Polish, Hungarian, German, French....
                                                                                                                                                                  The summer I was 7 we took a cross country trip by car (before the super highways). While stopping in El Paso to visit friends we went across to Jaurez for Mexican food. I didn't like it then and still don't.

                                                                                                                                                                  I started traveling in Europe regularly by the time I was 14 and was exposed to most continental cuisines by 16.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. We moved to the US from India when I was little. The first time I had Jell-O (age 4) I thought it was miraculous. It was orange Jell-O and had little bubbles in it which looked to me like jewels. It was the most beautiful food I had ever seen and I had never tasted anything so exquisitely sweet, jiggly and unnatural in my life.

                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ninrn

                                                                                                                                                                      I love that story! There is something about citrus flavored Jell-O that's quite different than anything else.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. I was young twenties and at a very nice Japanese restaurant and had my first ginger salad, clear soup and soft shell crab tempura. To this day I have tried all of the components at different restaurants but none have come close to the perfection of that meal. I know it is not very exotic, but it was to me at the time

                                                                                                                                                                      1. American here. But in the 1960s I lived in Ankara Turkey from 3-6 years of age, a military brat, with my father in the US Air Force. I recall octopus at a restaurant, various breads like semete, confections (lovely halvah)....

                                                                                                                                                                        1. These are such delightful stories.

                                                                                                                                                                          My mother is Filipino so I was introduced to a lot of different kinds of foods at an early age. But if it wasn't Filipino food then it was very basic yet bland food - roast chicken, plain vegetables, roast beef, etc. I love my mom but she's never met a meal that she didn't overcook. Recently they visited and asked how we made corn on the cob taste so good. We said we only steamed it for 2-3 mins. She replied, oh I usually boil it for 30 minutes!

                                                                                                                                                                          Anyways, in high school (late 80's), I had a revelation - pesto. My best friend's mother made pasta with pesto and I was hooked. I'd never heard about it before and it seemed so sophisticated.

                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: pellegrino31

                                                                                                                                                                            It's only been in the last dozen years perhaps that I learned that corn only needs to be heated, not cooked. Transformative.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. What a cool thread! My first "exotic" food was a restaurant called The Hawaiian. I think they claimed to serve Polynesian food but, looking back, it was probably just American Chinese. My family went there for special occasions. With 4 kids and a SAHM and Dad being a mechanic, eating out was pretty uncommon. I'm in my 30's and its still a treat... Anyway, so The Hawaiian was the height of sophistication. I knew this because the room was dimly lit, there were big wicker chairs and we all got plastic leis to wear. And...drumroll please... my Shirley Temples came in a cup with a carved face on it! We ordered exotic, spicy things with tropical fruit and rice that wasn't slathered in butter. It was something looked forward to for weeks and recounted for just as long. Even now, after having eaten in multiple countries and having had meals that cost more than my paycheck, nothing will ever be as thrilling as The Hawaiian. Sigh...

                                                                                                                                                                            1. I grew up in northern Minnesota on a meat-and-potatoes, game-and garden simple diet. It was good healthy food, but hardly exciting. We seldom ate out as children, and then truck-stop/diner-type places very occasionally.

                                                                                                                                                                              My exposure to something that was, to me, "exotic" came in a set of three restaurant experiences over the years 1976 to 1978, when I was 12-14 years old.

                                                                                                                                                                              The first was The Chinese Lantern in Duluth, Minnesota. The Chinese Lantern menu featured an enormous prime rib, and my parents and aunts and uncles would make a kids-free night of it every month or so. They would bring home leftovers that made us kids very happy (prime rib!), and we finally begged long and hard enough to be taken out to eat. I was expecting a steak restaurant, but found Chinese Food. Egg rolls. Fried shrimp. Egg foo young. With dipping sauces (I'd never dipped anything in a sauce excepting the occasional diner french fry in catsup). Wonderful little plates of food that I had never experienced before, in a room that featured little pagoda rooftops over the tables, and colorful lanterns, and a red richness to the room that made me feel like I was Somewhere Else. And: little cups of tea. And: fortune cookies. It was glorious fun experiencing such things for the first time! My parents griped a bit at hauling a kid out for a prime rib dinner, only to have the kid go nuts over something like egg foo young. I was hooked.

                                                                                                                                                                              The second was The Anchor Inn in Duluth. The restaurant was an all-you-can-eat situation, but in an upscaled supper club way, with table service on your AYCE entrees and an enormous salad bar. It was the first salad bar I had ever seen, and I thought it was extremely exotic. I have mentioned before on these boards that I was a salad-deprived kid; despite our vast garden, every vegetable was cooked to mush and the only salad that was ever on the table was my father's favorite: chopped iceberg lettuce mixed with canned pineapple, cubed Velveeta, and dressed with Miracle Whip. That salad bar sang like the angels to me by comparison. So many fresh things! So many colors! Cheese unlike I had had before (i.e., not Velveeta)! And: salad dressings that weren't Miracle Whip. I had a shrimp cocktail. I ordered frogs' legs for my entree and felt very exotic and sophisticated. Especially with my Shirley Temple.

                                                                                                                                                                              Finally, a school trip brought me to the Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis, and I experienced the Waikiki Room. All the babysitting money that I had squirreled away to possibly buy some Bonne Belle LipSmacker flavors that weren't available outside the Big City flew out of my pocket buying appetizers in the extravagantly Tiki-themed Waikiki Room. Why our pack of young teens was allowed to run roughshod through the hotel, I will never know, but we gorged on appetizers of the Tiki variety in the restaurant. Gawds I hope we tipped. I don't remember. I came up with a large-tipping father, so I hope I would have, but who knows with a bunch of teenaged girls giddy with some sweet pink virgin stuff in a glass with an umbrella. (It was *My First Umbrella* and I remember that most specifically.) Appetizers were another exotic concept to me; we never had them at home outside of the carrot/celery/canned black live relish tray at holiday meals outside our nuclear family. Sitting in high-backed bamboo chairs eating fried shrimp and egg rolls and rumaki amid giant potted ferns just plain sent me into orbit. My regularly-scheduled world had brown plaid sofas and Formica kitchen tables and meatloaf. It was a revelation on how food and surroundings interact. And I loved that umbrella. It was green with red flowers. I saved it for years.

                                                                                                                                                                              It's interesting to see from the posts how many of us have had an experience with something we would call Asian food -- Chinese, Thai, "70s Polynesian," and such -- as our first taste of "the exotic." I would have expected as much in my case, living in the rural Upper-Midwest US in the 70s, but maybe it's more generationally- than geographically-based than I thought?

                                                                                                                                                                              GREAT topic! Thanks for the memories.

                                                                                                                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                                                cayjohan, thanks for a great story. I, too loved the little umbrellas. Though instead of saving them, I would twirl apart the tip of it to get to the little Chinese newspaper strip inside. *That* was so exotic to me!

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                                                                                                                                  OMG, I did that also!!! I haven't thought of that in well over 50 years :) This is quickly turning into a CH classic.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                    I never knew about the strip of newspaper until I was in my mid-thirties and my 6 year old daughter demonstrated it for me. I felt a little gypped not knowing that -- I was a taker-aparter as a kid, and I would have loved that dissection.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                                                      Beautiful Sister and I disected dud firecrackers for the same. The next day. Only one trip to the hospital. She had no permanent damage.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                                                                                                                        Yoicks. I never knew about that either! Probably a good thing, as I was a largely unsupervised child with a penchant for experimentation. I'm still amazed I made it through my childhood largely intact. Glad your sis did too!

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                                                  Love your reminiscing post, cayjohan. Though the mention of rumakis brings back nightmarish prepping of trays of the things on Dec 26 for Boxing Day parties. Pure torture for someone who has always loathed anything to do with liver...

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                                                                    In college, I earned pin money as a server at English Department functions. By 1992, my university was probably the last place in North America that was still serving rumaki as a passed app, and after every party, I'd swipe an entire untouched hotel pan of prepared rumaki (and usually a 1-kilo bag of salted mixed nuts and, if I got to it first, a handle of Smirnoff) to take back to my apartment, where it would be breakfast and dinner for the next week or so.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                                                    That, cayjohan, is the way to play it. King and an Ace on the draw solid.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm going on vacation next week. To Duluth. The Chinese Lantern and The Anchor Inn are long gone, but all this exotic reminiscing has placed the makings of rumaki on my list for the cooler, bound for the hibachi on the shores of Lake Superior. Perfect. Circle.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Supermarket bought cookies were usually chocolate chip or something along those lines. Had an oatmeal raisin cookie at school one day at age 8 or so and went home to find out mom was not a fan... I still find them 'exotic'...

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Oh man, it had to be sushi, and japanese cuisine in general for me.
                                                                                                                                                                                        I wanted to experience sushi, so I had a coworker take me there. At the time, Tucson was a wasteland for anything other than American and Mexican food, One Restaurant, Tokyo Restaurant, was the only sushi bar in town. I was so blown away by it.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. I think I was always interested in the culinary horizons beyond life in west Texas, then Boulder, Colorado (then for a blessedly short period, Russell, Kansas), then west Texas again. But two incidents in particular stand out for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                          In 1984, my family was living in Levelland. I was 14 and bored, and there was one week in the ninth grade where I decided on Monday that I just didn't feel like going to school, so I went and spent all day reading in the public library downtown. And then I did it again every day for the rest of the week. (When I went back to school the next week, they wanted to punish me for the truancy, but my father's response when they called him was "You want me to punish my son for going to the library? So if I see him doing math, should I just call the cops?")

                                                                                                                                                                                          Anyway, one of the books I picked up idly while I was hanging out in the library was a paperback copy of Calvin Trillin's American Fried, which had a greater effect on me than pretty much anything else I learned in the entire 12 months I lived in Levelland. I owe pretty much my entire adult interest in food (and a fair amount of my career as a writer, frankly) to this book and its sequels.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Also in the spring of 1984, I was introduced to cappuccino. This time, the inspiration was musical, not literary: from the first time I heard their songs "Absolute Beginners" and "Start!" on Boulder's KBCO in 1981, my favorite band had been The Jam, down to getting my previously shoulder-length hair (hey, it was Boulder in the '70s, a lot of young boys had long hair) razor-cut and affecting a taste for modish black and white clothes. When Paul Weller broke up The Jam in late 1982, he started a new band, a soul-influenced duo called The Style Council with a keyboardist out of the first lineup of Dexys Midnight Runners. The Style Council's singles and albums all had these extensive liner notes written in a kind of post-Beat-'60s-mod-hepcat patois by someone who signed himself The Cappuccino Kid. (I later found out this was a UK pop journalist named Paolo Hewitt.) Although by the spring of 1984, Weller was no longer my #1 musical hero (my twin obsessions of the moment were Elvis Costello and R.E.M., and within a year, I'd be all over Everything But the Girl, Cocteau Twins, Prefab Sprout and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions), I still thought highly enough of singles like "Long Hot Summer" and "My Ever-Changing Moods" that when I discovered that there was a little coffee shop in a strip mall on the corner of Cactus Drive and Sherman Avenue, about halfway between the junior high and my house, that sold cappuccino, I immediately started hanging out there.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Although I was already drinking black coffee by the ninth grade -- both my parents were caffeine hounds -- I had never had cappuccino before. It was thick, creamy, and served unsweetened, with a small square of what I later realized was a Cadbury Fruit Nut bar alongside every cup. It became a regular after-school stop for me: I'd sit at one of the little cafe tables sipping my cappuccino with my Walkman over my ears, the new issue of Rolling Stone open next to me (Trouser Press had just shut down, Spin was about a year away from starting, and it wouldn't be until we moved to 25 miles away to Lubbock in early '85 that I could find copies of the UK music papers I'd started reading in Boulder) and scribbling in a notebook. In retrospect, I cringe at the picture -- and I'm pretty sure that cappuccino was probably absolutely awful! -- but at the time...man, I was the coolest 14-year-old in Levelland, Texas, and I damn well knew it.

                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                                                                                                                            That was like returning the opening kickoff, from your two yard line, for a touchdown.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                                                                                                                              Oh, fond memories of KBCO! I didn't know there were other people who had the west Texas/Boulder connection. Spent more of my life in Longmont & Boulder than any other place. 1989 CU grad. Now I have to go see if KBCO is still on the air...as mentioned a few days ago, spent my childhood in the Panhandle.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                                                                                                                                Reading this I thought 'man, he was " I was the coolest 14-year-old in Levelland, Texas," and I hope he "damn well knew it." :)

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. When my dad was stationed in Japan in the 80's, the very first thing I ate when I arrived in Tokyo was a store bought onigiri and a bottle of peach ramune.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I have to imagine that for most Japanese kids, my first meal in Tokyo was about as exotic to them as eating a pimento cheese sandwich with a bottle of Coke was for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                                                                                    There have been a few threads of this ilk in the past few months. "A walk down memory lane" only with a culinary focus, most of the time. I wonder why.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                      A longing for a simpler, more innocent time perhaps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Remembering how incredibly magical the new and novel felt at a young age is reinvigorating, isn't it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Good point. There's little that I haven't eaten that I want to eat. Back then, the list was seemingly endless. Maybe part of the reason the comfort foods have become so trendy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                            and there are some places I never want to return to, as no matter how good it may still be, it won't live up that moment of delight (of course now I know why a cat makes that face on the first bite of canned after a lifetime of kibble - "hey you've been holding out on me")

                                                                                                                                                                                                            it's like drugs, looking for that next new kick, that next plateau.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. I was born in an Arizona border town and then moved to Japan (my father was an AF pilot) and my parents were foodies. We were exposed to a lot of different cuisines. My most memorable childhood introduction to German cuisine was at Kettle's in Tokyo...go figure. I still remember the potato pancakes and apple strudel after more than 50 years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Candy

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Well, the Japanese and the Germans did have a certain alliance...;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I imagine the sushi in Berlin was sublime in the 50s.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm not sure I've owned five cars.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Oh, god, no. He keeps his cars WAY longer than I.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Pretty good for 2 people who together have been driving 102 years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Since I met him in '86, he's bought one car. They're just a tool for us and as long as the tool works, why replace it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                            My first five bicycles were stolen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            (Stolen from me, that is.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                              PK, I'm very glad you clarified that!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Candy

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Candy,
                                                                                                                                                                                                          I have lived in Tokyo since 1977 and as far as I know, the German restaurant Ketel is still open in the Ginza.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. I was 22. I grew up in a small CT town in an era when there was no such thing as Chinese or Thai food. I'd never heard of a burrito or falafel because they didn't exist back there. It wasn't until I moved to CA that I was exposed to the "Divine Comidas"

                                                                                                                                                                                                          45 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                            But we had the Glenwood. I gorged on lobster rolls, fried Ipswich clams, onion rings, and Hummel foot longs 3 weeks ago there, mucho.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Indeed we did. However, D'andreas was closer to me and the best belly clams I ever had were from a dingy take-out counter in Momauguin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                              That's because you didn't get on the Dixwell Ave bus to downtown New Haven for a meal at the Far East

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Had no idea there was a Chinese place in NH. Although I did go into NH, my culinary world was limited at that time, sad to say. Was the food any good?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Far East had very good Cantonese Chinese-American food. They were in existence when my oparents moved up from NYC in 52 and survived in assorted locations into the 70s (maybe 80s). By the early 60s there were also Chinese rerstaurants on Whalley Ave (Chun King) and Amity Shopping Center (Golden Inn). In fact my sister had her Sweet Sixteen party at Golden Inn in 1964.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    What a pity those old mom-n'-pop Chinese restaurants have largely been extirpated by the super buffets, soulless take-outs and pan-Asian enterprises. Food quality has suffered; and equally important, so has all sense of style and aesthetics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There's a current thread on the SF board about a Chinese place that been around for 80 years! Down in a basement. Gotta check it out the next time we're in the city. I've not sure I've ever seen a Chinese buffet. Is that a Right Coast phenom?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It's definitely a phenomenon in fly-over country where I live. I'd assumed the blight had spread from sea to shining sea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You're right and I'm wrong. I remember now in Reno seeing a billboard for one (or more). I guess I blocked it out :) And, after all, Reno and Vegas are kinda the kings of buffets so it's not surprising.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          c- if you do spot a Chinese buffet, keep driving, there's nothing to see. I have yet to be thrilled by a buffet of ANY cuisine so why should the Chinese be any different? we're all equal under the heat lamp of squalor after all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          actually there is one in my nearest metro area that goes off the script of americantonese glop but you have to go on the right nights and at the right time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There is actually a pretty decent Chinese buffet in the medium-sized Midwest town I'm currently in. I've had some much, much worse Chinese buffets in much larger cities. Usually we would visit them on Christmas when everything else was closed. The local one is very American/Chinese, however the owner keeps the food fresh and quickly rotated without putting out huge amounts at a time. It also has a station where food is made to order for you in front of you. It's not going to be the best Chinese you ever ate, but it's actually better than the only other Chinese sit-down place in town.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I couldn't agree more. There are only 2 of the old school Cantonese Chinese Anerican restaurants within a 30 minute drive. Bith have been around more than 40 years. Still have waiters in Gold tuxedo style serving jackets and a gentility about the whole experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But, with the change of immigration laws we do have some exciting, truly authentic regional Chinese restaurants. Not the Szechuan and Hunan phenoms that came and went starting in the 70s leaving a history of over spiced (red chili or black bean) so so food.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The many buffets and take out joints in this area are generally run by Fujianese (from Formosa, not mainland China). Because we are only 1 hr from Chinatown, NYC they have no trouble getting fresh off the plane (or illegally off the boat) workers. BUT the food is not very good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As to 'fusion' Pan-Asian restaurants, I don't patronize them. They do many cuisines badly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Gosh, I find tons of GREAT Sichuan and Hunan places out here. I also remember reading about great Fujian places in NYC and the environs. I also think painting all fusion, Asian places as doing "many cuisines badly" is a rather broad brush. Perhaps you don't like them but there's some very cool stuff going on out there :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              C Oliver--I was speaking specifically about this area-south Central CT. The Fusian Pan Asian restos have genrally mediocre food, trying to appeal to many tastes and doing it poorly. In general, I find that Japanese (or Japanese-Americans) do the best job with Sushi. They don't do a great job with Korean BBQ or Mongolian grill. Similarly theFujianese put out very blah Teppanyaki, too oftened labelled 'hibachi' which it isn't. Hibachi is cooked over a flame on a brazier, not on a flatbed griddle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I know too much and have experienced too many Asian culures in my travels to accept the meh food put out by the fusion Pan-Asian restos in this area. Back in the 70s and 80s I covered Asia for a major Global Communications company and spent months on end not eating western food. Youngest B child is from China, we were there 2 months when she was adopted and had no western food during our travels.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My dislike of Pan-Asian fusion is similar to my dislike of labelling things or people Hispanic. Too many distinct cultures to fall under one umbrella.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sorry, I didn't realize that it's a local problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  yeah, Bman01 - the term Hispanic can cause confusion and among the such labelled even offense, in the highly paraphrased words of el Vez:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "Well I’ve never been to Spain
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  but I've been to Chichen Itza
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I’m not Hispanic from across the Atlantic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I’m a mechanic from across Atlantic...Blvd."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  so I'd imagine Asians would feel similarly slighted being lumped together in such a way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As one of my Hatian friends said:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    What do you mean I'm NOT Hispanic? My family has lived on the Island of Hispaniola for more than 300 years.....
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Of course he said it in Creole.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    And my young cousin is married to a Turkish Jew whose family was expelled from Spain in 1492. The family speaks Ladino-or Judezmo derived from Old Spanish. Their kids always tick the 'Hispanic' box on ethnic questions. But nothing about their food would resemble Mexican, Carribbean or South American Latino food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      well yeah if you're of Caribbean descent then Hispanic is (sorta)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      appropriate. but it's not a blanket term for all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Wasn't there a similar thread recently wherein it was argued that, for example, a Chinese chef couldn't do other ethnic dishes as well as his own?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I remember that but I thought the conclusion was that anyone could cook anything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        according to Remmy the Rat Anyone can cook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm so old and uncool that I have no idea what that refers to :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            You realllllly never have seen the movie Ratoullie? ( slaps her forhead with horror and holds out hand for c.oliver's 'foodie' card) You may have your card back when you have watched the movie and smiled at least once.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I probably haven't seen ten movies in ten years. So, yeah, don't have a clue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0382932/?...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It is silly..but silly in a fun way. It came out when my was recovering from brain surgry.. sowhen it came out on DVD I was crazy making sure my dad got a copy the the first day so we could watch with her again. We made all french food...I was insane I even had my hair cut like Collete ..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          IIRC, that was the consensus however my view runs contrary and I agree with bagelman. It has been my experience that, unless one trains with a master one cannot prepare the dishes as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And I'm going to totally disagree with both of you. If one is motivated then one can do it all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              To over simplify my point, how many times have you bemoaned the fact that, regardless of how motivated you are, you can not recreate a particular dish your mother made; somehow it never tastes as good. And, here we're talking about the same cuisine, not some foreign one. Unless you have been trained for many years by a master sushi chef, for example, you can't do justice to the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                And I'll continue to disagree with you. And the mother analogy has to factor in the emotional component. But I DO have recipes of Mother's that I think I prepare just as well. But that's just me. YMMV.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That would come as a surprise to the legion of South & Latin American line cooks in any number of French, Italian, >insert any cuisine> Michelin-rated places who crank out perfect food on a daily basis that has no resemblance to any dish they grew up with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Let me see if I can get my point across this way: Where would you expect to see Thai people go to eat Thai food; at a restaurant where the food is prepared by an American or by one of their own? If you want great Mexican food do you go to Hymie's taco joint or Ricardo's autentico comidas where other Mexicans go?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I understand the point you are trying to make, I just happen to disagree with it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't think nationality/heritage has anything to do with one's cooking skills in a cuisine other than one's own.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Proven in thousands of restaurant kitchens in the US alone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I can't speak for lingua but I go to the one with the best rep, the crowds, the cars in the parking lot, the looks of the menu, etc. My favorite Italian place is owned and executive 'chef'ed' by someone without a drop of Italian blood. And I am curious about your reaction to what linguafood correctly described as the typical kitchen in high end restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yep, that's generally what I use. I often go to restaurants where the kitchen isn't visible from the dining area. I don't peek in to confirm racial identity first. It would be very limiting to just eat at places where the cooks' races matches the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Good point. Many kitchens aren't open to the restaurant so I rarely see who is cooking my food. And, yeah, it WOULD be kinda limiting, wouldn't it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I happen to agree with lingua, to a point, beyond which, I disagree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm curious where you diverge. This subthread has made me realize that I rarely know the race of the person preparing my food. And, of course, Bourdain and others have enlightened us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Bagel, remember the Chinese-Jewish delicatessen on Whalley Ave. in New Haven during the 60's, near the Yale Co-op?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            it's not unheard of, many Jews got out of 1930's - WWII era Europe across Asia and through Shanghai. I had a Prof. in college (she was a child then) whose family debated that path but ended up in East Africa. She had great stories. one day I suggested we just chuck the curriculum and let her reminisce. that lasted that period but was far more engaging than the text at hand.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There are a couple of places in L.A; one is a kosher pizza place and the other, called Genghis Cohen, a non-kosher Chinese restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Arthur Schwartz, restaurant critic, former executive food editor of the New York Daily News, called The Schwartz Who Ate New York, and self-styled Food Maven, has three Jewish-Chinese recipes in his book, "Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking":
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Chinese roast meat on garlic bread with duck sauce,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Chinese-American chow mein,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Chinese pepper steak.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The chow mein is the best I've ever tasted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My ex's family had one whole branch that made it from Vienna to Shanghai in 38 and sat out WWII there. A number of her cousins were born there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Back in 1978 I worked for a kosher caterer in CT. His head Chef was Chinese. He had trained as a dairy chef at Grossingers from the time he was 16. When the caterer opened a sit down kosher restauran, nothing adventuresome.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  t, Hom started cooking kosher chinese for the menu. But strictly Chinese-American

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I know someone in the 'burbs of CT who would declare herself a "foodie" but when I suggested she take the short train ride into Manhattan, you'd have thought I was asking her to venture into a jungle...of a different sort :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. There was a restaurant called "Cam Lan" in Hammond, Indiana in the late 1950s or early 1960s. (Hammond, for those of you who wonder, is a suburb of Chicago, just across the state line.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My parents took us there for Chinese food after a movie or something. I was about 8 to 12 years old. It was a revelation. I had never had such food before. All the vegetables were crunchy. (We were mid-westerners. All our vegetables were cooked to the point of limpness and beyond.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The flavors were all different. There was a delicious "Chinese restaurant" flavor than ran through most of the dishes (to this day, I can't identify what that is--MSG?), but the individual dishes had unique combinations of seafood and beef and pork.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I can't swear that I had sweet and sour shrimp the first time we went to Cam Lan, but I do remember my surprise at eating my first bite, whenever that was. It wasn't like the sweet and sour that you find today. It wasn't overly thickened and the "sour" half of the dish was much more prominent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The balance of the sweet and the sour sauce, the crunchiness of the barely cooked peppers, the crunchiness of the breading on the shrimp, the acid bang of the fresh pineapple, the softness and intense tomato flavor of the juicy tomato wedges, all worked together wonderfully.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't think that I have ever had a purer revelation that there was a whole other world out there that I knew nothing about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And, as a kid, I had no car. So getting to Cam Lan required that the time of the day was right (lunch or dinner time), my parents had business to conduct in Hammond, and that my parents were willing to go to Cam Lan. It was that scarceness that made it all the more desirable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        On my birthday, my parents always let me pick my special birthday meal. For years, it was always "Chinese food at Cam Lan." (My mother appreciated that. She never had to cook.) Thank you, Cam Lan, and thank you, Charlie, the owner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: gfr1111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Your story is sweet (not sour, though).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. When I was growing up, my family rarely took long vacations, only 2-3 day trips for camping or to visit family. In 1982, my dad took a whole week off work (not unheard of, but he usually did it for the first week of various hunting seasons, not for a trip). My parents lowered both the back and the wayback seats of the station wagon and loaded 5 of us kids in there in our sleeping bags at about 1:00am and drove all night to Knoxville, TN to the World's Fair. It's a blur in my mind of sights, sounds, and flavors that I had never experienced before. I grew up eating things many other people might consider unusual: deer, squirrel, rabbit, doves, wild boar, alligator, muskrat, raccoon, musacadines, scuppernongs, poke sallet, dewberries. From the World's Fair, I remember the Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, the Perro's chili and chips in a bag that was somehow so much more than the same thing at my brother's football games, the first time I had stuffed potato skins. I had escargots and pate de campaigne, choucroute garni, flammenkuschen (sp), and pain au chocolat in the European Village. I remember a chicken mushroom dumpling in the China exhibition so spicy that my sister cried and my brother called her a crybaby, whereupon my dad smacked him in the back of the head and said,"This is all new stuff! Somebody's gonna cry!"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I've since traveled all over the world and am always trying new foods, but nothing will ever be as much of a revelation of the possibilities available as that World's Fair experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: tracytrace

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "This is all new stuff! Somebody's gonna cry!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Your dad sounds awesome.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I so want to steal this classic line.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "This is all new stuff! Somebody's gonna cry!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Yorkshire pudding. My first day of school & it was not pudding! Home food was Indian with the occasional fish finger & peas thrown in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Kalivs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sorta felt the same way the first time I had spotted dick. Well, actually, I felt relieved : -).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. I guess i had "exotic" food very early on, for some - beef heart in the form of anticuchos (Peruvian and Bolivian versions) were introduced very early on, so they seemed very regular to me. but that's because of my family background. as for things my family would never eat/make...i'm embarrassed to say, because I grew up in L.A. but moved to the O.C. when i was 13, and didn't discover Thai food until i was 21. and it was Tom Kha Gai. all those flavors going off in my mouth all at once - creamy, sour, spicy, sweet, salty what a revelation! didn't hurt that it was after a romantic tryst.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                i think that man had me try sushi for the first time too.... lot of firsts that year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. I was around ten years old. Nonna, my best freinds Italian grandmother told us to go out and shoot some sparrows. So we got our bb guns and did so. I'll never forget how good that sparrow and polenta was.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. The Nanking Restaurant at 9th and Mass. NW. I was about 7 years old. Shu-gow, wonton soup, shrimp w/lobster sauce and almond gai ding. Still the best Cantonese food I ever ate. It burned down probably 35-40 years ago. The site is now part of the DC Convention Center.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    31 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ah yes, Americanized Chinese food. Probably, for many of us, the first we ever had.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It wasn't Americanized. It was true Cantonese and it was outstanding. Delicate favors, very fresh ingredients. We ate there a lot after church. I thought all Chinese food was like that. Boy, was I disappointed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sorry. I thought shrimp with lobster sauce and almond gai ding were both American-Chinese dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        is this the same nanking? was it a chain or just a similar name?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        http://nankingrestaurantgroup.com/
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        my cousins rave of the indian chinese fusion food, i just looked at the menu for the first time, i had no idea they had non-indochinese as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: pie22

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          How interesting. Just last night I was wondering if there are any restaurants that equally feature Chinese and Indian food, and that do both equally well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There are a couple in Vancouver though I'm not sure they do either really well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              i have always wanted to check this place out...it seems to do very well!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                curiously enough, there is a place called Jewel of India in Hillendale, near Silver Spring MD that serves the food considered Chinese in parts of India... so, Indian Chinese food. As an aside, I once went to a place in NY (upper west) that did Cuban Chinese. So many cultures that each have their own 'Chinese food.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There are dozens of Cuban-Chinese restaurants and bakeries in Miami and many non-Chinese Cuban restaurants (cafeterias) feature ham and pineapple fried rice. Apparently, there has always been a sizable Chinese community in Cuba.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      and others as well, Carlos Eire wrote a great memoir of the early revolution era as a Cuban-Irish boy "Waiting for Snow in Havana"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I find it fascinating how many different people have come to all of the Americas and how richer we are for it (especially in our kitchens)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I was aware that there were Indian groupings scattered throughout the Caribbean, and that some Chinese had made it to Peru and Jamaica, but wasn't aware of Chinese in Cuba. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          France transported many Chinese laborers in it's failed effort to build the Panama Canal. Many later emigrated to nearby countries and islands. Cuba at the time was the jewel of the Antilles. There is a surprising Chinese population in northern Belize, around Corozal which was a British Colony at the time, but few in Quintana Roo in the Mexican Yucatan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            and Chinese labor built most of the trans-continental railroad in the US, after the initial tracks were laid, they found work building the levees in the Sacramento/San Joaquin delta and then farming.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yeah, we have Arco-Iris on Columbus Dr and also on Habana Ave here in Tampa, which does Cuban/Chinese...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If I don't buy my wife the Fried Rice and Plantains, she gets upset.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: deet13

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hell hath no fury like a woman deprived of fried rice and plantains.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: pie22

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    No. This Nanking was in the basement of an old brownstone at the northern edge of DC's Chinatown, which was then several times larger than it is today. It was the real deal. The waitresses and the cooks pooled their money and bought out the original owner. We ate there quite a bit when I was growing up because we went to church at St. Agnes three blocks up. The cooks apparently had a running crap game in the back alley. I always thought it might have been the reason it burned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The "real deal" doesn't exclude Chinese-American food. It's a recognized type.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Not sure I understand your question. But all I'm saying is that Chinese-American dishes, like the two I mentioned above, can still be the "real deal" as you said. Many CHs are regularly on a question for good C-A food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        There is a difference between Chinese American food (primarily Cantonese food adapted to the availability of similar groceries for Chinese and those of Chinese descent living in Ameria) and Americanized Chinese food (Chinese cuisine that has been adapted for non Chinese living in America). Sometimes, both are cooked in the same restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Kalivs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          So very true.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Back when, my tennis doubles partner was Chinese American, but his family was from China. They owned several Chinese restaurants in the New Orleans Area. We were invited to many of the family weddings, with the receptions always in one of the family restaurants. These were usually huge affairs, and we always had an older family member seated at our table. In every case, that family member knew what the menu was going to be, and would whisper to us, "You will like this next dish," or "you might not want to eat this next dish." We would definitely try each, but took the cautions to heart, and did limit ourselves to just tastes of some of them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Great fun, and great food (mostly by our Western palates), and I miss those days. Plus we won a bunch of tennis tournaments!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Kalivs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Good Cantonese food--not so easy to find.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Decent to Good Chinese-American--not so difficult to find.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Making, at least from my perspective, one more exotic than the other. The Nan King, was the first (and for decades the only) Chinese restaurant in Washington DC to serve dim sum. We never heard the words "dim sum" in the 60s and early 70s. We only knew these treats by the way they were listed individually on the menu--shiu-gow, hor-gow, shiu-mai, etc. The quality and freshness was outstanding. Regrettably, the Nan King burned in 1979. If it were in business today, it would still be the best Chinese restaurant in Washington, as it was then.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Not unlikely. It was apparently the last operating business on the block before all the old Victorian brownstones were razed to make way for the DC Convention Center complex, so...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The cooks there were always big gamblers, but larger forces were probably in play.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              flavr: St. Agnes and the Ascension? they teamed up one year with St. Paul's K Street for an All Soul's Day Requiem Mass. 12 piece orchestra, Mozart's version and really killer snacks afterwards in the crypt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              you do know their interior was used in a scene of The Exorcist, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That's the one. Best acoustics of any building in the city. No amplification of any kind necessary. As a boy, I was privileged to serve on the altar there for about 8 years in the 60s and 70's. We were world famous for our annual Bach festival and the magnificent organ, hand-built by Dr. Robert Shone. It also served as the pro-cathedral for the Washington diocese before the National Cathedral was built. Wonderful church, wonderful eclectic congregation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  it is a f'ing awesome yet creepy bldg.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  did not know that about the organ or
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  diocese.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes. It needs a little TLC these days. St. Agnes was built in 1847, funded mostly by the Corcorans. It was added onto over the years and combined in the 1920's with another congregation nearby to become Church of The Ascension and St. Agnes. Because of the magnificent acoustics, string ensembles, vocalists and chamber orchestras from all over the world would jump at the opportunity to play there when visiting the city. After the Kennedy Center opened, we had great music several times a month. The church sustained significant structural damage in the recent quake. I'm going to stop in and see how it's doing. I walk by once in a while, but I haven't been inside since 2005 when we held a memorial service for my folks, complete with a string quartet from the NSO. It was a thrill.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I would say in the early 1950's, with my first exposure to Mexican food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where things were pretty bland "Deep South." They were not bad, by any stretch, but sort of regimented. What a revelation, those dishes were to me!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That was when I understood that there was much, beyond my mother's kitchen door.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I would also say that it was an initial Thai experience in my late teens, and specifically, the first bowl of tom yum gai. Tthe lemongrass, the kaffir lime leaf, the straw mushrooms, the galangal, the fish sauce - none of this I had tasted before. This little bowl contained what I later understood to be the foundation of Thai cuisine - hot, sour, salty, sweet - all at once, it blew me away!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: equinoise

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Though not my first foray into "exotic," I had a similar experience at Keo's (old Kapahulu location) in Honolulu. My first Thai food. I feel madly in love with many of the ingredients, and you mentioned two - lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Converted me to a fan of Thai food - at least to a Westernized version of Thai food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: equinoise

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A revelation for me also. After that came Vietnamese, then North Vietnamese, the Cambodian, then Lao. If I had to pick cuisine from one region of the world I had to live on the rest of my life, it would be Southeast Asian.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Well there was that time I went into that dark seedy bar and there was this girl and she....oh, first exposure to eXotic,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Had not thought of things that way!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  OK, maybe my first experience was at the ShowBar on Hwy 90...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. My mother was (and still is) more into how something looked than how it tasted. So we had pretty, artfully presented meals from a box or can and colorful salads with dressing from a bottle. The only "exotic" cuisine we ever had when I was a child was Mexican, (and somehow my parents managed to find Mexican food in early 1970s Atlanta.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  When we moved to the west coast in 1972, they were thrilled with all the great Mexican (and seafood) restaurants. I never had anything more exotic than that until my junior year in high school, when my boyfriend introduced me to Szechuan cuisine. (Prior to that, "Chinese" was chow mein in a can, and I thought it was disgusting.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We ordered Kung Pao chicken, sizzling rice soup, and sweet and sour pork. I liked the food more than I liked the boyfriend, because he is long gone and I still eat Kung Pao chicken.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. I grew up in a urban environment so it was always around me but I distinctly remember looking forward to going to the Chinese restaurant with the ducks hanging in the window.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I still look forward to it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Siegal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      First I can remember was circa 1960...I was 8 years old. I was already pretty open to most foods since our everyday Hungarian fare was outside the 'norm'( in fact, most of my friends thought our family ate exotic food every day).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Anyway...we had neighbors that had recently come over from Hong Kong and moved next door to us. My family became quite friendly with them (my Grandma, who lived with us, would always send Hungarian food over to them...they particularly loved her stuffed cabbage).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      One night, Mr. & Mrs. Chu drove us into Chinatown in NYC, and treated us to a meal at their favorite restaurant. I remember Mr. Chu casting the menu aside and taking the order pad from the waiter, and proceeding to write down the food order for the entire table along with his specifications as to how he wanted the food prepared and presented (and even at my young age, I could see that the restaurant was eager to oblige).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Well, I had no idea what I was eating from the 5 or 6 dishes served but it sure wasn't the chow mein sort of Chinese food I was used to...and it sure was good!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That was my first exposure to 'real' Chinese food. It was a great introduction, and is still a favorite cuisine to this day (when done right).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Growing up in NYC, and coming from an Eastern European background, I probably had "exotic" food earlier than most. But it was in my late 20's that I first began traveling to Asia on business. That was when the REAL fun began. The thing that struck me early on was that most other cultures use parts of animals and fish that the culture I grew up in would discard.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I just don't think my Eastern European forebears were eating fatback.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Midlife

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Mine were.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It was a delicacy in our house when I was growing up.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It's a treat that I still enjoy it from time to time!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yeah, my Polish grandparents and their generation all ate pretty much every piece of the pig. My one Grandmother was keen on simply smearing the lard her sister made or cooled bacon grease on toast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. It was 1966 in Sacramento, California. I was 12 years old, and went to the county office to get a license for my first vending machine. Afterwards, I went to a dark and spooky Chinese restaurant in the old part of town (must have been open 40 or 50 years by then) and had Chow Mein for lunch. It cost 60 cents. I was mesmerised by all kinds of vegetables I couldn't remember having before.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. The community I grew up in had a large influx of Japanese executives and their families when I was in elementary school - the Japanese kids mothers packed them the amazing boxes of Maki and other fascinating bits of salty umami and sticky rice- always a fare trade for half of a turkey sandwich LOL.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My parents were fairly adventurous eaters out - and New York had lots of options, I also had the good fortune to travel quite a bit growing up so I had plenty of exposure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          However, it was really as a college student in Houston's vast diversity that I really discovered Middle Eastern, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Cajun and Deep South foods and these became part of how I ate rather than an occasional exotic experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          At home my folks cook within a very euro-centric primarily Italian mode - while I enjoy cooking all over the map - if less expertly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. When I was about 13-14 years old,(um, in 1984... REALLY am I that old?!?!) the area I lived in started to become more racially diverse, so I had these new friends which were African-American, Vietnamese, Korean, Iranian, Indian…(up until then we were boring ‘white bread’ middle America, where us Italians were the outsiders)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Eating over my new friends houses was a TREAT!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I got to try collards with ham, bi bim bap, Crispy home made Cha Gio, chicken marinated in yogurt and slow roasted

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            All of it was new to me and I loved trying every bit of it. These kids were “typical” kids eating a ‘typical’ meal for their family, so they were like “this again??” and I was busy chomping and chowing down on whatever was put in front of me!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Age 5, in 1953 (yeah, I'm ancient), in Holland. My parents (U.S. military) and I lived down the road in Brussels. We and some other Americans were in The Hague for a weekend. The adults wanted to go clubbing, so they dumped me and another kid at the Indonesian restaurant near our hotel and bribed the waiters to keep us busy for a few hours. Learned a new word: rijsttafel. Dutch for gorge on spicy food until you fall off your chair.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: emu48

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                a friend in HS was the daughter of a guy from Indonesia/Malaysia: riijstafel was the best dang thanksgiving I ever went to. thx KK.