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I can't eat at our local Chinese restaurant anymore.

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Please allow me to rant a bit as I have no where else left to turn.

I grew up just outside of NYC in NJ. Great pizza, the BEST bagels, and great Americanized Chinese. When I say Americanized I mean egg rolls the size of a small burrito, shrimp with lobster sauce, and those great big spare ribs. As I grew and traveled I discovered the "other " Chinese food. The Chinatowns of London, New York, and Boston. This food is sublime, healthy, and simple. Tonight's example. A Boston place called The Best Little Restaurant. Seafood with XO sauce that I knew probably only had 6 ingredients. Shrimp and tofu hotpot - beautiful. Simple, and you can taste every ingredient. Nothing is greasy or "gloppy".

I attest that I have never been to Asia, so authenticity is not my concern. My problem is why can't we have this outside of Chinatown? Yes there are the exceptions, but we are eating food that I don't see as any better than McD's. As an ex-chef I can tell you that this stuff is not rocket science. A 900 degree burner and some fresh ingredients is all that is needed. Has the American palette been so horribly corrupted and degraded that this is considered "food"? I can barely enjoy our town's "best" Chinese restaurant's hot and sour soup. I feel like going there or going to Subway is about the same. And please understand I live in a very liberal NE town with many good food options. The sad part is if someone opened a Chinatown style restaurant here, I'm not so sure it would do that well.

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  1. "My problem is why can't we have this outside of Chinatown?"

    . . .

    "The sad part is if someone opened a Chinatown style restaurant here, I'm not so sure it would do that well."

    It sounds like you understand the reason already!

    2 Replies
    1. re: lamb_da_calculus

      Yeah, but these are the same people that will pay $10 a pound for organic artisan Italian sausage that is not even that good. Or "boutique salad greens! Don't get me started!

      1. re: jefpen2

        So your complaint is that people who are known to buy stuff that isn't even that good are buying Chinese food that isn't that good?

    2. Probably 10 years ago I was sitting in a Chinese restaurant local small town restaurant...possibly the only sit down one in that particular town, the rest were Take-Out only. Just like every other similar Chinese Place, I would consider it inexpensive and moderately priced with most items under $15...many under $10 at the time. While I may be accused of staring, although unconsciously on my part, I do not try to eavesdrop on any person or group...however on this particular night, the table next to me was so close, I could not help but hear the conversation next to us at the adjacent table.

      In a nutshell, The husband asked the wife how she like the food and restaurant..her response was it was excellent, but thought it was too expensive. She said she could go to the Buffet in the next town over for $12 and it was AYCE

      Restaurants open and give the customers what they want.. the majority of the dining public eat to live, not live to eat. Their concern is to eat out for convenience and price.....not quality.

      1. So, are you saying that you *now* don't appreciate good Americanized Chinese food?
        If so, that is a shame. I cook many Asian foods at home, from Vietnamese, Burmese, Thai, some Chinese and Indian foods. But, I still like chicken chow mein and fortune cookie every now and again. Apples and oranges.

        5 Replies
        1. re: sedimental

          No. When I am in NJ I sometimes go out w/friends to the local chinese and we have a great time! The spare ribs are my favorite!

          1. re: sedimental

            I also cook many Asian and Indian cuisines at home. The thing with Chinese is I never felt you can get the same results on a regular stove. Now if I had the $ for a real wok burner.....

            1. re: jefpen2

              You can purchase a portable propane candy stove or a Turkey deep fryer to achieve higher heat.

              1. re: jefpen2

                Yes, using a wok is not something I am interested in anymore. I prefer other techniques. So many other great Chinese foods that are not stir fry. I am not sure why American Chinese food concentrates on stir fry so much?

                I tend not to cook Americanized Chinese at home and prefer to go out for it. When I do eat it...I get the stir fry and fried rice! Lol.

                1. re: sedimental

                  Stir fried dishes are the quickest to cook once it has been ordered. Many Chinese dishes are braised or steamed, but those cooking methods can take a long time.

            2. I'm sure that your local Chinese restaurant can cook much better dishes but only if you ask for it. For example, ask which region the cook is from and if it's possible to try some dishes from that region. They might need some advance notice, but it surely can't hurt to ask.

              2 Replies
              1. re: raytamsgv

                What if that cook is from Hoboken ? ;-)

                1. re: LotusRapper

                  Send the cook a Chinese cookbook from Amazon.com?

              2. My 91-year old mom, who spent the first 60 years of her life in NYC and north Jersey, is on a perpetual quest for what she calls "real Chinese food" -- meaning the Americanized Chinese food you described: chicken chow mein, egg rolls, wonton soup, spare ribs, and even lobster Cantonese. I wish I could find it for her here in southeastern PA.

                1. "Has the American palette been so horribly corrupted and degraded that this is considered "food"? "

                  I've traveled extensively in Asia, and live in the Los Angeles area (where 'authentic' Chinese food is widely available), so I get your main point.

                  But I see it more as being like the difference between a McDonalds burger and a truly gourmet burger. I'm not going to look down on fast food burger lovers, but I'd much prefer the more interesting kind. I'll enjoy Americanized Chinese with friends but I will very rarely choose it when I have a choice. Basically I think It's not so much "degradation" as lack of familiarity combined with preconceived notions.

                  1. It seems like it kinda tough to have a true "worldly" palette w/o traveling the world a bit.
                    You have been lucky/fortunate enough to do so.
                    If you never visited and dined in Boston, London, NYC Chinatowns would your palette have changed to prefer those foods ?
                    I'm willing to guess most Americans like Americanized Chinese foods because that is all they know. Most likely have not traveled much..or if they do (ie NYC)..they most likely didn't wander into Chinatown to eat "authentic" Chinese.
                    So I think it's a simple matter of most people haven't experienced a different style of Chinese cooking because they have never eaten it once..let alone multiple times in multiple Chinatowns around the world/ USA.
                    But I can completely understand your frustration if you truly enjoy those types of dishes..just the reason they are not common seems kinda obvious to me.

                    1. I reckon that if an "Americanized Chinese" place opened up in Shanghai, it would do quite well. I'm not a fan of that city, but perhaps they already exist.

                      Though, I've never liked that cuisine either, so hearing about the more true-to-form regional Chinese places open up - in NYC or LA, for instance - is good news to me.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: BuildingMyBento

                        Well, in Tokyo a place opened specializing in the huge, overdone Monster Truck Roll sushi popular in many U.S. cities. AFAIK, they are still open after about four years.

                        1. re: BuildingMyBento

                          I was reading about just that recently.

                          Americanized Chinese places are pretty rare in Chinese countries, though - about as common as, say, a Taiwanese Italian restaurant in the US.

                          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                            There was a great Hong Kong style Italian restaurant in San Francisco (of all places) named Mario, and I believe it was written 馬理阿 or something like that. The spaghetti was way fat and overcooked like yaki-udon.

                            1. re: Tripeler

                              "There was a great Hong Kong style Italian restaurant in San Francisco."

                              Just what IS Hong Kong style Italian? I've had Italian food there many times and it was Italian Italian.

                              1. re: Midlife

                                It's was basically a Cantonese take on Italian food. I think the place may still be there. Here's an old CH post with details about it:
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/393862

                          2. re: BuildingMyBento

                            It does exist in Shanghai.

                            http://www.scpr.org/news/2014/02/12/4...

                          3. In the suburbs where I live (Washington, DC), there are quite a few very good Chinese restaurants. Most of them serve Chinese-Amercian food but also have a separate menu for the authentic stuff - from Sichuan to Dongbei, to Yunnan, etc.

                            Here it's the Chinatown that is mostly disappointing.

                            1. I am lucky in KC to have a very good, hong kong-style, chinese restaurant. There's really only one (well, two, but the service at the other is so hostile I don't go there anymore). It's lovely and simple, excellent meals to be had. I love the hot pots, and the congee. And the lovely spicy beef tendon salad. God that's good. oh, and the little cubes of turnip cakes with XO sauce (fried scallions, hot peppers, garlic). Tater tots from heaven.

                              1. I feel your pain . . . . wish I had an answer. I'd love a great Chinese restaurant. (There are a few good Japanese and one good Chinese restaurant that I know of but they aren't convenient for sure - all the bad ones are convenient - isn't that the rub . . .)

                                This is complete conjecture and I have absolutely nothing to back it - but I wonder . . . . . I wonder if the Chinese restaurants that I ate in growing up had to make most components themselves (sauces/etc) and now, with the proliferation of "Chinese Buffets" if the market for "canned/bottled" sauces/etc, they are all buying the same junk from the same purveyor bringing the whole market down . . .

                                1. Y'all should pick up copies of Dr. John Jung's book, here:

                                  http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Sour-Chin...

                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PE3UnC...

                                  I was at that dinner (video link) where he spoke. Great evening.

                                  1. There are a few here on Long Island, but you have to search them out. Usually not in the best neighborhoods. And then share what you find here on Chow, so they DO stay in business!

                                    1. That's why I like Thai food more and more...no overly sweet gloppy sauce, fresh veg, and honestly spicy, not "white people spicy"

                                      1. I wish you could come here to Bloomington, IN. We are a very culturally diverse uni town...no it is not all about Basketball. We now have an authentic Szechuan restaurant started by some Chinese business school students who wanted food like they got at home. The place is packed. We had a leisurely 2 hr. lunch in late Jan. with a reporter, her husband, a student and the main owner. Wonderful!

                                        Oh, the name? Lotus Garden. If you look it up on line all you will see is the take out menu which is very different from the house menu.

                                        1. Is the OP trash talking American Chinese food? Cause if so then we have a problem. I grew up eating home-cooked Chinese meals and I LOVED the rare times when we got takeout from the local "Chinese" greasy takeout joint. You don't get delights like General Tso's Chicken and crab rangoon from the Chinese home kitchen, I can assure you of that.

                                          Later in life I spent 3 years living in Beijing and during that time I missed two foods to the point of near insanity:
                                          1) The Taco Bell Chalupa
                                          2) Chicken lo mein with brown sauce, and a big fat cabbage-stuffed egg roll with eye-watering mustard. The kind of meal you get at any Chinese American strip mall take out place in the USA

                                          Why even compare the strip mall stuff to "authentic" Chinese food? They don't scratch the same itch.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                            True, but the standard issue C-A restaurant is pathetic. There are rare gems, very rare ones. Despite the hundred that are out there in the area I live, I can only think of one or two where I would consider eating. And it certainly wouldn't be General Tso's, which I never consumed growing up near the many good C-A places in Long Island, and is awful even at its best. A bomb of sugar and salt and fat? Ugh.

                                            1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                              I read this as the OP is praising carefully prepared Americanized Chinese food, but damning stuff that could have been reheated at home from the freezer aisle, you know eggrolls with skin the texture of Gore-Tex and far too much cornstarch in everything sauced.

                                              Jefpen's not demanding 'authentic' (whatever the definition is this week) but rather that since the use of a 900 degree wok isn't available at most homes at least make the Amer-Sino version with some integrity. sadly I've given up on the well-prepared middle-brow (it DID exist! it DID!) and so I do without unless I can get to a more traditional place where it's done with pride and not glop.

                                              but perhaps the inflated memories of childhood interfere.

                                            2. RealMenJulienne is right about this. For the most part these are apples and oranges we're talking about. Both have their place, and you can spend your money where you prefer.

                                              As to the other point, about why 'authentic' Chinese (the kind served there) may not be available where you'd like it to be......... any business model needs both a supplier AND a customer base to exist, let alone succeed. It isn't as simple as 'if you build it they will come'.

                                              1. Odd that no one seems to wonder about the effect a presence (or absence) of Chinese and Chinese-American eaters has. It is they who have recharged old Chinatowns and formed new ones, and sustain a Chinese presence and standard without physical borders that keeps restaurants honest.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: bob96

                                                  Thought I'd made that point in my post just above yours.

                                                  "As to the other point, about why 'authentic' Chinese (the kind served there) may not be available where you'd like it to be......... any business model needs both a supplier AND a customer base to exist, let alone succeed. It isn't as simple as 'if you build it they will come'."

                                                  1. re: Midlife

                                                    You sure did. Lost in the thread I am.

                                                2. I'd like to know where all the American Chinese restaurants get their menus & recipes. Clearly, there is a central outlet for these...but where is it?

                                                  I asked one of our local restaurant guys why everything was always so sweet. He answered by telling me that all Americans liked very sweet food.

                                                  Whoever spreads these rumors to prospective Chinese restaurant owners needs to be taken to the woodshed and whipped!

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: JayL

                                                    JayL,

                                                    I read a book called "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles" by an author with the distinctive name of Jennifer 8. Lee. (Yes, the "8" is correct and was given to her by her parents because "8" symbolizes luck in Chinese culture.)

                                                    She writes that there is, in fact, a central outlet for Chinese American restaurants. Unfortunately, in the disorganized mess that are my bookshelves, I cannot find it to check the name at the moment, but it is something like the "New York Chinese Restaurant Association" or the "Chinese Restaurant Association of America." It has a newsletter written in Mandarin or Cantonese (?) and provides advice for anyone wishing to open a Chinese restaurant.

                                                    According to Lee, this is why a new trend in Chinese or Chinese American cooking sweeps the country so quickly. General Tso's Chicken is an example. Chinese people are not wild about intensely sweet dishes, but Americans are, and General Tso's Chicken swept the country many years ago because this Chinese restaurant association published the recipe and reported that Americans loved it so much. So I guess that this Chinese restaurant association should be taken to the woodshed.

                                                    1. re: gfr1111

                                                      chowhounders notwithstanding, americans DO like sweet stuff. many thai restaurants skew their food sweeter than when i first started eating it in the 80s and as much as restaurant diners swear they prefer dry wine, they don't know how to articulate that they truly prefer something sweeter.

                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        I think you are right, Americans love sweets in general.

                                                        But, I love American Chinese food at times and I dislike sweet food in general (including dessert) and I easily pick up sweet notes in foods. Most American Chinese food is meant to be shared family style or buffet, where a sweet dish is alongside a savory dish, fried rice which is drier is served with sauced dishes, soft noodles and crispy won ton, etc. I haven't been to many American Chinese restaurants that just serve you a single plate of sweet and sour chicken.

                                                        I think most Americans love the entire variety of American Chinese food served family style. I guess that is why I don't consider AC food as "just a sweet gloppy mess" as some CH categorize it on these boards- or consider it inferior to authentic or regional chinese food.

                                                        I don't consider it inferior at all, no more than a hamburger is inferior to a steak, or a Chicago pizza is inferior to a California style pizza....apples and oranges to me, they all have their place at a CH table, IMO.

                                                        Of course, there is such a thing as crappy AC food!

                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                          "Most American Chinese food is meant to be shared family style or buffet........."

                                                          I'm pretty sure I remember a topic here in which many posters described Chinese dining with 'single dish per person' service being a standard experience. The only time I experience it is in a group where someone has a particular food issue. To me, the broad 'sharing' experience is possibly the best aspect of Chinese dining.

                                                    2. re: JayL

                                                      They are all communist spies set up by the Chinese government, which supplies them with menus and recipes.

                                                      I am kidding, of course.

                                                      1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                        In any case, for your own safety, always be suspicious...

                                                        (also kidding...)

                                                    3. If it don't have pig intestines or pig's blood on the menu it ain't Chinese

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: kagemusha49

                                                        Would not be true for Xinjiang Chinese, and doubtful for Tibetan as well. But I get your point.

                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                          Yes, and give me a quality General Tso Chicken dish over pigs blood ...anytime! Luckily, there are many different dishes "in between" the two in both AC and more authentic Chinese dishes.

                                                          Canadian Chinese food is also in a class by itself, and can be really great...but it would not be considered "authentic" by a Chinese person.

                                                          1. re: sedimental

                                                            I found out a few years ago that Ginger Beef was supposedly invented in Alberta:

                                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginger_beef

                                                            1. re: LotusRapper

                                                              Hey, lotus! It is pretty fun to compare the differences in American Chinese to Canadian Chinese. Even the names of the dishes differ. Like ordering "almond chicken".... you never know what you might get!

                                                              When I go grocery shopping in Abottsford, I will sometimes stop for a quick, cheap lunch at Tong Fei for old school Canadian Chinese...breaded almond chicken and chop suey. Very fun and satisfies my CC food craving. Otherwise, Vancouver is the place to go for good Chinese....but sometimes...ya just want some decent egg rolls! Lol.

                                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                                Heard about that place. Never go out thataways but I got it brain-bookmarked should I ever head out to Abby.

                                                                In Langley (in case you come up the Aldergrove Crossing) there's a place right on Fraser Hwy in Langley City called Flourishing that's pretty alright, at least for Vancouver suburban standards. The seafood birds nest was quite good IMO.

                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                  I just found out that a dish I really loved, Peanut Duck from a restaurant in Sacramento, California, was actually made from Chicken! Gotta love the North American versions of Chinese food!

                                                                  1. re: Tripeler

                                                                    http://www.epodcentral.com.au/jokes/p...

                                                          2. re: kagemusha49

                                                            Don't forget about Chinese Muslim cuisines! They don't eat pork....

                                                          3. you can join the rest of us who grew up in the tri-state area and then relocated elsewhere in the US. There's been threads with a ton of responses in the Los Angeles board regarding this matter. Everyone is always looking for NY style chinese food/egg rolls like it's some kind of holy grail. Once they find it, the food is only a facsimile of what they're looking for. The only answer is to move back.

                                                            1. Y'all should pick up copies of Dr. John Jung's book, here:

                                                              http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Sour-Chin...

                                                              1. People really do like the Panda Express style of Americanzied Americanzed gloppily sticky sweet Chinese food. That's just the way it is, and most likely always the way it will be.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: kevin

                                                                  [Facepalm] Panda Express ..... it's so far from Chinese food I don't even know what to call it. Yes, sweet salty gloppily crap. No wonder that Panda is a chubba.

                                                                2. I live in southern Connecticut, and the food scene is similar to what you knew outside NYC on the other side of the Hudson, BUT we have both the Americanized-Chinese restaurants you now loathe and the 'real' Chinese restaurants you discovered in Boston's Chinatown.
                                                                  Lao Sze Chuan in Milford, CT, part of a group out of Chicago is far too exotic for most Americans.
                                                                  http://www.tonygourmetgroup.com/resta...

                                                                  BUT, youngest Ms. B is Chinese born and we have been and eaten the real stuff in China and appreciate Lao Sze Chuan.

                                                                  Having a big acedemic and tech base to draw Chinese clientele from helps 'real' Chinese restaurants make it outside of Chinatowns in port cities.

                                                                  And...for those mentioned in earlier replies who toiut the prices at the AYCE buffets, etc. The luncheons are $6.99.