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Sep 2, 2014 09:20 AM

More Authentic Chinese Food in Champaign IL Than The Entire San Fernando Valley?

Champaign, Illinois has a population of 83,000 and at least 10 of its 30 Chinese restaurants serve authentic Chinese food. Meanwhile the San Fernando Valley has over a million residents and I can't think of 10 Chinese restaurants with authentic food. I come up with Tampa Garden, Sam Woo, Hot Wok (Northridge), Mandarin Deli, A&W (Reseda and Northridge) and 88 Chinese & Sushi in Van Nuys. You'd think with its lineage Green Village in Sherman Oaks would fall into that group, but their menu is pretty Americanized. I remember A&B Seafood in Northridge, but can't find any trace of it now. Am I missing any?

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  1. The article states that the University of Illinois, Champaign has become a popular place for Chinese students. It only makes sense that people serve authentic Chinese food for the influx of Chinese students. Here in the SFV, we don't have a university that brings in large waves of Asian immigrants. CSUN is a commuter school. There aren't a large number of foreign students at CSUN like there are at UCLA or Berkeley.

    Where was A&B Seafood? I don't remember that one.

    21 Replies
    1. re: boogiebaby

      Yes, that's the point of my article, that authentic Chinese restaurants are opening up to meet the demand of international students from China. But still, there's only 5,000 Chinese international students at the University of Illinois, so for them to generate more authentic Chinese restaurants than the San Fernando Valley is still an anomaly.

      A&B was on Devoshire and Reseda, I believe.

      1. re: boogiebaby

        seems to me that we're losing sight of a very significant factor in this. it's my take that the typical international student does not have sufficient disposable income to eat out regularly. the article makes the distinction of identifying a segment of these students as being the children of high-cadre (politically connected) and the wealthy. not only would they represent a unique segment financially, but also in terms of, for want of a better word to use, expectations and entitlement; they're used to everything they consume to be of high quality with expense being no object. the point is that this wouldn't be happening without sufficient numbers of students with this unique paradigm.

        IIRC tonyc has suggested that similar dynamics involving the younger generation of affluent taiwanese has prompted the growth of certain types of new restaurants here in the SGV.

        FWIW, PCC of all places, draws a surprising number of chinese international students.

        1. re: barryc

          "it's my take that the typical international student does not have sufficient disposable income to eat out regularly"

          That is not the general make-up of international students at 'SC. Cannot comment on other schools.

          1. re: ns1

            if mommy and daddy are paying all your bills to go to USC as an international grad student, yeah, you probably have money. OTOH, at the risk of offending all the trojans on the board, USC wouldn't be one of my first choices for graduate programs in the hard sciences though i might want to get my master's at USC in film/TV on in the fine arts or my MBA if i planned on working in LA, but i'd hardly expect that to be the typical program an HC kid would pursue.

            1. re: barryc

              no arguments here, but lots of undergrad chinese business students and IMO undergrad 'SC > undergrad 'LA (for business)

              1. re: ns1

                the good ol boy network for business. i get it. but if you don't plan to stay in LA, going to UCLA is not a disadvantage.

                and FWIW, every undergrad math/science class i took at UM in ann arbor was typically taught for a foreign grad student that needed the stipend for living expenses.

                1. re: barryc

                  "every undergrad math/science class i took at UM in ann arbor was typically taught for a foreign grad student that needed the stipend for living expenses."
                  2 things:

                  1) you're showing your age, cuz mlive says the rich Chinese pop. has also increased drastically in A^2 =)

                  2) science students don't have rich parents.

                  poly sci/econ/mba grad students are loaded, this is true now even at UMich, especially because it's also trolling for Chinamen's educational slush fund these days.

              2. re: barryc

                Moderately offended Trojan here... USC's graduate engineering program is rated by US News as #11 in the nation.

                Would you consider engineering as hard sciences, or are you meaning biology/health/that kinda stuff?

                1. re: set0312

                  FWIW the various engineering grad programs where i (and tonyc) went to school are rated in the top 8 across the board, and again FWIW outside the top 10 matters to the status conscious. and as much as i hate to admit it about a rival big ten school, the U-I engineering programs are all rated in the top 5.

                  if i want to stay in LA and can afford USC for a graduate engineering degree, i can also afford caltech - getting accepted there is another matter entirely. and if i wanted to stay on the west coast:

                  (using US news rankings, - which may be skewed, but regardless of the standard, the relative rankings between these schools & USC remain fairly constant)

                  #1 civil (tie w/U-I - champaign)
                  #3 mechanical (tie w/caltech)
                  #2 computer (tie w/stanford)

                  and stanford
                  #2 computer (tie w/ berkeley)
                  #1 mechanical (tie w/MIT)
                  #3 civil (tie w/ UT - austn)

                  blow USC out of the water - and again, getting accepted is another matter.

                  just sayin'

                  obligatory food content - is there any place around USC that's a worthy CH destination?

                  1. re: barryc

                    I don't find #11 vs top 5 to be "blow out the water", but it's cool, our biases are showing ^_^

                    1. re: ns1

                      I think you got the illini on the gridiron

                        1. re: ns1

                          generally higher ranked football squad...

                    2. re: barryc

                      It seems if you are a food-driven engineering student who wants a combination of good food and a decent degree, USC is the answer.

                      The engineers who sacrifice not being in the top ten by attending USC are able to walk to Chichen Itza, which is certainly among the best Yucatan restaurants in the entire country!

              3. re: barryc

                "it's my take that the typical international student does not have sufficient disposable income to eat out regularly. the article makes the distinction of identifying a segment of these students as being the children of high-cadre (politically connected) and the wealthy."

                I beg to differ. I worked at a large bank for several years near CSUN. At the beginning of each school semester, we would go to CSUN and help incoming foreign students open bank accounts, and then also help them later with wire transfers, teach them how to write checks, etc. International students would open accounts with very large balances, and more money would come in regularly. They definitely kept much larger balances than the US based students.

                Students who attend US colleges and universities are often from well off families. It costs tens of thousands of dollars to attend college in the US as an international student, plus they also have to show that they can afford to pay for housing, food, books, etc. Financial Aid is almost non-existent for international students as well (unless they receive it in their home country).

                It makes complete sense for a Chinese international student (or any international student) to eat out constantly. Not only is it more convenient to order takeout instead of cooking at home, but the food they are getting probably tastes closer to what they want compared to what they could make on their own. IMO, an international student is probably going to eat out a lot more than the typical SFV resident. Chances are, their financial situation allows for it. Since the U of I is a top choice for Chinese students, it makes logical sense for authentic Chinese restaurants to crop up there to cater to those students. It's no different than Glendale having a large number of Armenian restaurants and grocery stores, or the SGV having a large number of Chinese restaurants. You cater to the people in the area. The SFV has a mix of ethnicities -- there's no one ethnicity that is more strongly represented.

                1. re: boogiebaby

                  The current crop of international students from mainland China is clearly disproportionately affluent. (Unfortunately the Eugene Register Guard story on this topic appears to be offline, but it spent a good deal of its focus on the influx of Chinese students driving brand spanking new luxury cars.) Back in my days at UCLA, though, they more fit the poor college student profile.

                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    I worked at the bank in the late 90s/early 2000's. So it's been going on for a few years.

                    Looking at CSUN's website, a rough estimate for full-time (12 unit) undergrad international student tuition (no books, lodging, etc) is about $15,000/year. Add in rent, food, books, extra money, etc. and you're easily looking at $30,000 a year for an international student to attend CSUN. And that's cheap compared to a UC campus or private university.

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      that is a good point. as i mentioned in a previous post, all my TA's tended to be foreign grad students who needed the stipend. there will still be some students who are here entirely on merit and need fellowships and whatnot to be able to afford it. but yeah, the affluent grad students from china may well be the majority nowadays. but they still represent a minority of the chinese overseas in terms of outlook.

                      unless you care to assume that only kids from wealthy families might qualify for acceptance into grad programs in the US.

                    2. re: boogiebaby

                      I second boogiebaby on this. Tampa Delight/Hot Wok Cafe mentioned by OP have substantiated what boogiebaby has stated. When the State of CA was short on funds and on limited budget, the Chinese students from mainland China was and still a a great source of funds for CSUN from their ESL and undergraduate programs. Preferences for class selections were given to the foreign students than the CA residents. Tampa Delight/Hot Wok have been frequented by a lot of these students. I have known both the restaurant owners over the years and that sentiment has been shared with me on numerous occasions. They have the money and they eat out all the time :) I have to agree, it is a pain to live in SFV which is not only deprived of authentic Chinese restaurants but also other cuisines as called out by a lot of chowhounds over time.

                        1. re: jotfoodie

                          I'm not so familiar with the SFV, but here's a few in the Northridge area:

                          Lum-Ka-Naad is a very good Thai choice.

                          Ciao Bob has mentioned Peru's Taste is firing on all cylinders as of late.

                          Shamshiri on Roscoe is a very good for Persian.

                  2. EDIT: disregard. Valley mix-up.

                    Weird OP given that you're pretty much the definition of an SGV shill.

                    See here:

                    And here:

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Beachowolfe

                      Well facts are facts that the best Chinese food is concentrated in the San Gabriel Valley and there's not a whole lot in the San Fernando Valley. However, with its huge population base, one would expect more in the SFV. Indeed you can do a lot better in the much smaller Conejo Valley than the SFV.

                      1. re: Beachowolfe

                        SGV shill? If you have a dispute with the content of the post, make it. Otherwise, why the name-calling?

                        In any event, the post makes a good point. But the point should not just be limited to Chinese food. Although the SFV has some good places, the number of good places is lower than one would expect for the large population in the SFV.

                        1. re: martan

                          Thanks for pointing out that totally inaccurate remark - it was totally uncalled for. Chandavkl = SGV shill? I had to cock my head at that one and laugh it off. The man has eaten at and cataloged more Chinese restaurants throughout the country in one year than I ever will in 100 lifetimes. Chandavkl is no shill - he's a true treasure.

                            1. re: bulavinaka

                              Poor choice of words I suppose. Maybe "promoter" is better.

                              You're still missing the point of my post...It seemed odd to me that the OP was shitting on SGV when in fact the poster consistently praises SGV in other places. I posted the edit to reflect the fact that I had stupidly misread SFV as SGV.

                              1. re: Beachowolfe

                                I never feel that the OP consistently praises the SGV. To me, David is more of a reporter - open-eyes on what is going on with his obsessive hobby (Chinese restaurants), in and around his 'hood and beyond. Maybe I'm wrong, but David's writing in general here is more observational and informational.

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  What's wrong with shilling for SGV?

                                  It's a good counterbalance to those who shill for Shunji. Or the Filet-O-Fish.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    SGV needs no shilling - it stands quite well on its own. Now about that Filet-O-Fish...

                          1. interesting article - according to 2013 data U-I has an enrollment of around 43,000 with 5500 identifying themselves as asian american, and 9400 'international' students. i couldn't find a more comprehensive breakdown of international student demographics, but i could see that even as few as 1000 with enough disposable income (like you might find with the children wealthy/high cadre chinese for example) to eat out regularly would create sufficient demand to support a restaurant, especially if you have enough of a menu crafted to appeal to the palates of the gweilo.

                            with respected schools attracting the demographic needed to support the growth of authentic chinese restaurants, i don't perceive there being such a school in the valley. there's CSU northridge which i understand is primarily a commuter school; between that and the relative lack of academic prestige i wouldn't expect to see the same demographic of clientele in terms of the children of wealthy/high cadre chinese electing to matriculate there. as for USC & UCLA, i would suspect that the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods plays a factor - rent in westwood would be prohibitive, and the relative lack of safety off the USC campus would not facilitate much foot traffic to neighborhood restaurants. however, if USC's campus was in the valley, i could see that things might be different, but given the vastly larger concentration of ethnic chinese in the SGV, it makes sense to fish where most of the fish are.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: barryc

                              U. of Illinois has some good statistics on their international students. 4,500 from Mainland China, under 400 from Taiwan and under 100 from Hong Kong. Later two figures are stunning given the history of post-1960s Chinese students in the US. I think it might take 500 to 1000 international Chinese students to support an authentic Chinese restaurant. Missouri State in Springfield has 700, perhaps most not in the wealthy class as most of their enrollment comes from a sister university program they have in Dalian. There are at least two authentic restaurants in Eugene, Jade Palace and Maple Garden, serving a little under 2,000 UO Chinese foreign students. As to CSUN, do note that in my short list of authentic SFV Chinese restaurants above, the heaviest concentration is in Northridge. Not sure if this has anything to do with CSUN, Porter Ranch residents, or what.

                            2. Would you consider Yang Chow in Woodland Hills and Chi Dynasty in Studio City authentically Chinese enough?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: TripleAxel

                                No, given that the Chinatown branch fails the test of authenticity, the suburban location doesn't make it either. I do wonder if there are boba/popcorn chicken places near CSUN though.

                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                  There is a boba place at Plummer/Reseda that does brisk business, right next to Kickin K'Asian, a Boiling Crab type restaurant, which is also popular. Both are walking distance from the CSUN campus.

                              2. Why is this suppose to be shocking (especially given the state of SFV food in general)? shows the rise of parachute kids as taste makers in America. Erica Mu's Good Foods story already firmed this as a fact.

                                CSUN isn't selling itself to the Chinese ala 'SC: UCIC has an insane engineering program and uses foreign income to plug its budget gaps ( ) UI profs has met with Xi Jin Ping for crying out loud ( . Based on this Yale article ( ), edible Chinese food should also be found by Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and IU as well. But I'm not going to Columbus to find out. Them's Buckeye country.

                                Also, EB5. Don't want to go home after that 'SC MBA? EB5 into a Sichuan restaurant, buy all your ex-pat college friends lunch. Tired of not having Sichuanese food during that MBA? EB5 a Sichuan restaurant so you have dinner every day.

                                Obligatory SGV food news: a favorite Taiwanese liquor store has morphed into a skewer shop...

                                (relevant edit: there's even a black market for college entrance essays for rich Chinese kids )

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: TonyC

                                  In hindsight this is all very logical. But when you're sitting in milky white Springfield, MO (with reference to the milk gravy that everybody has with their biscuits for breakfast), thinking that the only other Chinese currently in town all work in Chinese restaurants, and somebody serves you Guilin rice noodle soup and the insides of a Shandong beef roll, that's a dose of unexpected reality.

                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                    It's not hindsight when it happens to every single community with significant immigrant population in USA, doesn't matter the ethnicity. It's certainly not hindsight when it has been the case since the beginning of time for the country (e.g.: whoah! parmesan in Los Angeles). The Chinese aren't the only Asian immigrants, Asians aren't the only immigrants in the USA.

                                    There's Laotian food in Elgin, IL. There's Taiwanese food in Boston (well, obviously). There's Laotian/Cambodian food in St. Paul ( ) because Christian groups assisting Hmong refugees. There are Taiwanese restaurant in Austin because Dell outsourced from Taiwanese firms, there's Laotian food in Madison, WI, ad nausea.

                                    But hey, if you just want to culinarily shame SFV, go right ahead. We'll laugh with you. Otherwise, why does "a"uthentic Chinese food in SFV even matter?

                                    Now, where doe one find parmo in LA?

                                    1. re: TonyC

                                      This is interesting stuff, but until you know the back story it's a puzzle. For example it took several steps to figure out Springfield. Or why are all the St. Louis Chinese restaurants on Olive Blvd? I'm guessing because of the Monsanto facility and all the Chinese chemists but that's just my wild guess.