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annc
12-14-2005, 12:20 PM
If I were you, I would be discouraged. I am discouraged.

That notice reminds me of the sort of sign that goes up on Chinese take-outs every so often: “Closed for remodeling” — yeah, right. Closed for bunkruptcy, more than likely. Strangers coming shortly to start up again, with different food but same phone number!Happens here too. But we have a strange variation on it. Chinese restaurant was so bad when Bert and I went for dinner that we got the giggles. A few months later we noticed that a new 'Asian restaurant' was on the site. Went in for a look, and it was all the same decor and people as the 'Chinese restaurant' formerly on the site. We didn't stay.

Robin Springall
12-14-2005, 01:19 PM
Thread drift, (sorry)...
I tried a Thai restaurant recently. The waiter didn't look very Thai to me, and the first thing he said as we sat down was "We do good Indian food here!" I told him we'd like Thai, and if we'd wanted Indian we'd have gone to the curry house next door! The food was pretty awful of course.

ktinkel
12-14-2005, 01:29 PM
I tried a Thai restaurant recently. The waiter didn't look very Thai to me, and the first thing he said as we sat down was "We do good Indian food here!" I told him we'd like Thai, and if we'd wanted Indian we'd have gone to the curry house next door! The food was pretty awful of course.Of course! Years ago, we were thinking of having Chinese food in Dublin — until we saw the note on the bottom of the menu in the window: Potatoes or bread served with all dishes. So we skipped it.

Next day someone else told us it was terrible food, so we counted ourselves lucky.

It’s a good season for a restaurant thread, isn’t it? With any luck, all the stories will not be about Asian restaurants, though!

Steve Rindsberg
12-14-2005, 04:10 PM
Sometimes it's a good idea to take the waiter's hint. ;-)

Then there are people like [spouse or relative of friend of friend who will remain nameless] who go to, say, a Thai restaurant and order tempura or lasagna and then complain endlessly about the result.

Sheesh.

ktinkel
12-14-2005, 04:50 PM
… who go to, say, a Thai restaurant and order tempura or lasagna and then complain endlessly about the result. Or people who go to a seafood place and insist on steak (actually, many seafood houses have decent steaks, just for this reason; but not always!)

Franca
12-14-2005, 09:34 PM
Then there are people like [spouse or relative of friend of friend who will remain nameless] who go to, say, a Thai restaurant and order tempura or lasagna and then complain endlessly about the result.I've never understood that. But it's very common!

Mike
12-15-2005, 12:31 AM
Of course! Years ago, we were thinking of having Chinese food in Dublin — until we saw the note on the bottom of the menu in the window: Potatoes or bread served with all dishes. So we skipped it.


Don't blame you. Goodness, everyone knows that Chinese food should be served with chips!

Kelvyn
12-15-2005, 01:16 AM
everyone knows that Chinese food should be served with chips!

The best fish and chips I have ever had came from a Chinese run fish 'n chip shop in the Soho end of London's Chinatown. I still remember that meal - and it was almost 40 years ago.....

ktinkel
12-15-2005, 05:23 AM
Don't blame you. Goodness, everyone knows that Chinese food should be served with chips!Hah! You think you’re joking (at least I think you do!)

But the Chinese do some wonderful things with potatoes, including a Sichuan dish of shredded potatoes seasoned with shreds of hot green peppers, deep fried. Chips squared, I’d say!

But never mashed, so far as I know.

iamback
12-15-2005, 06:38 AM
But the Chinese do some wonderful things with potatoes, including a Sichuan dish of shredded potatoes seasoned with shreds of hot green peppers, deep fried. Chips squared, I’d say! I had something like that once - don't know if it's a Sichuan dish or not, it wasn't labeled as such - in Kashgar (in Xinjiang, the western-most province of China). When they brought it, I thought it was a mistake - it certainly didn't look like potatoes - but they explained to me this was indeed "Fried potatoes Chinese Style" (or some similar description) and it turned out to be delicious, but very, very hot!

Talking about eating Chinese food in China, do read this story (http://blog.iamback.com/story/2004-07-03/157-Pizza-with-chopsticks) from last year's trip. Since recently 4000-year-old noodles (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/10/1012_051012_chinese_noodles.html) were discovered in an archeological find in China (proving at least the Italians didn't bring it to China!), my theory about the origin of pizza seems a little bit stronger now. ;)

iamback
12-15-2005, 07:00 AM
I still remember that meal - and it was almost 40 years ago..... My latest experience is something I'm sure I will remember for a long time, too. I spent last weekend with my parents for a (late) Sinterklaas celebration and on Saturday we went out to have dinner together before exchanging our presents. My parent's proposal was a Chinese restaurant but since I've been to China I am always disappointed at "Chinese" food in the Netherlands: it just never is Chinese at all! So I proposed a little North-African (Moroccan/Lybian/Tunisian) restaurant instead, where we'd been a couple of times before. Having a fairly small stomach, I usually order only a main dish but my dad drew my attention to a hot appetizer: a "small bowl of shrimps with garlic and pepper". I just could not resist: I love shrimps, I am addicted to garlic, and I like hot food very much, too! The description was simply irresistable.

Of course I expected something of the size of a "shrimp cocktail", as normally served in a glass bowl. The menu did say small bowl ("kommetje"). What appeared was a big soup dish literally heaped with medium-sized shrimps, boiled with thick slices of garlic, red pepper (hot, but not too hot), onions and coriander. There must have been at least 50 shrimps if not more! All in their shells ... but they served it with a big finger bowl with a fat slice of lemon floating in it and a small pile of paper napkins. I ate the very last of the shrimps, eating the garlic and onion pieces with my fingers as well - and very nearly my fingers, too! My main dish (delicious, too) was almost an afterthought after that.

If I ever get back there and it's still on the menu I know I won't be able to resist - ever.

ktinkel
12-15-2005, 07:09 AM
I had something like that once - don't know if it's a Sichuan dish or not, it wasn't labeled as such …Sounds like the stuff, and it is certainly known in Sichuan. On the other hand, the potato is new to China and it could pop up anywhere. The shredded recipe I know has both chiles and Sichuan pepper, and the latter seems to be pretty much unused outside of Sichuan. But I have read of other Chinese potato recipes using potatoes that sounded more Tibetan or even Indian (chunks stewed with beef or lamb). The Chinese casseroles that I have had never had potatoes in them.

If anyone is interested, I can post the Sichuan shredded potato recipe. It is quite easy to do (can even be done with the Simply Potatoes shredded potatoes available in supermarkets).

Since recently 4000-year-old noodles were discovered in an archeological find in China (proving at least the Italians didn't bring it to China!), my theory about the origin of pizza seems a little bit stronger now. ;)I suppose the jury is still out on whether Asians invented noodles or they sprang up in various places independently.

But flat breads are known wherever people use ground flours, and that certainly includes not only the Mediterranean area, Africa, and the Americas but all over Asia: dosas, udapam, naan, kultcha, etc. in India; varieties of dumpling wrappers, scallion pancakes, and more in China; pita and other breads in the middle east; pide and other flat breads in Turkey and thereabouts; and on and on.

These things could have been shared — wouldn’t take more than a fast glimpse of someone patting a dough together to get the idea across. But once people starting grinding grains, unleavened breads must be obvious, so I wonder if they didn’t rise all over of their own grace!

Michael Rowley
12-15-2005, 07:37 AM
Marjolein:

I've been to China I am always disappointed at "Chinese" food in the Netherlands: it just never is Chinese at all!

There really isn't such a thing, is there? There are just typical regional dishes. The two brothers I once worked with had been brought up in north China, and they wouldn't touch the southern food, which in European Chinese restaurants used to be cooked mainly by people born in Hong Kong or other parts of southern China.

iamback
12-15-2005, 08:25 AM
If anyone is interested, I can post the Sichuan shredded potato recipe. It is quite easy to do. Please do! I'd love to try and make it. As I remember it it had green pepper mixed in; the shredded potato was in thin "threads" - and definitely more like vegetables than a staple food in character. Great with a meat dish like "Kashgar shishi kebab" which is something like small pieces of lamb fried with onion, lots of garlic and (I think) pepper and ginger. (Hot with hot? Yes! With a Xinjiang beer on the side, of course!)

flat breads are known wherever people use ground flours, and that certainly includes not only the Mediterranean area, Africa, and the Americas but all over Asia: dosas, udapam, naan, kultcha, etc. in India; varieties of dumpling wrappers, scallion pancakes, and more in China; pita and other breads in the middle east; pide and other flat breads in Turkey and thereabouts; and on and on. Of course, my "pizza theory" is very much tongue-in-cheek! It is indeed likely that flat breads sprung up everywhere people made dough from ground grains and baked them - and putting veggies and meat on top would be almost natural as well. Add chopsticks, though, and you definitely are in for a surprise! One of those eating experiences that I'll not likely forget. It seems in some areas of China they still make millet noodles.

But given the recent archeological noodle (made of millet, not wheat or rice!) find, an Asian origin for noodles is definitely much more likely now than the multiple origins or middle-eastern origin theories that prevailed until now.

iamback
12-15-2005, 08:37 AM
Since I've been to China I am always disappointed at "Chinese" food in the Netherlands: it just never is Chinese at all!

There really isn't such a thing, is there? There are just typical regional dishes. It does seem like that when you're in China, given the variety there - but there are commonalities you're likely to miss. Once back in Europe (at least the Netherlands) though, there really is nothing "Chinese" about nearly any Chinese food you can get there: not only is it hard to get chopsticks to eat it with, the dishes themselves are usually prepared in a way that makes it actually hard to eat them with chopsticks!

In China, unless you get meat on the bone (as with a chicken "sloppily" chopped into pieces), all ingredients are normally "bite sized", easy to pick up with chopsticks and bring to your mouth isolated or in a combination of ingredients. Instead, in the Netherlands, you get very chunky pieces of paprika and chicken, too large for a mouthful of "a little bit meat with a little bit of vegetables". And that's just the mechanics of the food. Ingredients and tastes differ widely as well, even if the ingredients would be available: I've never found such favorites as chicken with peanuts (wherever I've eaten it in China a lot more spicy than chicken with cashew nuts) or fried spinach with garlic (a favorite in the Tibetan highlands) here.

ktinkel
12-15-2005, 10:22 AM
There really isn't such a thing, is there? There are just typical regional dishes. That’s true (about India, China, and Italy as well). But there is a further distinction when you get Chinese food in the U.S., and what I have found in England, Ireland, and France as well: the food is so culinarily diluted it does not deserve to be called “Chinese” at all.

And then they muddle up all the regional elements. Dishes labeled Sichuan (or Szechuan) here are usually travesties of Sichuan cooking, which is usually dry (not much sauce); intensely flavored, not only with the two sorts of hot, la (chilies) and ma (Sichuan pepper), but also with fermented black bean, pickled vegetables of various sorts, bean pastes, and other un-western mixtures and flavors; and carefully balanced in ingredients, shapes, colors, etc.

Instead, except for a few places with Sichuanese chefs, we get any old stuff — meat, rarely shredded as it would often be in the cuisine but in cubes or slabs — seasoned with inexpensive chili-garlic sauce and finished with a stock vegetable melange, awash in some sort of cornstarch-thickened liquid. Take out the chili and garlic, and it could be chop suey!

Anyway, this is one of my pet peeves, so better not get going on it!

ktinkel
12-15-2005, 10:44 AM
Please do! I'd love to try and make it. As I remember it it had green pepper mixed in; the shredded potato was in thin "threads" - and definitely more like vegetables than a staple food in character. Okay. Best to use firm-textured rather than baking potatoes. As for the shreds, the finer the better. I have done this dish with roesti-style shreds, but Fuchsia Dunlop, whose recipe I adapted, says that “good Sichuanese cooks slice them so finely they look almost like skeins of wool when they are cooked.”

As for Sichuan pepper, it is essential. It should be easy to find in any decent Asian market (they are brownish red, the dried berries of an ash). This is what makes some Sichuan food lip-tingling hot (as opposed to mouth hot, which is from chilies). Interesting: a friend who really cannot tolerate chilies can eat Sichuan pepper by the handful, with pleasure. Peanut oil is traditional for Chinese cooking, and it has the right taste. In a pinch, though, canola is okay.

As for the hot pepper in this dish, Dunlop suggests using dried chilies, intact. I use hot fresh green peppers, in amounts that vary by mood and the intensity of their hotness; and sometimes add some shreds of dried chilies as well. So this recipe doesn’t attempt to suggest a quantity of the pepper. (Dunlop suggests 6 dried chilies, but they vary in hotness; I would certainly use more of the ones we get here.)

Stir-fried potato slivers with chilies and Sichuan pepper

1-1/2 pounds potatoes
peanut oil for frying
fresh hot green chilies, shredded to match the potatoes
(or dried red chilies, shredded; or a mixture)
1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
salt
sugar
2 teaspoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil

Shred the potatoes (by hand, coarse grater of a food processor, or mandoline). Drop into cold salted water to remove surface starch. Just before cooking, shake them dry in a colander or spread on a towel to dry.

Heat the wok. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl around over a medium flame until hot but not smoking. Add chilies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry until the oil is fragrant and spicy. Add the potatoes, turn the heat up, and stir-fry vigorously for 4 or 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and maybe a pinch of sugar to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon).

When the potatoes are hot and cooked but al dente, remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve.

_________________
Adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop (Norton); called Sichuan Cookery in England (Penguin). One of the very best Sichuan cookbooks in English.

ktinkel
12-15-2005, 10:46 AM
I've never understood that. But it's very common!Most of the time I think it comes from prejudice against certain ingredients or fear of the unknown.

Within certain limits, I am the opposite. Try to eat what the chef seems to cook best and try for something a little unusual.

annc
12-15-2005, 10:49 AM
I've found that if I have to ask for chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant, the food is invariably inferior – usually hastily stir-fried, with lots of carrot, served with insipid sauce out of a drum.

Generally speaking, food in Chinatown restaurants is better than that in suburban Chinese restaurants or takeaways. In Brisbane, there is a tiny hole-in-the-wall place (three tables only) that serves wonderful barbecue duck. It's owned by a family, and the cook is a tiny, wizened man of indeterminate age. They do a roaring trade in takeaways, and if you ask, you can even get the ducks' heads!

ElyseC
12-15-2005, 11:29 AM
Around here many Chinese food places are combined with Japanese, Thai, Korean or Vietnamese and virtually all the Chinese food-only restaurants are buffets. To accommodate Midwestern palates they always stick ice cream on the dessert part of the buffet and assorted Jell-O "salads" on the salad bar.

There's a big buffet up in Iowa City, but last time we ate there (about a year ago) it was pretty terrible. Even the 5 year old heartily agreed. However, there's a pretty darn good little one 15 miles the other direction from us, in my hometown, that's in the building that was our family business, my dad's pharmacy, for 39 years. (Kind of fun sitting there eating, remembering exactly where things were when it was our drug store and replaying memories. :))

Steve Rindsberg
12-15-2005, 08:29 PM
It may simply be because one half of the couple wanted Thai and outvoted the other half who can't stand the stuff.

But not always.

A mystery.

Mike
12-15-2005, 11:34 PM
The best fish and chips I have ever had came from a Chinese run fish 'n chip shop in the Soho end of London's Chinatown. I still remember that meal - and it was almost 40 years ago.....

I'd ask the name of the restaurant but I doubt they're still there.

Mike
12-15-2005, 11:40 PM
But the Chinese do some wonderful things with potatoes, including a Sichuan dish of shredded potatoes seasoned with shreds of hot green peppers, deep fried.

Audrey and I never go to Chinese restaurants. I'm not saying that there are no good Chinese restaurants in the UK but they must be few and far between. In the days when we did try them we never managed to find one that was worth visiting a second time.

When I was a student I used to regularly eat lunch in the Golden Gate Hong Kong Restaurant in Leamington Spa. The food wasn't particularly good but it was very cheap. 5/- for a 4-course lunch -- that's 25 pence or about 15 US cents in today's money -- cheap even in the late '60s. Friday was the best day because then they served the chef's special which consisted of the week's left-overs.

iamback
12-15-2005, 11:46 PM
When the potatoes are hot and cooked but al dente, remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve. Wonderful! Thanks for that - I'll try that soon.

ktinkel
12-16-2005, 07:13 AM
Audrey and I never go to Chinese restaurants. I'm not saying that there are no good Chinese restaurants in the UK but they must be few and far between. We search for Chinese and other Asian food wherever we go, and once had some tolerably good almost Sichual food in London (don’t ask me where, though).

And on several occasions found some little SE Asian noodle places here and there where the food was pretty good.

We used to do pretty well with Indian food, but I heard recently that our last favorite, Lal Qila, has gone way downhill, so don’t know where we will eat on our next visit.

Jack doesn’t eat fish, sausages, meat with bones, or much of anything except beef, chicken, and shrimp, so we miss a lot of the best that English offers in food and always look for interesting ethnic places. Come to think of it, I bet there are some good Spanish restaurants in England, given the fondness for vacationing in Spain. Have to look for that.

ktinkel
12-16-2005, 07:14 AM
Wonderful! Thanks for that - I'll try that soon.Oh, good. Let me know how close it is to what you had on your trip.

Robin Springall
12-17-2005, 01:52 PM
Yes, but this was a Thai restaurant!