Chinese food says a lot about the local area.
Click for AUDIO version.
I have enjoyed Chinese food since my youth. As I grew older I gravitated to Szechuan style cooking which is spicy hot. When I travel though, I like to frequent Chinese restaurants as they are located just about everywhere on the planet and, as such, I look upon them as a litmus test of the community I am visiting.
Although there are plenty of Chinese restaurants spread across the United States, perhaps the best are in New York and California. The food in New York City’s Chinatown and Greenwich Village is simply fabulous. In California, San Francisco’s Chinatown is excellent, as are the Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles, but I have a special place in my heart for the food in San Diego where I learned about hot Chinese oils.
Australia has some excellent Chinese restaurants, particularly around Sydney. Anytime you mix the large Australian prawns with Chinese cooking, you simply cannot miss. Interestingly, down under they do not use “doggy bags,” but rather “pussy boxes.” I am not sure why.
Brazil has some excellent restaurants for beef, seafood, and pasta, but when it comes to Chinese cooking, forget it. I couldn’t find anything palatable.
I have never had a bad Chinese meal in Canada, and I have visited quite a bit of the country. However, I have a particular fondness for the food in Toronto’s Chinatown. The variety is incredible, everything is fresh, and the cooking is excellent. I always make it a point to visit there when I am in the area.
In Japan, Chinese food is considered a delicacy much like how Americans look upon French cooking. As such, you cannot go wrong with Chinese food in Japan. It’s simply spectacular.
I have been to Hong Kong three times, and while there I hoped to experience some excellent Chinese cuisine. Unfortunately, I did not. I had some great English food there, such as a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, but the Chinese food itself was tasteless. I was very disappointed.
The Chinese food in Norway was some of the worst I ever had. Who ever heard of Sweet and Sour Reindeer?
Saudi Arabia was just as bad with their Moo Goo Gai Lamb. Lebanese food is the delicacy over there and I highly recommend it over the Chinese fare, as well as the Japanese.
I didn’t get a chance to try Chinese food in South Korea as they have their own form of Asian cooking which is excellent. They make heavy use of garlic and curry in their dishes, which is fine with me, but unfortunately it seeps out of your pores later on, which is not exactly the sweetest of smells.
In Spain I tried Chinese food but once, and it was good from what I remember, but everything they cook in Spain is wonderful, particularly in San Sebastian where the great Spanish chefs come from.
I judged the Chinese food in London, England to be rather ho-hum. I found some excellent Indonesian food in Soho, but I struck out when it came to finding good Chinese food. As an aside, I had trouble finding a decent salad and breakfast there as well; I guess the British love their grease. If you really want to understand the culinary culture of the UK, visit a pub, not a Chinese restaurant.
Chinese food is normally tailored to local tastes. What we experience here in America is hardly what you will find in mainland China. In fact, to the average American, you would probably find authentic Chinese cooking not very appetizing at all. So, when you taste Chinese food in other lands, you are getting a sense of the locale you are visiting. For example, they may like their food sweet, hot, or just plain bland.
I have had a lot of fun taste testing Chinese food over the years. My biggest surprise though was Hong Kong where I couldn’t find any Chinese food of merit. Then again, I cannot find it here in my home town of Palm Harbor either.
Keep the Faith!