David Chan’s article on blending Chinese regional cuisines

@chandavkl wrote an interesting piece on his menuism blog on how it’s becoming more common in LA for restaurants to blend regional Chinese cuisines rather than specialize in a particular one.

What are your thoughts on how this is progressing in the Bay Area? Or had Chinese restaurants here been a mishmash prior to the 2000s?

Do we have many restaurants (yet) that serve different cuisines at lunch and dinner? Two that come to mind are Dragon Beaux and Mama Ji’s, which serve dim sum by day, and at night hot pot and Sichuan, respectively.

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Hot pot is also common for Hong Kong diners, especially during the cooler months. So it maybe a case that they need to serve dishes their Cantonese clientele are familiar with, e.g. hotpot, banquet, etc. in the evenings, in addition to dim sum.

On the other hand, is dimsum getting popular with the Chinese population?

I haven’t eaten hot pot there. I’m curious —-is there a Hong Kong style to it (if such a thing exists)?

Currently, it seems more common than not for non-Cantonese places to have at least a few token Sichuan items on their menus, and even newer dim sum restaurants have Sichuan items. Is this a recent phenomenon or have, say, Northen Chinese restaurants always had some Sichuan items listed and vice versa?

I also see several places who do double duty as Sichuan and another cuisine, some of which have separate chefs, and some of which are chefs from northern China trained in Sichuan cuisine. For example:

Boiling Beijing: Beijing & Sichuan
Chili House: Sichuan, and more recently, a Beijing menu
Fey: Shanghai & Sichuan
JX Cuisine: Shandong & Sichuan
Royal Feast: Tan Family Cuisine and Sichuan
Yi Yuan and Yummy Sichuan: Northern & Sichuan (not easily dilineated)

Two local (Albany) Sichuan places, China Village and Sichuan Styles, have a dim sum menu, available all day. They also have “classic” dishes like fried rice and chow mein, which strike me as non-Sichuan In downtown Berkeley, Great China has a very mixed menu, almost “fusion” Chinese; they call themselves “Northern Chinese”, which is the kind of description that Chan says you should run away from, but they’re consistently good. I don’t recall seeing non-Cantonese items at our big-group celebration dim sum place, Saigon Seafood Harbor in Richmond.

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“Blending” has been going on for a while. Mostly due to American customer expectations than from any attempt to be daring.

The ubiquitous ‘glazed prawns with honey-sesame walnuts’ was a HK invention (I think; I don’t believe it started here) that swept through the Chinese restaurant industry incredibly fast. Now even Northern and Sichuan restaurants offer it, LOL.

My HK-born in-laws were going to Yank Sing on Broadway in the 1960’s, back when Mrs. Alice Chan was there every day. I met her in 1974 through them. She loved my husband and wanted to adopt him when he was 12.

Of course, now we wish his parents had been willing to give him up, LOL!

The dim sum menu was strictly Cantonese. There was no XLB. In fact, it was years before SF diners saw XLB finally introduced in the 1980’s when the first wave of ‘authentic regional Chinese’ restaurants opened, due to massive emigration from HK with Mainland China’s takeover deadline getting close.

Then it took more years after that before XLB started creeping onto dim sum menus. Cantonese were familiar with them - there are a lot of ex-Shanghai folks in HK - but you went to Shanghainese restaurants for them. Northerners don’t really have the extensive dim sum menus that Southerners do.


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I’ve noticed this trend as well. There are also a few others, such as Green Apple Bistro and Happy House in Cupertino (and probably others) that don’t mention a specific region specialty but a look at their now-common huge, colorful, photo-filled, laminated, China-printed menu books, you’d see a mix of Sichuan, Beijing, and other regional specialties.

One reason may be that the trend in the largest coastal metro cities in China itself has been the rise of popularity of spicy food from inland regions (Sichuan & Hunan). Recent visits and words from those living there have confirmed that Sichuan has become one of the most popular type of cuisine in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and even Shenzhen. So that trend is probably migrating to US cities with large Chinese communities as well.

As for Great China, it started as one of the “Mandarin” style restaurants to differentiate itself from the Cantonese style. But in fact it is Shandong-style (which is actually the foundation for Beijing cuisine, which itself is the original meaning for Mandarin-style) Chinese food by way of Korea. (more commonly known as Korean-Chinese) The origin is exactly the same for San Tung on Irving.

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