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Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

yes, you have to just be as persistent back. :)

Feb 18, 2013
foodieinsd in General Topics

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

"Bu yao" means "Don't want" literally.

Feb 18, 2013
foodieinsd in General Topics

Single Men Who Cook

Sorry for my late reply.

The few guy friends that I know who know how to cook have in general been more sensitive, more aware of other people, not just concerned with themselves. Cooking is a process, and someone who enjoys doing that shows that they are willing to take or make the time to do something. I believe in the old saying that something worth doing is worth doing well. I find that those (regardless of gender) I know who can't really be bothered with cooking can sometimes be more impatient in other aspects of life. I'm not saying that all people are like this, just some of the ones that I have observed tend towards that. Cooking is also a trial and error thing, and it shows too that you have perseverance to keep at it. It's experimental nature shows that you aren't afraid to try or learn new things or explore new things, meaning that you are more open-minded and not xenophobic. It shows you can work independently and don't always have to have your hand held or be spoon fed. It shows you are responsible and value what you eat, which may translate in a sense of value in other aspects in life. Taste is a lot about nuances of flavors, which may reflect attention to detail and how to use the knowledge you have in a constructive way. All very positive and desirable qualities.

Feb 18, 2013
foodieinsd in Not About Food

Single Men Who Cook

Very very attractive. In my experience, it is a very rare quality to find a man that genuinely enjoys and can cook (and not simply to get dates or for show), a quality that I look for. Not for the purpose of him cooking for me (I also like to cook), but more that you have a mutual interest and something that you both enjoy doing together. I personally would prefer someone who would rather cook a meal from scratch than one who just grabs some processed food to eat. I think it does reflect other qualities of character.

Feb 18, 2013
foodieinsd in Not About Food

Favorite dumplings

Try the xiao long bao at Red Moon Noodle House. They're off menu but really tasty, and I prefer them to Dumpling Inn's.

Jan 01, 2013
foodieinsd in San Diego

best xiao long bao SD

I like the xiao long bao at Red Moon Noodle House. They aren't on the menu, but you can ask for them. I liked Dumpling Inn's when they were really the only ones offering it, but I think the ones from Red Moon are nicer.

Jan 01, 2013
foodieinsd in San Diego

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

exactly

Oct 20, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

Thanks huiray and KK for the clarification. Then hum choy is not the same as the xian cai that I am thinking about that is called xue cai in some regions in China (like what KK refers to). It is another type of preserved mustard green that is only very salty with its own pungency but not sour at all (at least the ones I have eaten). It is often used in Ningbo cuisine where my grandmother is from. My grandmother told us that once a long time ago, there was a real Ningbo restaurant in Hong Kong. Oh, how I would have loved to dine there!

Many Germans in Germany can be different from those who travel outside of their country. They aren't always as open-minded, and many were suspicious of anything that didn't look familiar. But there are always exceptions.

Oct 20, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

If I had ever seen that dish on the menu in a Chinese restaurant there, I WOULD HAVE BEEN THERE!!! A lot of the people I encountered in my years there were pretty conservative with respect to food. We were lucky that we had a kitchen where I worked, and I very well took full advantage of it. We were just sauteeing garlic one day when a woman came up to us and said, "It stinks" in German, peered in and then walked off a bit grumpily. If this salted mustard is similar to what I know of as "xian cai" in mandarin, that is a salty preserved mustard green (which has its own... pungency), then I would not be too surprised that people would be put off by it. That's not to say that Germans don't eat duck, because I had several friends that ate duck at holidays, and one gave me a piece, and it was heavenly. But bone-in duck IN A SOUP is really unique and something that probably would not be on the menu. Whenever I ordered duck in an Asian restaurant there, it was always a thin layer of breast meat with the bones removed.

Oct 20, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

Thanks! I myself didn't grow up eating spicy food, so I always had the reverse problem there in Asian restaurants, that people would see that I was Asian and start loading on the chilies automatically! But I am learning. ;) I was never in Stuttgart, but I vaguely remember that we went to one restaurant in Dusseldorf for dim sum for lunch. They didn't do the carts, though, we just ordered off a menu, but it was good. Sorry, I don't recall the name though.

There was also a really nice Thai place just down the street from me when I was in Heidelberg that was really tasty, in case you are ever there (And it's a bee-line up from the Hbf!). That was YEARS ago, so I hope they still have the same chef.

http://www.thanaphon.de/index.htm

I've only been to Frankfurt in my travel connections (sorry!) so I can't suggest anything there either.

Oct 20, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

I think it also just depends on the where in the US you are. I've been to some more authentic style Cantonese restaurants in and around LA. I think it helps when the people opening and running them come from the region and haven't altered their recipes.

Oct 20, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

That is so funny because I am Chinese-American but lived in Germany for several years and know what you mean! :P I can totally imagine the scene...I wonder too, if they would be as patient as you to get their food. Sounds delicious....I'm sure she was delighted to have some customers want to taste some good home cooking! I for one would! I was so dying for good Chinese food when I was there. I'll have to keep that name in mind if I ever find myself there again.

Oct 19, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

yeah, I totally agree. He told us that this dish (and some of the noodle dishes that he makes) are "qing dan" in Mandarin, which means, light and mild/plain/bland, I guess. It is a style that we totally like, although I also like more boldly flavored Chinese dishes, too (and some of the other dishes on the menu are more strongly flavored), but I like anything that tastes good and is well-prepared. I'm not such a spicy fanatic in that we didn't grow up eating spicy Chinese food, but I am getting better and probably eat mild to medium, so their Taiwanese stew that used chilies was spicy but not so much that it hurt and flavorful, and very addicting. They started to warm up a bit the last time we ate there and talked about it. I think it just really depends on the customer. They are pretty personable and super friendly, so once they find out what you like to eat, they are willing to make it for you.

Oct 19, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

I agree, it helps when you have a common language, then it really is like that, they'll talk about everything, and you become an instant friend or like family (usually at places where you interact with the owner who is the chef--see my first post on this discussion). But I also know that not everyone in the restaurant business is like that (esp. if you are dealing with waiters/waitresses in a busy restaurant). The original post was about someone who did not speak or understand Chinese, how they are supposed to be able to order off-menu dishes in the absence of Chinese companions. The best way would be to get to know the people who run the restaurant, but the OP said that they aren't able to frequent the restaurant as often to do that. Another would be to start learning Mandarin as a way to communicate, but I realize that requires a lot of time. That's why I tried to give at least some words that the OP can print out and use to try to order the original dish as a stepping stone.

That's great though, that you both were able to speak Teochew dialect and enjoy so many wonderful dishes!

Oct 19, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

It occurred to me that based on the dish you describe in your OP (which, SO lucky you that you have a restaurant that makes dishes like that!), the Chinese may be something like "帶魚炒豆苗". "帶魚" is belt fish, something that is commonly made in Shanghai, usually a sweet/salty soy sauce based dish, "炒" means to sauté or stir fry, and "豆苗" are pea sprouts, which I guess are pea tendrils (a wonderful veggie!). Are you in contact with any of the original people in your party for that one meal? Maybe you could also get them to write down the names in Chinese of the dishes that were ordered? You could even tell the people at the restaurant that you've eaten the dish before and you love it, then maybe they will be less obstinate. BTW, the above Chinese is traditional characters. If you need simplified, it's "带鱼炒豆苗". One idea, because you mentioned that you aren't able to frequent the restaurant to become a "regular," would be that each time you go, you try to order that eel dish that you got. Then, whenever you do show up, they will start to recognize you and then maybe you can branch out into other dishes on the Chinese menu (like pointing to the photos that you said they have up but without translations). Don't give up!

Oct 19, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics

Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?

I'll start by saying that I am Chinese but was born in the US, and I know this "Chinese menu" vs. the "normal" menu since growing up. I think a lot of it has to do with not wanting to offend non-Chinese and then lose business. I would prefer that Chinese restaurants just start making these more traditional dishes available because they really are good and better reflect the cuisines of the country. Everyone has to keep in mind that only recently has there been this incredible surge in "foodies" and adventurous eating that was not prevalent when I was growing up. So most places are not used to non-Chinese wanting to try more traditional style dishes.

I'll give a very recent pertinent example:
In my city, a new Chinese-Japanese restaurant opened up a few months back, and it is a real jewel for my family and I. They serve a mix between Chinese and Japanese food, but mostly Chinese dishes. The food is excellent, but the menu is limited and just by looking at it, is geared more towards Westernized popular items (but they are cooked in a very nice way). BUT, they have other more traditional dishes and some regional specialties, like a particular chicken from the Shan Dong region in China that is served chilled and is delicious. We go there all the time and have gotten to know the owners, and one day the chef came out with a plate of a certain type of bean curd that some Chinese will know but is not something that you see in a typical Chinese restaurant, secret menu or not. It is called bai ye in Mandarin and is a lovely ingredient that can be prepared in different ways depending on the region. This chef cooks it differently than the way my mom's family cooks it. He uses just napa, the bai ye and some green onions with a little wine, and it is subtle in flavor but really good. We've tried to encourage them to put it on the menu, along with many other things he's made for us, but he has told us that people have complained on Yelp that their food is bland with no flavor and left one-star ratings. This bai ye dish would fall in that category for those people who left those reviews because the bai ye is like tofu, it doesn't have a strong flavor on it's own and takes in the flavors of the other ingredients. But if you have discerning taste buds, you will taste the wine that he's added, the flavor of the green onions, and the faint taste of plain napa in the dish. So for him, he makes the dish for people who know and enjoy it, not because he wants to exclude people but because he doesn't want to loose more business. There was another dish that they let us try that was a spicy Taiwanese style stew (very simple, just young bamboo shoots with chunks of pork and chilies but very tasty) and we were telling them that they ought to put it on the menu. Their first reaction was, "That is REALLY Chinese," indicating that most Americans may not go for it. We kept trying to tell them that we think people would like it if they tried it. The thing is, it is like most homestyle Chinese cooking: it doesn't look super appetizing because the color is that light brown color that you get with most soy sauce based stews, so I can see that if you aren't used to it, some may be put off just by it's appearance. But he is a really wonderful chef, and it is hard to read some of the reviews that people leave (they can be really caustic, and they don't really represent the food at all). These owners are really nice, and I'm sure that if the original poster walked into their restaurant and asked about these dishes, they may be hesitant but with prodding they may make it for you if they knew that you really are adventurous and not like most other people who are looking for Orange Chicken (I have seen some Yelp reviews that bagged another restaurant because they "didn't know how to make Orange Chicken"). So to the original poster, I'm glad that you are not like most people and are interested in trying more traditional dishes. I hope that you will find more success in being able to order more traditional food.

Oct 18, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics

How do east- and west-coast Chinese-American food differ?

Let's remember that China, like the US, is a very large country with numerous cuisine types depending on the region. Even neighboring regions like Shanghai and Ning bo (where my grandmother is from) have differing cuisines, although they may share common ingredients in some dishes. I'm Chinese but was born and raised in Southern California to a father who is from Hong Kong and a mother who was born in Shanghai. So we've had a mix of two types of Chinese cuisines growing up that themselves differ greatly between each other. That said, a lot of the Chinese food in any part of the US (or world for that matter) really depends on where the chefs are from and many have adapted the food to suit the palates of their local customers. I have to say that growing up in San Diego, we had a handful of Chinese restaurants, and I remember seeing things like Pu Pu Platters, Moo Goo Gai Pan, and Egg Foo Yong on the menu, but we never ordered them because for us, that wasn't really the style of Chinese food that we liked. We used to eat Moo Shu Pork at one of our favorite places (that hand made the best pot-stickers), because, yes, this was originally a Chinese dish, and the restaurant that served this did it very well (none of this dried pancakes; I think they made their own pancakes from scratch). It was like making your own big fat Chinese "burrito," and I loved it as a kid. But a lot of these restaurants closed up shop here, and at least in San Diego, there are many new restaurants popping up from newly located Chinese Diaspora who still cook in their authentic regional ways (for example, there was a new Szechuan (or Sichuan) restaurant that opened here some time back that served authentic dishes from the region, at least when we tried them out not long after they opened. They have a whole "cold case bar" filled with Sichuan style hot and spicy sliced beef shank, sliced pig ear, smoked chicken, etc. that most people when they hear "Szechaun/Sichuan" would never even think of). A lot of Chinese restaurants use "Szechuan (or Sichuan)" to refer to any dish that is spicy and may not necessarily reflect real dishes made in that province. Just like with the whole "Lo Mein" vs. "Chow mein" discussion. I agree, Hong-Kong style "Leurng Meen Wong" (spelled phonetically; Two-side brown) is deep-fried with crispy, normally thin egg noodles (but are topped with something that has a sauce. So if you let it sit too long before enjoying, all that crispiness is gone and then the texture becomes like a "lo mein"). But Lo Mein in Cantonese refers to thicker noodles that can be stir fried but are in a sauce, and the noodles are not crispy. That said, for other regions in China, "Chow Mein" is like fried rice in that the noodles are stir-fried but still soft. My grandmother would make "Chow Mein" in her Ning bo style (just south of Shanghai), which is vastly different from any chow mein you would find in most Chinese restaurants, and the noodles are not crispy. So it may just be a lot of freedom in the naming of dishes, too. Many restaurants may serve dishes that are "popular" but not necessarily a part of their own regional specialties, and so the dish may not be exactly like a restaurant where the chef is from the region for that dish. That may be why certain dishes carry the same name but come out completely differently.

I have never eaten at these restaurants, but for those of you who find yourselves in San Diego, this place serves Pu Pu Platter for two (they spell it Po Po Platter) and Moo Goo Gai Pan (they spell it Moo Ku Gai Pen) over in PB not far from the beach, and they seem to get good yelp reviews:

http://www.chinainnpb.com/Pages/dinner.aspx

Here's another, but it isn't as close to the beach (but it is on the way to the beach :P):

http://www.mandarinwokrestaurant.com/...

They actually took the effort to write on their menu, "Chicken Chow Mien (crispy noodle)" and
"Chicken Lo Mien (soft noodle)". For Moo Goo Gai Pan, I think they call it "Mu-shu Chicken" (I'm guessing "Gai Pan" is sort-of Cantonese for chicken slice, "Goo" means mushroom in both Mandarin and Cantonese). Under the appetizers, they've got "Flaming Pu-Pu Plagger" (that's probably a typo) priced per person.

Oct 18, 2012
foodieinsd in General Topics