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Is there a master "Chinese" cookbook?

Is there a master "Chinese" cookbook?

Old Mar 27, 16, 5:57 pm
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Is there a master "Chinese" cookbook?

I think most of have noticed that a vast majority of the "Chinese" restaurants all have very similar, if not identical, menus, and very similar, if not identical - dishes. Yet we are also told that almost none of these are authentic in any way, and few of the cooks in these restaurants are formally trained in any way.

So is there some master "Chinese Restaurant" cookbook? If these are all non-authentic dishes, how do the cooks know to prepare them in the same way? Absent some kind of master class all potential Chinese cooks must go through, there must be some way they share these recipes.
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Old Mar 27, 16, 7:38 pm
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Originally Posted by Cloudship View Post
I think most of have noticed that a vast majority of the "Chinese" restaurants all have very similar, if not identical, menus, and very similar, if not identical - dishes. Yet we are also told that almost none of these are authentic in any way, and few of the cooks in these restaurants are formally trained in any way.

So is there some master "Chinese Restaurant" cookbook? If these are all non-authentic dishes, how do the cooks know to prepare them in the same way? Absent some kind of master class all potential Chinese cooks must go through, there must be some way they share these recipes.
My personal take is that there are, like, 3-4 sauces that can be combined with any meat, poultry, seafood or vegetable to make a given dish. And those sauces don't require rocket science to make. Therefore, once you get the basic sauce recipe down, you can make just about anything on an American Chinese restaurant menu.
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Old Mar 28, 16, 2:54 am
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Is there a master "Chinese" cookbook?

About Americanized Chinese food take a look at Jennifer 8 Lee (yes that's an 8, and I wonder how that goes with airlines' IT and immigration worldwide writings and videos, e.g. :
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Old Mar 28, 16, 4:08 am
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I guess you are referring to Chinese restaurants in America. Chinese food is actually very varied. Even with all the variety we get in Singapore, some of the food in parts of China are quite alien to me (and I'm Singaporean Chinese).

Different dialect groups have their own type of food. I think what is more commonly served in the USA are variants of Hong-Kong style food.
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Old Mar 28, 16, 6:53 am
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Is there a master "Chinese" cookbook?

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Old Mar 28, 16, 7:33 am
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Originally Posted by iluvcruising2 View Post
I think what is more commonly served in the USA are variants of Hong-Kong style food.
I think what is served in most of the US Chinese restaurants is some abomination that is uniquely American. I haven't found this sort of food anywhere in China or Hong Kong.

Now, having said that, and living in the SF Bay Area, it is very easy to find authentic "real" Chinese food.
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Old Mar 28, 16, 9:41 am
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bigshooter's answer has more truth than not, though if you're looking
to find the standard flavoring sauces, find a reputable Chinese brand
- Koon Chun, Lee Kum Kee, and the like. The rudiments of the standard
techniques can be learned in a few sessions, though perfecting them is
not so straightforward. Main things are to use enough oil, enough heat,
and enough Alliums.

For a beginner text, I suggest Grace Chu's Pleasures of Chinese Cooking,
though a "master" book of any cookery is but a dream.
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Old Mar 29, 16, 10:41 am
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Amazon has a number of them. This is one that I have, it's pretty good.

The Chinese Takeout Cookbook: Quick and Easy Dishes to Prepare at Home: Diana Kuan: 9780345529121: Amazon.com: Books The Chinese Takeout Cookbook: Quick and Easy Dishes to Prepare at Home: Diana Kuan: 9780345529121: Amazon.com: Books
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Old Mar 29, 16, 11:17 pm
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First thing to know is that Chinese cuisine is very regional, like Italian, French and even German and British cuisine. There is no universal Chinese food. As for Chinese food in the U.S. (which I have not eaten any of in decades), I wouldn't be surprised if it as mainly Cantonese (or ToiShan which is part of GuangDong province).

If you like Cantonese food, I would recommend one of the books of Kylie Kwong. Her methods are more refined than your basic Chinese cookbook (add ingredients of group A, stir, add ingredients of group B...).

As for flavorings, you'll find that they are used in different proportions (if it all) depending on which Chinese cuisine you are cooking.

Originally Posted by iluvcruising2 View Post
I guess you are referring to Chinese restaurants in America. Chinese food is actually very varied. Even with all the variety we get in Singapore, some of the food in parts of China are quite alien to me (and I'm Singaporean Chinese).
Then again, Chinese food in Singapore has changed with local ingredients. I was in HaiNan last month and was determined to find what is known as HaiNan chicken rice in SE Asia. Well, the dish apparently originated in SanYa with a free-range chicken (small, tough bird) from WenChang so it is called WenChang chicken.

It is served in the whole plate. Rice cooked in chicken broth isn't served, and neither is the heavy sweet soya sauce (which is Indonesian anyway). Only way you get that is at a western hotel because they are serving it the way foreign travellers are familiar with it.

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Old Mar 30, 16, 7:38 am
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I am not looking for a cookbook for myself. Rather, I am trying to figure out how, at least in America (but I think a similar thing happens in other countries as well), all Chinese (and this could be the same for Indian or other styles of cooking) restaurants seem to serve the same inauthentic dishes prepared more for less the same way.

When I think about the Chinese restaurants near me, they all (with perhaps one or two exceptions) have nearly identical menus. Food more or less tastes the same. I know that at least in a few of them (and I suspect most of them) the owners are recent immigrants. So it is not like they would have developed any cultural familiarity with these dishes.

So how do they all end up so similar? It would seem to make sense to me that they would least exhibit some tendency on the cooks part to reflect their own regional styles. I am assuming then that there must be some kind of instruction given by the food distributors on how to prepare "American-Chinese" food. I used to notice the same thing around here with Indian food - they all more or less had a similar menu. That has changed recently, however.
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Old Mar 30, 16, 8:47 am
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Originally Posted by Cloudship View Post
I am not looking for a cookbook for myself. Rather, I am trying to figure out how, at least in America (but I think a similar thing happens in other countries as well), all Chinese (and this could be the same for Indian or other styles of cooking) restaurants seem to serve the same inauthentic dishes prepared more for less the same way.

When I think about the Chinese restaurants near me, they all (with perhaps one or two exceptions) have nearly identical menus. Food more or less tastes the same. I know that at least in a few of them (and I suspect most of them) the owners are recent immigrants. So it is not like they would have developed any cultural familiarity with these dishes.

So how do they all end up so similar? It would seem to make sense to me that they would least exhibit some tendency on the cooks part to reflect their own regional styles. I am assuming then that there must be some kind of instruction given by the food distributors on how to prepare "American-Chinese" food. I used to notice the same thing around here with Indian food - they all more or less had a similar menu. That has changed recently, however.
This is probably more an effect of the way many Chinese restaurants are bought and sold, with chefs circulating among restaurants as opportunities present. I think most immigrant restaurant chefs in the US were not culinary specialists in their native countries, so they are not bringing their regional cuisines with them to open a new restaurant; rather they are buying or training into a tradition of American Chinese when they arrive. I wouldn't imagine they particularly refer to cookbooks to build their techniques.

Another consideration is the fact that most patrons of unqualified 'Chinese' restaurants expect a particular set of dishes, so there's also a risk of confusion in doing something different.

If you are looking for more varied regional cuisines, most larger cities in the US now offer a proliferation of styles, but if you are only near towns with a handful of restaurants it's probably not easy to find. That said, there are great resources on the internet for learning and trying whatever strikes your fancy out at home.
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Old Mar 31, 16, 3:00 pm
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Originally Posted by Cloudship View Post
I think most of have noticed that a vast majority of the "Chinese" restaurants all have very similar, if not identical, menus, and very similar, if not identical - dishes. Yet we are also told that almost none of these are authentic in any way, and few of the cooks in these restaurants are formally trained in any way.

So is there some master "Chinese Restaurant" cookbook? If these are all non-authentic dishes, how do the cooks know to prepare them in the same way? Absent some kind of master class all potential Chinese cooks must go through, there must be some way they share these recipes.
I don't know about a cookbook, but there was recently a very good documentary on the subject

http://www.thesearchforgeneraltso.com/
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Old Apr 1, 16, 4:04 pm
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Originally Posted by iluvcruising2 View Post
I guess you are referring to Chinese restaurants in America. Chinese food is actually very varied. Even with all the variety we get in Singapore, some of the food in parts of China are quite alien to me (and I'm Singaporean Chinese).

Different dialect groups have their own type of food. I think what is more commonly served in the USA are variants of Hong-Kong style food.
One of the great things about living next to a family with a Chinese wife was her taking us to a Chinese restaurant and ordering for all of us off the "hidden menu." She actually grew up in Taiwan, but her family was from near Beijing and she had family throughout the mainland also. She then led us through the preparation of each authentic dish from a variety of regions, her own favorite being Hunan. (She acknowledged that she herself was not much of a cook!)

There's one little hole in the wall in northwest Columbus called "General Tso's" that, so far as I know, doesn't serve the dish ... but they do serve what I've been told is quite authentic true Chinese cuisine. Delicious, though some of the dishes (e.g., "Spicy beef tendon") can be a bit daunting when seen on the English menu.
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Old Apr 1, 16, 5:00 pm
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Originally Posted by iluvcruising2 View Post
I guess you are referring to Chinese restaurants in America. Chinese food is actually very varied. Even with all the variety we get in Singapore, some of the food in parts of China are quite alien to me (and I'm Singaporean Chinese).

Different dialect groups have their own type of food. I think what is more commonly served in the USA are variants of Hong-Kong style food.
You're absolutely right regarding the variety of Chinese food -- it's more varied than any other world cuisine.

In Hong Kong, you're getting mostly Cantonese.

In the US, unless you go to authentic restaurants in Chinese communities, you're not really getting Chinese food at all. The western-style Chinese food served in the [redacted] restaurants is much sweeter, much less subtle and contains a much greater mix of ingredients than the real thing, regardless of purported regional cuisine. When my wife, who is Chinese, first came to the US, I took her to what was my then-favorite Chinese restaurant in Hollywood. She spent the evening laughing and said, "So you really think this Chinese food?" We never went there again.

Last edited by cblaisd; Apr 2, 16 at 6:04 pm Reason: Redacted to avoid any inadvertent misunderstandings
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Old Apr 1, 16, 7:54 pm
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Originally Posted by PTravel View Post
When my wife, who is Chinese, first came to the US, I took her to what was my then-favorite Chinese restaurant in Hollywood. She spent the evening laughing and said, "So you really think this Chinese food?" We never went there again.
I agree that what we call "Chinese" in the US is not really authentic, and it is good to try authentic Chinese cooking. At the same time, I think that "Chinese American" (my term) also qualifies as a type of cooking, even if it is not authentic to China. And just because it isn't authentic doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't enjoy it.

I am curious though - is what we do get more aligned with what one finds in the Canton region?
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