So I've recently rediscovered (or discovered rather) my love for Chinese food. I don't mean the take out stuff you order at a Panda Express counter or at Pei Wei's. No, I mean the stuff you get at a sit down restaurant. Granted that the Chinese food I'll be talking about here is probably not a stranger to you, nor is it authentically "hole-in-the-wall" cuisine, but it's the food that I grew up eating when I went out, but never really appreciated it, and I mean REALLY appreciate it.
Here's a general break down of the Chinese food that I really like:
-Stinky tofu (is a must, the name doesn't do it total justice, but hey, it IS stinky)
-Tripe (book trip AND honey comb...cooked in any Chinese style will make me smile from ear to ear)
-Chicken feet (I love the kind that you find at dim sum restaurants with the black bean sauce and it has that unusual red, sometimes radioactive color...yeah...that one)
-Peking Duck (Chinese roast duck is a gem within it self, but when you take a large slice of crispy skin, with NO meat on it, and slap it in a pristine white bun with hoisin sauce and julienne scallions, it REALLY is heaven)
-Wonton noodle soup (ok, so this one is kind of a touchy subject, I've had many a wonton noodle soups in my life, MANY, and this is the general rule of thumb that I go by when judging how many stars I'd give it. Wonton: MUST be plump and have shrimp in the filling. Noodle: MUST be, what I guess Europeans would call Al Dente, but not the same way risotto rice or pasta is al dente. But let me just say, a mushy noodle in this soup is never acceptable!)
-Porridge (i really like 1000 year old eggs in my porridge! Fear Factor BRING IT ON!)
-Steamed Fish (this is something I really never liked growing up, but absolutely LOVE now)
Here's what you have to understand about Chinese food, (as do, I guess, food from all around the world), China is split in to 8 very particular climatic regions, each specializing in their own cuisine culture.
These Eight regions are called: Eight Great Traditions (菜系): Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan and Zhejiang.
Each region uses different spices and different ingredients based on what they can farm. For instance, Northern Chinese are noodle eaters, and Southern Chinese are rice eaters because the climate in the North can sustain a bountiful wheat crop, and the damp lands in the Southern regions of China are perfect for rice patties.
In some regions you'll find food with extremely intense flavors. Bold sauces, hot spices, thick gravys. But in other regions you'll find really pure foods like clear soups, thinner sauces. All good in their own way, and all enjoyed differently.
One thing about Chinese food is that, it doesn't always come in a greasy take out box, and although the history of Chinese food in America is WAY to complex to go into right now, just know that you should give everything a try, no matter how strange it looks or sounds, all of it, in its own capacity, tastes good!.