Many Chinese restaurants in the nation still offer takeout or delivery only due to the coronavirus pandemic. While Americans are happy to support local restaurants forced to shutdown for several weeks or even months, some have decided to use this time to learn how to cook more often at home. Preparing dishes that originated in another country has been an especially fun challenge for people who normally dine out or order takeout several times a week.
Below are several tips for those interested in cooking Sichuan cuisine at home.
How the Sichuanese Came to Love the Hot and Spicy Peppercorn
A few theories exist as to why people native to Sichuan developed a taste for such mouth-numbing food. As one story goes, the climate of Sichuan is so humid and muggy that people naturally gravitated toward strong and spicy foods. Another theory considers the numerous flavors of Sichuan food, including:
Adding chili paste to these ingredients has the effect of making the flavors of each of them richer. They also help to cleanse the palate to get ready for the next dish. In Sichuan, this style of cooking is most common when people prepare food at home and is far less common in restaurants.
Start by Gathering the Right Ingredients
Although people have different preferences for the main ingredients in a Sichuan dish, none would be complete without peppercorns, also known as hua jiao, along with pickled mustard root and hot pepper paste. These give the Sichuan food its famous numbing spiciness. In the past, finding these authentic Chinese ingredients was challenging even in the dozens of official Chinatowns in the United States. With the explosive popularity of online shopping, anyone should be able to find what they need to start cooking this unique and mouth-watering food.
Season the Wok Before Cooking
Meat, vegetables, and other ingredients in a wok can easily stick to the side and make the end result less appealing. The best way to avoid this is to add a small amount of oil to the wok and heating it to an extremely high temperature. Once the oil starts to boil, turn down the stovetop heat and allow it to cool before dumping it. Adding fresh oil just before starting the cooking process ensures that nothing will stick to the side of the wok. After all, no one wants to waste ingredients they worked so hard to get. Another tip is to cut the ingredients evenly to allow them to cook evenly.
Consider Investing in a Bamboo Steamer Too
For foods that require steaming, a bamboo steamer can work better than a wok. That is because metal lids on woks can cause water to collect on the lid. When the cook removes the food inside the wok, the water from the lid can fall onto the plate, dampen it, and degrade the taste. This would happen when using steamers with a bamboo lid. Additionally, bamboo steamers help to preserve the food’s nutritional value and are one of the oldest and most authentic ways to prepare Sichuan food.
While the above are only a handful of tips, they should be enough for anyone who wants to try their hand at cooking Sichuan at home.
It won’t be long before school is not in session for the winter break, leaving parents in the western neighborhoods of San Francisco wondering how to spend quality time with their kids before sending them back to school. Parents of younger children also enjoy getting out of the house while grandparents and empty nesters enjoy connecting with their loved ones while taking in enjoyable activities in this unique neighborhoods.
Here at Chili House SF, we love serving families and their children at our restaurant. Next time you’re in our neighborhood, here is a list of possibilities for the young and the young at heart to enjoy together.
The Koret Children’s Playground and Carousel at Golden Gate Park
Located at 320 Bowling Green Drive inside of Golden Gate Park in the southeast, this playground and carousel opened in 1888 and may be the oldest public playground in the United States. The colorful carousel is the main attraction for many families. With 62 characters on the carousel, including dogs, frogs, horses, pigs, and roosters, riding it can’t help but bring a smile to anyone’s face. The panels inside of the carousel add to the charm as they show painted images from around the Bay Area. The park underwent a renovation a few years back to include a climbing wall.
Take a Hike up Mt. Sutro
Families with older children might enjoy a good workout by hiking Mt. Sutro. The mountain is located inside of a forest with beginnings that go back more than 100 years. It sits more than 900 feet above sea level, offering an amazing view of San Francisco’s western neighborhoods below. A dense eucalyptus forest surrounds and is part of the mountain as well, making for beautiful scenery pictures. Because the mountain sits above the city’s fog line, it’s important for those who choose to hike it to dress warmly for their upward and downward climbs.
Bay Area Children’s Museum
This well-known children’s museum is located on seven and one-half acres of land belonging to the National Park System in the city of Sausalito. Families can find it sitting near the foot of another San Francisco icon, the Golden Gate Bridge. Primarily catering to children from six months to 10 years old, Bay Area Children’s Museum features numerous indoor and outdoor exhibits that children can touch and interact with to help them learn. Lookout Cove, an outdoor area spanning two and one-half miles, comes complete with caves, fishing boats, gravel pits, shipwrecks, spiderweb installations, and tide pools.
See 360-Degree Views of the City at Coit Tower
Erected in 1933 and located at 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd., the Coit Tower offers a 360-degree panoramic view of San Francisco below. Visitors must take an elevator to the top. Inside of the tower are several painted murals depicting life during the Great Depression. Visitors can bypass the line for the elevator by purchasing their tickets in advance online.
A Neighborhood with Much to Offer
The western neighborhood in San Francisco sometimes has the reputation of being bleak and foggy. While it might have more fog than average, it’s far from bleak and has dozens of adventures for local families and those visiting San Francisco from around the country or world.
Besides being a favorite of foodies who crave its subtle, briny flavors, did you know that caviar boasts a variety of other potential health benefits? Sure, many think of caviar as something reserved for special occasions, such as when enjoying Chili House SF’s very popular Peking Duck and Caviar banquet menu. However, don’t overlook some of the many health benefits of caviar listed below.
1. Major Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Some fish, such as sturgeon and salmon, are the best natural sources of omega-3s. And omega-3s, particularly DHA and EPA, have been linked to cardiovascular and brain health, as well as many chronic diseases.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help you achieve optimal heart health by consuming just one gram of caviar daily. These acids can lower the risk of blood clotting, help reduce your chance of a stroke or heart attack, and protect your arteries from hardening. Even the American Heart Association approves of this fishy egg.
2. Rich in Selenium
Caviar also contains high levels of selenium, an essential antioxidant that works with Vitamin E to protect your cells from free radical damage. This makes it an excellent tool for disease prevention.
Selenium is known as a vital trace mineral, having several health benefits, including support of a healthy immune system and increased cognitive function. Researchers have also discovered that selenium is essential for healthy thyroid function.
3. Loaded with B12
Caviar is loaded with B12, and can even help you meet the recommended daily requirements for this essential vitamin. B12 produces red blood cells in your body and also help your fatty acids work properly. B12 deficiency can result in fatigue, depression, anemia, reduced brain function, and tingling and numbness in the limbs.
4. Other Vitamins and Minerals
Caviar is also packed with a long list of other vitamins and minerals that can help your body and mind stay healthy and sharp. Among them are Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E, all of which can help boost your immune system. Likewise, there are high daily-value percentages of zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron in caviar.
5. Healthy Source
If you care about where your food comes from, caviar is an excellent choice. You can choose a sturgeon or salmon caviar that is organically grown. You’ll get food that has no added hormone or antibiotics, and no pesticides used in cultivation.
6. Other Health Benefits of Caviar
Some of the other potential health benefits of caviar may not be scientifically proven, but they are certainly worth examining. First, caviar has been recommended for people suffering from depression due to the high omega-3s, so it might help boost your mood.
Speaking of moods, some believe that caviar can act as an aphrodisiac. It has been called a “natural Viagra” by some doctors, and it doesn’t have any troubling side effects.
While there are many health benefits of caviar, you should eat it in moderation like anything else. It is known for its relatively high levels of sodium and calorie content, so it’s better to balance your intake of this delicacy with lean protein and fresh vegetables. Once you acquire a taste for it and realize its many benefits, caviar will make an excellent addition to your regular diet.
Holidays could be a lonely time for the first Chinese immigrants to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1870s. Not only were the missing loved ones thousands of miles away, the holiday traditions themselves were like nothing the Chinese immigrants had experienced back home. This prompted many to develop traditions of their own that they passed on through the generations. Nearly 150 years later, some Chinese Americans embrace their dual cultures by incorporating traditions of both countries into their Thanksgiving celebrations.
Making Thanksgiving Their Own
In an effort to fit in and do things the American way, some Chinese families found themselves eating bland turkey, potatoes, and stuffing on Thanksgiving Day that bore no resemblance to the traditional foods they knew and loved. This caused some Chinese to dread Thanksgiving. It wasn’t that they weren’t grateful for the opportunities they had in America, they just couldn’t enjoy food that was so different from what they ate on a day-to-day basis. Many families began to put their own cultural twist on Thanksgiving after realizing that they just couldn’t keep eating food they found so unpleasant.
One idea to make the Thanksgiving turkey more palatable to Asian families is to glaze it with Teriyaki sauce and stuff it with rice. Adding a lot of garlic and butter to mashed potatoes made them taste more like they came from the home country as well. Others swap out the turkey entirely for a the historically significant Peking Duck instead. Some other possibilities for a more “Chinese” twist on Thanksgiving include:
Fish cake soup
Gravy made from shitake butter
Mochi and pumpkin pie
Mongolian hot pot
Roast duck stuffed with sticky rice
Stir fried green beans
Sushi and sashimi
Sweet potato tempura
While some Chinese American families enjoy the same combination of dishes from both cultures every year, others found that they liked to continually expand their Thanksgiving day meal. For example, one Chinese immigrant who has called the United States home since 1982 started out with a more traditional American meal of turkey and fixing and evolved to his current recipe:
Start with a turkey breast weighing 8 to 10 pounds and add a few pinches of rosemary and one cup of soy sauce.
Use the tip of a knife to prick the turkey breasts and then add the rosemary underneath the skin of the breast. The cook should then remove the skin and place it in storage bag while adding the soy sauce at the same time. The bag now needs to go inside of a bowl in the refrigerator where it should sit for four to six hours to marinate. The cook should be certain to turn the bag containing turkey skin and soy cause over several times during that timeframe to ensure that it marinates evenly.
Now it’s time to prepare the fillings for the turkey. Some popular options include Chinese preserved sausage, shitaki mushrooms, dried shrimp, and sticky rice with chestnuts.
The cook should now set the temperature of the oven according to how much the turkey weighs. As the oven preheats, the cook should place the fillings inside of the turkey. Once the cooking is halfway complete, he or she can coat it with olive oil and apple honey and place back in the oven. Surrounding the turkey with regular potatoes or sweet potatoes is a nice touch before serving it.
As the popularity of Thanksgiving grows, some Chinese locals have chosen to celebrate it in their birth country. Similar to the United States, natives of China often put their own twist on the foods they choose to serve and even the name of Thanksgiving itself. In some Chinese provinces, people refer to the holiday associated with giving thanks as Friendsgiving as they gather to celebrate love and friendship.
The Best Local Restaurant to Celebrate Thanksgiving with a Chinese Flavor
As an award-winning Chinese restaurant popular with natives of San Francisco and tourists alike, Chili House is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. This includes Thanksgiving. With the American holiday just a few weeks away, now is the perfect time to make alternative plans to celebrate it without having to spend days cooking and preparing to serve guests. Instead of the traditional turkey dinner eaten by millions of Americans, those who want to stay close to their Asian roots can enjoy a feast of Peking duck and other dishes served family style and in generous portions.
Chili House San Francisco has catered to large family groups for years. The staff loves to celebrate family and community and looks forward to preparing a Chinese Thanksgiving to remember for guests this 2019 holiday season.
Peking duck has long been a popular and revered dish in China. Chefs create this famous dish by allowing a duck to hang overnight and then pumping air under its skin. This helps to pull the fat out more during the roasting process, which results in extremely crispy skin on the outside and warm tender meat on the inside. Another reason the dish is so delicious is that chefs coat it in spices and sweet syrup after taking it down from its hanging position. From there, the Peking duck goes immediately into an oven containing fruit wood.
After removing the Peking duck from the oven, chefs immediately bring it to the diners’ table to carve in front of them. They then serve the skin with small pieces of meat still attached along with small flour pancakes, scallions, and hoisin sauce. The remaining duck meat goes into a stir-fry and the carcass creates a duck broth soup.
The Start and Spread of Peking Duck’s Popularity in the United States
In 1972, President Richard Nixon visited China hoping to improve a strained diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Back at home, Americans watched a nightly review of Nixon’s speeches on television while feeling equally as interested in what he ate while in China. Nixon played the part of the Chinese guest well, sitting down nightly to huge feasts served with potent baijiu liquor.
The United States had many Chinese restaurants prior to President Nixon’s 1972 visit. However, the chefs transformed the food into a highly Americanized version more recognizable to the palates of Westerners. Due to the intense media coverage of Nixon’s trip and its focus on what he ate while in China, Americans began to emulate his eating habits by trying more adventurous food and using traditional Chinese chopsticks to eat it. Within 24 hours of one of Nixon’s dinners, a restaurant in New York replicated it and served it to curious American diners. Other restaurants soon followed suit, spurring an authentic Chinese restaurant boon.
President George H.W. Bush Also a Big Fan of Peking Duck
George H.W. Bush occupied the office of vice president for eight years from 1980 to 1988 and then president from 1988 to 1992. During that time, he visited a 300-seat Asian restaurant called Peking Gourmet Inn in Falls Church, Virginia more than 50 times. Peking duck was his absolute favorite thing on the menu. He loved it so much, in fact, that he rarely looked at a menu and the staff already knew just what he wanted.
The entire Bush family became regulars and then friends of owner George Tsui and his co-owner brother. It seemed only natural, then, that George H.W. and Barbara Bush invited Tsui and his staff to the Bushes home in Houston to help cater their 50th wedding anniversary celebration on January 6, 1995. The love for authentic Chinese food started with Nixon and extended to Bush and later his son George W. Bush, who was President of the United States from 2000 to 2008. Today, people across the country enjoy Peking duck and other Asian delicacies thanks to the notoriety these dishes gained from American presidents.
Xiao Long Bao, casually known as XLB, is a much-loved Chinese cuisine known for its delicate wrapping and flavorful soup filling with a powerful aroma. As famous as Xiao Long Bao is today, it comes from humble beginnings. Its creator, Huang Mingxian, was the owner of a restaurant called Ri Hua Xuan. It was while working here that he created Xiao Long Bao in the 1870s. It happened somewhat by accident as he added aspic to minced pork and then steamed it. Mingxian quickly noticed that the aspic turned liquid and the dumpling filled with soup.
The Early Marketing of Xiao Long Bao
After tasting Xiao Long Baoand realizing it was delicious, Mingxian knew that others in his village would enjoy it as well. He came up with the name Nanxiang da rou mantou, which means large bun filled with meat. He reasoned that the petite size of the soup dumplings would surprise diners and create a memorable experience for them, which turned out to be true.
Although customers came to Ri Hua Xuan in droves to taste what is now known as Xiao Long Bao, they weren’t crazy about the name that Mingxian assigned it at the time. They took to calling it by a name that they felt better described its appearance and origination. That name was Nanxiang xiaolongbao. The first part of the name described the region where the memorable dish originated from while xiao meant small, long meant basket, and bao meant bun. Over the years, people separated the words and then eventually begin referring to it as XLB.
Another Version on the Origin of Xiao Long Bao
While most Chinese credit Huang Mingxian with creating the delicious dumpling dish, some hold to an alternative theory that it was Emperor Qianlong who actually brought Xiao Long Bao to prominence. The emperor, whose life spanned from 1711 to 1789, was traveling through the Wuxi, Jiangsu province in the mid-1700s when he tasted the dumpling for the first time. People of the region called Emperor Qianlong the Swimming Dragon, which translates to Youlong in Chinese, because he typically traveled along the river.
The Emperor’s ringing endorsement of the new dumplings made it famous throughout the region. In fact, some people believed that the word long in Xiao Long Bao should be replaced with dragon instead of standing for basket. Even so, the XLB moniker has stood the test of time for at least two centuries.
Eating Xiao Long Bao Today
When a person bites into a soup dumpling for the first time, he or she often expresses a sense of wonder at their pure deliciousness of it. They quickly learn how to carefully open the dumpling and extract the juice without burning their mouths.
Although it’s served primarily as a snack or appetizer, people often want several more once they have had the chance to try their first one. Regardless of which version of the origination of Xiao Long Bao is true, no one could have predicted how much people would continue to enjoy this culinary delight centuries later or how its popularity quickly grew outside of China.
In many countries and places, the true culture of the place can be found in the food, but it isn’t always what is eaten, although that is important, that truly showcases the social fabric. How the food is eaten is just as important. As globalization makes the world ever smaller, food may be the last true indicator of an area’s society.
Meal Time in China Conveys the Family Hierarchy
The majority of tables in a Chinese household are round, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place of honor. The most esteemed guest or the head of the household will generally sit in the chair that faces the entrance to the dining area. To the left and to the right of the head of the family will sit the next members of importance, and this hierarchy will continue on around the table meaning the youngest member of the family ends up directly across from the oldest.
Once everyone is seated, it isn’t yet time to dig in. The more traditional families will require the youngest to invite the eldest to enjoy the meal. It is also important to note that the best dishes or favorite dishes will be placed directly in front of the head of the family and the treasured guests. The first person to pick up their chopsticks and begin the meal will also be the head of the family, but once that action has begun, the younger generations can relax and enjoy the meal. Respect and duty have been served.
Etiquette at a Chinese Dinner Table
Wherever you are seated at the table, you should begin your meal with those dishes that are nearest to you. Adding a few morsels to your plate with your chopsticks before passing the dish on to the person on your left or right. No one should dig around in the plate with their chopsticks looking for a particular piece of meat or another item because this is not only very rude, but it is also extremely unhygienic.
At a formal dinner or banquet, there can be anywhere from 12-16 dishes on the table. There will generally be a handful of cold dishes such as fruit or other items typically served chilled or at room temperature. Then there will also be eight to ten dishes of heated food items. If there are items on the table that are very expensive or foods that are considered rare, this is considered an honor to the guests.
In the Chinese household, a family member may show affection by placing a particularly good morsel of food on a loved one’s plate. This is considered the equivalent of telling someone you care about them. People that have a hard time talking about their feelings of affection can generally get the point across in this manner.
At the End of the Meal
Once a diner has finished eating, he or she will place their chopsticks neatly to the side of their bowl or plate. It is considered very rude to leave them stuck inside the unfinished food bits, and it is against etiquette to leave them sticking up from a rice bowl. This act invokes leaving incense on the altar of a dead ancestor, so it is considered rude and disrespectful to do so at the dinner table.
The rules of etiquette may have morphed over the years in the Chinese household, and in any other household in the world, but there is still a lot to learn in the eating rituals of other cultures. Having a meal with a family in China, or even a Chinese household in another country is a good way to experience what it means to be Chinese.
Since it’s opening, Chili House SF has taken a extraordinary amount of pride in our Peking Duck offerings. From the sourcing and preparation of the duck, to how it is carved and served to diners at their tables, the utmost care is taken to ensure quality and a memorable experience. Today, Chili House is a favored location among tourists, San Francisco and Bay Area locals, and even food bloggers and critics for top-notch Peking Duck.
To bring a contemporary Chinese twist to this otherwise traditional classic, Chili House SF is now offering Peking Duck with Caviar. While the say that gluttony is a vice, the experience of this new house special is an exquisite indulgence. From one plate diners can enjoy a perfectly served Peking Duck in it’s traditional form, with steamed pancakes, sweet bean sauce, spring onions and cucumber.
From the other plate, diners delight in bite-sized, caviar-topped slivers of crispy duck skin, shining with a oh-so-thin layer of fat on a layer of toast. The soft caviar blends with the crisp duck skin to create an incredible combination. You’ll definitely know you’re eating duck, but the subtle highlights will leave you wanting more. Ask about this extraordinary new dish on your next visit to Chili House SF!
**Please note:Supplies of Peking Duck are limited to 20 per day to ensure freshness. Please call for reservations in advance if you wish to order Peking Duck.
For many people, the absolute ideal food is some sort of noodles. There are so many different styles and varieties, and noodles are extremely versatile can be delicious in a multitude of dishes.
There is one particular noodle that seems to be rising in popularity, and that is Liangpi, the cold skin noodle. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try these yet, don’t let the word “skin” throw you. Liangpi noodles are not actually skin; they are made from wheat starch or rice flour.
Liangpi originally hailed from a Shaanxi province of China, but it is now eaten in many other regions of the country. The northern and central parts of China are particularly fond of this specialty dish. However, foodies can order this particular noodle dish in restaurants all over the world. There is a very popular vegan version of this dish at Xi’an Famous Foods in New York City.
There are a few different ways to make these noodles, but generally, it starts with wheat flour, water, and salt. A dough is made and then rinsed repeatedly to leech the starch and turn it into a paste.
The starch is spread onto a plate or other flat surface in a very thin layer, and then it is boiled until it becomes similar to a pancake. The “pancake” is cut into long, thin noodles and called Liangpi!
Popular Liangpi Dishes
There are plenty of recipes made with these wheat starch noodles, and each rendition has its own special ingredients and flavors. Here are a few of the more popular ones:
Hanzhong Liangpi– This spicy dish is named after a city in the southwestern part of Shaanxi. The noodles are combined with garlic and hot chili oil for a fiery treat.
Majiang Liangpi– This dish is named after one of the main ingredients: sesame paste. Also included in the dish are julienned cucumbers. The sauce contains salt, vinegar, black sesame paste, and hot chili oil.
Shan Xin Gan Mianpi– This type of Liangpi is prepared slightly differently and ends up being darker and firmer. It is served with mashed garlic, bean sprouts, Mianjin, vinegar, and chili oil.
Typically, Liangpi dishes are served cold, even in the colder winter months.
Other Chinese Noodles to Try
Once you dive into a large bowl of Liangpi, you may want to explore other popular Chinese noodle styles. Who can blame you? Noodles are delicious in any state. Here are a few other dishes to explore as well:
Mai Fun– these are thin rice noodles that are often eaten as a dish called Singapore Noodles. This is a dish that is made with egg, vegetables, shrimp, and yellow curry.
Ho Fun– these rice noodles are wider and stickier. They are difficult to cook if you don’t have a really good wok, so you may want to try these out in a restaurant.
La Mian– Chances are, you’ve already had these noodles at least once in your life as they are the ones used in instant ramen.
Now that you are familiar with Liangpi and several other Chinese noodles, it is time to go on a taste-testing tour. Start at Chili House SF and try our
Although Peking Duck is a dish that originated in China hundreds of years ago, no one has ever made a definitive statement about what to drink with it. This dish, which is now popular in Chinese restaurants in the United States, features crispy skin, abundant flesh, and sweetened fat. One thing that most diners agree on is that standard Asian flavors of salty, sweet, and hot pair especially well with Peking Duck. The matter of what to drink with this meal comes down to a matter of preference.
Factors to Consider for Pairing with Peking Duck
Before selecting a specific wine from the menu, diners should stop to consider the strongest flavors in Peking Duck and how to balance the bitterness, heat, sweetness, and saltiness with a chosen wine. Despite the complex, fatty, and rich taste of this dish, the most important thing to consider is its plum sauce. It tends to have both sweet and sour components with sweet edging out sour by just a bit.
White Wine Can Make a Great Choice
A somewhat off-dry white wine pairs well with Peking Duck and other types of Chinese food with a lot of sweetness to the flavor. Some specific things to look for in a white wine include a bright acidity factor, a small amount of oak or no oak, and a moderate to low alcohol content.
If diners receive their meal of Peking Duck and it’s sweeter than expected, choosing a white wine with higher amounts of alcohol, oak, and acidity can make a better match. Some specific white wines to consider include Efeste Riesling Columbia Valley, Pacific Rim Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc, and von Hovel Riesling Kabinett.
Pinot Noir a Popular Choice to Go with Peking Duck
Food bloggers have frequently noted the excellent flavor combination of Peking Duck and this type of wine. However, much depends on the cooking style of the chef since this impacts which flavors will stand out the most. Red burgundy, for example, is an excellent complement for plainly cooked roasted wild duck. Duck with Asian spices included or duck breast pairs better with a riper style of Pinot Noir.
Don’t Forget the Option of Red Wine
Some people are not fans of white wine and find that red wine makes a better combination to please their taste buds. Red wines such as Zinfandel, Shiraz, and Grenache all have the fruity flavor of berries and jam that help to draw out the flavor of the sauce. The creaminess and richness of red wines act as a buffer for the rich, spicy, and sweet flavor of Peking Duck.
Tannin types of red wine typically don’t make a good pairing with this meal since the wine’s characteristics can actually cover the flavor of the roasted duck. Some red wine considerations include Layer Cake South Australian Shiraz and Stolpman Santa Ynez Valley Grenache.
Of course, flavor combinations go beyond red wine, white wine, and Pinot Noir. True wine connoisseurs and lovers of Chinese food may find many more options by experimenting with different flavors on their own.