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.
Aside from the dishes we are most known for, like our famous Peking Duck and Dim Sum, here at Chili House we strive to serve the widest range of authentic Chinese dishes. One of our personal favorites happens to be our delicious Beef Pancakes, a take on one of China’s most popular treats. Today we are going to take a look at the history of this storied delicacy and how it came to prominence.
The 3rd Century Origins of Chinese Pancakes
The snack, similar to what is known in China as “Jianbing,” traces its roots all the way back to the Shandong Province during the Three Kingdoms Period (220 – 280 AD). Legend has it that Zhuge Liang, the chancellor of the state of Shu Han, was struggling to find an effective way to feed his soldiers who had lost their cooking supplies during battle. As a result, Liang had cooks concoct a mixture of water and wheat flour to be cook thinly and evenly across copper-made griddles (and sometimes even using the soldiers shields as a cooking surface). The result was a light, crispy crepe that helps sustain and boost the morale of the soldiers on the battlefield.
The dish proved popular beyond the battlefield, later getting passed down across generations. Today, Chinese pancakes can be found cooking on street corners in every major metropolitan neighborhood across China. The recipe is quite simple. Start by layering and folding the wheat and bean flour pancake fries, eggs, scallions and cilantro. Finally, add chili paste, hoisin sauce and lettuce to taste. Then fold the pastry a few more times for easy eating on the go.
To say the least, Chinese pancakes have become the quintessential snack food in China. Every afternoon, they satisfy hungry workers and students across China. In contrast to popular American street fare, Chinese pancakes are anything but fast food. Every one is cooked fresh to order, meaning there is always a line at the local vendor. In fact, many plan their commute to work around setting aside enough time to grab one!
America’s Discovery of Chinese Pancakes
Up until recently one would have trouble locating the snack outside of China and Taiwan. However the popularity and reach of Chinese Pancakes grows every year. Today, people across the US work to recreate the snack they fell in love with in China. One of the most popular variations (and one that has proved quite popular with our customers as well!) are Chinese pancakes with beef . It is quite similar to the traditional recipe, the only difference being the use of slow-braised beef instead of egg. This variation is popular in Taiwan, and has found a strong following in Southern California in recent years.
Chinese pancakes are perfect for those looking to add another Chinese culinary icon to their list of favorite dishes. We suggest searching your area for restaurants and seek out all the different variations available. Don’t forget to stop in and try the absolutely delicious Chinese beef pancakes at Chili House SF as well!
(Originally published in July of 2016 – Updated in March of 2019)
Many of the ingredients in Chinese dishes are foods that are abundant in nutrients, and they are foods that work to keep your health in good shape. You will find some of these foods listed below, along with valuable information regarding the health benefits they offer. Simply read what follows to discover the health benefits the Chinese have been reaping from these foods for many years.
Bok Choy and Broccoli
Broccoli as well as bok choy contains sulforaphane, a substance experts believe prevents cancer. Both of these cabbage family vegetables also contain lots of cancer-preventing vitamin C. Besides enhancing immunity, vitamin C reduces cholesterol, helps prevent heart disease, and aids in the prevention of gum recession. Protection from the damage caused by free radicals is another health benefit.
Green onions, also called scallions, have exhibited their ability to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and the chance of developing heart disease. The flavonoids contained in green onions are responsible for lowering heart attack risk, and the quercetin in this vegetable lowers the risk for colon cancer. Quercetin has also proved it can lower the risk for blood clots. Since onions are an anti-inflammatory food, they help lessen the symptoms of arthritis and the chest congestion that comes with a cold.
Tofu is soybean curd. It is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and iron. Bean curd has been known to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and it may help lower the chance of developing cancer. A drop in weight is also possible when this nutritious food is incorporated into your diet because it is low in calories.
Red and green bell peppers contain impressive amounts of vitamin C. One pepper of average size offers 150 percent of your daily value of this essential vitamin. Like bok choy and broccoli, bell peppers aid in the prevention of cancer.
White Rice and Brown Rice
Rice is a superb food for strong bones because it contains iron. Studies performed on animals indicated mammals deficient in iron had less bone density than those with adequate iron in their bodies. Brown rice is also an excellent supplier of fiber, and it is a good source of protein.
To get the most health benefits from the Chinese dish you eat, try to avoid consuming foods that are deep fried. The fat content in foods cooked this way is extremely high, and it is unhealthy because when oil is heated to such an extreme temperature it becomes carcinogenic. You will also be better off with low-sodium soy sauce instead of the regular kind that has a high salt content. If you cook your own food, read the labels on all Chinese sauces and use them sparingly since they are usually high in sodium content. Whenever you eat out, ask your waiter how your food will be prepared, and ask him what is in it.
Shumai is a traditional dish that can be made in many different forms. In the United States, the most common form is the shumai dim sum. While there are many different fillings and techniques use for this delicious treat, it usually is served as a filling of pork in a thin dough which is streamed or fried. When biting into shumai dim sum, the dumpling will burst into a ball of flavor that will leave you begging for more.
Meaning of Shumai Dim Sum
Shumai is a word that translates to “to cook and sell.” This means that dumpling is most often prepared and sold at a restaurant instead of a home. It has also been suggested it was named this way because shumai “never left unsold.”
The term “dim sum” is from a Mandarin word “dian xin” which means “touching the heart.” This speaks of the way this food is considered to be excellent for the soul. However, it is also translated as “dessert” in some situations.
History of Dim Sum
The earliest documented consumption of shumai occurred during the Song Dynasty at Chinese teahouses where merchants stopped in to rest while traveling the Silk Road. During the Tang Dynasty, more teahouses were introduced as a way to offer meditation as well as food and drink. While teahouses originally did not serve food, dim sum became standard over time. Shumai dim sum was originally consumed as an afternoon snack but over time became a staple of lunch and breakfast meals. In Cantonese culture, mealtime is a time for great company and conversation.
While business can be discussed over dim sum, the meal is largely considered a time for enjoyment. It is unknown if shumai was born along with tea and other foreign foods, but it is believed to be likely. If so, it may have been in existence even before the Song Dynasty where it was documented.
Traditional Serving of Shumai Dim Sum
Shumai dim sum and other dim sum dishes are most commonly served on a metal cart that is pushed around the entire restaurant. Steamed dim sum may be served in steamers made of bamboo, while other types are most often served on typical plates. All the fresh offerings will be on the plate and you call out to a server who brings you what you order. In many cases, dim sum will come in sizes of small, medium, and large.
At traditional United States restaurants, there may not be carts and instead your chosen dishes will be served to your table, as is the typical American restaurant behavior.
How Shumai is Made
The most common ingredients in shumai dim sum include ground pork and shrimp, along with a small amount of vegetables and unleavened dough. Additional spices and herbs are also included to give the fragrant, tasty dish its popularity. If you haven’t tried this exceptional dish, it is something everyone should consume at least once. Give it a try!