• The Best & Most Popular Chinese Food Dishes in San Francisco

    Han Lijun

    Noodles: A key component of top Chinese food dishes

    Being the foodie adventurist that you are, you finally decided to explore, discover, and review the best Chinese food in San Francisco restaurants . First, you begin by finding a popular and established Chinese restaurant, such as Chili House SF, which has a reputation of serving delectable and authentic dishes. Second, as you sit with the menu in your hands, you’ll have to choose the popular dishes that don’t only have wonderful presentation (ideal for taking pictures), but also best represent the cuisine. Hence, here are some popular Chinese food dishes that you ought to try:

    Kung Pao

    Also written as Gong Bao, Kung Pao dishes hail from Guizhou cuisine, one of China’s eight famous cooking styles. The main ingredients used for Kung Pao could be chicken, prawns, scallops, and tofu, to name a few. These are then stir-fried with peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers. Needless to say, spicy Kung Pao is not for the weak-hearted as it will deliciously numb your taste buds yet leave you wanting more.

    Chow Mein

    From instant noodles to pop songs, Chow Mein is a tasty noodle dish that definitely made a name for itself. Here are the basic facts on one of the most popular Chinese food take-out options from an article posted at Cultural-China.com:

    Chow Mein is a rich source of nutrition and has many health benefits including improving digestion, anemia and immunity. Extremely popular in China and all over the world, this stir-fried noodle dish comes in many varieties. Cantonese Chow Mein is the most famous in Western countries.

    In American Chinese cuisine, Chow Mein consists of noodles, meat, onions and celery. It is served as a specific dish at westernized Chinese restaurants. The East and West Coasts of the United States do have some differences in preparation of this dish. On the East Coast, Chow Mein is almost always prepared in the “Hong Kong” style and crispy. On the West Coast, Chow Mein is almost always steamed and soft.

    Most restaurants in China cook this dish by deep frying the noodles; the fastest way to obtain the beautiful golden yellow noodles associated with this aromatic dish.

    Peking Duck

    One can’t talk about the best and most popular Chinese food dishes in San Francisco without mentioning Peking duck. Now considered as a cultural symbol of traditional Chinese food, the aromatic and savory meat of a roasted Peking duck is a sure delight to the senses. It’s recommended that you first dine on the thin, crispy skin dipped in sugar and garlic sauce (or the signature sauce of the restaurant you’re visiting), followed by the tender meat.

    (Source: Top 10 popular Chinese dishes on foreigners’ tables , Cultural China)

  • Chinese Food Catering-Spicing Up Your Life and Health with Hot Dishes

    Han Lijun

    When you choose to have Chinese food catering services from restaurants like Chili House SF for a special occasion, you must already expect that at least one or a few of the dishes to be served are on the spicy side, especially if it’s Szechuan cuisine, which is known for the liberal use of chili peppers and spices. Then again, if you don’t have a sensitive palate and actually love the slow yet satisfying burn of chili oil and whole peppercorns, you’re in for a delectable meal—and a number of health benefits.

    Helps with Weight Loss

    Capsaicin is the active compound present in chili peppers that is responsible for the hot or burning sensation you feel as you munch on spicy food. This compound increases your body temperature and heart rate, thereby boosting your metabolism (by as much as 8 percent) and helping you burn more calories. Moreover, a spicy meal encourages people to eat and be satisfied with smaller portions, which means less calorie intake.

    Good for the Heart

    Studies revealed that people in certain countries that eat the most spicy foods have much lower incidence of stroke and heart attack. Once again, capsaicin saves the day. A study published by the American Chemical Society showed that capsaicin helps reduce the buildup of LDL (bad cholesterol) while increasing blood flow; thus, improving cardiac function.

    Prevention of Cancer

    As you dip dim sum from San Francisco restaurants in chili sauce, place it in your mouth, and slowly savor its flavors as you chew, you’re also taking in anti-cancer compounds. In fact, chili peppers with their capsaicin aren’t the only spices that are lauded for their cancer prevention properties. An article by Robert Hughes posted at SFGate states that:

    Some spicy foods have anti-cancer potential. Turmeric, a peppery-flavored spice native to India, contains the active antioxidant curcumin, which has shown some anti-cancer effects in lab studies. Though small studies have shown positive results, according to the Mayo Clinic, curcumin requires further investigation before being used for cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society suggests that capsaicin may help slow the growth of prostate cancer cells.

    From keeping you fit to aiding your body in fighting off the most dreaded disease, the benefits of spicy food can’t be ignored. On the other hand, if chili peppers aren’t your spice of choice, you can always rely on the mild yet gratifying heat of other spices, which are also used in Chinese cuisine, such as garlic, ginger, star anise, and cloves, to name a few.

    (Source: What Are the Health Benefits of Spicy Food?, SFGate)

  • Getting to Know Hot Pot Dishes in San Francisco Chinese Restaurants

    Article about hot pot preparation at Chinese restaurants

    For most people, dining at Chinese restaurants in San Francisco , such as Chili House SF, often equates to ordering the more well-known (and widely loved) items on the menu: chow mein, dumplings, kung pao chicken, and sweet and sour pork. However, if there’s one type of dish on the menu that Chinese cuisine lovers must try—which can be succinctly described as “satisfying, hot goodness”—it’s the hot pot.

    The Chinese Hot Pot

    Sometimes referred to as steam boat or Chinese fondue, hot pot is a kind of stew that is traditionally served in a metal or clay pot of boiling broth/soup base. The pot is placed at the center of the dining table as plates or bowls of fresh and raw ingredients, including thin slices of meat, vegetables, and seafood, are laid out around it. Diners cook the ingredients they prefer by placing them into the simmering pot, and then dipping the cooked meat or vegetable in a tasty sauce.

    History: Beginnings of the Boiling Broth

    It’s been said that the Chinese hot pot boasts a history of more than a thousand years. An article posted at CultureofChinese.com has this to say about hot pot history:

    The hot pot originated from the Mongolians and first appeared in China early Qing Dynasty. It became popular after Manchu army passed the Shanghai Pass in 1644.

    Early in the 18th century of China, during the reign of Emperor Kangxi and Qianlong, Hot Pot was already featured upon their royal cruisine [ sic ]. Hot Pot later also became popular in Muslim restaurants.

    1854, Zhengyang Restaurant was opened outside Qianmen in Beijing. This became the first Han restaurant with Hot Pot. The restaurant was renowned and exceptionally famous for its mutton being sliced as thin as paper.

    Hotpot today has become widely popular in most of China.

    Hot Pot in San Francisco and Beyond

    As a matter of fact, hot pots are not just in China anymore. Thanks to authentic Chinese restaurants in San Francisco and other places, people from all over are able to enjoy this delicious and heartwarming dish. A bite into the tender, freshly cooked meat and a sip of the warm, savory broth are sure to lift one’s spirits—especially on a cold, rainy day.

    Etiquette: Eating It Right

    If you’re ordering a hot pot to share with friends, ask your companions if there’s any food in the pot that they wish to scoop out before you throw in the long-cooking ingredients (e.g. clams, abalone, prawn). Moreover, you wouldn’t want soggy vegetables or tough meat, so make sure that you don’t overcook them. Thinly sliced meat, for one, cooks within 20-30 seconds. You should take it out when there’s no more pinkness left in the meat.

    If you’d like to try the best hot pot in San Francisco, visit Chili House SF, where we pride ourselves on serving authentic cuisine. Our chefs have served many foreign dignitaries and even sitting presidents of China in their careers. Try our hot pot today!

    (Source: Chinese Hot Pot or Steam Boat , iLearn: Chinese Culture)

  • Sichuan Spice at Any Notable San Francisco Chinese Restaurants

    Team of chefs preparing spicy Sichuan cuisine

    Sichuan cooking (a.k.a Szechuan and Szechwan) has enviably taken its place as one of China’s eight great cooking styles. The term comes from the Sichuan province in southwestern China, where the Sichuanese, even in ancient written accounts, were reported to “uphold good flavors”—flavors marked by hot and spicy. Its cuisine today, even around the world and in almost every Chinese restaurant in San Francisco , is characterized as having bold, sharp flavors with garlic, chili peppers and peppercorns, and the fragrant native Sichuan peppers playing up the dominant notes in its dishes. The complexity and pungency of Sichuan cuisine, however, are not without its pulsing, thrilling depth.

    As food writer Andrew Coe knowingly writes: “The result is a cuisine with an incredible depth and complexity of flavor, hitting all sense receptors in your mouth, nose, and gastrointestinal system at the same time. You can tell a bad Sichuan restaurant because it hits one note at a time; dishes at a good Sichuan restaurant are a symphony.”

    Even food components in Sichuan dishes that are pickled, salted, and dried, are made spicy with the liberal use of chili oil. The unique flavor of Sichuan pepper (pinyin or flower pepper) has a citrusy, fragrant flavor that prickles in the mouth, along with star anise, ginger, garlic, and chili peppers.

    Food writer, Fuschia Dunlop, who went for chef training at Sichuan’s Institute for Higher Cuisine, points out that spicy Sichuan cuisine is not unlike French cooking in that there are different words for different processes of cooking. She identifies some of these techniques below:

    For example, liu is taking your ingredient, which usually has some starch paste on it, and pre-cooking it in oil or water. Then you make a sauce and mix the two together.

    Jian is what Westerners would call pan-frying in a flat pan, or frying without moving the ingredients around very much because you can also do it in a wok.

    Chao means stir-frying. Chaoxiang is to fry fragrant, which is bringing out the fragrance of oil, ginger, or garlic.

    Bian is another word similar to stir-fry. Ganbian, meaning dry bian, is frying without any oil and later adding oil and seasonings.

    Qiang is frying Sichuan pepper and chili and then adding an ingredient to drive in the Sichaun spice.

    Sichuan’s capital city, Chengdu—the birthplace of many culinary traditions—was the first city in Asia to be designated the “City of Gastronomy” by UNESCO. The city, in fact, has become one of the most exciting food centers in the world. Sichuan cuisine, indeed, finds its way in any authentic and vibrant Chinese restaurant in San Francisco , such as the Chili House SF, and with every one of them never losing the beat of ten blended flavor notes—spicy, sour and hot, home-style, gingered, sweet and sour, and garlicky, among others—which has earned authentic Sichuan-styled food its well-deserved world reputation for great-style cooking.

    (Sources: Sichuan cuisine: More than just spice, edition.cnn.com. October 10, 2012 )