Even children who are normally well-behaved can feel stressed in the unfamiliar environment of a Chinese restaurant. Not only is the food dramatically different than anything they have tried before, their parents’ expectations of them are as well. While it can be unrealistic to expect patience on top of quiet, respectful behavior, parents can engage in several activities while waiting for the food to help pass the time.
Distraction is the Name of the Game
Going to a Chinese restaurant for the first time is a novelty for most children. This is something that parents can use to their advantage. For example, they can explain that chopsticks in China serve the same purpose as silverware in the United States. If this catches the child’s attention, mom or dad can teach them how to hold chopsticks the right way. Many kids are already familiar with how to hold a pencil, which is a great way to start the demonstration. Placing a rubber band at the top of the chopsticks makes them easier for kids to use.
Asking for a few fortune cookies before the food arrives is one time when it would be good to eat dessert first. Finding a message inside of their cookie is a special experience for kids, even if they don’t know how to read yet. Parents can read the fortune and use it to play a game of make-believe with their children. Placemats with Chinese zodiac signs on them provide another opportunity to pass time by reading the appropriate one for each member of the family.
Kid-Friendly Chinese Dishes
Children who aren’t used to hot or spicy food may be startled by a traditional Chinese dish. It is better to start with milder flavors to get them accustomed to different flavors and textures first. Eggs rolls and dumplings are easy to cut up and kids will enjoy the novelty of dunking them into sauce. They may not even notice they’re eating vegetables at all. For kids who normally like soup, they should enjoy the taste of egg drop or wonton soup. These both tend to be more colorful than regular soup, which can appeal to a child’s sense of novelty as well.
Lo mein or cold noodles in sesame sauce will be just like eating spaghetti for kids. Vegetables and chicken in a light sauce, called Mo Goo Gai Pain, is easy for children to chew and tasty as well. Parents may want to avoid sweet and sour dishes due to the high sugar content.
Some Etiquette Tips to Keep in Mind
It can be hard for adults to know proper etiquette in a Chinese restaurant, let alone children. Nevertheless, parents should make it a point to impart the following:
- Avoid placing chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice. This may remind the servers of burning incense for the dead and is considered bad manners.
- Use chopsticks to pick up food but not to spear it.
- Don’t use the chopsticks as drumsticks to make sounds that may annoy other diners.
- Plan to take some leftovers home or the host may assume the children are still hungry.
By taking children to Chinese restaurants regularly, it will soon become second nature and etiquette will barely register as a concern.
A quality of any great restaurant is a love and respect for traditional dishes and recipes. Those recipes, weather followed to a tee or used as inspiration for a new dish, can help restaurants use their menus to tell whatever stories they want. At Chili House, we are proud to announce a new addition to our menu: the Gou Bui Li bun, a fiercely popular dish and a culinary staple in the Tianjin.
A Baozi bun is a steamed bun that can be filled with a variety of different meats and vegetables. As portable as they are delicious, bouzi buns are often enjoyed in restaurants and as a take away street food. There are two different versions of the baozi bun; the Xiabao, (or small bun) which are generally served in restaurants three to ten to a plate, or the Dabao (or big bun), the preferred version of most street vendors. According to some accounts, the famed scholar and military strategist Zhuge Liang invented the baozi bun during the Three Kingdoms period.
Over the years as the popularity of the dish grew leaps and bounds, different names and variations of the dish began to pop up and reflect how the steamed buns made their mark in various regions of China. One area particularly fond of baozi buns is Tianjin, where they are known as Goubuli Baozi. The story goes that the dish was introduced by a man named Gao Guiyou, whose nickname growing up was Gou Zi (translating to “baby dog”). As an adult he started selling the baozi buns for a living, and they got so popular in Tianjin that he could not be bothered to talk to customers while he worked. Locals started calling his buns “gou bu li baozi”, literally translating to “stuffed bun that dogs are not interested in”.
The term Gou bu li became so synonymous with the food in Tianjin that locals don’t call it anything else (think how everyone call facial tissue “Kleenex” here in America). In fact, the name is lent to one of the Tianjin’s oldest and most established food brands. Goubuli was founded in 1858 and continues to produce baozi buns in the same vain as Gao did. While seniority has been on their side, sales over the years have dwindled and the company has been looking for ways to expand their reach globally. Last year they signed a deal for rights to Gloria Jean’s Coffee’s , an American coffee chain. The deal is said to have opened the doors to Goubuli establishing the Goubuli baozi as a perfect pairing with coffee.
A combination of traditional ingredients and the unique styles and flavors of our chefs, the Goubuli buns we will be serving at Chili House will truly be the best of both worlds. Don’t be surprised if San Francisco becomes the newest destination for Goubuli Baozi!
If you have a passion for Asian cuisine and have visited a high-end Zhejiang restaurant, you may have heard of or tasted Dong Po pork. This is not a dish on every menu, as its complexity and richness make it a culinary treat only found in homes and authentic eateries in some regions.
Some interesting things to know about flavorful Dong Po pork include the following:
Unique origin. This dish has an interesting and ancient origin, discovered purely by culinary accident, by poet and scholar Su Dongpo . Legend is that he was preparing pork when he got caught up in a game of chess with a guest, leaving his meal simmering away for a long period of time. It has evolved from the early 1000’s to be a delectable dish found in contemporary Zhejiang cuisine .
Proper pork. If you plan on making your own dish, you first need a proper Dong Po pork belly recipe. Authentic, often hard-to-find ingredients are key for achieving the right flavor that distinguishes the tender pork, sweet sauce, and savory fat from other preparations. Perhaps the most difficult-to-find item is the Shaoxing hua tiao wine, which you should be able to order from a specialty Asian market or grocer; this wine brings depth of flavor and complexity to the rich pork belly during simmering.
Serving tips. Dong Po pork is a true culinary treat- not something that should be eaten every day. Per Eastern medicine, this dish should never be paired with certain foods to maintain accordance with the theory of medicine diet. Some foods warned about include:
- Smoked plums
- Shrimp and shellfish
- Squab, quail, or pigeon
- Lamb, beef, and donkey
- Water chestnuts
The next time you dine at Chili House in San Francisco, be sure to check out our Dong Po pork. If you are fortunate enough to have access to the authentic ingredients, make your own! Dong Po pork is a rich, savory treat that promises to melt in your mouth and tickle your taste buds.