Each year, millions of Americans gather at Chinese restaurants on Christmas day. In fact, Christmas and Christmas Eve are the busiest day of the year for most American Chinese restaurants.
The combination of Christmas and Chinese food is iconic. According to Google Trends , more people search for “Chinese food/restaurant” during the week of Christmas than any other week the year. It isn’t just internet searches either. On December 25, Chinese food orders increase by as much as 152%, according to GrubHub in 2013. This phenomenon is not new.
Be sure to book early to take advantage of our limited Peking Duck or banquet dining options. Chili House SF experiences some of our busiest days of the year during Christmas and other holidays!
History of Chinese Food on Christmas Day
Chinese food became a traditional go-to within non-Christian immigrant communities. The tradition seems to have originated in New York City as far back as the late 1800s. Immigrants from cultures that don’t typically celebrate Christmas found they had time off to spend with family, but no traditions of their own. Chinese restaurants were open on Christmas day and offered an inclusive, welcoming environment. So a century-long love affair was born!
Chinese cuisine symbolized the urban, cosmopolitan lifestyle in the early 1900s. For many new Americans, enjoying Chinese food was a way to celebrate the great American cultural melting pot.
Since Chinese restaurants come in a range of prices, it is an affordable treat for budget-conscious families. Many Chinese restaurants offer family-style meals that promote sharing and camaraderie. Some San Franciscans who celebrate Christmas also opt to enjoy a Chinese meal on Christmas Eve or even Christmas day. They prefer the low-stress, relaxing experience.
Chinese Food as a Holiday Alternative
Lifehacker lists “eating Chinese food” as one of the top alternative activities for Christmas day. Other classic alternatives include going to the cinema as many new films release on Christmas day. Also, they suggest visiting parks and open spaces or spending time enjoying a favorite hobby. If you are feeling social, you will find plenty of company at a popular Chinese restaurant.
Other cuisines also see a boost on December 25, according to GrubHub. Muslim halal, Indian, dim sum, kosher, Thai, and Vietnamese food also saw an increase in takeaway or dine-in orders. Though these others have not yet reached the same level of popularity as Chinese food.
Ten Most Popular Chinese Dishes For December 25
Just in case you are looking for ideas of what to order, GrubHub told CNN the most popular Chinese dishes on December 25, 2014, were:
- General Tso’s chicken
- Crab Rangoon
- Egg Rolls
- Sesame Chicken
- Wonton Soup
- Fried Rice
- Sweet & Sour Chicken
- Orange Chicken
- Hot and Sour Soup
- Pot Stickers
(List source ” It’s true. Everyone eats Chinese food on Christmas ,” CNN.)
Enjoy a Worldly, Modern Tradition
While this tradition originated in immigrant communities in New York City, it soon spread across the nation. It quickly reached San Francisco, due to the thriving Chinese community.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, continue a modern tradition by booking your Christmas Eve, Christmas, or Boxing Day meal at your favorite Chinese Restaurant. Don’t be surprised if your favorite restaurant is fully booked, reserve your table early to avoid disappointment.
Soup dumplings are an essential part of any Chinese meal, but not everyone knows what they are or how to eat them. The bite-sized food consists of a shell made from dough, which can come from several different sources of starch. It is soft and chewy. The inside contains hot soup made from a variety of ingredients. Cooks often recommend that diners consume the soup dumpling in one bite to fully appreciate the combined taste of the thin flour wrapper, meat filling, and broth.
Common Mistakes When People Eat Soup Dumplings for the First Time
Since the Chinese eat most food with chopsticks, some diners assume that this is also the correct way to eat a soup dumpling. However, the dumpling is too delicate to pick up or poke with a chopstick and will leak the broth of the soup all over the table or plate. Another common mistake is to grab it with fingers or a fork and place the whole thing in the mouth. That can be painful when the dumpling breaks open and hot soup spills out.
Use a Soup Spoon
Chinese restaurants typically serve dumplings with a large soup spoon, signaling to diners that this is what they should use to eat the dumpling . However, the diner still needs to get the dumpling onto the spoon. He or she can accomplish this by using a pair of chopsticks and picking it up closest to the knot. For those not wanting to risk a puncture, asking the wait staff for a pair of tongs is the next best option.
How Diners Can Eat a Soup Dumpling without Burning Their Mouth
As mentioned above, it’s best for people not to put the whole dumpling in their mouth at once. Instead, they should take a small bite from the side of the dumpling while it’s still on the soup spoon. This allows some of the hot broth to drain so the diner can slurp on it first.
If the restaurant uses smaller soup spoons, it’s best to take a small bite from the top of the dumpling first. After allowing a few moments for it to cool down, the diner can suck the hot broth through the top of the dumpling and then place the remainder of it in his or her mouth for chewing.
It can take a few sessions of trial and error, but it won’t be long before the person new to soup dumplings eats them like a pro.
If you’re from out of town and planning a trip here to San Francisco, you could be among the nearly 69,000 people that visit the City by Bay each day. Tourism in San Francisco brings in approximately $8.9 billion in annual revenue to the city as people visit places such as Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Once you’ve seen Alcatraz, had some chocolate at Ghirardelli, and consumed an authentic meal in Chinatown , what else is there to do? Aside from visiting us here at Chili House on Clement St. (of course), there is a ton to do. Here are ten underrated activities in San Francisco that promise to delight and get you away from the typical tourist crowds.
1. Hike the Presidio
San Francisco is a city, but it’s one that makes it simple to get back to nature. A former military base within the city limits, The Presidio is now a national park with more than 24 miles of trails that wind through meadows, overlooks, and eucalyptus groves.
2. Sample Craft Beers
Northern California is known for its wines, but San Francisco also has an exploding craft beer industry. If wine isn’t your thing, or you just don’t want to make a trip to Napa, spend some time touring some of the city’s craft breweries. A few notable ones are Toronado , Monk’s Kettle , and Hopwater Distribution .
3. Explore Chinatown’s Alleys
A visit to San Francisco isn’t complete without some time in the city’s Chinatown. Once you’ve sated your appetite with some authentic Chinese cuisine, be sure to explore all that Chinatown has to offer. In particular, the surrounding alleys, such as Ross Alley, have some interesting shops and bakeries.
4. Go to North Beach
Also known as San Francisco’s “Little Italy,” North Beach is a neighborhood that is often overlooked by tourists. Visit here, and you’ll be delighted to find some excellent Italian food, coffee shops, bakeries, boutiques, and bars.
5. View Clarion Alley’s Street Art
If you find yourself anywhere near the Mission District, be sure to track down Clarion Alley so that you can view the iconic street art. The entire alley is full of colorful murals and street art, some of it political in nature.
6. Climb the 16th Ave Tiled Steps
After you’ve walked up the winding Lombard Street, head over to Moraga Street between 15th and 16th Aves for another treat. This neighborhood project of 163 tiled steps is stunning from the bottom, and once you reach the top, you’ll have views of the city and the ocean.
7. Check Out the Free Museums
You can certainly pay to go to some museums in San Francisco, but you’ll also find some interesting history in a few of the city’s free museums. The Cable Car Museum shows the inner workings of the city’s cable cars and its system. The Wells Fargo History Museum teaches visitors how to properly drive a stagecoach. You can meet native animals at the city’s Randall Museum .
8. Hang Out in Dolores Park
Golden Gate Park is a must-visit but if you want to hang with the locals, be sure to put Dolores Park on your list as well. This massive expanse of green is the perfect spot to catch some rays, have a picnic, people watch, and view San Francisco’s skyline in the distance.
9. Climb the Batteries on Bluffs Trail
If you go to Baker Beach, you can find the “Batteries to Bluffs Trail,” which will take you on a scenic stroll along San Francisco’s coastline. A stop at Marshall’s Beach will give you some incredible Golden Gate Bridge photo ops, where you can also view and climb the massive batteries.
10. Explore the San Francisco Zoo
The San Francisco Zoo is one of this nation’s top zoos. Located in the Sunset District, the zoo hosts more than 1,000 endangered, exotic, and rescued animals in the midst of lush gardens and plant life.
Of course, you’ll want to visit all of the standard spots on your upcoming San Francisco visit. But, use these underrated activities to fill in the gaps and make your experience in the City by the Bay as unique as possible.
At Chili House SF, we take a huge amount of pride in our Peking Duck. Our duck is always made fresh for patrons and never re-heated or pre-cooked. Our servers carve the duck, crispy and fresh, right out of the oven when it comes to your table. We only serve a maximum of twenty Peking Ducks per day and reservations are required because we insist on maintaining the highest standards in our preparation.
Patrons from local San Franciscans to visitors from around the world appreciate the care and precision with which our Peking Duck is made. From your seat at one of our tables, here’s how the spread will look when ready to serve:
At this stage, there are 5 components of the Peking Duck dish ready to assemble:
- The duck meat
- Steamed pancakes
- Sweet bean sauce
- Spring onions
Here is the proper way to then put together these components for a mouth-watering treat!
- Lay one pancake flat on your plate, and spread a small amount of the sweet bean sauce around the top-middle section of the wrap.
- Next, place a few pieces of duckon the top-middle section over where the sauce has been spread.
- Next, lay a small number of cucumbers and spring onions over the top of the duck meat. The goal is to have the duck be the juicy outer layer of the bite that first hits your mouth, followed by the more crunchy, textured cucumber and onion in the center of the bite.
- Fold the bottom half of the pancake over the meat, sauce and vegetables at the middle of the wrap.
- Pull the right and then left edges over the middle of the wrap, then flip over the assembled wrap.
- Pick up your delicious treat with your chopticks and enjoy!
Although it surprises many, the way in which you assemble the components of the Peking Duck wrap greatly influence the taste. Experimenting with more or less sauce, and changing the order of the assembly between meat and vegetables has a noticeable affect on the flavors of subsequent bites.
Finally, be sure to enjoy any leftover pieces of Peking duck meat as part of a delicious soup following the main course!
Chili House in San Francisco’s Richmond District has earned a reputation as one of the best Sichuan restaurants in the City by the Bay. Located at 726 Clement Street in San Francisco, the restaurant has become known for authentic Chinese food, Beijing Dim Sum, and Peking Duck. Along with your visit to Chili House for a satisfying lunch or dinner, you may want to take the time to explore some of the other sites in the area. Here are eight attractions that are within just a few miles of Chili House SF.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is generally at the top of every San Francisco visitor’s list. Once termed “the bridge that can’t be built,” the bridge is now considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world. The suspension bridge spans 1.7 miles between San Francisco and Marin County. Pedestrians and bicyclists can use the bridge’s sidewalk during daylight hours.
Distance from Chili House: 2.3 miles
[Photo Credit: “Golden Gate Bridge from S.F.” by Linahhhh / Instagram]
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is the fifth most-visited city park in the U.S. and one of the largest. At 1,017 acres, the park is even larger than New York’s Central Park. During your visit to the park, you can choose among several museums, lakes, the Japanese Tea Garden, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, hiking trails, picnic groves, monuments, and playgrounds.
Distance from Chili House: 0.7 miles to Fulton St. edge of the park
Re-live the “Summer of Love” any day of the week with a visit to the Haight-Ashbury District. The corner of Haight and Ashbury streets still has its roots in this era, with vintage clothing shops, book and record stores, and independent theaters.
Distance from Chili House: 2.0 miles
[Photo Credit: “Haight Ashbury Intersection” by Nicolebaade / Instagram]
Sometimes also referred to as Sea Cliff, the Seacliff neighborhood is located in northwestern San Francisco and is a must-see. Just one of eight master-planned residence parks in the city, the community lies adjacent to Baker Beach with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Some of the more famous past and present residents of Seacliff include Ansel Adams, Robin Williams, and George Soros. Also find the secluded China beach, a small area featuring picnic spots & views of the Marin Headlands & Golden Gate.
Distance from Chili House: 1.9 miles
Legion of Honor Museum
The Legion of Honor Museum is part of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. Located at 100 34th Avenue, the museum sits in Lincoln Park with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. When you visit this iconic museum, you’ll be able to view more than 6,000 years of ancient and European art.
Distance from Chili House: 1.9 miles
Upper Fillmore Street Shops
If you’re looking for a unique shopping experience, be sure to check out the Upper Fillmore Street Shops , located just south of Pacific Heights. Fillmore Street has developed into a destination of sorts in San Francisco, with its Jazz District and now its energized shopping village with many one-of-a-kind shops and high-end boutiques.
Distance from Chili House: 2.0 miles to intersection of Fillmore & California St.
Baker Beach is a public beach in the northwest section of the city that lies along the Pacific Ocean and provides stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. For several years, Baker Beach was known as the original site of the “Burning Man” festival, which has now moved the Nevada Desert. The northern section of this public beach remains a popular spot for nude sunbathers.
Distance from Chili House: 2.0 miles
San Francisco’s Presidio is now a park, but that wasn’t always the case. This beautiful area on the city’s northern peninsula was once a U.S. Army military fort. Now, it is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, where you can visit for views of the Golden Gate Bridge, tours of the fort, and even see marine exhibits at the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
Distance from Chili House: 1.4 miles to Immigrant Point Overlook
[Image Credit: ‘Immigrant Point Overlook’ by Marcopolo119 / Instagram]
Dinner parties are popular all over the world, because they perfectly combine the pleasure of great friends and food with the comfort of your own home. If you’re looking for a new angle for your next dinner party, try making it a themed affair. A Chinese-inspired dinner party–complete with decorations, food, and entertainment–is a great way to stand out as the best and most creative host around!
To help your guests get into the theme, decorate the room with Chinese objects, such as a flag, decorative hand fans, and paper lanterns. Use a dragon statue as the centerpiece on your table and hang a Chinese-inspired tapestry on the wall. Ask your guests to wear embroidered robes, silk dresses, or loose pants. They can also carry fans and style their hair with chopsticks. Research how to write each guest’s name in Chinese characters and then write the names on thick card to use as place markers. You can use a calligraphy pen and add a few water color flowers, so your guests have a nice keepsake from the night.
Rather than dealing with preparation and clean-up time associated with cooking, try catering from Chili House SF in you’re hosting your party in San Francisco. Our award-winning chefs have decades of professional training in both Sichuan and Beijing-style cuisine.
For the appetizers, serve up egg rolls, pot stickers, beef pancakes and more. Popular choices for entrees include our House Special Fresh Filet Boiled in House Spicy Sauce, and Hand Pulled Noodle, Creamy Prawns with Honey Walnut, Mu-Shu Pork and Steam Chinese Cabbages.
For an authentic experience, encourage everyone to try eating with chopsticks–just be sure to also have forks on hand for those who are less dexterously advanced! Finish the meal with the perfect dessert: “Nian Gao” (traditional Chinese New Year cake) accompanied by steamed pears.
After dinner, keep your guests entertained with traditional Chinese games. You can set up a Mahjongg game with little Chinese trinkets as prizes or have everyone have their fortune told using Kau Cim sticks. The more adventurous members of the group can see how they fare with Chinese finger traps. You can also buy a Chinese puzzle box and place a small prize in it. Hide the instructions and have your friends take turns trying to figure out how to open it.
A Chinese-inspired dinner party is sure to impress your guests. The decorations, outfits, foods, and games will guarantee that everyone has a fantastic time. Your guests will get to enjoy great food and entertainment and will even get to learn about Chinese culture. Once you’ve experienced the taste of success, you’ll be eager to start planning your next themed dinner party.
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.
Some people love Chinese food based on their Americanized perception of the cuisine. Favorites might include Chop suey, General Tso’s chicken, and Mongolian beef. Yet, those who crave authentic Chinese fare understand that the real dishes coming from mainland China often are both simpler in composition and have a much more powerful kick. One such dish that is incredibly popular is called Dan Dan Noodles.
Dan Dan Noodles History
If you enjoy Chinese Sichuan cuisine, you won’t want to miss Dan Dan Noodles. These famous spicy noodles received their name from the way in which they have been cooked and served in China.
“Dan Dan” refers to the type of carrying pole that street vendors would use to sell the dishes to pedestrians. The pole was carried on the shoulders of the vendor with two baskets on either side, one carrying the noodles and the other with the sauce. The name translates to “noodles carried on a pole.”
The most famous Dan Dan noodles are probably from a peddler named Chen Baobao in Zigong . His noodles gained notoriety because he carried them everywhere so that people could try them, and he used a two-celled pot to cook the dish. Today, they continue to be known as both tasty and spicy traditional Chinese cuisine.
What Are Dan Dan Noodles?
Dan Dan noodles themselves are made by rolling dough into noodles, although many recipes allow you to purchase and use dried Chinese egg noodles for the dish. While the noodles are an important ingredient, it’s the sauce and the remainder of the toppings that gives the dish its authentic spicy flavor.
Common ingredients of a Dan Dan noodles recipe include Ya-cai (preserved mustard greens), minced pork, soy beans, and chili powder. Often ingredients such as scallions, ginger, garlic, bok choy, and pickles are stir fried and combined with chili oil.
If you order Dan Dan noodles in the United States, it’s possible that you could get an Americanized version of this classic dish. In some restaurants, the spice is removed and replaced with sweetness. In others, sesame paste or peanut butter is sometimes added to the recipe.
Serving Dan Dan Noodles
Traditionally, Dan Dan noodles were considered a popular snack, so they weren’t served up as meal-sized dishes. In most places, they still aren’t. Most authentic Chinese chefs recommend that you serve Dan Dan noodles in smaller bowls. This is because the dish is best enjoyed hot, both spicy and at a higher temperature. Smaller servings allow diners to enjoy this special dish while the steam floats off of the surface and the topping remain crispy.
Come visit Chili House to try San Francisco’s best Dan Dan noodles. Check out this review on Yelp:
“Absolutely must get: Dan dan mien. The main reason I keep coming back here is for this dish. It’s hands down the best version of these noodles I’ve ever had and something I’ve introduced many friends to.” Jonathan Y., San Francisco