Dave, say it ain’t so!
The non-regurgitated source:
He already addressed it
It’s an overstatement. Yes I like food. But I have always disclaimed being a foodie and have always looked at Chinese food in an historical /cultural/demographic context. Never photographed my food until people complained about the lack of pictures. Article gets some things wrong but that’s to be expected. But as I’ve always said “it’s not just about the food.”
Solid. Invoking the Chowhound Manifesto (re-printed here for the benefit of members on our site):
The Original Chowhound Manifesto
Everyone has one in his life: the brother-in-law with a collection of 800 takeout menus, the co-worker who’s late from lunch because she HAD to trek to one end of town for soup and to the other for a sandwich. Chowhounds know where the good stuff is, and they never settle for less than optimal deliciousness, whether dining in splendor or grabbing a quick slice.
We’re not talking about foodies. Foodies eat where they’re told. Chowhounds blaze trails. They comb through neighborhoods for culinary treasure. They despise hype. And while they appreciate ambiance and service, they can’t be fooled by flash.
No media outlets serve Chowhounds. They’ve never had a place to gather and exchange information. This discerning, passionate crowd has long been completely invisible and utterly disenfranchised… until now.
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My first time seeing this. Thank you.
I love that he hangs out here with us. I really enjoyed reading that article yesterday. He’s a treasure imo
I think there are people who don’t get this.
Can’t believe you got me to go log back in over there, been a couple of years.
I refer to that as faux Sichuan and faux Hunan. These chefs were a generation removed from China. By the time they moved from Taiwan to the United States, they were already removed from the origin of the food. And there were basically no natives of Sichuan or Hunan living in New York, or anywhere in the United States. They were opening restaurants for native New Yorkers, serving food to suit their tastes. … As Americans’ taste for this so-called Hunan and Sichuan food spread west …
Henry Chung, who opened Hunan in SF in 1974, grew up on a farm in Hunan and learned to cook by helping his grandmother in the kitchen.
Prior to that, Shun Lee sponsored a couple of chefs to move to NYC specifically to open a Hunanese place. Whether they came from Taiwan or the mainland, I don’t know, but they surely didn’t know anything about New Yorkers’ tastes until they’d been open for a while.
The ban on importing Sichuan peppercorns had little effect on their availability.
And all this time, I thought it was 7,300+ Chinese restaurants around the world. Just in the US is staggering.
And as far as I can remember, the late 70s, early 80s in LA yielded our own version of faux Sichuan: Yang Chow, Plum Tree Inn, Hunan Restaurant, Green Jade, and Chinese Friends.
There was also one that was named simply Sichuan (四川) in the Far East Plaza where Wing Hop Fung used to reside. I remember when that plaza first opened. Aside from Sichuan, there was another huge restaurant that resided on the south side of the front of the plaza as well. I ate at Sichuan only once with relatives who were visiting from SF and recall only having hot bowl salty soybean milk with a Chinese donut. The other foods seemed foreign to me, so I didn’t bother with them (I was about 12-13 at the time).
Both restaurants at the front of the Far East Plaza didn’t last long and closed. Me wonders if Sichuan made it’s move to Monterey Park at that time (or were they both different), @chandavkl?
The family that ran the place I went to all the time in SF in the 70s called their food “Mandarin,” though as I recall it said Szechuan on the sign.
I think in those days in SF “Mandarin” was a catch-all for all Chinese food that wasn’t Cantonese or Chinese-American. FWIW Cecliia Chiang opened The Mandarin in 1961.
The interviewer got a number of things about me wrong and in the interview a number of concepts were simplified. We could also point to Cecelia Chang coming to SF before the change in immigration laws as demonstrating the arrival of other non-Cantonese food in the US. But the point being made was that, like the Mandarin, the early non-Cantonese restaurants largely targeted a non-Chinese clientele.
And I thought it included Canada.
Actually it is a worldwide count, but the foreign restaurants are a minimal part of the list with just a few visits to Vancouver and Toronto, three visits to Hong Kong and two visits to China. Not to mention a couple of places in Dubai.
You talking restaurants or grocery stores? I understand that restaurants used to get them (illegally) at herbalist shops in the SFBA, but what was the quality like compared to what you can get today, and how widespread was their use?
Sichuan peppercorns in San Francisco grocery stores didn’t get beyond the bitter, desiccated brands until the past 3 or 4 years, which is a decade after the import ban was lifted. I’ve gotten better quality ones elsewhere in the SFBA a few years earlier.
In 90s NY, even the largest Chinatown grocery stores, in the rare chance they had them, kept their fossil-like stock under wraps. In 2002 until the ban was lifted in 2005, there was a crackdown Sichuan's Signature Fire Is Going Out. Or Is It? - The New York Times
Heat treatment is a whole different story, and the lower quality in US peppercorns is apparently more due to sourcing or transport delays. My guess is that the US wasn’t getting Sichuan’s finest, legal or not, when the cuisine was first introduced here.
I had no idea until yesterday that there was ever a ban, probably because as per that NY Times article it wasn’t enforced except for those few years. Neither Bruce Cost’s Asian Ingredients nor Jacki Passmore’s Encyclopedia of Asian Food and Cooking published in 1988 and 1991 mentions anything about a ban. They were often called for in recipes published in Gourmet etc. and I don’t recall having had any special trouble finding them. I have no idea about quality.
I was familiar with Szechuan pepper from recipes and creative non-Chinese restaurants for around 25 years before I first found a restaurant in the SF area serving real Sichuan food, circa 2004?
Yeah, I was puzzled by and didn’t know about the ban until the early 2000s. They were unavailable in many cities with decent Chinese grocery stores, which perplexed me because, aside from their use in Sichuan cuisine, they’re a main ingredient in ubiquitous five spice powder.