What is this dish and where can I get it?

A friend in Brooklyn posted this photo of some ribs he ate at a since-closed place. He says it’s a common dish at old-school Americanized Szechuan places there. I remember having had some that looked just like that years ago.

Possibly this? Sichuan Spareribs With Mala BBQ Sauce (Mala Pai Gu): Cooking With Grace Young | The Mala Market

That looks like an original recipe, but it mentions Cantonese ribs, and Googling I find some char siu ribs that look like that.

Is there even such a thing as “old school Americanized Szechuan” places? As far as I know the Americanized Sichuan and Hunan dishes you’d find on those types of menus were just Canto people passing off these dishes to unknowing customers.

In the 70s, “Szechuan” Chinese-American places had some different dishes, some with chiles, but they bore little resemblance to the real Sichuan food that arrived later.

I wouldn’t even call it Sichuan, and I think you should stop spelling it as Szechuan, its an outdated spelling method from a system that is not acknowledged by anyone in the modern era.

Apparently these Americanized Sichuan restaurants were just Taiwanese business owners who were doing their appropriated take on the food:

Anyway as far as the specific dish goes, its probably one of the random creations that’s likely already lost to history as the number of these Taiwanese run “Sichuan” restaurants are probably down to nil at this point and documentation wasn’t great back then. Your best bet is to look at Taiwanese immigration patterns and see where they settled, then you might be able to find a local resource in that region.

Or better yet we should just consult our resident Chinese American restaurant historian, @chandavkl

That’s quite a different message than what I got from the article in the link.

Hanyu modern pinyin is considered and adopted by everyone as the standard form of Romanized Chinese, while it says “szechuan” is technically not wrong it wouldn’t be taught by any modern language authorities today as an alternative way to spell it as nobody teaches Wades-Gilles style Chinese. But if you want to keep spelling that way to spite me then have fun with it.

Indeed, but that"s how the old-school Chinese-American places all spelled it before real Sichuan food arrived.

From a Brooklyn place called Authentic Szechuan:

Yes, agree.

That’s quite different from “not acknowledged by anyone in the modern era,” since my parents (and I would argue a lot of other Chinese-identifying immigrants in their 70s) would definitely recognize and acknowledge the old spellings.

No offense, but don’t flatter yourself.


That’s an example of what I refer to as “faux Sichuan” and Hunan food of the 1970s. When Chinese Exclusion was ended for practical purposes by the 1965 immigration act we saw the first significant arrival of non-Cantonese migrants in the United States from Taiwan. Note that non-Cantonese from the mainland would not arrive here until the 1980s as Mainland China had no diplomatic relations with us. The food that Taiwanese chefs brought to New York was wildly different from the Cantonese food that every one here knew and quickly spread in the US. But it wasn’t authentic because (1) the Taiwanese themselves were a generation removed from Mainland China having fled in the fall of the Nationalist regime and (2) the food was adapted to the tastes of the American public. A lot of those dishes have stuck on Americanized Chinese menus, such as General Tso’s chicken, hot and sour soup, mushu pork and Kung paid chicken, while others have faded away.


Which is some of us, esp those of us who have relatives who arrived in the 1970s and who recall why things were spelled using one system and why it changed, may bristle at the older spellings being called irrelevant.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure the answer to my question is that it’s a variation on char siu.

My favorite place in San Francisco in the 70s called its food “Mandarin” but it also said “Szechuan” on the sign. The kung pao chicken was closer to a generic Chinese-American Cantonese stir-fry with dried hot peppers and peanuts added than to the traditional Sichuan dish.

It’s still a Chinese restaurant.


From the 1960s to maybe the 1990s we classified Chinese food as being either Cantonese and “Mandarin” or “Northern.”

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Actually that looks just like old time Cantonese pork spare ribs. Nothing Sichuan about them if you’re going back to the 70s.

Yep. Though so far I haven’t found anyplace that still makes them.

Cool feel free to hold onto your incorrect spelling.

Not sure why erasure is so important to you. Care to explain? This seems to be strangely personal to you, and it’s also clear that this isn’t just about “incorrect spelling.”

Using phonetic pronunciation of some Pinyin (j, q, zh, and ch) doesn’t result in anything closer to the actual pronunciation in Mandarin of those sounds.

If you’re upset w/ Wade-Giles b/c you think it represents some form of colonialism and orientalism, perhaps this blog entry (and the following comments, which indicate that “Szechuan,” along w/ Peking and Nanking, aren’t actually from Wade Giles) would be of interest to you:


Trigger warning for all: Clarissa Wei isn’t popular among American sinologist when she wanders into academic territory.


Where to get those Ribs? They look good!