Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Shrimp and Grits

I discovered shrimp and grits during my first visit to Charleston in the '90s and I was immediately convinced it was the Lowcountry's greatest gift to American cuisine.

Before I ever tasted shrimp and grits I was skeptical. Grits is not something I normally get excited about, and I figured there were plenty of better uses for shrimp. My instant conversion was the result of truth revealed at first taste.

I had my momentous shrimp and grits experience at the Barbadoes Room. There are quite a lot of variant recipes for shrimp and grits, and often the named ingredients are the only things the recipes have in common. There's even a shrimp and grits cookbook. As the book's author, Nathalie Dupree, says, "Shrimp and grits have emerged from their humble origins to become a signature for sophisticated Southern dining. The magical combination of shrimp and grits, whether for pre-dawn breakfast on a shrimp boat or as an entrée in the finest New York restaurant can be deliriously wonderful." I don't know what New York restaurant she's referring to, but perhaps it's revealed in the book.

The Barbadoes Room recipe is, I think, a classic one. It relies heavily on dairy, both in the creamy stone-ground grits and the gravy. Tomato and bacon are also important components of the gravy. Unlike many places, they do not use cheddar cheese in the dish. There was something so sensual about the rich, hearty shrimp and gravy over the silky-smooth grits. It was the most luxurious of comfort foods. The Barbadoes Room version became my benchmark for the dish.

The Barbadoes Room, named in honor of Charleston's extensive trade with the West Indies, is quite a pretty, charming room. It's the restaurant of the Mills House hotel, an elegant historic property now run by the Intercontinental group. It may not be the only hotel that has hosted both Robert E. Lee and Elizabeth Taylor, but it's the only one I know of.

This time I didn't go to the Barbadoes Room for dinner, and I regret it. I did go for breakfast, however, and had the "Charleston Breakfast Shrimp," in which the shimp are mixed in with the grits; it's ringed with sliced tomatoes, and the whole is topped with strips of bacon.

I was not thrilled with this version. It was pretty bland and the grits were coarser than I remembered from the dinner version. The biscuit they served as an accompaniment was actually inedible, so it makes me wonder whether the restaurant has slipped overall since my last visit.

The only place I've had shrimp and grits outside of Charleston was in Washington, D.C., at Georgia Brown's, which does a respectable version.

There was a side of me that wanted to make this a shrimp and grits theme vacation, but I realized that I could easily tire of the dish, regardless of how great the variations, if I ate it three times a day. So I decided to try it for dinner at only one place.

I chose Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.), the site of a fantastic dinner during my first visit to Charleston (when the restaurant was a newcomer). S.N.O.B., which bills itself as "Maverick Southern Cuisine" and is the flagship restaurant of Maverick Southern Kitchens, could best be described as inventive new American with deep Lowcountry roots. A number of their dishes are either variants on Lowcountry classics or use local ingredients in audacious ways. The name S.N.O.B. is a Charleston in-joke, as south of Broad is considered the chi chi area of town. It's in a gentrified former warehouse district, happily saved from urban renewal in the 'seventies. S.N.O.B. is a particularly comfortable place for a solo diner as they have a communal chef's table facing the open kitchen. I fondly remembered a dish from my first visit, and was happy to see it was still on the menu: grilled bbq tuna, glazed with mustard barbecue sauce, topped with fried oysters, country ham and green onions. Were I not on a shrimp and grits mission I would have been tempted to order it again. The woman next to me was enjoying hers.

For an appetizer I ordered one of the night's specials, a warm duck salad with endive, arugula, radishes, grape tomatoes, toasted pecans and goat cheese with a sherry wine walnut vinaigrette. The only problem was that I don't like goat cheese, so I asked the waiter if I could substitute Manchego, which I love and which was one of the daily cheese selections. He told me that shouldn't be a problem, but that there might be a supplement (it turned out to be $1). Then he added, "You know, I think Manchego could really work in that salad." It did. It was a wonderful salad, with the diverse ingredients coming together quite happily. It was also quite large, a deal at $8.50 with my Manchego surcharge.

That was followed by the "Maverick Shrimp & Grits." In this case I think they went too far with the maverick shtick. The dish was disappointing. It had a spicy tomato-based sauce and in addition to shrimp it included scallops, house-made sausage and country ham. It was served over yellow grits, rather than white. While the dish wasn't a total disaster, there were several problems. The tomato base and seasoning seemed to be a misplaced nod to Italy. It was overly garlicy. I'm a big garlic fan, but this was really too much. I also didn't think this sauce made sense over grits. On top of that, the grits were far too salty. When I pointed this out to the waiter he told me that he'd had similar complaints about the salty grits before, but that the chef never seemed to take heed. Give that chef a slap on the wrist! Luckily, that was the only miss in my two visits to S.N.O.B. (I can't remember what appetizer I had the first time), and I would still recommend it as one of Charleston's best restaurants.

I really do like Charleston, so it shouldn't be too hard to rouse myself for future shrimp and grits expeditions.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Charleston Views

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Charleston Chews

Looking for a winter getaway, I decided to take the train down to Charleston, S.C., which I first visited about eleven years ago. My impression at the time was that Charleston is quite possibly the most beautiful city in the U.S., and that Lowcountry cuisine is one of the great American regional culinary traditions. The fact that Charleston is about fifteen degrees warmer than New York in the winter sealed the deal for my recent visit.

The Lowcountry is a region of marshy wetlands that stretches from a bit north of Charleston down to Savannah. The cuisine is, naturally, heavily seafood-based. Cooking styles are influenced by the cultural mix of the Lowcountry's history, from early Spanish settlers (and later Sephardic Jewish residents) to English colonists and most importantly to their African slaves. In additon, a French flair was added to the mix by Huguenot settlers. It is the French connection that gives Lowcountry cooking a character that differs from most other Southern cuisines, and also gives it a resemblance to New Orleans Creole cuisine, though with decided local differences.

My trip was centered on two activities: eating and strolling. Charleston is a great walking city, and it's historic and downtown districts are fairly compact. Strolling the steets of Charleston is a feast for the eyes.

The best meal I had during this visit was at Hank's, a seafood place. The restaurant, with its dark-wood furnishings, has a classic upscale saloon look which is carried forward in the 'forties-style typography and design of their menu. For this dinner I stuck to a main course, which appeared to be fairly substantial. The dish I ordered was called Seafood a la Wando, and was described as "Sauteed Shrimp Scallops and Fish deglazed with Sherry finished with Crabmeat, Button Mushrooms and Scallion in a Shellfish Saffron Cream Sauce Served with Fried Grit Cakes." According to the waiter the Wando are a local Indian tribe, but I can't imagine what their connection to the dish is, as it's clearly a twist on classic Lowcountry seafood cuisine. The fish were tuna and salmon, and the serving was indeed ample. The grit cake, flavored with garlic and cheese, was a perfect accompaniment. The bread, which I'd describe as a cross between a buttermilk biscuit and a crusty roll, was addictive. An Alsatian Gewurtztraminer went quite nicely with the food. Considering the combination of food, decor, and excellent service, my dish was a steal at $19.95 (though the price seems to have gone up, only days later, on the website).

One of the best value restaurants in Charleston is the Hominy Grill, a bit northwest of downtown. Their take on Southern and Lowcountry Cooking is both creative and reverent. The restaurant has a cozy country-style decor. At Hominy Grill I had the wonderful smothered pork chops, with sweet onions in the gravy. As good as the chops were, the surprise star of the plate was the side of turnips and greens. I have no idea what they did to conjure this intense flavor, slightly spicy and tangy but otherwise beyond description. It surely belongs in the vegetable hall of fame. Unfortunately, the Hoppin' John, black-eyed peas and rice, was surprisingly bland, and the cornbread was completely useless, cold, powdery and short on flavor. But the quality of the hits and the low prices ($12.95 for the pork chops with two sides) make this a destination well worth leaving the main tourist area for. Surely the off-the-beaten-path location also helps to keep them honest.

Smothered Pork Chops at Hominy Grill

If Jestine's, with its classic Southern soul food menu, was ever good, being right on the beaten path has obviously taken its toll. It's a famous place in town, and is probably coasting on its reputation. Guidebook recommendations assure a steady stream of customers, and unfortuntately I was one of them. Having never tried fried green tomatoes I decided to order them as an appetizer. Now I might not like them even if well prepared, but these were abominable, with a tasteless, greasy breading. For my main course I ordered the fried chicken basket with fried okra, figuring that should be a good benchmark dish for a place of its ilk. The okra were cold and bland. The chicken couldn't have been drier if NASA had cooked it, and the only way the breading could have been more flavorless would be if they had used one less ton of salt. Should I have been suspicious of a soul food restaurant that's closed on Jewish holidays? Should I have been suspicious of the fact that the only black face in the restaurant belonged to one of the wait staff? If these are the recipes of a Southern black woman, as the restaurant claims, then Jestine was my mother in blackface.

82 Queen is another popular Charleston restaurant, garnering accolades when it opened in the '80s, but I think it has seen better days. It's certainly a pretty place, with multiple, genteel rooms spread over several buildings, but the food is uneven. I will say that the she-crab soup, a Charleston specialty, was perhaps the best of the four or five I've tasted over the years (one of them at Gage & Tollner during its fleeting Edna Lewis Lowcountry period). Not only was the soup good, it was free, as they are running a 25th-anniversary promotion. She-crab soup is all about the roe, as the she-crab is extremely low on meat (which is why it became the stuff that soups are made of). It's a rich, creamy soup, laced with sherry. At 82 Queen they serve the sherry on the side, in a vinegar shaker. The cheese-and-herb biscuits were tasty too. Unfortunately, my main course, a Frogmore stew, was not at all good. I ordered this, another local specialty, because I wanted something less rich. It's a stew of shrimp, sausage and vegetables in a tomato broth. The shrimp were overcooked, the sausage nothing special, and the broth pathologically underseasoned.

Frogmore Stew

Besides the she-crab soup, the highlight of my visit to 82 Queen was a trip to the bathroom. Hanging on the wall was a menu, signed by Lee Remick in 1984. Now Lee Remick is a definite contender for the sexiest Hollywood actress of my childhood, so for a foodie of my generation a Remick-signed menu is a veritable pin-up.

While I was in Charleston I also went to a 90-minute "Taste of the Lowcountry" demo and tasting at Charleston Cooks, the cooking supply store that's affiliated with several of the town's more esteemed restaurants, all under the umbrella of Maverick Southern Kitchens. The instructor, Emily Kimbrough, prepared a simple and delicious seared pork tenderloin with apricot-jalapeno jam and an artery-clogging sweet potato mash with lots of butter and cream and a touch of cayenne that gave it an interesting kick. The dessert course consisted of benne wafers (benne being a local name for sesame seeds) and ice cream with a bourbon caramel sauce. The $25 fee was quite reasonable, especially since a glass of their private label Sonoma wine was included.

Emily sears the pork

The finished product

I also hit a couple of other Charleston eateries that I haven't mentioned yet because I'm saving them for an upcoming post on what I consider to be the Lowcountry's greatest contribution to American cuisine.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Young Pete: The Dream

I’m sure the Vicodin was responsible for this dream I had the other night.

In the dream I was told that a film about my childhood was in the works and that I was supposed to meet the actor who would be playing me as a seven-year-old. The meeting was to occur at an outdoor café. I was sitting at a table, waiting, when I saw the kid approaching. I was disturbed to see that he was wearing a yarmulke. He didn’t look Jewish, however. Actually, he looked a lot like Jay North in “Dennis the Menace.” An orthodox kid who looks like a goy, I thought–this has possibilities. Still, I couldn’t make peace with the yarmulke thing.

“There’s a problem,” I told the director. “I didn’t wear a yarmulke as a kid.”

“Don’t worry,” the director replied. “We can shoot around it.”

When I was a kid I had dirty-blond hair and I didn’t look particularly Jewish. My family was totally secular. We never went to synagogue. I did, however, have a bar mitzvah, which was essentially a secular ritual in my non-religious culture, an excuse for a party, all trappings aside. It was during my quickie bar mitzvah lessons with Mrs. Goldstein, our local Evelyn Wood of painless Haftorah prep, that I became a resolute atheist, too late, however, to cancel the big event at Leonard’s of Great Neck. So naturally the adult me in the dream was horrified by the prospect of being portrayed by a kid in a yarmulke.

I did want to give the kid a chance, so I started chatting with him. He turned out to be incredibly bright, charming and witty. He reminded me of myself as a kid. I was starting to like him. Still, there was the religion thing. I knew I couldn’t get him to renounce Judaism, but I figured if I could at least get him to put down other religions I’d be somewhat placated.

“All right, you’re an orthodox Jew,” I said, “so I guess you believe in god. But I’ll bet you think all other religions are pretty ridiculous, right?”

“Not at all,” the kid replied. “I think there’s much to admire in all the world’s religions. In fact, I think we should all try to emulate Jesus Christ.”

This was not going to work. As much as I liked the kid I was sure he didn’t possess the requisite irreverence to pull off a convincing portrayal of me as a child.

At any rate, I woke up before I could find out whether he succeeded.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Cantonese Comeback

I think of the 1980s as the decade that Cantonese food made a comeback. Not the faux-Cantonese food I grew up with, but the true southern Chinese cooking that is truly one of the world’s great cuisines. Hong Kong-style seafood palaces and dim sum parlors proliferated during that decade, fueled by the great Hong Kong exodus as the re-annexation by China loomed. Some of those places, notably HSF and Silver Palace, had opened a bit earlier, but by the ‘eighties their ilk was dominant. They all had large tanks at the front of the restaurant with live fish and shellfish, presumably all unaware that they were about to meet their maker.

I learned a good deal of what I know about southern Chinese food at the foot of a master, Victor En Yu Tan. Victor is a top theatrical lighting designer who worked for years with the New York Shakespeare Festival. Every Friday night, at 11 PM, he would convene a group for a Cantonese dinner in Chinatown. It was an open call. All you had to do was show up.

I was introduced to Victor and his dinners by mutual friends, Dikko & Esther of Purgatory Pie Press, in 1981 or ’82. The Friday tradition was already established for several years, originating when the crew from Shakespeare in the Park were looking for chow after the show. There were usually between six and ten diners on any given Friday, a rotating cast, but at one of Victor’s gala Chinese New Year’s banquets 75 people showed up, all alumni of the weekly feasts.

Victor did all the ordering at these dinners, though he certainly entertained suggestions. This, I learned, is the only way to properly order a large Chinese meal. You need an organizing intelligence who is intimate with the menu (and the off-menu offerings) and who can compose a well balanced ensemble of dishes. There were always preparations of fresh seafood, a hallmark of these restaurants, and seasonal greens, like ong choi or snow pea leaves. I can’t remember many of the specific dishes Victor ordered, as I’ve eaten so much of this cuisine ever since. Victor did occasionally order duck’s blood, but I never developed a taste for it. One of the problems Victor faced was that many of the Hong Kong-style restaurants did not keep late hours. It was a movable feast, moving as restaurants closed or started slipping. For most of the time I attended the dinners we went to a now-defunct place on Mott Street whose name I can’t remember.

After enjoying Victor’s ordering handiwork for a while I struck out on my own and started organizing similar dinner parties for friends at a more reasonable hour. We would audition several restaurants until we found a winner. The first I can remember was Tao Yuen, on Chatham Square. This became a regular haunt for several years, until the kitchen took a decided downturn in quality. It was clear that something had changed in the kitchen, but when I asked the wait staff they were evasive.

I was crestfallen. The food at Tao Yuen, once so good, was a shadow of its former self. I had to find a replacement restaurant. I wanted to find out where the Tao Yuen chef had gone, but I didn’t think I’d get any help from the staff, so I didn’t bother. A year or two later, after Tao Yuen had closed (a major kitchen slippage usually means the beginning of the end) I did see one of the former waiters on the street. I wanted to stop him and ask about the original Tao Yuen chef, but I chickened out. I browbeat myself for days afterwards.

The next restaurant we settled in at was Lan Hong Kok, at 31 Division Street. We had a nice run there until they changed management and name. The great thing about finding a great Chinese restaurant is that you eventually get to know which dishes you can count on, and you can compose a meal of old favorites and new dishes. When a new dish works it enters the repertoire.

After Lan Hong Kok, Kam Fung, on Elizabeth Street, won our favor for a while. Over the years the name morphed, first to King Fung, then to Jing Fong. Jing Fong has a good reputation among some diners, but their ongoing labor practices are so reprehensible that I give the place wide berth.

One of the great revelations, somewhere along the line, was the discovery of salt baked soft shell crab. The term “salt baked” is used for chicken, which is really salted and baked, but also for lightly breaded and salted fried seafood. The Cantonese preparation of soft shell crabs is one of my greatest culinary pleasures. Since the mid-nineties I have arranged a “welcome back soft shell crabs” banquet in Chinatown every year around Memorial Day.

In the ‘nineties my two favorite Cantonese places were Sun Golden Island and Tai Hong Lau. Tai Hong Lau, at 70 Mott Street, is still in business, but they are no longer worth visiting. Sun Golden Island is now gone, lamentably. They had the absolute best soft shell crabs I have ever eaten. The restaurant served Cantonese and Chiu Chao cuisine, a related style from Guangdong Province (specifically from Chaozhu Prefecture). Luckily, my favorite Sun Golden Island waiter, Fan, ended up at Ping’s, which was overall even better for a time (though their crabs could not compare). Unfortunately, my last couple of meals at Ping’s were rather disappointing.

It’s hard to tell what direction Chinatown is headed in these days. The Hong Kong seafood restaurant phenomenon has leveled off, perhaps due to changing immigration patterns and developments in the outer boroughs. There are now more regional Chinese cuisines in New York than ever before, but you won’t find them all in Manhattan’s Chinatown. For real Sichuan food you’ll have to go to Midtown or Queens. For Taiwanese, and several relatively obscure Northern Chinese cuisines you’ll definitely have to go to Queens. I definitely need to get to Queens more often.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Szechuan Seventies

In the early 1970s Szechuan food took New York by storm, along with other Chinese regional cuisines like Hunan and Mandarin. Some very upscale places opened in midtown, trumpeting the arrival of authentic Chinese cuisine, and more humble ones began to spring up in Chinatown. The food was revelatory to a populace that had only known highly Americanized Cantonese fare. It was not long before Szechuan cuisine became the basis for a newly dominant bastardized Chinese-American cuisine.

This flowering of authentic Szechuan cuisine was actually fairly brief, even if many of the dishes became standard menu items at every neighborhood Chinese restaurant. Among the best of the early Chinatown Szechuan places were Szechuan Taste and Hwa Yuan Szechuan Inn, both on East Broadway. At these restaurants we were introduced to dishes like hot and sour soup, double cooked pork, kung pao chicken and ma po tofu (though usually called bean curd Szechuan-style). The best of the bunch, which opened a bit later, and was even more authentic, was Ting Fu Garden, on Pell Street. Among their specialties were freshly baked, sesame-coated flat breads stuffed with aromatic beef or pig’s ear, cold diced tripe in chili sauce, steamed spare ribs with a spicy rice flour coating, and an amazing spicy lamb dish whose name I can’t remember. One dish that I never ordered, but which caught everyone’s attention when they read the menu, was “boiled tripe and things.” The menu also included congee, but it was given the ascetic moniker “plain gruel.” Perhaps they were planning a Chinese production of “Oliver!” I believe Ting Fu closed in the mid-80s, and by that time most of the Chinatown Szechuan restaurants were gone. Ironically, Szechuan-influenced dishes dominated the menus of every bad Chinese restaurant by that time, yet there was a period from the mid-80s to the mid-90s when you couldn’t find any real Szechuan cuisine in New York.

A few places serving authentic Hunan food also opened in the ‘70s, but they too eventually disappeared. Szechuan and Hunan are distinct cuisines, but because they are both heavily reliant on hot-spicy dishes, the provinces are used interchangeably in the names of Chinese-American restaurants.

Also debuting in the seventies were Mandarin restaurants, though I think the term was used loosely, and they did not necessarily specialize in Peking court cuisine. The Mandarin places tended to serve a mix of Northern, Shanghai and Szechuan dishes. Among the Chinatown choices were Mandarin House and Peking Tung Lai Shun (named for a famous Beijing Muslim restaurant, Donglaishun, which specializes in mutton hot pot).

Fried dumplings, or jiaozi, or pot stickers as they’re known in some places (but not New York), also became popular during this time. One of the best places for them was 4-5-6, on Chatham Square, which had an eclectic, but mostly Shanghai menu. Though fried dumplings were served in Szechuan restaurants, jiaozi is a Shanghai specialty (and the etymological parent of the Japanese variant, gyoza).

Shanghai cuisine, which is now one of the greatest culinary strengths of New York’s Chinatown was not ubiquitous in those days. There were a few standouts, however, the best one being Little Shanghai, on East Broadway, which had a long run. It was one of Calvin Trillin’s favorite restaurants. Also on East Broadway for a brief time was Petite Soochow, which served Suzhou cuisine, a close relative of Shanghai-style.

Chinatown’s Szechuan period was a brief one, less than fifteen years. Every one of the restaurants I’ve named is gone now, and except for a branch of Grand Sichuan International there is no Szechuan food to be found in Chinatown (though thankfully there are a number of excellent places in midtown and Queens). By the 1980s Chinatown had changed, and I changed with it.

Friday, January 05, 2007


At my Sonorexia reunion performance last night I performed my "deconstructed" version of "Cherish," by the Association. I always hated that whiny, cloying song until I finally understood the subtext which, I now realize, was not very subliminal after all.

"Cherish" is not included on my Soundclick page because that site is limited to original material. I am now making a download of the track available here, with plenty of time to spare for Valentine's Day.


Peter Cherches - Vocal
Elliott Sharp - Guitar, Bass
Lee Feldman - Keyboard
Kate O'Looney - Drums

Note: this file is no longer available as of March 7, 2007

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Chinese Food, the Early Years

This isn’t going to be a piece about the early history of food in China. No, I’m writing about a subject of much more universal interest−my own early Chinese restaurant experiences, in Brooklyn, in the 1960s.

Growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, Chinese food is a birthright, and I was weaned on chicken chow mein, the quintessential Chinese-American dish of my youth. Of course, chow mein as it was served in the Americanized Cantonese restaurants of yore bore little relation to true chow mein, freshly pan-fried wheat noodles. Somewhere along the line, I guess in the U.S., the dry, crispy noodle, or chow mein noodle (which I guess translates as “fried noodle noodle”) was invented, and this replaced freshly fried noodles in chow mein. So the chow mein of my youth was basically chicken, or some other meat, with vegetables (mostly celery, if I remember correctly), in a mucus-like sauce that made prodigious use of cornstarch, with dry, crispy noodles thrown on top.

Most of my early Chinese restaurant experiences took place at two restaurants in Midwood. One of them was New Toy Sun, which was across the street from my grammar school, P.S. 217. When I was a kid I loved the idea of a restaurant named after a toy sun. However, it was really an Americanization of Toisan (Taishan in Pinyin), an area of Guangdong province that many early Chinese immigrants came from. It was your basic “one from column A, one from column B” type of place. Spare ribs, egg rolls and fried rice usually figured in a meal. On a splurge we might get shrimp with lobster sauce, which was shrimp in a mucus and egg sauce. Occasionally somebody would go wild and order something “exotic,” like wor shew opp (fried pressed duck). This was the kind of Chinese food that had been served in North America for over fifty years, almost exclusively. Restaurants of this ilk were sometimes referred to as “chop suey joints,” after that other ubiquitous Chinese-American dish that, except for the absence of noodles, was pretty similar to chow mein. These restaurants always had a section called “American Dishes,” usually at the lower right-hand corner of the menu, including things like sandwiches, steak and roast chicken. I never saw anybody order from that section.

The restaurant we mostly patronized was Joy Fong, on Avenue J, a now-defunct place that retains an almost holy status in the memories of Brooklyn Jews of a certain age. I wouldn’t be surprised if people visit the site of the former restaurant and wail against the wall. All issues of authenticity aside, I too retain some fond Joy Fong memories. Their spare ribs were meaty and delicious, among the best Chinese-style ribs I’ve had to this day. The place was extremely popular, and I believe Sunday was the biggest family night out, when you could go deaf from the clatter of competing yentas.

Of course, there was also the occasional trip to Chinatown. Back in the ’60s little Cantonese rice shops, like Hong Fat, Lin’s Garden and Wo Hop dominated the Chinatown landscape. Their fare was more authentically Chinese, but it much of it was heavy and greasy, quite different from the more upscale Hong Kong seafood places that would arrive somewhat later. It was at restaurants like this that I became familiar with chow fun, which was never available at the Chinese-American neighborhood joints.

Things changed drastically in the early-70s, when regional Chinese cuisines other than Cantonese arrived in New York (and California), eventually transforming the menus at Chinese restaurants all over America.

This is the first installment in a three-part series, a personal history of Chinese food in New York from the '60s through the '80s.