There might be one or two Chinese restaurants in every town in the United States, but not all of them serve the most authentic and healthy Chinese food. Good and authentic food is much needed not only by Chinese people like me, but by anybody else who cares about food quality and nutrition.
So how can you choose the right Chinese restaurant, and what should you order from the menu? Here are a few tips to help you make the perfect pick.
1. Don’t go to the place where they deep-fry everything.
Chinese food is not greasy food. It is generally considered the most intricate and delicate cuisine in the world-it takes time and mindfulness to cook. Sautéing and steaming are better ways to prepare the food than frying. Even though Chinese dishes can be very imaginative (I’m thinking about pig feet stew, for example!) they are not supposed to be as greasy as what some restaurants serve.
2. Be aware of the regional difference.
China is a huge country. The tastes of food vary from the south to the north and from the east to the west. So if you want to try spicy dishes, don’t go to a Cantonese restaurant, because they serve really good sweet stuff. Instead, you should consider going to Sichuan (Szechuan?) and Hunan restaurants because those are the regions where the crazy spice-eating people are from.
3. Go to a Chinese restaurant with a Chinese friend-you will be surprised!
I always feel very accomplished whenever I eat at a Chinese place with American friends. Of course, I am their consultant when it comes to what to order. The menu can be really confusing and you might be lost in translation. What is General Tsao’s chicken exactly? What does home-fried rice mean?
Wait a minute-if you have Chinese friends on your side, you won’t even order these kinds of dishes! Your friends will ask for the food Chinese people actually eat back in China, and those dishes are probably not on the menu, so the chef will have to make it custom just for you.
4. The buffet is cheap, and so is the food.
I eat Chinese buffet once a while but I always end up hating myself for doing it. The thing about Chinese buffet is that it’s cheap. The food could be tasty, but most of the time it’s really bad for you. There is sweet, sticky sauce on everything-the chicken, the pork, the beef, the shrimp, the broccoli and the snow peas. But eating buffet is fast and convenient for the practical. If you decide to go for the buffet, at least avoid the fried chicken and fried macaroni cheese next to the kung-pao chicken.
5. Chinatown it is.
Every time I’m in New York, I go to Chinatown to have a very indulgent meal. Both the food and the atmosphere remind me of home. These places are where Chinese people eat every day, and it’s the closest thing to real Chinese food that you will find in the U.S. If you see some 70-year-old Chinese person standing outside the window, yelling orders, this is a sign that it’s the right place to go in.