A retired tax attorney has revealed what he learned from eating at nearly 8,000 Chinese restaurants in the US.
David R Chan, 72, from Los Angeles ate for 7,812 Chinese Restaurants and Counting, for over four decades and has maintained a spreadsheet detailing each restaurant.
With a collection of thousands of restaurant business cards and menus, the third-generation Chinese-American said the journey began as a “quest for his identity.” but it also describes how the changing culture of Chinese immigrants in the US.
He first created the spreadsheet in the early 90s when he bought his first home computer, and despite a fondness for Asian cuisine, admits he still can’t use chopsticks and doesn’t classify himself as a foodie.
David R Chan, 72, of Los Angeles has dined at 7,812 Chinese restaurants spanning more than four decades and has maintained a spreadsheet detailing each restaurant.
“When I started working in the 1970s, it coincided with the emergence of what we consider to be authentic Chinese food in North America,” he said. menuism.
“As such, my goal has been to try every authentic Chinese restaurant in the Los Angeles area at least once.”
He has visited restaurants all over the country, including in New York, San Francisco and Mississippi. Due to his legal career, he often traveled to Canada and Asia, where he also had the opportunity to sample more of the cuisine.
on his Instagram page he documents dishes he has tried including XO fish, fried tilipia, Cantonese sponge cake, Teppan tofu, and sesame dumplings.
Although he is the grandchild of Chinese immigrants who moved from Guangdong to California, David didn’t eat Chinese food until he was an adult — and he was totally unimpressed the first time he ate the fare.
Speaking with the BBC, of his first Chinese meal in the 1950s, he explained: ” The food was not refined, we went to banquets, I ate soy sauce on rice and nothing else.’
He has visited restaurants all over the country, including in New York, San Francisco and Mississippi. Due to his legal career, he often traveled to Canada and Asia, where he also had the opportunity to sample more of the cuisine. Pictured: Buffet at Spring Shabu Shabu in El Monte, California showing their prepared food selections, including marinated pork feet.
At the time, there were very few Chinese immigrants in the US — just 0.08 percent of the total population — and many came from one city.
“It was as if all the Americans in China came from a small town 100 miles outside of Los Angeles. Very underrepresented,” he added, explaining that early American Chinese food was being homogenized for the American palate.
However, with an increase in immigrants from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong to the US from the 1960s, the food from China became a lot more diverse and regional cuisines became popular.
At the same time, the American civil rights movement grew, begging David—then a college student—to explore his own heritage through food.
Pictured Bitro Na’s in Temple City’s signature Okra dish praised by David
“In the beginning it was just a search for identity,” he added to the BBC. “My interest in the history of Chinese in the US led me to eat Chinese and see what it was like to be Chinese in different parts of the country.”
He added that he had “no idea” how varied Chinese cuisine was before he started trying it out.
David believes the best place to find variety of authentic Chinese food in the US is in LA’s San Gabriel Valley – which has a thriving Chinese community.
Pictured is the ‘The Classic’ chicken ramen at Silverlake Ramen in Irvine, California
He added to the BBC that Dim Sum was the best place for dim sum, while also having ‘unexpectedly good’ chow mein in Clarksdale, Mississippi, while his most disappointing meal was in Fargo, North Dakota.
“The fried rice was like boiled rice, and someone poured soy sauce on it,” he said.
The eight main culinary cuisines are Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Szechuan, and Zhejiang.
These foods vary greatly due to the diverse agriculture and climates in China. Cantonese dishes feature plenty of fresh seafood as Guangdong is on the coast, while Fujian cuisine is influenced by its own mountainous terrain with popular ingredients including bamboo shoots and forest mushrooms.