asian food guide
For free monthly updates, event invitations and exclusive deals, sign-up for our newsletter!
Enter a keyword such as “Italian” or “Hamburgers” or type the name of the restaurant below.
Asian Food Guide
Gwen Ashley Walters
May, 2013, Page 68
Some say Chinese cuisine in America is about as authentic as a penguin in Florida. Admittedly, most Americans have tasted little outside of the Cantonese cooking style brought over by the first Chinese immigrants. Faced with limited ingredients and wary American palates, these immigrants adapted their cuisine to a new style, American-Chinese, often inventing new dishes like General Tso’s Chicken and presenting a fortune cookie with the bill, a decidedly un-Chinese custom.
Many Chinese restaurants have two menus: one for sauce-heavy American-Chinese dishes and another for Chinese customers, filled with traditional home-country fare. Most Chinese restaurant owners are thrilled when you show an interest in their traditional cuisine, so don’t hesitate to ask if they have a Chinese menu and start exploring this ancient cuisine beyond chicken chow mein.
Food scholars talk about four schools of Chinese cooking – Northern, Western, Eastern and Southern – but across these schools, there are as many as a dozen distinct regional cuisines. Most of the Valley’s 100-plus Chinese restaurants are Cantonese, but there are a handful of other regional cuisines represented. Here we highlight the diversity.
Whole Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scallions
Asian Hong Kong Diner
Cantonese cuisine reveres the fresh, natural flavors of vegetables and meats, and no fare better exemplifies this than fresh seafood. This quintessential Cantonese dish is not on the American-Chinese menu or the Chinese menu, but it is a house specialty. Watch your server net a live tilapia from the fish tank and within minutes present the fragrant, steamed beauty at your table, smothered in slivers of fresh ginger and scallions and drizzled in a delicate soy-scented broth (market price). 9880 S. Rural Rd., Tempe, 480-705-7486
Water-boiled Fish & Mapo Tofu
Sichuan peppercorns and spicy chiles take the spotlight in Sichuan cuisine, so “water-boiled” is a misleading name for this fantastically flavored bowl of fiery joy. Red chiles, chile oil and hua jiao (Sichuan peppercorns, which impart a tingling sensation) give this complex soup ($10.95) its unflinching heat, but the broth is also filled with tender, succulent bass, celery and Napa cabbage. Mapo tofu ($7.95) is a savory dish featuring salted black beans, soft tofu cubes, crushed Sichuan peppercorns and douban jiang, Sichuan’s blistering chile bean paste. 2386 N. Alma School Rd., Chandler, 480-857-2070,
Hot pockets, buns and pies
Dongbei – a three-provinced region formerly called Manchuria – is famous for its dumplings, buns, and savory pastries, which are specialties of this regional restaurant. Chinese chive- and egg-stuffed pan-fried hot pockets are gloriously golden brown on the outside. Steamed then pan-fried pork buns ($5.98) sport crisp bottoms, and the ginger- and onion-flavored fried beef pies ($4.98) are rib-sticking comfort food. 910 N. Alma School Rd., Chandler, 480-821-2888
San Dong Chicken & Jia Jiang Mien
Refreshing cold appetizers are hallmarks of coastal Shandong cuisine, which is also influenced by the flavors of its neighbor to the east, Korea. At Chef Chiang, skip the American-Chinese menu and dive into the adventuresome Chinese-Korean menu featuring San Dong chicken, fried then steamed and served chilled over cucumbers soaked in garlicky black vinegar sauce ($12.95). Mild mannered jia jiang mien ($6.95) is Shandong’s version of spaghetti, featuring steamed noodles topped with a thick, savory black bean sauce – pure comfort. 4929 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler, 480-940-4000
Photo By Sam Nalven
With characteristic honeyed, crackling brown skin, Beijing’s most famous dish is ceremoniously served tableside at this upscale Cantonese restaurant. The server presents the gilded platter of duck and then methodically rolls the meat with a few wisps of scallion and cucumber strips into thin, soft Mandarin pancakes brushed with plum-hoisin sauce ($36.95). 23623 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-585-6630; and 9160 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-391-0607,
New Restaurant Alert!
A new restaurant featuring both Cantonese and Sichuan cuisines (prepared by different chefs schooled in each cuisine) quietly opened in Tempe in late January. During the first month it was open, the menu was printed only in Chinese. There wasn’t even an English sign on the building. Now, most of the menu has been translated into English, and the boxy, windowless restaurant is getting buzz. Highlights include spicy Sichuan specialties yu xiang eggplant and pork belly in garlic sauce. 2314 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, 480-966-3098
Dim Sum translates loosely to “touch the heart.” These Cantonese teahouse snacks were traditionally eaten in the early morning or early afternoon, but in the U.S., Dim Sum effortlessly morphed into the perfect weekend brunch. For the best Dim Sum experience, gather a group and head to Great Wall in the West Valley or Phoenix Palace in the East Valley. Peak times – around noon – result in a wait at either restaurant, but turnover is generally quick. Once seated, prepare for an onslaught of cart after cart heaped with mini steam baskets and saucers of steamed, fried, simmered and baked goodies. Ask the cart maven to describe the dishes and then point to the ones you want. It’s OK to pass up a cart because another one isn’t far behind. After a while, you’ll see the same carts and know the drill. Each time you order a dish, the cart attendant marks your tally card. After you’ve had your fill, waddle up to the cashier with your filled Dim Sum card. Most dishes run less than $3, but some are in the $5 to $7 range. Count on three to four dishes per person.
Photos - Clock-wise from furthest left:
Typical of Chinese pastries, this egg custard is barely sweet, with a flaky crust made of lard.($2.35)
A fried pastry made from glutinous rice flour, coated in sesame seeds and filled with delicately flavored, sweetened lotus paste. Alternately, filled with red bean paste. ($2.35)
Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce
Crisp-tender greens flavored with sesame oil and oyster sauce. ($5.50)
Steamed char siu bao
Snowy white steamed buns filled with honeyed pork barbecue (generally available baked as well). ($2.35)
Dim Sum noodles
Chow mein noodles stir-fried with soy sauce, cabbage and onions. ($2.95)
Shredded daikon radish (no turnips) mixed with bits of Chinese sausage, flattened into a cake and steamed, then cut into squares and pan-fried. ($2.35)
These two-bite, soup-filled pork and shrimp dumplings (xiao long bao) are served in a tiny tin cup to catch the soup. ($2.35)
Chopped shrimp lightly seasoned with rice wine, sesame oil and white pepper, wrapped in wheat starch dumpling skins and steamed. ($2.95)
Feet are an acquired taste, even when deep-fried, then long simmered in sweet soy and spices until tender. But for some foodies, it’s not Dim Sum without them. ($2.95)
Delicate, purse-shaped bundles filled with minced pork, shrimp and scallions. ($2.35)
Shrimp rice noodle roll
Rice noodle sheets wrapped around whole shrimp and served in a light soy broth. ($3.50)
Also known as Wife Cake, these flaky, lard-crusted pastries are filled with lightly sweetened winter melon and a hint of coconut. ($2.35)
Photo by Camerawerks
Great Wall Cuisine
3446 W. Camelback Rd.,
Dim Sum hours:
11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
2075 N. Dobson Rd., Chandler,
Dim Sum hours:
10 a.m.-3 p.m. daily.
*Photo and prices from Phoenix Palace
For the rest of
magazine’s 'Asian Food Guide', check back soon, find us at newsstands Valleywide or call 480-664-3960.
today so you don’t miss another issue!
Back to article main page
© 2007 Copyright Phoenix Magazine 15169 N. Scottsdale Road Suite C310 Scottsdale Arizona 85254
Travel & Outdoors
Best of The Valley
Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine
Advertise With Us
Web Site Design