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The Quest For Great Chinese Food
A Long Term Odyssey
One of my fondest memories is that every other Thursday evening, I went with my family for a Chinese dinner. It was a sort of convoluted adventure, because my parent’s (who had 2 homes) kept one Kosher home, and one that was not! We would leave our Kosher home in Jamaica Estates, and go down to Jamaica Avenue to a Chinese restaurant that had been there for seemingly ages, named Cheung’s. There was nothing unusual about the place, yet it was always packed!
As I began to grow up, I truly developed my love for Chinese cuisine. In fact, one of the major factors in not considering being more religious, is that good Chinese food could never be Kosher! My next strong memory was from a local restaurant in Fresh Meadows that to this day I believe was one of the best I’ve gone to. Now, since I have eaten at Chinese restaurants, not only throughout the US but in countries such as England, Iceland, Israel, Amsterdam, The Bahamas, etc. This restaurant was a neighborhood gem called House of Won, and was located on the service road of the Long Island Expressway. House of Won was certainly not a fancy place, but the food was great. It introduced me to the fact that there were several styles of Chinese cuisine, including Mandarin, Cantonese, and Szechuan. It also served the most tasty soup ever that was called Wor Wonton Soup, and I have never found anything like it anywhere. I spent my teenage years and most of my 20’s going there, until the owners decided to retire and sold the restaurant, and it was renamed Bamboo Chopsticks, and the original owners had difficulty running the restaurant properly. Disappointed, one day I decided to give it one last chance, and much to my pleasure, Mr. Raymond (one of the 2 owners of House of Won) was at the door welcoming us in. He always claimed he was just a worker, but I doubted that! Bamboo Chopsticks, to this day, became the second best Chinese restaurant I experienced.
It’s important to appreciate that we all have different ideas of what a great Chinese restaurant is all about. In Chinatown, for example, there is Wo Hop (but there is one upstairs and a separate one in the basement, and they appear to be run and operated separately (different food, prices, menu, motif, etc.). I’m a fan of Wo Hop downstairs!
There are also many regional differences. For example, in Boston’s Chinatown, the most popular restaurant was named House of Roy. However, while New England Clam Chowder is white and Manhattan Clam Chowder is red, Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, known for its white sauce here in New York, is served in a brown sauce in Boston, and there is a significant taste difference.
San Francisco’s Chinatown serves an entirely different style of food that I have become used to. While it is tasty, it’s just NOT the same!
Thank you for allowing me share my memories,
—Mee Rich Yee nee Richard Brody
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