Lately I've been reading marvelous things about the Chaozhou cuisine from the coastal region east of Canton. I'd always associated it with Hakka cooking -- rough yet satisfying soups and stews. But it's far more sophisticated, a fusion of Canton and Fujian techniques. Fresh ingredients, sweet, subtle sauces. I've noticed a big and always crowded restaurant in Flushing, Chaozhou Restaurant (40-52 Main St), and tonight I gave it a try.
Do you have any real authentic Chaozhou dishes, I asked the waitress. We don't have anything like that, she said, except the marinated meat. And even there they didnt have the soy-lacquered goose that's the most famous Chaozhou preparation. I should have left right then. Instead, I ordered a fish casserole I've never seen before.
Always a bad sign when your casserole arrives in a metal bowl and not a clay pot. It was an ordinary fish casserole -- fish pieces, a few mushrooms, a brown salty broth. Good, but not extraordinary, and no different from a hundred Cantonese places in Manhattan. Saddened, I ate it and went home. I should have asked for my token back.
So my question: does anyone know of an authentic Chaozhou restaurant? Or any other sub-regional cuisine? We have Shanghai, but what of Hangzhou or Ningbo or Shaoxing or Wenzhou? (I havent tried that Wenzhou place in Flushing, but I dont have high hopes now.) Or for Guangdong, what about Dongjiang as well as Chaozhou? A lot of rich immigrants originally hailed from the Guangdong hinterlands and you'd think they would be eager to reproduce and brag about their hometown food. That's what happens in Hong Kong. Why not here?