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One of the cool things about spending time in Ensenada is learning from a Mexicali-born chef about the influence of the Chinese in his home town. Mexicali has the highest per capita concentration of Chinese restaurants and is considered to have the best Chinese restaurants in Mexico. Since then I've done a little reading on the history of Chinese immigrants in Mexicali, and apparently at the turn of the previous century, there were more Chinese residents in that area then Mexicans! I have also talked to Salinas farmworker families and uncovered a longing they have for Comida China estilo Mexicali (Chinese cuisine Mexicali-style), that the food is different from what they can get on this side of the border. I have been wanting to visit Mexicali myself some day to see what that might be about.
When a friend told me about this place in Pomona, called Cachanilla which is what people from Mexicali call themselves, I was hot to try it. This was a cross-cultural adventure in more ways than one. It wasn’t easy to get the ethnic Chinese wait staff to tell me which are the Chinese-Mexican dishes. Then they couldn't believe that I wanted to order them and tried to dissuade me.
I'm glad I prevailed, as I enjoyed the cooking for the most part. I was pleased to discover that the kitchen at Cachanilla has some cooking chops and I'd be inclined to try some of the Hong Kong-style dishes as well.
Here's what we tried:
Complimentary wonton chips with sweet and sour sauce were plopped on the table as soon as we ordered. Note that the sauce is not the neon red goop that's found at most Chinese-American places. It had a little kick to it, and was genuinely sour. I liked it.
That pile of bean sprouts is a perfectly executed stir-fry. It's called House Special Chop Suey on the menu. I've never had "chop suey" before. There's a real cook in the kitchen who has good knife skills, cutting fine julienne of carrot and snow peas, as well as the strips of pork and chicken. Lovely "wok hay" scent on the dish, the veggies were cooked enough but still retained crisp texture, and the meats were tender. The dish was a bit bland but easily remedied with a dab of hot sauce. I don't even like bean sprouts, as raw ones taste like dirty water to me, but I enjoyed this dish. That kind of attention to texture of the proteins and individual vegetables, knife technique, and a well-seasoned wok show the hand of an experienced Cantonese chef.
Three kinds of kung pao had too much cornstarch thickening. It was spicy though.
House special egg foo yung, I was told is the most popular dish with Mexican families. Each of the meats, shrimp and vegetables were cooked to just the right doneness. Though I will say that way the celery stalks were cut was clunky.
Four big patties of egg foo yung to an order. The egg component was very light and fluffy.
Cross cut showing vegetable interior of egg foo yung patty. The pork gravy was delectable, honest!
Baños are designated in Spanish.
Cachanilla Chinese Restaurant
305 E Holt Ave
Pomona, CA 91767
909 622 0300
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