(This post is not about my meal--I'll post that later on the NY Restaurants Board.)
Okay, you can blame me, if you're charged pennies more for your meal at Grand Sichuan International (50th St & 9th Ave location.)I admit it. I stole it. When the waiter wasn't looking, I slipped their 25 page Treatise into my tote--so I could finally get to read it all.
This document is priceless. Using a slightly fractured English (but, hey, after six years of studying Spanish, my language skills remain limited to reading subway ads,) Grand Sichuan has not only written a guide interpreting regional chinese cuisine--but--more satisfyingly--added an "expose" of "American Chinese" cooking.
Other Chowhounds have mentioned this tome--but attempting to actually read it at the table, while searching through the hundreds of unusual menu options, requires a determination, that I don't have, to tell your dining companions to "pulllease shut up"--until you're through! That's why I "borrowed" mine.
The other topics, well-covered, are Sichuan, Shanghai, Canton, Mao's Home Cooking, an explanation of menu dishes, and tips for placing your order.
But, don't miss "American Chinese Food"--an indictment of the bland, badly texturized meals we have come to expect. And loathe. It's confirms everything Chowhounds already know--and wish they could change. Amongst other points,they lambast "American sweet and sour." These dishes "all taste the same" because the basic sauces, Kung Bao and Garlic, which originated from Sichuan cooking, are prepared less spicy and more sweet--and way too far in advance. A no-no in real Sichuan cooking.
As an example, they write "adding more sugar or vinegar, the kung bao sauce becomes the General Tso's chicken sauce. Adding more sugar and vinegar, the garlic sauce becomes sweet and sour sauce."
Marinating too far in advance (changing food textures), 100 percent precooked foods, and the uselessness of stir-frying aleady-cooked meats are delved into, as well.
My favorite paragraph in this section, reads:
"We can conclude that if the real Sichuan cooking is "labor intensive," the American Chinese cooking is "Capital Intensive." It adapted American advanced equipment and technology to transfer a traditional Chinese restaurant into a food assembly line like Ford or General Motor's. It makes Chinese dishes fast, standard and in large quantity. Do you think American Chinese cooking makes any progress--or just produces Chinese junk food?"
So--next time you're at Grand Sichuan, leave time for some good reading. This guide was obviously written as a labor of love. How often do you find a restaurant willing to share its thoughts on the joy of regional Chinese cooking? And in a lengthy and fascinating booklet, detailing each cuisine?
Also included, is an invaluable description of the preparation of each menu item. This REALLY helped, as the choices are overwhelming.
But--PLEASE don't compound my felony by stealing! :-) Next time I'm back at Grand Sichuan, I'll slip it back with the other menus. (I do feel guilty--if we all took our copies home.......well.....sigh....)