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Help! Repatriated Torontonian baffled by the Chinese food!


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Help! Repatriated Torontonian baffled by the Chinese food!

samehhanna | Sep 15, 2010 05:18 AM

So, I grew up here but lived in 4 different US cities over almost 20 years until returing to Toronto last year. I, along with my wife and kids, have travelled all over the US. In EVERY place we've been, big or small, we could walk into a chinese restaurant and get fresh, tasty chinese food. We assumed as we were planning our return to Toronto that, given the sizeable Asian community, locating a good goto chinese restaurant would be no problem. We have struggled. Thai food? No problem. Japanese, Vietnamese, even Korean? Lots of choices. Chinese food has been a problem. I want to be very specific so you guys can help. For me this has boiled down to 2 main areas.

1. "Authentic" vs. "Good". This is always a challenge when seeking reviews online. Different cultures develop different taste profile expectations, get used to different textures and qualities of ingredients. I am NOT looking for something that is authentic. That is easy to find. I am looking for something good, fresh, tasty. I want crisp, fresh vegetables, quality well prepared proteins, complex flavourful sauces that are neither runny, over corn-starched or sickly sweet. I am not looking for an Andrew Zimmern style food challenge just homey, westernized but not dumbed down chinese food for my wife, my adventurous eating kids and myself. I recognize that purists and sinophiles howl when I say this. That's fine, don't respond. There must be someone out there who has lived in the US, has eaten the kind of good, fresh, tasty chinese food I'm talking about and can direct me.

2. Egg rolls. This is perhaps just a symptom of issue 1 above but it has been the single most disappointing issue related to my move back to my beloved Toronto (along with no US commercials during the superbowl). What the HELL is going on with eggrolls here?! Almost all I can find are these folded envelopes half filled with watery sprouts that taste like nothing. Again, I've had great spring rolls but an eggroll is nowhere to be found. To me, an eggroll has been full of fresh finely shredded crispy cabbage and carrot with shredded pork and/or shrimp and gently seasoned. These are rolled (a la a burrito) and deep fried in appropriately hot (and clean) oil so the outside is cripsy and the filling is almost bursting at the seams, warmed through but never mushy. With a little hot mustard or plum sauce (it's called duck sauce in the US and is a bit less sweet) this is something I would dream about.

I have actually started asking US chinese food restaurant owners when I eat there if they would consider opening a joint partnership resto here in Toronto. I just can't imagine that tastes would vary so differently. Anyway, anyhelp is much appreciated. Anyone who can save me monthly trips to the US will be rewarded with a dozen delicious egg-rolls!


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