In celebration of the Year of the Rabbit, our “Local Restaurant World Tour” continues as we travel to our area’s new “Chinatown” in the Maryland suburbs. Kojo and his guests uncover the area’s best Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine, and even take you for some off menu eating.

Guests

  • Todd Kliman Food and Wine Editor and Restaurant Critic, Washingtonian Magazine
  • Corinna Shen Co-owner of Seven Seas restaurant in Rockville, Md.

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Recipes

Courtesy Corinna Shen

Steamed Whole Fish with Ginger and Scallions

Steamed whole fish with ginger and scallions is a staple Cantonese dish for practically every Chinese family at the dinner table. It is favored for its mild yet flavorful taste and ease of preparation, and as a healthy meal choice. This dish gets its influence from Guangdong, where fresh live seafood is a specialty. Guangdong is located on the southern coastline of China.

The freshness of the fish used is extremely important in this dish to enable the mild ingredients to bring out the natural sweetness of the fish. This is why, in order to maintain the quality of their steamed fish dishes, some of the best seafood Chinese restaurants have special marine tanks on their premises.

Ingredients

1 whole Tilapia or white fleshed fish of your choice, approx 1.5 to 2 lbs, gutted and cleaned
2 stalks of scallion, shredded lengthwise
5 slices of ginger, shredded
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced or diced
1 1/2 tablespoons of rice wine
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1/2 or 1 teaspoon of rock sugar
1/4 teaspoon of pepper, preferably white
A few sprigs of cilantro

Part 1

  1. Make 3 half-inch incisions on both sides of the fish. Pour the rice wine over and inside the fish.

  2. Take half the amount of shredded ginger, scallions, bell pepper and parsley, and stuff inside the fish.

  3. In a steamer, steam fish on medium heat for about 15-17 minutes. Check to see if the fish is done. If not, steam for another 2-3 minutes. Make sure there is still enough water for steaming.

  4. Remove the fish from steamer and discard the ingredients that were steamed with the fish.

  5. Place fish on serving platter.

Part 2

  1. About 3-4 minutes before the steaming fish is ready, heat about 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a pan or wok. Add the rock sugar to the oil and allow it to dissolve as the oil heats.

  2. Add the soy sauce and the remainder of the ginger and scallions to the oil.

  3. Fry the ingredients together for about 15 seconds. This will enable the ingredients to “release” their flavors.

  4. Pour the contents of the pan/wok onto the fish on the platter.

  5. Garnish with the remaining bell peppers and cilantro, then serve!

Transcript

  • 12:20:08

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWhen you think of Chinese food, what comes to mind? Shrimp fried rice? Egg rolls? Maybe wanton soup? This Americanized version of Chinese cuisine barely scratches the surface of the colorful, flavorful world that comes to life in a Chinese kitchen. Think of clams with ginger and scallions, duck with spicy salt, cumin lamb or even barbecue buns and egg tarts. Delicacies like these aren't always found in Chinatown anymore. In fact, in our metro area, you need to head northwest from Penn Quarter and its famous Chinese gate to Rockville, Md. to taste some of the best Chinese food around.

  • 12:20:44

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWith its wide variety of styles from traditional Szechuan to Shandong style, Rockville is the place to be for an authentic Chinese meal. So put down that chop suey. In honor of Chinese New Year, we'll be taking our local restaurant world tour to the land of the dragon. And here to guide us are Todd Kliman, food and wine editor and restaurant critic for Washingtonian Magazine and author of the book "The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine. Todd Kliman, always a pleasure.

  • 12:21:14

    MR. TODD KLIMANThanks. Thank you for having me.

  • 12:21:16

    NNAMDIAlso joining us in studio is Corinna Shen, co-owner of Seven Seas restaurant in Rockville, Md. Corinna, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:21:24

    MS. CORINNA SHENThank you for inviting me.

  • 12:21:26

    NNAMDITodd, when you were here for one of our first conversations about ethnic cuisine, you mentioned that some of the best Chinese food these days is found in suburban Maryland. Whatever happened to Chinatown, and why the shift to Maryland?

  • 12:21:40

    KLIMANThe great migration, culinary version. No. It -- you've seen a gradual heading north over a number of years, over decades, really, from Chinatown, where a lot of immigrants settled in the late '50s and '60s, and they've gradually moved north. And for some reason, Rockville is -- Rockville and North Rockville, and even heading a little further north into Gaithersburg, that region is home to some of the most interesting Chinese cooking in the entire area now.

  • 12:22:19

    NNAMDICorinna, you opened Seven Seas restaurants back in 1987. How have you seen the area change since you arrived?

  • 12:22:27

    SHENYou know, I'm very happy to find out that Rockville is being recognized. And I -- In 1993, when I first moved to Maryland from Seattle, Wash., my husband Edward, who started the restaurant -- actually, it's in 1986 he started the restaurant.

  • 12:22:49

    NNAMDIOkay.

  • 12:22:49

    SHENAnd he was telling me that welcome to Little Taipei.

  • 12:22:53

    SHENAnd he called Rockville a Little Taipei, meaning that I can get all sorts of gourmet Chinese food in Rockville area. So not now that Rockville is becoming a small Chinatown in Maryland, but it has been that way for quite some time.

  • 12:23:10

    NNAMDIWho's opening and running these restaurants? Is it new immigrants, second and third generation Chinese Americans or both?

  • 12:23:17

    SHENI think first generation of Chinese most likely. Our restaurant, Seven Sea, is opened by Edward, and he came here in this country in the '70s. So I think, most likely, it's the first generation immigrants.

  • 12:23:37

    NNAMDIMostly first generation. You have four children. Which of them will be continuing this restaurant tradition?

  • 12:23:43

    SHENWell, so far, I haven't seen any one of them have any interest running the restaurant. Well, hopefully.

  • 12:23:53

    NNAMDIBut you're still working on them. I'm sure you are. Todd, when we talk about Chinese food, many of us think of beef noodles, dim sum and fried rice served in a buffet. So can you give us a picture of what's going on in this new Chinatown we're talking about before I have Corinna describe exactly what I am proceeding to eat because I won't be doing anymore talking after this. I'm eating.

  • 12:24:12

    KLIMANWell, you have everything. You've got Szechuan cooking. You've got Taiwanese, Chinese cooking. You've got Cantonese. You've got Hong Kong-style cooking. You've got...

  • 12:24:24

    SHENShanghai.

  • 12:24:25

    KLIMANYeah, Shanghai style. You've got everything in this area. And, you know, it's not just limited to or not -- it's -- the concentration is this area in North Rockville. But you're seeing interesting stuff happening all over the area. You've got Indian Chinese, if anybody has ever explored that. Dishes like Gobi Manchurian. You've got Korean-style Chinese in places in Beltsville. So it's a real interesting time right now to be adventurous, to really explore and to kind of get away, if you're at all inclined, to get away from, you know, beef with broccoli and orange chicken and really try to see what the people who are cooking the food are themselves eating.

  • 12:25:15

    NNAMDIAnd allow me to have our listeners join in on this conversation by calling 800-433-8850. What are your favorite Chinese restaurants? Do you tend to order off menu when you go to an ethnic restaurant? Call us at 800-433-8850. We're talking Chinese food on our local restaurant world tour with Corinna Shen, co-owner of Seven Seas restaurant in Rockville, Md. and Todd Kliman, food and wine editor and restaurant critic for Washingtonian Magazine. That number again, 800-433-8850. Corinna, most of us know that there's Cantonese style, Szechuan style and Hong Kong-style Chinese food. Can you describe some of the differences between them?

  • 12:25:56

    SHENYes. Originally, we have four region cuisine which is Lu xi, Shandong cuisine and Cantonese is Guangdong cuisine and (word?) which Shanghai means belongs to the (word?) cuisine and Szechuan, which is the most popular cuisine that everybody knows to order. The Kung Pao chicken, this is the Szechuan cuisine. And today I brought four different dishes to represent the four major original cuisines from China.

  • 12:26:36

    NNAMDIAnd they all look so beautiful. Can you please describe them while I eat them?

  • 12:26:41

    SHENSure. Since we're still in the Chinese celebration zone, today is the seventh day of Chinese New Year. So I thought, this would be a good chance to educate some of the listener on the gourmet authentic dishes. So I brought wine chicken, which is Shanghai style cuisine.

  • 12:27:03

    NNAMDIWhich one is that?

  • 12:27:04

    SHENThis is the wine chicken as -- with the lantern garnish.

  • 12:27:07

    NNAMDIOoh, yeah.

  • 12:27:08

    SHENAnd all the garnish are made by fruit or vegetable. It's edible. And the second one is the Cantonese rose duck, and the third one is Lu xi, which is a Shandong northern style of marinated beef. And, of course, the garnish is beautiful. It has fish garnish and with the bubble -- bubble is made up the green onion. And the fourth one is the Szechuan style cold noodle. And Szechuan cuisine is well known for their three pepper taste. It's the dry red chili pepper and the pepper corn and the white powder pepper.

  • 12:27:52

    NNAMDITodd, which style would you say has the most artful or elegant presentation?

  • 12:27:57

    KLIMANOoh, I'm that's -- I'm gonna offend somebody if I answer that.

  • 12:27:59

    NNAMDILook around the table. Lock that studio door, please.

  • 12:28:00

    KLIMANThat's right.

  • 12:28:01

    NNAMDII don't want anybody coming in here right now.

  • 12:28:02

    KLIMANI think Cantonese is very beautiful. Everything is very balanced. But I think it's, you know, it often depends on the cook and the restaurant style. And we don't have a lot of restaurants in this area that put a lot of premium on presentation. You know, elaborate banquet style presentation.

  • 12:28:26

    SHENSeven Seas does. Seven Seas does.

  • 12:28:28

    KLIMANSeven Seas does. And you see -- you see more of that in places like San Francisco and in New York. We -- I just wrote or I wrote online and I've got a longer piece coming out in the magazine on March about a place that I was really, really taken with in Columbia called Red Pearl, and Red Pearl does a wonderful job of balancing beautiful simple presentation and wonderful food. And so that's a good tip for any readers who want to get a jump on getting to the restaurant before the March issue comes out.

  • 12:29:06

    NNAMDILater on, you'll tell us of another story about Red Pearl. But I don't wanna get to that quite as yet. Corinna, which style would you say has the most artful or elegant presentation around this table or period.

  • 12:29:17

    SHENOh, I think all regions, they have their specific talent of present their food. And basically, when I judged this -- the good Chinese, excellent Chinese food, there's five factors. Color, the aroma, the taste and the meaning and the presentation. If you can satisfy this five factor and then I will say this is a excellent Chinese cuisine. Today, I think the -- my favorite one is the wine chicken because I love the lantern. The chef used tomato, a jalapeno pepper and golden pepper and cherry.

  • 12:30:04

    NNAMDITo make a lantern.

  • 12:30:05

    SHENThey made a lantern. And orange peel, cherries, celery. It's beautiful and I hope this is on your website.

  • 12:30:14

    NNAMDIAs my dad used to say, that looks almost too beautiful to eat. But believe me, I will eat that lantern. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. Let us start with Aaron in Silver Spring, Md. Aaron, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:30:30

    AARONHi, Kojo. Well, long-time listener, first-time caller. I actually was in China this past summer for a month and I ate all over from cities to (word?) shack way up in -- near the peak of Jade Mountain Snow Dragon or Jade Dragons Snow Mountain, excuse me. And, you know, the difference between the food there and here is so substantial. And I've been looking all over for Hunan-style food here, which is where my brother actually lives in China. And my favorite dish I had was hot dry noodles, which were fantastic.

  • 12:31:14

    NNAMDICare to comment on that, Corinna?

  • 12:31:15

    SHENOh. Hunan cuisine is well-known for their spicy taste.

  • 12:31:23

    AARONYes.

  • 12:31:24

    SHENThe kind of noodle you have mentioned, I don't -- well, I don't know which restaurant carries that specific kind of noodle. But the Szechuan style is pretty much similar to Hunan style. So when you go to the restaurant, you can ask the server or the owner of the specific restaurant if they have that dish. If they don't, you can go online or find a certain cookbook that -- find a recipe and I think you can make it your own.

  • 12:32:02

    AARONThank you. Yes, I've been trying too. My brother is has been trying to buy the recipe from the restaurant. Then we went to the place in Loudi, Hunan, a city of about 4 million right in the metro plaza.

  • 12:32:17

    SHENYou know, sometime it's very difficult to find the ingredient -- the true authentic ingredient. So you may have to do a research and see which kind of ingredient, the spice, the seasoning is for that specific dish.

  • 12:32:36

    NNAMDIWhich brings me -- and thank you very much for your call, Aaron -- which brings me to this, Todd Kliman. How do you know that you're in an, quote, unquote, "authentic" Chinese restaurant?

  • 12:32:46

    KLIMANOh, I look for certain things. One of them is that there are a lot of places where you'll see a long menu, multipage menu. And you're looking for things on the menu that, you know, that are gonna be different to you if you're not accustomed to anything more than beef with broccoli. And you're looking -- I'm looking for things like duck blood. I'm looking for things like, you know, frog -- restaurants that do a lot of frog or a lot of things like ling fish. Restaurants that have -- oh, boy -- you know, duck tongue, fried duck tongue with basil and chilies. Things like that are usually indicating that you're in a place that's cooking not just for Westerners, but for people who are either immigrants themselves -- recent immigrants, and places that are meant to satisfy a core audience that may not be a mass or mainstream audience.

  • 12:33:51

    NNAMDICorinna, a lot of Chinese restaurants have no-frills menus with one side in Chinese, the other in English. Are we missing out on an authentic experience if we order only from the English side?

  • 12:34:02

    SHENDefinitely, you're missing out the authentic choices. The reason for that -- because most Westernized American Chinese food is not accepted by the real Chinese. And if we only have one set of menu, and Chinese people will always ask for -- do you have the real Chinese menu. So, often, some Chinese restaurant present both menus. In recent years, Edward and I -- my husband Edward and I try to just combine both American Chinese cuisine, which I like very much also, and with the authentic menu together.

  • 12:34:49

    SHENSo we want people -- we wanna educate on Chinese cuisine, because Chinese culinary culture, history go way beyond 5,000 years history. So this is a good chance with China rising up. And we want to educate people. So I would say, if you have open mind, and brave enough to try something like Todd just mentioned, duck blood...

  • 12:35:22

    KLIMANWell, I was, you know, I was thinking -- I was in a recent -- at a recent experience at a restaurant in North Rockville called Michael's Noodles. And Michael's Noodles has a -- has two different versions of hot and sour soup. And a lot of people have had hot and sour soup.

  • 12:35:36

    SHENThat's true.

  • 12:35:37

    KLIMANSo there's the regular hot and sour soup, and then there's a listing for hot and sour soup with duck blood. And if you are willing to give that a go, you're gonna eat something that's closer to what, as I said, the people who are making it are themselves eating. And it's a richer, a little bit more full-bodied soup. And I think it's terrific. And if you don't like the duck blood, you can probably pick it out because it's little gelatinized noodles, if you will, that are floating in the soup.

  • 12:36:12

    NNAMDIWell...

  • 12:36:12

    SHENI'm so happy you mentioned the duck blood. That brought my memory back when I was little and we always eat in a night market in Taiwan. And, yes, that these are...

  • 12:36:24

    NNAMDIBring good memories back to Corinna. Here is Terry in Bethesda, Md. Terry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:36:31

    TERRYThank you, Kojo. This is also my first time for being on the air. And I appreciate you taking my call.

  • 12:36:37

    NNAMDIThank you.

  • 12:36:38

    TERRYYou had asked about people who order off the menu versus not ordering off the menu?

  • 12:36:43

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:36:44

    TERRYWhen my husband and I go to a Chinese restaurant, we generally order off the menu and we order the American dishes. Because most places we go, it's either the American dishes or there's Chinese writing. But we can't read the Chinese writing, so we can't order anything in Chinese because we don't know what it says. If there is a Chinese menu -- I don't know if it's written in English or not. But if there is one and it's written in Chinese, we couldn't use it.

  • 12:37:15

    TERRYNow, I do have a friend who is -- was -- is from Hong Kong. And when I go out to eat with her, we -- you know, she has introduced me to a lot of Chinese dishes that I wouldn't know. Now, it happens that I don't like Chinese broccoli, which is one thing she introduced me to, but that's, you know, it's taste. But you have mentioned the Chinese menus versus American menus and sometimes you have to ask for them? If they're written in Chinese, what good does it do as I don't know...

  • 12:37:45

    NNAMDITodd Kliman will give you the secret to ordering off-menu if you don't happen to speak Chinese.

  • 12:37:50

    KLIMANIt's challenging. And I've written about this. What you have to do is you have to make it very, very clear to the server that you're willing to eat anything. And that you're willing -- that you want what they have back there, what they have back there for the core audience. It's not always easy to do. I've had many times where I -- you know, the server is in disbelief. And it's not going to believe that you're gonna want to eat duck blood or duck tongue or loofah or any of these other things that are, you know, essential to these cuisines, but that are not known to most Americans.

  • 12:38:32

    KLIMANAnd so you have to sort of speak the language. If you can throw in a reference to loofah, and if you can throw in a reference to duck blood, if you can throw in a reference to frogs and, you know, braised frogs in various preparations, you'll indicate to them that you know what you're talking about. And then you're worthy of being shown either the secret menu or being given the dishes.

  • 12:38:57

    KLIMANI've had many times where I've been -- I've tried to communicate what I really want. And still there's this refusal to give it to me. There is this (laugh) moment that comes in, and the server will say, well -- they'll direct me to a dish. And I know it's not the dish that they're eating. It's some shrimp dish that's very popular. What you have to do is get beyond the idea of popular. You have to say you're willing to eat anything.

  • 12:39:25

    SHENAnything.

  • 12:39:25

    KLIMANNow, you may not like anything. You may not like everything. But if you can communicate to them that you are willing to try and make sure to take home everything that you don't finish as a form of respect. You may find that there are two or three dishes on the table that you end up liking. You have to be prepared for about...

  • 12:39:45

    NNAMDISearch persistence.

  • 12:39:47

    KLIMANYou have to be prepared for about seven or eight dishes to land on the table.

  • 12:39:49

    SHENYou have to be brave.

  • 12:39:52

    KLIMANRight.

  • 12:39:53

    NNAMDIAnd very persistent. I have this picture of Todd in my head being dragged, kicking and screaming out of the kitchen, saying, no, no, that's what I want. It's right there.

  • 12:40:00

    KLIMANThat's actually pretty close to what happened (unintelligible).

  • 12:40:02

    SHENYeah.

  • 12:40:02

    NNAMDII figured that. You had an experience at the -- at Red Pearl in Columbia, Md., eating fried lobster. Tell us about that.

  • 12:40:08

    KLIMANYeah. It's a dish of salt -- it's a salt and pepper dish. And salt and pepper dishes are very wonderful Hong Kong-style preparations. The -- often, you see them with shrimp, with whole head on shrimp...

  • 12:40:24

    SHENMm-hmm.

  • 12:40:24

    KLIMAN...sometimes you'll see them with chicken. I love them. I think they're just --they're irresistible because the salt and the pepper together, it's a wonderful coating and it just makes -- it's like eating potato chips after a while. But I was -- there's usually a moment that occurs for me in dining out and trying to get to the heart of what a place is, where I will -- at a Chinese restaurant, where invariably I'll go off menu. And sometimes, I go off menu because I haven't found anything that's worth writing about, so I'm trying to give it one last chance. (laugh) Sometimes, I go off menu because the restaurant has demonstrated that it's really very good and I wanna see if maybe it can reach that other level that sometimes restaurants never get to.

  • 12:41:10

    KLIMANThat was the case at Red Pearl. Red Pearl had really impressed me. So I kind of went off menu. I started talking to the waiter, and he mentioned they had some fish and some lobster and some crab in the tanks. I didn't see tanks. So that was interesting. And I said, well, what could you do with the lobster? And he mentioned, you know, they could do anything. And he started ticking off various preparations. He got to salt and pepper, which is...

  • 12:41:37

    SHENSalt and pepper.

  • 12:41:38

    KLIMAN...kind of right of my wheelhouse, and it was a magnificent dish. It was one of the best things I've eaten all year.

  • 12:41:46

    NNAMDIAnd with that, we're going to have to take a short break. If you have already called, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your call. The number is 800-433-8850. Do you tend to order off menu when you go to a Chinese or any other ethnic restaurant? Has your taste in Asian cuisine changed at all, and if so, how? 800-433-8850. You can also go to our website at kojoshow.org. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow or an e-mail to kojo@wamu.org. It's Local Restaurant World Tour: Chinese Food. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:44:03

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our Food Wednesday conversation. Our restaurant, our culinary world tour on Chinese food featuring Corinna Shen, co-owner of Seven Seas Restaurant in Rockville, Md. And Todd "I'll Never Stop Eating" Kliman, food and wine editor and restaurant critic...

  • 12:44:19

    KLIMANOh, I'll stop.

  • 12:44:20

    SHEN(unintelligible)

  • 12:44:20

    NNAMDI...for Washingtonian Magazine and author of the "Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine." Todd, have you found anything in the area that comes close to what you would consider a fine dining Chinese restaurant?

  • 12:44:37

    KLIMANNo, not really. San Francisco is full of them, and we really don't have that. The best Chinese food I've had in the area was several years ago, when the legendary infamous Peter Chang was cooking here. And it was just revelatory food. But it was served in very, in most cases, very hole in the wall settings, and we don't tend to have those kinds of places. Red Pearl, even for this area, you know, Red Pearl for this area is a nicer than usual setting. Seven Seas is a nicer than usual setting. But these are not the norm. And that's not to say that you're not gonna get great stuff. One of my favorite places in the area is a place called China Bistro. The actual name is Mama's Dumplings, but the American's name is China Bistro, and you might drive by thinking it was just a kind of a, you know, a take-out joint. But there in the back is mama making...

  • 12:45:49

    SHENDumplings.

  • 12:45:49

    KLIMAN...you know, half dozen different kinds of dumplings...

  • 12:45:51

    SHENYes.

  • 12:45:51

    KLIMAN...and they're fantastic.

  • 12:45:53

    NNAMDICorinna, Seven Seas is preparing Governor Martin O'Malley's Chinese New Year party.

  • 12:45:58

    SHENThis is happening next week.

  • 12:46:00

    NNAMDINew Year party. Why are they apparently no real high-end Chinese restaurants in the metro area?

  • 12:46:05

    SHENWhat is your definition of a high-end? You spend -- are you being...

  • 12:46:10

    NNAMDIMoney. It costs a whole lot of money. (laugh)

  • 12:46:13

    SHENThe expensive restaurant, that's what you mean.

  • 12:46:15

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:46:16

    SHENWell, you know, most American people they think Chinese dishes are not expensive. And it is very hard -- it's very difficult to charge a higher price of dishes, you know, to American people. Running business, you need to make profit. And if you can't, you know, if you can't make profit, it's hard to continue with your business. And secondly, I think language barrier, it's probably playing a key point in this subject. Because first generation immigrant, a lot of time they don't speak good English, so it's hard to handle the business, to start the business and dealing with the regulation, the tax and service...

  • 12:47:03

    NNAMDII've noticed that Wolfgang Puck seems to be pulling it off at his Source restaurant, Todd Kliman, to which I've been and which seems to specialize in Asian foods.

  • 12:47:14

    KLIMANHe loves Asian cooking. And, you know, it's -- I, you know, I recommend it to people who are looking for just a great meal, but I think there are some of the best Chinese dishes you're gonna find in the area there. But again, it's not a Chinese restaurant and it's...

  • 12:47:33

    SHENIt's American-owned Chinese restaurant.

  • 12:47:35

    NNAMDI(laugh) There you go.

  • 12:47:35

    KLIMANWell, it's American-owned, but there are lovingly prepared, authentic Chinese dishes alongside other sort of pan-Asian dishes...

  • 12:47:45

    SHENMm-hmm.

  • 12:47:45

    KLIMAN...and even Indian-influence dishes. I think what's interesting in all this is that what you've seen over the last 15 years with this food revolution, this explosion of interest in food and particularly in this area, this surge of immigration that we've seen, you have a real interest in Thai cooking in this area. You've got some of the best Burmese restaurants around. You have sushi and Japanese, of course. You have all this different Asian cooking styles which have become kind of trendy, and people have forgotten, I think, about Chinese food. Chinese food was the, you know, the ethnic food that people turn to in the '70s and '80s. And I think Thai restaurants have kind of nudged it out. I think people have more affection for going out for Thai, and Thai restaurants tend to be splashier kinds of places. And in this area, there's a lot of interest in Burmese cooking or a good deal of interest, and sushi, of course, has a lot of interest. And it's sort of been interesting to watch that happen.

  • 12:48:56

    NNAMDIWell, one commenter on our website says, "One would have to discern between Chinese-Chinese and Americanized Chinese. Since my preference is the former, at the moment I'd vote for China Buffet in College Park, Md." And Sara, on our Facebook page says, "The best, most authentic that I found are Hong Kong Palace at Seven Sea -- Sichuan Pavilion on K Street and Joe's Noodle House in Rockville. While Maria loves Far Eastern, Rockville, Md." A lot of variety and choices clearly here. Here is Gadi (sp?) in Chevy Chase, Md. Gadi, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:49:30

    GADIHi, Kojo. I'm kind of disappointed that Todd has already mentioned China Bistro because it's actually -- it's one of my favorite places. One of the strangely nice things about it is in order to get to the bathroom, you actually have to walk through the kitchen...

  • 12:49:42

    KLIMAN(laugh) Yes.

  • 12:49:44

    GADI...but that you never wanna leave because all of the vegetables just smell amazing as they're cutting them up. And so that -- so if you go there, absolutely make a point to wash your hands. You'll be rewarded. So in this talk about authentic Chinese food, though, what do people who are vegetarians, how are we supposed to kind of get that same authentic Chinese experience or can't we? Do we just have to…

  • 12:50:07

    KLIMANWan Fu.

  • 12:50:08

    NNAMDIHere's Corinna.

  • 12:50:09

    SHENWa or Seven Sea has a large selection of vegetarian dishes. And, often, people have requested a vegetarian banquet. We design your personal banquet dishes, vegetarian dishes also. So, next time, if any vegetarian customer, American people wanna try different kind of vegetarian dish, please give us a call or go online, then check on our dishes.

  • 12:50:41

    NNAMDITell me about these dumplings and the shape of these dumplings that I'm working on right now.

  • 12:50:45

    SHENWell, dumpling is the item that my mother always present during New Year time. And today I brought the golden nugget. Of course you can see the shape of the golden nugget. And dumpling symbolize the golden nugget. My mother always put a clean coin inside the dumplings. So whoever gets the coin, meaning that the coming New Year you have lot of lucks. So dumpling shape, next time, if you check it out, and the shape of dumpling is the shape of the golden nugget.

  • 12:51:24

    NNAMDIThe golden nugget, and it means good fortune.

  • 12:51:26

    SHENGood fortune. In the ancient China time, they used this golden nugget as their currency, as the treasure.

  • 12:51:36

    NNAMDII'm so lucky today. Good eating and good fortune all in the same meal.

  • 12:51:39

    KLIMANThat's right.

  • 12:51:41

    NNAMDIHere is Nancy in Washington, D.C. Nancy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:51:46

    NANCYThank you, Kojo, for having me on.

  • 12:51:48

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 12:51:48

    NANCYI live near Union Station, so I'm in Chinatown quite a bit. My favorite restaurant in Chinatown is Eat First, and my favorite dish is eggplant -- stuffed -- shrimp-stuffed eggplant with black bean sauce, with little pieces of jalapeno pepper, some sort of green pepper on the top. I just love it. But I've been to Seven Seas before. My husband does martial arts, and they sometimes have their events there. And I have to tell you, their food there is absolutely fabulous, too. I love the crispy eggplant, and I love a lot of the chicken dishes. And one day I'm going to try their teas that they have in the afternoon.

  • 12:52:27

    SHENYes, the tea afternoon sampler. The reason we put out that menu is you get -- you can get two appetizers and two entrees, and you get your favorite tea selection and the ice cream. So each person get four items at the -- you know, you can pick four items. So if you have two person trying out the afternoon tea menu, actually you get eight item. So that's a good way to explore new dishes. And the portion is smaller than the regular portion, but I highly recommend it to try.

  • 12:53:04

    NNAMDINancy, thank you very much for your call. Todd, we don't necessarily associate Chinese food with baking. But you love a place called Bread Corner in Rockville. What kind of baked goods can we get at Bread Corner?

  • 12:53:15

    KLIMANLots of buns.

  • 12:53:16

    SHENLots of buns.

  • 12:53:16

    KLIMANLots of wonderful buns. All sorts of things in the buns. And this is what you see if you go to a dim sum restaurant or a restaurant that has dim sum. There are...

  • 12:53:28

    SHENLike the barbecue bun.

  • 12:53:29

    KLIMANBarbecue buns, you know, chicken-filled buns, all sorts of buns, custard-filled buns. I love it. And I think it's -- it's one of those reasons, I think, that you would go to North Rockville to, to just explore, to explore some of the grocery...

  • 12:53:43

    SHENYes.

  • 12:53:44

    KLIMAN...grocery stores that have specialties that you might wanna play with in the kitchen.

  • 12:53:48

    NNAMDIFrom Northville -- from North Rockville to Northern China. Here is Dennis in Chevy Chase, Md. Dennis, your turn.

  • 12:53:55

    DENNISHi. I went to Beijing. I could not find dim sum anywhere. And I realized after a while that it's only in Southern China. But I wanna know why they never heard of dim sum in Beijing.

  • 12:54:07

    SHENWell, dim sum belongs to the Southern region cuisine. You find dim sum in Hong Kong every day, every restaurant. In Canton, Guangdong, they eat a lot of dim sum. And Northern China -- actually, in Beijing you can find dim sum, but it's localized dim sum. It's suitable to Beijing people. And you can go to -- I can't remember this one restaurant in Beijing. They do have dim sum, but you really have to search it.

  • 12:54:38

    KLIMANThere's a restaurant in North Rockville called A&J. It's also in Virginia. And A&J has Northern Chinese dim sum...

  • 12:54:47

    SHENDim sum.

  • 12:54:48

    KLIMAN...that they serve daily. You don't have to wait till just the weekend. It's one of my favorite places to eat in the area because, I think, for the price and the quality of the food, I don't know that there's anything that's better. You could -- two people could eat for about $25, and that includes tax and tip, and get an assortment of...

  • 12:55:05

    SHENBut, Todd, Northern dim sum is a little bit different than...

  • 12:55:09

    KLIMANIt's very different. You're not gonna see shrimp, for example.

  • 12:55:10

    SHEN...Cantonese dim sum.

  • 12:55:12

    KLIMANYou're gonna -- it's much breadier, lots of starches.

  • 12:55:16

    SHENWheat.

  • 12:55:17

    KLIMANYeah. The -- you know, it's reflecting the climate and...

  • 12:55:21

    SHENRight.

  • 12:55:21

    KLIMAN...what people have, the resources they have. But they do a really good job there. And A&J is a place where you see the waitresses. They all wear jeans and, you know, light blue colored shirts. And there's no alcohol in the menu. And they don't take anything but cash. But it's -- for all that, you can eat wonderfully well and get a variety of dishes and tastes. One of the things I love that they do on the weekends is a little sesame -- sort of a crispy sesame bun with scrambled egg. It's kind of a good and more wholesome alternative to the McMuffin.

  • 12:56:06

    NNAMDICorinna, the Chinese community is now celebrating the New Year from Feb. 3. It's celebrated for 15 days.

  • 12:56:12

    SHENDays.

  • 12:56:13

    NNAMDIIs the food I see around me the kind of food you generally prepare in honor of the New Year?

  • 12:56:18

    SHENYes, yes. Today I brought dumpling, of course, and wine chicken, roast duck, beef. And later on you're gonna try our -- one of our signature dish, pork butt, which is...

  • 12:56:31

    KLIMANI've been looking at that all morning.

  • 12:56:32

    SHEN...which is fabulous. And in Chinese New Year, we -- one other dish I wanna mention is nian gao, rice cake. The pronunciation of nian gao, (word?) . And childrens have to try nian gao because parents always tell us you will grow higher. And adult have to try nian gao, (word?) , because after you taste nian gao, you'll get promotion and you go forward. So that's one dish that you have to try.

  • 12:57:04

    NNAMDII'm glad the New Year lasts for so many days, from the third through the 15th day...

  • 12:57:07

    SHEN17th, 17th.

  • 12:57:08

    NNAMDI...through the 17th. But before we go, Todd, and we're running out of time, you mentioned Peter Chang earlier. You wrote a piece about him. His cooking was so extraordinary you began following him from restaurant to restaurant. You crossed over from critic to fan. Your piece is now up for an award. And we'd like an update on where Peter Chang is now and whether you're still his number one customer.

  • 12:57:29

    KLIMAN(laugh) I've -- oh, I've never been his number one customer. I've just been a follower. Calvin Trillin wrote about the obsessives who trail after Chang. And actually, we both had long extended pieces on Chang come out the same date, his in The New Yorker and mine in the Oxford American. And Peter Chang inspires that kind of devotion. It's...

  • 12:57:55

    NNAMDIWhere is he now?

  • 12:57:56

    KLIMANHe's in Atlanta, at least for the time being. We'll see where he ends up next. He was rumored to be ending up in Richmond, which would have been close enough. But he's a vagabond...

  • 12:58:08

    NNAMDIWe're out of time.

  • 12:58:09

    KLIMAN...vagabond genius.

  • 12:58:10

    NNAMDITodd Kliman is food and wine editor and restaurant critic for Washingtonian Magazine...

  • 12:58:10

    SHENHey, Todd, you got to come and visit Seven Sea more often.

  • 12:58:14

    NNAMDI...author of "The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine." And Corinna Shen is co-owner of Seven Seas Restaurant in Rockville, Md. Corinna, thank you for joining us. Thank you for bringing...

  • 12:58:24

    SHENThank you. Thank you.

  • 12:58:26

    NNAMDI...all that you have brought with you. It looks beautiful. Thank you all for listening.

  • 12:58:28

    SHENThank you.

  • 12:58:29

    NNAMDII'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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