One great thing about living in Los Angeles is that you can always find good Chinese food. However, I never know what to say when people ask, “I want to have some Chinese food today, where should I go?” Chinese dishes are usually categorized in one of the Eight Culinary Traditions: Lu, Chuan, Yue, Su, Min, Zhe, Xiang, and Hui. The eight categories are divided based on regions and tastes. Today, let’s take a quick bite of some of them in Los Angeles!
Lu cuisine started in Shandong. It is commonly seen in North China. Lu cuisine has an enormous influence in Chinese food so it’s always ranked No.1 in the eight categories. However, coming from South China, I never liked Lu cuisine, and I can’t even tell what is special about this category. If anything, I guess it’s the salty taste. Soy sauce is heavily used in Lu cuisine.
There are not a lot of Lu cuisine restaurants in LA, but I’ll recommend one anyway. Beijing Restaurant (250 W Valley Blvd) seems to be a good place to go. Beijing cuisine is one important branch of Lu cuisine, and this place serves authentic Beijing dishes. The grilled lamb in a bun is a must taste.
Chuan cuisine is the most popular category among Chinese. One word is enough to describe Chuan cuisine: spicy. Sichuan is located in a basin in West China, and the weather is hot and extremely wet. Local people put garlic and chili peppers in the food to help them sweat, and they created the most unique cuisines in Chinese food. If you like hot pot, you probably will like Chuan cuisine.
Yunnan Garden (545 W Las Tunas Dr) is a good place to taste Chuan cuisine in LA. Try the boiled fish, and remember to order a lot of drinks.
Yue cuisine, widely known as Cantonese cuisine, might be the most popular Chinese food in the world. One reason is that the Cantonese were the first Chinese to travel abroad, and as a result, Cantonese cuisine can be easily found all over the world. If you randomly walk into a Chinese restaurant in LA, nine times out of ten you walked into a Yue restaurant.
Dim Sum is the most famous branch of Yue cuisine. Cantonese call it “morning tea” which actually usually starts from 11.00 a.m. New Capital Seafood Restaurant (140 W Valley Blvd) is one of my favorite morning tea places. The best thing about New Capital? They serve Dim Sum in traditional carts! You have to stop the cart and grab what you want, otherwise nobody will disturb you even if you sit there for an hour.
Su and Zhe
I put these two categories together because they share some similar tastes, and both of these cuisines are located in East China. Su cuisine and Zhe cuisine are the most delicate of Chinese cuisines. Chefs never use too much oil or salt, but the dish is always delicious. Beef, pork, and fish are used when cooking for better taste, but the meat will not be served. The dish looks simple with only tofu or cabbage on the plate, but the full taste will surprise you.
It’s not surprising that Su cuisine and Zhe cuisine are the most expensive among the Chinese cuisines. Lake Spring Shanghai Restaurants (219 E Garvey Ave) can be a good choice if you want to take a bite of Su and Zhe cuisine without paying too much. You should try at least one dish with ham in it. It’s the essence of Su and Zhe cuisine.
Xiang cuisine is the short name for Hunan cuisine, which in popular in Middle China. Hunan people are passionate and their tempers are hot. So is the food. Xiang cuisine is famous for its strong taste. Dishes are cooked with heavy oil, a lot of salt, and many peppers. I live near Hunan, but my stomach never gets used to the heavy, oily food.
Hunan Chili King (534 E Valley Blvd) is a Xiang restaurant recommended by many of my friends. I never tried the place simply because of the name. I’m definitely not a chili king.
Yue cuisine has always been my favorite Chinese cuisine, what about you?