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The Bookshelf: Andrew Coe



September 03, 2009


Chop SueyIf you find connections between eating and culture fascinating, take note: Andrew Coe, who has written for Saveur, Gastronomica, and the New York Times, has published Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States. With over 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the country, many Americans take this food (or, rather, its Americanized versions and offshoots) for granted. But with a timeline that includes violence, late 19th-century Bohemia, and modern political diplomacy, Chop Suey exposes the cuisine’s extraordinary development in the West. A Brooklyn resident and frequent patron of New York’s Chinese eateries, Coe is the Chinese food lover’s compass. Even though his motto is “Eat now, talk later,” he took a moment to tell us about his favorite spots in the city. This is a very good time to like eating adventurous Chinese food in New York City. Sichuan restaurants, in particular, are going through something like a golden age. In Manhattan I like Szechuan Gourmet and Wu Liang Ye. There’s also Little Pepper in Flushing. But I think the best is Flushing’s Spicy & Tasty—the food has depth and complex seasoning. A great dim sum restaurant is tougher to recommend: there's usually a trade-off between scene—which has the most traditional, large, brightly-lit, and cacophonous atmosphere?—and quality of food. For just quality in Manhattan, I like Oriental Garden in Chinatown—if only they served a greater variety. The Chinatowns of Flushing and Sunset Park in Brooklyn have a number of very good dim sum halls as well. Flushing also is the go-to place for the more obscure cuisines of China, including Muslim Chinese and restaurants serving the specialties of the coastal cities of Wenzhou and Qingdao. Of these, my favorite is Golden Palace, which serves the food of Dongbei, the far northeastern corner of China. It's a combination of Northern Chinese and Korean, and the food is always surprising and always excellent. Szechuan Gourmet 21 West 39th Street, NYC 212.921.0233 Wu Liang Ye 36 West 48th Street, NYC 212.398.2308 Little Pepper 133-43 Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing, NY 718.939.7788 Spicy & Tasty 39-07 Prince Street, Flushing, NY 718.359.1601 Oriental Garden 14 Elizabeth Street, NYC 212.619.0085 Golden Palace 140-09 Cherry Avenue, Flushing, NY 718.886.4383 or 718.886.3113