My family, including myself, are from Hong Kong. So while we have fully assimilated into American society, there are certain things from the homeland we cannot live without. Most important of all would be authentic Chinese cuisine.
“Chinese food” as most Americans know it is essentially an American invention. Somehow, the tens of thousands of independently owned Chinese restaurants across America have the same General Tso’s chicken in the menu and the same wonton soup. To most Americans, P.F. Chang’s is the epitome of Chinese cuisine.
Then there is the other side, those who demand “authenticity” in their Chinese food. I find that there are two schools of thought. There are those, like my family, who are resigned to the fact living in New Jersey is not going to be Chinatown or Markham. Then there are those who won’t go near a Chinese restaurant if there aren’t chopsticks on the table. This group includes many Chinese people and almost every single non-Chinese seeking “authentic” Chinese cuisine.
Which leads to my trip to House of Wong in Bridgewater. No, it is most definitely a place that caters to Americans. The english-only menus, the forks on the table, and *gasp* a non-Chinese waiter makes it a dead giveaway. It’s not even 100% Chinese, as there are Thai and other Southeast Asian dishes.
With that in mind, for us there are only three rules that Chinese restaurant should meet
- Fresh ingredients
- Plenty of heat in the wok
- Lay off the grease/brown sauce.
So I had a dry beef chow mein, standard fare in Chinese cuisine. It wasn’t greasy, the ingredients were just fine (though I am no fan of tenderized meat), and it had enough wok hei (heat). Those to subscribe to authenticity as purity will be disappointed due to the lack of variety or exoticness. But as long as they do a few basic things well, I will go back there.