Wednesday, June 07, 2017


A big jar of aged Nicaraguan leaf just rolled over and fell on my gouty foot. Please imagine the "feels" right now. I suffer for my art, and I belatedly realize that normal people do not have big jars of tobacco located on the floor precisely where they can accomplish the maximum amount of evil.
Of course, this being San Francisco, I know normal only second-hand. From reading, mostly. Dorothy and Kansas are normal.
General Tso's Chicken is normal.

['Jo jung tong gai']

A gentleman at the chachanteng where I ate a late lunch yesterday was extremely upset when they served him a General Tso's Chicken (左宗棠雞 'jo jung tong gai') that did not meet his exacting expectations. What he demanded was "real General Tso's, not this weird shit, deepfried, the traditional Szechuanese style". He further averred that they could not possibly be genuine Chinese, what on earth were they doing running a restaurant?

Making the exchange rather remarkable was that he himself appeared to be American Chinese(*) and absolutely incapable of speaking any variation of his presumed ancestral language. And that this was at a restaurant in the precise centre of San Francisco Chinatown which is run by hardworking immigrants from Toishan, where everybody else (a total of nearly forty people including staff) was speaking Chinese.

Jo Jung Tong Gai, or as it's also called Jo Gung Gai (左公雞 "the left-sided rooster"), was invented over on the East Coast about one generation ago by a chef from Taiwan whose customers where overwhelmingly non-Chinese. The version that everybody knows is a mongrel that Szechuanese do not find particularly palatable, is virtually unknown in China, and shows up on all menus for an overwhelmingly non-Chinese clientele.
It's more American than anything else.

[The Left Sided Rooster: the surname 左 also means 'left' or 'left sided', and 公 means 'public', 'duke', and is often used honorifically for elderly gentlemen or ancient worthies. A 雞 is a chicken, to specify cockerel or rooster you append 公 to 雞, thus: 雞公. Duke Tso's chicken, a public cock.]

The customary dish is nuggets of chicken boned, battered and deepfried, then heat-tossed with a soy-based spicy sweet sauce to glaze the lumps. Optionally sesame seeds are strewn over or it's dumped on some blanched broccoli to make it more visually appealing. Or healthy looking.
Multiple variations are possible.

I've had it, and I'm fairly certain my apartment-mate (who actually is ethnically Chinese) has also had it. But we've never cooked it, nor is it something that separately or together we would likely order. Especially not in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown catering primarily to Chinese, serving the more Chinese-y spectrum of chachanteng food, although their menu does have two whole pages of American Chinese chow for other folks.
It seems like something you might get in the Financial District.
Or out in the avenues, definitely the suburbs.
Panda Palace in Hayward.

Along with "Great Wall Chicken".
Which a bartender invented.
Late last night.

What the angry man settled on instead was mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐), because they couldn't possibly "fuck around wid dat". He left in a loudly agitated state before it arrived, speculating that they were going to poison him.
I'm fairly certain they were glad to see him go.

Mapo tofu is also not, strictly speaking, typical of Chinese food.
Although it is Chinese, and deservedly popular.

You should probably get white poached chicken (白切雞 'paak chit gai') or wonton soup (雲吞湯 'wan tan tong') instead; it's nearly impossible to "fuck around wid dat"

The customer is always right. Even when the customer is, as is often the case, completely wrong. Or batshit crazy.


My late lunch was 涼瓜斑球飯同埋一杯港式奶茶 (bitter melon fish with rice and a cup of milk-tea). Which was very nice, although the dinner theatre made it epic.

Next time I will order the General Tso's Chicken. It has been a long time since I ate it, and I am keen to find out what their version is.
Their cooking is very good.

(*) There's a particular type of American Chinese person who will bluster and act proprietary about all aspects of Chinese culture, despite having little familiarity and being completely monolingual in English. One can very well understand their behaviour and even sympathize, because Caucasians frequently do go all meaningful and expert, and will at the drop of a hat start white-splaining things such as fengshui, daoism, and The Great Wall to an audience of other white people. In Chinese restaurants they sometimes act defensively loud, especially if they can't read or speak one iota of the language, because it is their culture too, and they own it.
And don't you dare forget that.

But speaking to them in Chinese only irritates them.

That reminds me.
What's remarkable about The Great Wall is .....

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