Pea Tips and Spicy Pig's Ear
Lisa says poor execution particularly bedevils Cantonese food. "Wonton soup is wonderful, but I don't know of any place in town that makes a good one. Egg foo young is kind of like a Cantonese omelet. We make it at home, but restaurants here tend to turn it into kind of a deep-fried thing." And she explains the lobster-less "lobster sauce" that has been on Chinese restaurant menus for generations: "a very good Cantonese sauce made from egg and pork, and it's meant to go with lobster. Chinese restaurants in this country are where people go for inexpensive food, so they rarely offer the lobster that's supposed to go with it!
"You know what?" adds Lisa thoughtfully, "There's nothing wrong with American Chinese food. I long for it sometimes--the chop suey, the chow mein. I'm thinking a lot of other Chinese Americans, and just older Americans, long for it too. I've often thought a restaurant that did it right could be a great success."
Greg Guo emigrated from Beijing twenty-five years ago and owns the Evergreen Restaurant in Plymouth Mall. He knows three generations of customers by their distinctive preferences in food. "Seniors still ask for old-style Cantonese food, like chop suey, egg foo young, so forth. This food is a hundred years old." It's sometimes called Toisan, or Taishan, after the region near Canton that exported nearly all of the Chinese workers who built America's western railroads.