Sampling Wenzhou cuisine

We were lucky enough last weekend to meet with Carol and Max and their new staff for the soft opening of their new restaurant, Wenzhou Fish, Noodles & More.

Now, it’s easy for a westerner to think of Chinese food as a single category. We tend to have more experience with Cantonese cuisine, and for many North Americans, that is the definition of “Chinese Food”. In reality, there are many, many varieties of Chinese food. Some of us may be aware of the famously spicy Szechuan cuisine.

Enter Wenzhou and its cuisine. I am no expert on it – yet – but at least one dish is new to me: “Knock (or Knocked) Fish Soup”. This is made from boneless fish that has been flattened (and tenderized) by pounding and sliced into noodle-like ribbons. This is served in a lightly-flavored soup with noodles. Side condiments include white pepper and rice vinegar. Subtle and delicious!

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When we arrived at Wenzhou for the soft opening, they had been mobbed by local Wenzhou-ese and had already run out of Knock Fish. Instead, we were treated to fish ball soup, jiaozi (gyoza or pot stickers), stuffed pita, a kind of Chinese black sesame mochi, and something I wasn’t expecting: chop suey!

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Chop suey is, of course, not a native Chinese dish, but was evolved by the Chinese who came to California during the Gold Rush. It is typically based around stir-fried vegetables. This is what we see advertised in an old photo of the Ken Ying Low building on Sixth Street in San Jose’s Japantown.

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