In my piece about south Flushing’s Golden Palace, I identified the cuisine as Shandong with a secondary specialty of Liaoning–the first referring to a province at the mouth of the Yellow River east of Beijing, the second indicating a province further north, also on the Yellow Sea.
Andrew Coe, author of Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States, kindly wrote in to say that the restaurant is more properly identified as a purveryor of Dongbei cuisine, a three-province region of northern China that includes Liaoning. (Indeed, it says “Liaoning” on the awning in a Chinese ideogram.) ” I believe the owners come from in or near Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province,” he wrote. He did concur that there are Korean influences in the food of the region, especially among the pan chan-style dishes offered at Golden Palace (and also at M & T, see below).
It turns out he’s a regular at Golden Palace, and Coe goes on to recommend the following dishes:
Green bean sheet jelly
Cucumber country style
Shredded potato salad with hot sauce
Crispy flounder with chile pepper
Dried tofu with fresh hot pepper
Anything with “agaric,” i.e., wood ears
Pork & Chinese cabbage cake
Sour cabbage dumpling
He disagreed with me on the possibility of German influences in Dongbei and Shandong cuisine (the port city of Qingdao in Shandong was once a German colony). In this respect, I’m holding my ground in maintaining that the dough drop soup (resembling spaetzle) and the pig skin in aspic (which seemed like German head cheese) are the result of German influences around the Yellow Sea. I’ve had the same argument over and over with knowledgeable commentators on other ethic cuisines. If you love a cuisine, it’s hard to recognize outside influences, since many believe that detracts somehow from the excellence of the cuisine. To me, the way dishes move around the world is one of the most fascinating aspects of food anthropology (the Japanese embrace of French mayonnaise via American examples, the influence of French crepes on southern Indian dosas via their colony of Pondicherry, the appearance of French aioli as a sauce for Lebanese schwarma, are a set of cases-in-point).
For the lover of Chinese food, these are quibbles. The food at Golden Palace remains excellent, and unusual if you’re accustomed to Cantonese. I’m currently working on another restaurant in the neighborhood called M & T. The proprietors actually come from the city of Qingdao in Shandong, and the amount of menu overlap between the Liaoning and Shandong cuisines is around 80%.
Meanwhile, I can’t wait to get my hands on Andrew Coe’s book.