Broccoli and Tofu in Garlic Sauce from Friend House (106 Third Avenue, 212-388-1838)
A staple of quick Cantonese cuisine is indeed garlic sauce (with veggies, tofu, or meat).
In Year of the Takeout‘s observations, this gravy has the same texture as the brown, soy-based variety, but can take on a pinkish hue and feature different heat levels, depending on the amount of chili flakes present.
Now what also fascinates about garlic sauce is how it exemplifies both the ubiquity — and organic uniformity — of this food in the U.S.
These independently owned eateries have generally adopted the same cooking standards and practices — but without any centralized mandate.
So, much as a Big Mac in New York tastes the same as a Big Mac elsewhere, Chinese food in Florida (where YotT happens to be this weekend) can feel virtually indiscernible from the Northeast’s offerings. Unlike Big Macs, though, there’s no corporate boss telling these small restaurants how to do things. This can also be explained by the fact that a lot of these sauces come pre-made — but also that many recipes are so simple that variation remains unlikely.
See for yourself: Pictured below is an item from a neighborhood joint in Anonymous Suburb, Florida. No big difference, right?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 18, 2012