Chinese, Gourmet Guide

In Japan, restaurants serving one of the great cuisines of the world, Chinese cuisine, range from casual to fancy. The occasions when you go to such restaurants also range from casual dinners to anniversaries, business entertainments, meetings, and more.

In casual restaurants you sit on stools at the table, whereas in fancy restaurants you have a round rotary table. The best thing to do before going to a fancy place is to make sure whether it fits your budget. There also are a lot of Chinese chain restaurants, which are either casual or fancy. In Japan, Chinese cuisine is classified into four different regional types: Beijing cuisine, Shanghai cuisine, Cantonese cuisine, and Sichuan cuisine. Each type has certain characteristics. Beijing cuisine has salty, rich flavors, as in gyoza (pork dumplings) or Peking duck. Shanghai cuisine has a sweet taste, and is characterized by dishes such as chop suey, xiaolongbao (steamed buns), or Shanghai crab. The mild taste of shark fin soup and shumai (shrimp dumplings) is part of Cantonese cuisine. Sichuan cuisine is known for its spicy dishes, such as ebi chiri (shrimp with chilis) or mapo tofu (tofu mixed with a spicy pork sauce.) Most Chinese restaurants serve one of these four types, but there also are places that go by the name of one dish, such yamcha (dim sum) restaurants, chahan (fried rice) restaurants, gyoza restaurants, or tantan-men (noodles topped with a spicy and savory meat sauce) restaurants. Although they are not one of the great cuisines of the world, you also can find a lot of Taiwanese restaurants in Japan. Some cities have areas known as "Chinatown." In Japan, there are three big Chinatowns: "Yokohama Chinatown" in Kanagawa Prefecture, "Nanjing Town" in Kobe, and "Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown" in Kyushu. With an area of 500 square meters and over 600 stores, Yokohama Chinatown is the largest Chinatown. In fact, it is one of the largest in the world. Besides restaurants, Yokohama Chinatown also provides grocery stores selling Chinese foods, such as tea and spices. It always has a bustling atmosphere. And every year in February, an event takes place to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Nanjing town in Kobe is spread over an area of about 270 meters from East to West and 110 meters from North to South, and includes about 100 stores. The main street is a pedestrian's paradise. Food stalls are set up along the street, which makes it fun to walk around trying different kinds of food. Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown has about 40 stores lined along about 250 meters of stone pavement. The Chinese dish with the largest amount of specialized restaurants is gyoza. Large quantities of gyoza are being sold as frozen food, and they have become one of the regular dishes Japanese people cook at home. It is not unusual to eat them as a side dish with ramen, and they have established themselves as a genre of their own, away from Chinese cuisine. The first person in Japan to eat gyoza is said to be Tokugawa Mitsukuni (1628-1701) in the Edo period, but it was not until after World War II that it was largely popularized. It supposedly was made popular by repatriates from Manchuria. In China, boiled gyoza seem to be more common than the pan-fried gyoza Japanese people usually eat. This is probably because pan-fried gyoza go better with white rice.

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