Do You Know the Way To Dongbei?

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Northern City Photo: Mike Sula, courtesy The Reader

Speaking of regional Chinese food, Mike Sula (too late for last week's critics roundup) took a look at two new restaurants which have popped up steps away from each other in Bridgeport, offering the relatively unfamiliar cuisine of Dongbei, which once upon a time was called Manchuria. Although it may have produced emperors, it is not credited with being one of China's major cuisines, and Sula explains why it's basically the hearty food of herdsmen in a very cold place:

They cook with a lot of lamb in Dongbei, indicative of its proximity to Mongolia. They also cook with vinegar and eat loads of pickled vegetables, especially cabbage, or suan cai, which isn't surprising due to its proximity to North Korea. And unlike a lot of other regional Chinese cuisines, the Dongbei diet isn't based on rice. In its place, farmers grow wheat and the people eat bread, which takes the form of stretchy shredded pancakes that you tear apart with your fingers and dredge through rich, soy-based sauces and oily braising juices.

There are two reviews, this one of Homestyle Taste and this blog post about Northern City, and both will teach you something about a new cuisine which you'll need; as Sula points out, "Even if you have some familiarity with Dongbei food, if you don't speak Mandarin, your best MO is to rubberneck the tables around you and take note of what everyone else is eating." [Reader]