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The "secret menu" at Chinese restaurants.

post #1 of 86
Thread Starter 
Recently my girlfriend and I went to her friend's family's Chinese restaurant for dinner and I encountered something a bit odd. I knew full well they had a "secret menu" typically not offered to most American patrons and had discussed it with her friend previously. Once we got there and were seated, she gave us our menus and said what we had discussed previously was on the back under the Taiwanese section. I looked it over and was pretty bummed about how pedestrian the fare was. I asked, "Is this it?" She said yes. A few minutes later while looking around the restaurant, I noticed another table of Asian guests and they had a different menu! We discussed it amongst ourselves for a sec and a friend we had with us had the gull to go over to that table and ask for one. He came back and, lo and behold, it was the coveted "secret menu" filled with all the authentic dishes we had been excited about trying. When my girlfriend's friend came back to the table to take our orders, I held up the menu with somewhat of a sly grin on my face and asked, "Annie, what's this?" Embarrassed, she replied, "uh... fuck. ha" She let us go ahead and place our orders, consisting of Husband and Wife (a cold spicy beef dish, listed online as being ox lung), beef stomach in sesame oil (another cold dish) , and a warm tripe dish. Soon after, her mother comes out from the kitchen asking us repeatedly if we were absolutely certain we wanted those menu items and asking if we knew what they were, we assured her yes, but she still seemed reticent to let us have them. Finally she conceded and left us with the parting words, "you're my customer, I just want to make sure you're satisfied." The food came. We were beyond satisfied. Just confused about all the fuss over that damned menu. So my question is, why all the secrecy and hesitance to allow us to order? I just don't understand. Did we commit some cultural miscue? A buddy of mine explained it as an "immigrant thing," but couldn't really elaborate on why.
post #2 of 86
Sweet and Sour Pork, son.
post #3 of 86
when i was in tw, the associates i worked with were surprised i was willing to try lungs, tripe and other stuff. they had thought i was too american to try local delicacies.

maybe they were just afraid you'd have a bad reaction to the heavy flavors, and start talking s
post #4 of 86
White people tend to have bland ass tastes.

That's all.
post #5 of 86
A 'secret menu' items are items that are double edged sword like, which may pleasure some of the customers while turn others.

Usually, it's those kinds of food that takes too long to cook, or have a very distinctive local taste/smell, or made out of organ/herbs that are considered edible only in certain regions.

Restaurants will be willing to serve those to ppl who look for it, but not to new customers who's expecting more generalized food, like 'kung pao chicken' in this case.

Reading from her reaction, I'm guessing there were some customers who weren't very happy when lungs/stomaches were served.
post #6 of 86
It's a secret menu because it's not very good.
post #7 of 86
Fried rice animal style? I once rolled through dennys at 3am out of my mind and ordered a burger with two pancakes as the bun and i guess they made it and I ate it. I have no first hand memory of this experience and it was like 5 years ago.
post #8 of 86
They probably assumed you wouldn't enjoy it. Then word of mouth spreads around based on the "unfamiliar" foods and suddenly "oh that place sucks". The eating of these foods not generally tailored for the american palate and the popularity of "adventurous eating" is a relatively new phenomenon from TV shows and online forums. The thing is, with things like "Bizarre foods" and Anthony Bourdain type shows, more people are willing to try out foods that weren't so big 5 years ago (i.e. "adventurous" internet foodie types who can't wait to yelp/brag about how they ate a common tripe dish from China or something, giving them internets credibility).
post #9 of 86
Where do you live Wayfarer? I feel like these "secret menu" type Chinese restaurants are only found in the midwest or some small city where there's not a huge asian population. Here in the bay area Chinese restaurants just have one menu.
post #10 of 86
I remember eating at a local Thai restaurant a while back and while looking over the menu I noticed that they only listed 3 spice options: mild, medium, and hot. When the waitress came over I asked her if there was anything hotter than the hot option? She asked me twice if "you sure?" and then ran off to confer with an older woman at the checkin podium. The older woman came over with a big smile on her face and said "you sure?". I said yes and she beamed at me and said "ooooohhhh, you wait, you gonna get Thai spice. Dis what we makee for de Thai people. I go tell grandmother in back. She gonna make it good for you." Food came out pretty fucking spicy but, after all that, I really expected to propel myself home via flaming flatulence.
post #11 of 86
Is it a secret menu, because it wouldn't pass health codes? Or they take a huge loss when making dishes from the secret menu, and will only take a loss if it's for their people? Doesn't make sense. They probably add some questionable ingredients.
post #12 of 86
She didn't respect you, at all.
post #13 of 86
Originally Posted by NaTionS View Post
Here in the bay area Chinese restaurants just have one menu.
Obviously you're not in the secret menu club.
post #14 of 86
It's a secret menu where I am beucase most white people are pussies when it comes to spicy food or other spices used in authentic chinese food, and so they keep the secret menu secret because they don't want people accidentally order something that they will regret/hate, ruining the restaurant's reputation, when it is due to the customer's own stupidity/ignorance.
post #15 of 86
Originally Posted by WhateverYouLike View Post
White people tend to have bland ass tastes.

That's all.

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