Posted: Aug 8, 2012 5:46 PM by Zheng Hwuang Chia
Updated: Aug 9, 2012 4:54 PM
COLUMBIA - You're in a Chinese restaurant. You look over to the Chinese family's table and notice some foreign looking dishes that looked nothing like your regular Hy-Vee Chinese. They're definitely not General Tso Chicken or Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry. What are they? How do you order them? Were they on the menu? Yeah. They are on the menu - the "secret" Chinese menu.
Annie Ji, manager of Peking restaurant in Columbia, said most Chinese restaurants have a separate menu for their Chinese customers.
Ji said foods on the "secret" menu are closer to traditional Chinese flavors and are more authentic, but she said the menu is open to all upon request.
"It says secret, but it's not really (a) secret. A lot of Americans order (from it) too," said Ji.
Some of the more popular dishes on the menus include eggplant with garlic sauce, Chinese meatball, and "ants climb on the tree"-- a rice noodles and pork dish.
Ji said most dishes on the Chinese menu are very spicy--too spicy for most Americans. But they are not for Seth Malone, a regular at the restaurant. Malone and his colleagues try to make it out to Peking restaurant at least once or twice every few weeks.
"We do enjoy Chinese food. They can really make it spicy," said Malone.
Being the big Chinese food enthusiast that he is, Malone said he is definitely aware of the "secret" Chinese menu. He said he would love to order off of it but he doesn't understand the menu because everything is written in Chinese. But he will not allow his illiteracy in Chinese stop him from trying new food.
"I may order something from it even when I can't understand it," said Malone. "I point, ask for the server's favorite dish...you get a little inside information that way."
Malone's colleague, James Dunlape, carries a post-it note with some of his favorite dishes from the "secret" Chinese menu. Dunlape wanted to make sure that he has access to his Chinese bites at all times.
"I don't know how to say a single thing on there. But I know how to point and I've got the interpretation here on there." said Dunlape.
Paule Kobel has been a big Chinese food fan for thirty years and she said she had no idea that a "secret" Chinese menu existed. She was surprised but when she was asked if she would order anything off of the menu. "Absolutely not. I just know what I like. I am not adventurous," Kobel said.
Kobel said she likes her Chinese food American-style. She said she is a big fan of egg rolls.
The story was aired on August 8 and 9. Here's the link to the video.