This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
The Chinese have established restaurants in New York and San Francisco, and have been with their methods and materials on exhibition in London. In the former places they are at their best in a business way; in London they were in the hands of a manager who had to make money by them, and they were under the supervision of a French chef, who drew up bills of fare purporting to be Chinese, which were half made up of French dishes. Chinese methods of cooking and restaurant keeping can therefore be seen to the best advantage where they are not on exhibition, but pursued with the view of making money in the regular course. There are at present eight of these restaurants in New York.
The Delmonico's is Hong Ping Lo's, where one can order a "spread" of forty courses which it takes two days to eat and which can be had for the sum of $50, and provides enough for a party of six. Here is a meal for three at the Chinese Delmonico's and the prices. We had tea, samsu (rice brandy), two kinds of wine; a dish of chow-chow-sucy, which is a pungent and palatable conception of chicken livers and gizzards, fungi, bamboo buds, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, and all manner of savory spices stewed together - a dish of cuttlefish, one of ducks' breasts, chickens' wings, pigeons' wings, a bowl of rice, and a mooncake by way of sweets, and for this, with all the attendant dishes of sauces and condiments, one pays $1.25. A full square meal, deliciously cooked, dainty and delicate, for about 40 cents apiece or less, because there was enough on the dishes to have fed three or four more' people. This fact is becoming known, and over five hundred Americans are regular customers at the Celestial eating house. They do not want them there, either, because they are too cheap. They study matters closely and manage to get their meals for about 10 cents, while the Chinese, who are all high livers, spend their money freely.
The chef at Hong Ping Lo's is paid $100 a month and all his expanses, which arc enormous wages for Chinatown. Like all chefs, he is superior, haughty and somewhat capricious. The cooking is done on brick furnaces and with hickory wood, and the half globes of iron set into the blazing coals cook the food with a rapidity that would startle an American puisinier. The guest has the right to enter the kitchen and see if the cook is obeying orders, and if all the dishes desired are made from proper materials. This privilege is eagerly, utilized by Mongolian bon vivants, who frequently make rows over the stove or kettle that would petrify a French chef with amazement. But few dishes are ready made. Raw materials are prepared for almost every possible order, and seldom require more than five minutes in cooking. The Chinese system of eating lends itself well to this practice. All bulky foods are served and eaten in pieces not larger than the end of the thumb. A chicken's heart, for example, is cut into four slices, the liver into eight, an onion is almost shredded, while a pigeon breast is chopped into dice as small as a pea. Another aid to quick cooking is high heat.
The almond eyed cook uses kiln dried hickory or oak for fuel, and makes so hot a fire that water over it explodes rather than boils, and oil becomes a seething mass of liquid and vapor. A dish served under this regime is never cold; usually it is red hot. Dishes are never served "by portion." The guest estimates his appetite and orders accordingly. If not hungry he will order, for example, "five cents perfumed pork;" if possessing a good appetite, 10; if hungry, 15, and if famished, 20. The quantity ordered is measured out almost mathematically. Readers of the daily press know what strange dishes and stranger customs mark these eating houses.