Late in the last century, Chinatown abounded with Teochew restaurants. Also spelled Chaozhou and Chiuchow, this cuisine represented the cooking of the Chaoshan region of eastern Guangdong. For centuries, members of this group have traded with Southeast Asia and immigrated there too, and their unique cuisine reflects this diaspora. Signs on Teochew restaurants are often in both Chinese and Vietnamese, and Southeast Asian dishes populate the menus, next to recognizably Cantonese and Fujianese stuff.
Among the few remaining Teochew restaurants in Greater Chinatown are Bayard Bo Ky, around since the 1980s, and its younger sibling Grand Bo Ky. The former possesses a well-worn maze of mirrored dining rooms with communal tables. I recently visited both restaurants to refamiliarize myself with Teochew cuisine. Here are some of the best dishes I tasted.
Country Style Duck — Most ducks served in Chinatown follow the Peking style, with a crisp detached skin, layer of fat, and a flesh that has been concentrated by the curing and cooking process. By contrast, the Teochew style involves braising the flesh till it puffs up like a brined chicken. The meat is soft and flavorful and pulls easily from the bone, and the skin becomes jellied. At Bo Ky, the dish is served in a lake of thick soy with sweet and sour daikon salad, accompanied by a dipping sauce something like Vietnamese nuoc cham.
Pho Doc Biet — Known in English as special beef flat noodle soup, this version of pho is based on a master pork broth used in nearly every soup at Bo Ky, into which an assortment of four beef cuts is added, with the tripe notably missing and the tendon especially chunky. Apart from that, no platter of fresh herbs and sprouts is laid out; instead, the cilantro is thrown right in the broth and no basil is provided. This is as unfussy a version of pho as you’re likely to find and quite a nice contrast to the beefier versions around town. Utilize the vinegary green chile sauce to spectacular effect.
Fish Ball Flat Noodle — The noodles are textured like thick semolina fettuccine, and they come served on a bed of crunchy sprouts, garnished with scallions, along with a bowl of broth to provide moisture at any point you might need it.
House Special Fried Shrimp Roll — The filling is a sort of shrimp mousse, which remains succulent when wrapped in bean curd skin and deep fried. The flavor is aggressively oceanic, the texture perfection. Whether dipping morsels in the sweet sauce or not, this dish is especially excellent.
Teochew Sate Noodle — This is one of the more Malaysian dishes on the menu, a bowl of noodles topped with a satay sauce, so pungent it puts Italian spaghetti sauces to shame. Sliced pork is also added. In this case, I went for the kind of grilled pork chop usually found in Vietnamese restaurants. Note that the noodles are perfectly round and hooked at each end, one of seven noodle types available for any soup in the place.
Cambodian Noodle Soup — Fish balls, shrimp, and slices of pork are featured in this soup that is a favorite of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam as well as in Cambodia. The broth is pleasant and straightforward, the noodles like linguine: thin, made of rice, with a bit of tooth to them. This is a soup made to be customized with the arsenal of sauces on the table, some homemade.