Chinese Imperial court cuisine is the newest regional cuisine to make its way to the United States and stake its claim in the San Gabriel Valley. Beijing-based restaurant chain Simmer Huang, which touts more than 600 franchises throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, and Australia, opened its first U.S. location in Temple City in February 2017. It’s located in the same plaza as the opulent Bistro Na’s, which was the first notable Chinese Imperial court cuisine to make its way stateside.
Simmer Huang’s CEO, Geng Huang, had ancestors that served in the kitchen staff for the Emperor of the Qing Dynasty and later the Royal Family. The recipe Simmer Huang uses for their famous “Three Sauce” simmer pot supposedly dates back over a hundred years.
Chinese Imperial cuisine is a regional style of cooking that was made primarily for the Emperor and the royal family. This style of food is typically characterized by elaborate cooking methods and selection of ingredients, which are often rare, pricey, complex in preparation, and visually pleasing. This type of Chinese food puts an emphasis on the experience and service, and the meal ends with a demonstration of hand pulled noodles that go straight into the hot pot.
Despite Los Angeles leading the nation in regional Chinese cuisine, finding upscale options is a bit more difficult. “Imperial Cuisine and authentic Chinese food in general is getting more and more popular because people no longer want Americanized Chinese food. They want to taste what real Chinese food is supposed to taste like unaltered,” says Simmer Huang owner Gavin Zhao.
The experience at Simmer Huang is distinctive because they do not have a chef. The cooks only cut and prepare the ingredients and the servers do the rest. “The servers are the integral part of the the experience. Simmer Huang is dinner and a show,” says Zhao.
Simmer Huang’s signature pots cook and steam the diner’s choice of proteins, along with herbs and juices from 10 different types of vegetables — all without the addition of water. Server cook the meal, seasoning it with rice wine, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Unlike the more familiar hot pot or shabu shabu, simmer pot is not exclusively a dry pot or hot pot.
“People typically think of Chinese food as something that is unhealthy. Simmering is a traditional method of Chinese cooking that originated from royalty. Since the food is not fried or deep-fried, all the vitamins and nutrients are locked in, making it more delicious and healthier to enjoy,” says Zhao.
Expect to set aside one to two hours for the occasion, as simmer post is more time consuming that a casual Chinese meal.
Here’s how to order the dry pot from Simmer Huang:
1. Pick proteins. Choose between beef, lamb, frog, short ribs, seafood, pork belly, brisket, beef with enoki mushrooms, etc.
2. Choose a sauce — original, mild, medium, hot and spicy. By the way, even the “very spicy” isn’t too difficult to deal with for most people.
3. The server brings out pre-measured containers filled to the brim with ingredients. She’ll add a cube of butter plus ten different types of vegetables that are evenly distributed on the bottom of the pot. She then layers the pot, alternating between proteins and vegetables before she covers it and lets it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
4. When the dry pot is cooked halfway, the server will mix and add in Simmer Huang’s thick brown “secret recipe sauce” made with 30 types of herbs. After spreading the sauce evenly through the pot, she covers it again and lets it simmer for an additional five to ten minutes.
5. It’s time to eat.
6. When diners are almost done eating, the servers will ask if they’d like some broth, turning this “dry” pot into a more traditional hot pot.
7. The server then comes tableside and pulls fresh noodles to add to the pot. The meal concludes with the tableside performance of sorts with the server spinning and stretching out long, fresh noodles into the pot.
Simmer Huang serves daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Simmer Huang, 5728 Rosemead Blvd, Temple City, CA 91780, (626) 656-6333.
- All SGV Coverage [ELA]