Chiam Chinese Cuisine menu front. Courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough Library. Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection.
This week we feature a collection of menus mainly from the N.Y area donated to us by the University of Toronto Scarborough Library (UTSC) on behalf of Mr. Harley Spiller. Mr. Spiller is a known collector of menus and has come to amass tens of thousands of menus over the past decades and has kindly requested the UTSC to send us their duplicates to help with our fire recovery efforts.
These menus feature interesting food names and beautifully designed layouts in addition to reminding us all that food was almost always cheaper in the past. And, much like newspapers and magazines, they can also offer a snapshot of the period in which it was published. Researchers, for example, can gain insights into not only what was served but also how it was presented.
Featured below are some selections from the collection that piqued our interest in one way or another.
Chef Ho’s Peking Duck Grill restaurant menu features their signature Peking Duck under the header “Duck Grill”. The most interesting aspect of this menu is the prominent duck image under Peking Duck, which many readers might know is an image of a Mallard rather than the typical Pekin duck species used for this famous dish. One can suspect that the printers did not have any other images of duck available.
Menu for China Fun, once located in the upper east and west side of the city. The menu prominently features the caption “Are you having any FUN?” with the face of co-owner Albert Wu smiling in a chef’s uniform. The entire menu front is also dedicated to various food reviews of specific menu items and even features a shot of the Giuliani’s posing with the owners.
Glatt China Express menu with a prominent message on the front stating that they are a Kosher Chinese restaurant. And true to their message, the menu does not feature any pork or seafood items. It does, however, have a Chinese Hero Sandwich and we at MOCA are very curious as to what the ingredients for that would be.
The Hung Fong Restaurant celebrated its 50th anniversary with a large photo calendar printed on the back of its 1989 menu. The Calendar features a half-page photo of the Summer Palace in Beijing and a two-month calendar with lunar dates included.
The restaurant is still around so it continues to retain its title as the oldest Chinese restaurant in town.
The Chiam Chinese Cuisine restaurant was located in the center of Manhattan and most likely served a more affluent clientele, given that in 1995 they sold Beef with Brocolli for $10.95 (~$22.00 in 2022). Their menu features some interesting foods such as the Beef Fettuccini, which is what they use to describe Beef Chow Fun.