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Kirk's Traveling Kitchen News and Blog

"Do you deliver to Manhattan?"


Chinn Chinn Restaurant in tiny Mattawan Michigan, just off highway 94 a few miles west of Kalamazoo, serves some of the best Northern Chinese food in the state. If you need a testament to this assessment just talk to my sister. A longtime resident of New York City, she lives within walking distance of hundreds of the countries best and most authentic Asian restaurants in Chinatown. Yet despite having tried many of them, she still claims the best Chinese food is found in this 10-table restaurant located in a strip mall next to a flower shop.

Now my sister may be biased by the fact that she was practically weened on the recipes served at Chinn Chinn, we all were. Long before chef/owner John Tsui opened his new restaurant, his parents ran Peking Palace, the original great Chinese restaurant in Southwestern Michigan, using many of the same recipes prepared at Chinn Chinn. While I was growing up my family would go to Peking Palace at least once a week with near religious consistency. In fact I typically found the experience of breaking-bread at Peking Palace (can you break steamed buns?) much more spiritual than church, but then again I'm a food person. The memories of sharing dinners of honey glazed chicken, crispy duck, or sichuan shrimp are good ones. Although my favorite Peking Palace memory would have to include the fun, and challenge, of dining with my 100-year old, legally blind, great grandmother Warner. A proper lady and the consumate host, I never saw her in anything other than a nice dress, she wouldn't dare enjoy her dinner until everyone had been served. And seeing how she would usually be dozing off by the time the food finally came, she typically self-medicated with a single glass of Warner Vineyard's Riesling, we had to feed her as soon as we arrived at the restaurant. This would require Mr. Tsui, John's father, to bring out great grandma's dinner as soon as we arrived at the restaurant. However, in order to get her to eat the food we had to convince her that we were also enjoying dinner. So everyone at the table would have to grab a teacup and smack it with a fork to mimic the sound of a massive feast. I will never forget the question she'd ask me every week while she was enjoying her dinner. She'd lean over to me as if she were going to confide a meaningful secret and say "how's yours?". I'd look down at my empty teacup and shining fork and reply "it's great grandma." To which she'd say "it is, isn't it" and continue with her meal.

Chinn Chinn Asian Restaurant
52885 N Main St
Mattawan, MI 49071
(269) 668-7667