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Magnificent Obsession: Great China

Cross-cultural noodles make for a pleasant lunchtime surprise.


Great China, long a stalwart of regional Chinese cooking in downtown Berkeley, is best known for two things: stellar Peking duck and the finest collection of Burgundies you’ll ever find at a Bay Area Chinese restaurant. But unless you know to look for it, you might never discover one of the restaurant’s best-kept secrets: the handful of hybridized Korean-Chinese dishes, a nod to the founding chef’s roots in Busan, Korea. The best of these, a version of the classic Korean-Chinese noodle dish jajangmyeon is even listed on the menu as “zha jiang mien,” the romanized Mandarin name of a loosely related Chinese noodle dish. But the restaurant’s rendition is Korean through and through: chewy wheat noodles in a velvety, pitch-black bean sauce studded with onion, zucchini and large cubes of chicken thigh so rich and succulent you might mistake it for pork belly, and topped with plump shrimp and shredded cucumber that you mix in before you eat. It’s a massive, meaty bowl of noodles, but, somehow, light enough—and mild enough in flavor—that, before you know it, you’ll have slurped down the entire portion. The most fitting accompaniment when lunching on a Chinese restaurant’s signature Korean dish? A side of Great China’s funky homestyle kimchi, naturally. 2190 Bancroft Way (At Fulton Street), 510.843.7996


Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco 

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