Chinese Gets an American Makeover in Paris at Huabu

Chinese food Paris

Talk about a culture smash. Chinese food in Paris is hard to grasp, like a slippery noodle escaping your chopsticks. Generally speaking, the weird thing about Asian food in Paris is that more often than not, the Japanese own Chinese traiteurs (delis), while Japanese restaurants or sushi bars are often run by the Chinese. And sometimes, they are a bizarre mixture of the two. Hard to say why that is, but you’re probably better off going somewhere where the owners have the same origins as the food they’re making or who have a completely different background altogether (because they’ll have a more vested interest).
Unless you know the Chinatown hotspots or the reliable sit-down restos, you are likely to run into rather bland repeats of Cantonese rice, caramel chicken and nems (fried spring rolls) in most of the places you visit bearing the name Traiteur Chinois. Particularly, if you’re from America, this kind of Chinese cuisine ends up being highly disappointing.

Chinese food Paris
Photo courtesy of blog.melissahie.com
Leave it to native Californian, Kristin Frederick, who basically inaugurated the food truck culture in Paris with Le Camion Qui Fume, to bring the city an exotic taste of home. You no longer have to lust after the General Tso’s chicken you knew and grew up with back home. The Americanized and previously nonexistent Chinese delicacy is now available at Huabu, Frederick’s most recent nourishing enterprise opened this past week in the 9th arrondissement. ‘Huabu’ fittingly translates to ‘Chinatown,’ by the way.
Chinese food Paris
Gai Lan Beef & Broccoli; Photo courtesy of parisbouge.com
No more dry Cantonese rice with an overly salty Poulet Impérial or some other tired chicken dish left in a glass display case all day, only to be reheated when you stop in because you’re desperate and hungry. The food at Huabu is freshly prepared in woks and placed in sturdy white cartons for your consumption either dine-in or to-go.
Chinese food Paris
Photo courtesy of parisbouge.com
Homemade nems, Gai Lan beef with broccoli, fermented tofu, Kung Pao chicken and baozi (better known as bao : steamed buns with pork or chicken fillings) are some of the other options from the menu, and the accompanying garlic fried rice or sauteed noodles are noticeably superior to the usual greasy options found in most places. You can opt for a Tsing Tao or soda to wash everything down, or try one of the ten tea varieties.
To be honest, not all Asian traiteurs in Paris are terrible, and they usually get the job done when your cravings hit. But they’re underwhelming and unoriginal, and that’s what separates Huabu from the rest. Any American will attest that Chinese food à l’américaine is not like the Chinese food found in France, and then again, it’s probably not supposed to be.
Chinese food Paris
Photo courtesy of lefooding.fr
But it is nice knowing that when you miss the taste of home with some Asian zing, you have a place like Huabu to fill that void. The atmosphere is also decidedly fresh, enticing and simple. A red awning boasting the words ‘Chinese Food’ is straightforward enough. Wood accents add a nice touch to the black-framed façade, complemented by airy windows letting curious passersby steal a peek inside.
Chinese food Paris
Photo courtesy of parisbouge.com
The interior is equally sleek with wood panels and mirrors on the walls, minimally decorated with Chinese opera masks. Bench seating gives the place a casual vibe, and the open kitchen preceded by a large counter with the woks in plain view means you won’t have to wonder about questionable meal prep.
One thing is for sure — Kristin, a Ferrandi grad, has become a grand chef of la bouffe américaine in Paris with Le Camion qui Fume (arguably the first food truck in the capital selling high-quality gourmet burgers and fries), Freddie’s Deli (for those yearning for a stacked pastrami sandwich or authentic Philly Cheesesteak) and even a gourmet popcorn bar at EuropaCorp Cinémas in Aéroville (truffle popcorn is one of the specialties).
And now that you can get a proper order of General Tso’s, homesickness in Paris should simply be limited to friends, family and maybe a lil’ American cheerfulness…
Bon appétit!
What : Huabu, Americanized Chinese fast-food (eat-in or take-away)
Where : 67 rue du Faubourg Poissonnière 75009 Paris
Open : Nonstop Monday to Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm
Prices : Menus at 9.80€ or 11.70€
Phone : 01 45 89 16 94
Website : www.huabu.fr
 
Feature photo of Kristin Frederick, behind the counter at Huabu, courtesy of leparisien.fr

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