The Mystery of Almond Boneless Chicken

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in: Cooking w/recipe

Almond boneless chicken. Credit: Tina Caputo

It’s been more than 20 years since I moved from a suburb on the east side of Detroit to San Francisco, and there are a few things I miss about my childhood home. When I say “a few” I mean three: my family, warm summer nights and almond boneless chicken.

If you don’t live in Michigan, you’ve probably never heard of the dish we call ABC — at least not the version served in nearly every Chinese restaurant from Detroit to Petoskey. The dish consists of a battered and deep fried chicken breast cut into thick slices, laid on a bed of iceberg lettuce and topped with mild brown gravy, toasted almonds and a sprinkling of green onions.

My first apartment in San Francisco was a 10-minute walk to Chinatown, but, to my great disappointment, my beloved ABC was nowhere to be found in the neighborhood’s Chinese restaurants and take-out joints.

“Do you have almond boneless chicken?” I asked countless restaurant servers.

“Yes, we have it.” They’d answer.

But when the dish arrived, it was always stir-fried instead of deep-fried. And where was the iceberg lettuce?

After years of disappointment, I finally came to accept that ABC was “a Michigan thing.”

But how did it get there? And why don’t we have it in California?

Tracing a dish’s history

I began searching for clues online and came across a 2010 article on the Detroit Free Press website. They’d asked readers to name the foods that define Detroit, and almond boneless chicken was the dish that came up over and over again.

Marshall Chin, owner of a Chinese fusion restaurant in the Detroit suburbs, theorized that ABC was one of the dishes that originated in the old chop suey houses in big cities where Chinese immigrants settled, including San Francisco.

Another Detroit-area restaurant owner, Raymond Wong, took Chin’s idea a step further. “I know it started in the San Francisco area, but in Detroit it became so popular that all Chinese restaurants had it,” he told the Free Press.

Could it really be true that ABC started out in San Francisco? I had my doubts, so I reached out to Andrew Coe, author of the book “Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States.”

Coe had never heard of ABC, or its alias War Su Gai, but my search for its history piqued his interest.

“Although their origins are in China, specifically around Toishan in Guangdong province, dishes like chop suey and chow mein developed specific regional variations as they spread through the U.S.,” he told me. “There’s a Minneapolis-style chow mein, for example, and a Rhode Island specialty called a chow mein sandwich. I have a feeling the same is true for almond chicken.”

I sent Coe a link to an ABC recipe published on a home cooks’ website, and he did some further digging. He discovered a similar recipe in one of the first Chinese cookbooks published in the United States, “The Chinese Cook Book” by Shiu Wong Chan, released in 1917. The dish was called Hung Yuen Guy Ding, and it was made from boneless chicken, almonds, water chestnuts, onions, mushrooms, celery, oil and stock — the same ingredients in ABC.

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The secret to the ABC batter is a 50-50 mixture of flour and cornstarch. Credit: Tina Caputo

“It’s a typically goopy dish that was a specialty of the early Chinese-American restaurants,” he said. “I think that’s the root of your dish, but some creative Midwestern cooks have taken that inspiration and totally transformed and Americanized it — deep-frying, iceberg lettuce, gravy.”

Similar adaptations happened in New England with chop suey, he said, which morphed into “American chop suey,” made with elbow macaroni mixed with ground beef and tomato sauce.

Now we were getting somewhere. Did Coe think ABC’s predecessor could have started out in San Francisco and then migrated to Michigan, where it was Midwesternized?

“New York was actually much more an epicenter of Chinese-American food influences than San Francisco,” he said. “During the 19th century, Californians were much more anti-Chinese — violently so — than New Yorkers and refused to eat Chinese food. The American taste for Chinese food was actually first picked up in New York’s Chinatown and then spread all over the country, including to San Francisco.”

Aha!

So now I had a good idea of where the dish originated, and how it ended up in Michigan. But I still wanted to know why ABC didn’t migrate beyond the state borders.

Chinese-American food captured in a menu collection

Further web surfing led me to a blog post about the Sweet and Sour Initiative, an ongoing project at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D.C., which aims to tell the stories of Chinese people in America through food and restaurants. The collection includes thousands of menus from Chinese restaurants from across the country, spanning four decades. If anyone knew about the regional span of ABC, I figured, it had to be the folks behind the Sweet and Sour project.

“Although we have made an exhaustive search for regional dishes such as the one you are pursuing,” curator Cedric Yeh told me, “[ABC] hasn’t been one that we have run across. But all is not lost.”

Yeh put me in touch with John Eng-Wong, Visiting Scholar in Ethnic Studies at Brown University, who’s been working with Yeh on the Sweet and Sour Initiative. Eng-Wong was kind enough to do some research on my behalf.

“Almond boneless chicken seems to be well known and appreciated in Michigan, but it seems to have a foothold in many other places from Canada to Florida,” he said.

A search of Chinese menus posted online confirmed that ABC is, in fact, a staple in eastern Canada (just across the Detroit River) as well as Ohio. And yes, it’s even occasionally found in Florida. I guess that disqualifies the dish as being a “Michigan thing.”

But in my mind — and the minds of thousands of Michiganders — almond boneless chicken will always taste like Detroit.

A recipe for ABC

To create a truly authentic recipe for Detroit-style almond boneless chicken, I enlisted the help of my friends Susie Mui-Shonk and Sandra Lee, two Michigan ex-pats who really know their ABC. When they were growing up in the Detroit area, their families owned Chinese restaurants in Detroit and the suburb of Livonia.

Thanks to verbal instructions from their family members and a recipe-development session in Susie’s San Francisco kitchen, we succeeded in cooking up a heaping platter of Michigan-Chinese comfort food.

Almond Boneless Chicken

Serves 8

Ingredients

For the chicken:

6 chicken breast halves, butterflied

Salt and pepper to taste

Corn oil for frying, about 2 quarts

For the batter:

1 egg

1½ cups of water

¼ cup corn oil

¼ cup milk

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 cup corn starch

1 cup flour

For the gravy:

1½ tablespoons corn oil

1 large celery stalk, diced

⅓ cup canned sliced mushrooms, drained

⅓ cup canned bamboo shoots, drained and roughly chopped

⅓ cup canned water chestnuts, drained

3 cups chicken broth

1½ tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

4 tablespoons corn starch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water

For the garnish:

⅓ cup sliced  or ground almonds, toasted

4 whole green onions, thinly sliced

½ head iceberg lettuce, sliced crosswise

Prepare chicken and batter

1. To butterfly chicken breasts, place each breast on a cutting board smooth side down. Remove tender and save for another use. Turn breast over and with the edge of a knife parallel to the cutting board, slice breast in half widthwise almost to the outer edge. Keep edge intact and open breast along the fold. Breasts should be fairly uniform in thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, water, oil and milk. Stir in baking soda, baking powder, corn starch and flour until incorporated.

Make gravy

1. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add celery and stir fry 2-3 minutes.

2. Add mushrooms, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots and stir fry 3-5 minutes.

3. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt and sugar. Bring to a medium boil, cook about 7 minutes and stir in cornstarch-water mixture. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until sauce is thickened to gravy consistency (about 5 minutes).

4. Keep warm over very low heat.

Fry chicken

1. Heat oil in a deep fryer or wok to 350 F.

2. Dip chicken pieces in batter, letting excess batter drip off.

3. Fry breasts, one or two at a time to avoid crowding, until golden brown, 5-7 minutes.

4. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

5. Using a chef’s knife or cleaver, cut chicken width-wise into slices about ½ inches wide.

Assemble and serve

1. Arrange lettuce on a platter and top with chicken pieces.

2. Spoon gravy on top of chicken.

3. Sprinkle with green onions and almonds.

4. Serve with steamed rice.

Top photo: Almond boneless chicken. Credit: Tina Caputo


Zester Daily contributor Tina Caputo is the editor-in-chief of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine based in Northern California. Her wine and lifestyle stories have also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wine Review Online, US Airways magazine and Decanter.

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Comments

Andy
on: 4/2/13
Oh, the sweet magic that is Almond Boneless Chicken! The taste of Detroit indeed, or in my case, Ferndale. Thank you, Caputo, for helping to preserve the traditions of Michigan Chinese food.
Tina Caputo
on: 4/2/13
Just trying to share the love! Now if we could only recreate Bell's beer in California we'd be all set.
Sandra Lee
on: 4/5/13
I still believe ABC has its' origins in Michigan. Though it takes up residence in eastern Canada, Ohio and Florida (where many Michiganders vacation and retire), the local of Detroit is suspiciously in the epicenter.
Don Cuevas
on: 4/11/13
Seems as though ABC is a parallel development to Cashew Chicken, one of the most popular restaurant dishes in Springfield, MO. It's "exotic" but not scarily so. Saludos, Don Cuevas
Aimee Trawick
on: 5/25/13
WOW! What thorough research! I am a Michigan ex-pat (in Tennessee right now) and no matter where I travel, I can never find anything quite like the almond boneless chicken from Michigan Chinese restaurants. Thank you so very much for writing this article! It answered a lot of questions for me and I also very much so appreciate having the recipe. You did amazing work!
Tina Caputo
on: 5/25/13
Thanks so much, Aimee! My Californian husband thought I was obsessed. (:
Mike Parker
on: 5/27/13
Hi Tina! My girlfriend found this article and we were laughing the whole time we read it! She's Chinese and has never heard of this dish. I'm from the Detroit area and lived in California for 10 years. I looked all over for this dish and always found some disappointing stir fried version. I now live in Vancouver, BC and found the first deep fried version I've seen since I left MI. It's still not the same so now we will try to make this recipe at home. Thank's for solving the ABC mystery :)
Tina Caputo
on: 5/27/13
Once you've tasted the deep fried goodness of almond boneless chicken, it's hard to carry on without it! When my friend/fellow Michigan ex-pat, Andy, tasted the results of our recipe session, he declared, "This just took me back to being 9 years old." It's the real deal, I hope you'll give it a try!
vanessa
on: 6/8/13
hi tina, nice piece. i'm familiar and really enjoyed andrew coe's book. i'm also a "restaurant-kid" from the east coast of canada. i grew up in and continue to help on holidays at, most likely, the oldest, single family owned chinese-canadian restaurant. we call it almond soo guy, and it's always been very popular! it's pronounced in english "almond sue guy" and in cantonese it's said like, "sue giy," meaning crispy-flaky (not, just crispy or crispy-crunchy) chicken. our version is simply two large butterflied and battered chicken breasts, served atop a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce (though i've been trying to encourage use of shredded cabbage for less wilting if travel is involved), with a darker gravy (same used on fries), and toasted almonds. everything is made from scratch. we also make "variations" described above, but call them by other names, e.g. diced almond chicken (stir-fried chicken breast chunks with veggies in a light glaze), moo goo guy pan (stir-fried marinated chicken breast strips with veggies in an oyster-sauce based glaze), etc.
Tina Caputo
on: 6/8/13
Vanessa, it's great to hear about Canada's version of ABC, your family's restaurant sounds great, and now I'm hungry for almond chicken again!
Pamela
on: 6/8/13
Kow Kow Inn on Six Mile Road in Detroit had the best ABC. The sauce was a rich brown with garlic, sherry and button mushrooms, topped with powdered, toasted almonds and chopped scallions. No lettuce was involved. A close second was Hoa Kow Inn on Nine Mile Road in Oak Park.
Tina
on: 6/9/13
My family's favorite was Lotus Pond on 11 Mile Rd.
Melody
on: 6/9/13
I am an Ohio ex-pat also living in Tennessee, and War Su Gai is one of the things I most miss about Ohio. I have tried a few other fried versions I've found online, but none of them had this much research behind them. I can't wait to try this for dinner tomorrow night! The only SLIGHT difference is that I'm going to chunk the chicken, then deep fry, so that I don't lose any of that delicious crispy coating while slicing. Thank you so much for posting this!
Tina
on: 6/10/13
The coating is definitely one of ABC's best features. Let us know how it turns out with your modification!
Jeff Haston
on: 6/27/13
This brings back a lot of memories. I was first introduced to Almond Boneless Chicken at the Oceania Restaurant @ the Medowbrook Mall by my girlfriend. I was so impressed with the food that we eventually had our rehearsal dinner there before we got married and yes, on our buffet menu for the evening was ABC. My brother was so enamored by it he kept going back for years. He was such a patron, they knew the sound of his voice before he ever gave his order. He now lives in TN and has yet to find something good enough that he can call Almond Boneless Chicken. I just sent him the link to your blog. Yeah.....Oceania!!!
Tina
on: 6/27/13
Thanks, Jeff. I always have to get my ABC fix when I go back to MI to visit the family. I hope this brings back some tasty memories for your brother, too.
Melody
on: 6/27/13
I made this a couple of nights ago, and it was delicious ... but not quite the ABC that I remember from Ohio. I'm sure there are several different versions, though. The one that we used to get didn't have any of the mushrooms, water chestnuts or bamboo shoots in the sauce - it was just a clear gravy. We are heading up north at some point this summer, so I'm going to have to get to one of our old favorites and see if I can bribe someone for their recipe and do some comparisons, lol. This version is definitely going into our regular rotation, though - and chunking up the chicken before frying was perfect, as none of that crispy goodness was lost cutting into it. Again, thank you so much for sharing this!
Tina
on: 6/27/13
You're very welcome!
Lynn
on: 7/4/13
Thank you! For the last 35 years I thought I had imagined my favorite Chinese dish. I had my first taste of ABC (never knew it was referred to that way) at the Four Seasons Chinese restaurant (no longer there) in Ypsilanti in about 1977. For about three years my friend Kym & I would go there as often as our teenage funds could afford to and enjoy their scrumptious ABC. College & job led me away from MI and so began my pursuit of ABC. Thinking I'd simply forgotten the name of the dish or the regional version, I spent years trying most any dish with the words chicken & almond in its name, never finding anything to compare to that wonderful combo. As time went by, I thought perhaps I'd made it up, embellishing a teenage memory as something better, something from "the good 'ol days." BUT, having yet another Chinese restaurant menu slipped under my door, the thoughts of ABC returned, & this time i finally thought I'd search online for something, anything in the vast world of Chinese cuisine that may be closer to what I feared by now was just my imagination. That's when I found your article. Again, thank you. It truly as been a mystery to me that I'm so delighted has been solved!! I wasn't being forgetful. I wasn't making up a more tasteful past. I just didn't realize it was a MI specialty just like the Vernors I have to order online. Thanks again for all your work & putting it online. I've yet to try the recipe, but I'm sure it will be great.
Justo
on: 7/5/13
I'm from Detroit and have lived in NYC since 1999. I had tried off and on to find this dish in NYC with no luck, various dishes containing chicken and almonds but bearing no resemblance to the delicious meal I wished to consume. I had no idea it was a Michigan thing! The rest of the country doesn't know what its missing.
Justo
on: 7/5/13
By the way anybody out there remember Chung's. http://www.flickr.com/photos/yensky/3157768951/
Tina
on: 7/5/13
Thanks, Lynn. It's been so much fun hearing people's stories and memories of this dish. Funny about the Vernors -- I order Sanders Hot Fudge.
Kari
on: 7/13/13
Hey guys! I grew up in Washington state and breaded almond chicken was all I ever encountered. Love it. Just ordered it on vacation in Utah. Stir fried and very disappointing.
Tina
on: 7/13/13
ABC on the West Coast?? I had no idea! Will look for it next time I'm in WA.
Cheryl
on: 7/15/13
I moved from Michigan to Massachusetts 14 years ago and have been obsessed (really!) in finding my beloved almond chicken. Everyone thinks I am crazy but they have all been on the look-out for me whenever they visit a Chinese restaurant...all to no avail. Your article made me smile because I thought I was the only one. I lost all hope on finding ABC outside of Michigan until a few days ago. We have just moved to NC and a local Chinese restaurant has it on it's menu. Is it the right ABC? I will let you know as I plan on checking it out this week :-) Thanks for the article!!!
Tina
on: 7/15/13
Cheryl, I have a bunch of ex-pat Michigan friends here in California, and we've all been obsessing over almond boneless for years. You're definitely not alone! I'll be interested to know it the dish has made it's way to NC.
Jamie
on: 7/16/13
Thanx for the post ! Having the same problem here in NOLA lots of Chinese restaurants but no one has the same Almond chicken we're use to from Detroit.
Sandi
on: 7/25/13
I was happy to come across this recipe for what we in Washington State call Chinese Almond Fried Chicken. So it is not just the east coast (Michigan) who has/had this form of almond fried chicken. I have always liked it. Tonight I was hunting for just such a recipe, so thanks ever so much for sharing this and your story. But know, it is found across these United States. Maybe by leaps and bounds and it bounded to Washington in a single leap by some Michiganer that craved it as well. I just glad to have found it here. Thanks again.
Tina
on: 7/26/13
It's interesting to learn that ABC did make it to the West Coast after all.
Bil
on: 7/26/13
In Georgia, it's called Almond Fried Chicken. Rarely is it served on a bed of lettuce. And the sauce/gravy is just that, a brown gravy without anything else. The chicken is similar to your fried chicken cutlet or is the same breaded chunks that are used in sweet and sour chicken. Take out/delivery places usually use the chunks (probably to help limit inventory). But good sit down restaurants use the breaded and fried cutlet. The almonds are generally sliced or slivered. And yes, I've never found this anywhere else I've traveled. I've gone through every Chinese menu in NYC and it's nowhere to be found.
Maureen
on: 7/30/13
My first experience with "almond boneless chicken" as Tina described, was approximately 40 years ago - but called War Su Gai. Battered chicken cutlets, fried and covered with brown gravy, with sliced almonds, on a bed of lettuce. In Louisville, Kentucky. So, it's not a dish unique to Michigan. Lately,like Bil who commented above, I've been a quest to find it again-- and have not been successful.
Tina
on: 7/30/13
Interesting to learn about all the places the dish has made it way to. Thanks, Maureen.
Celia Browne
on: 8/13/13
Thanks for the trip down memory lane! When I moved to New Mexico 3 years ago, I was shocked to find out that ABC was a Michigan dish never to be found out here. Every trip back home requires a stop at Kim's in Troy for you-know-what. Growing up in Ferndale, I was practically weaned on Golden Star at Nine and Woodward. I still miss that place!
Tina
on: 8/13/13
Celia, I wonder if Golden Star was the restaurant owned by my friend Susie's family. I'll have to ask her!
Johnnie
on: 8/17/13
We had something similar in NC called "cantonese chicken" or "chicken cantonese". Basically chicken brest sliced length-wise battered and deep fried and served with a brown sauce that contains almonds, water chestnuts, onion, broccoli and bamboo shoots. Stuff is incredible but increasingly harder to find.
Tina
on: 8/18/13
Sure sounds like your dish is in the same tasty family as ABC.
Lynne
on: 8/20/13
Is anyone familiar with the almond chicken once served at Forbidden City on Cassette Ave? Their gravy was yellow and wonderful
Lala
on: 8/25/13
Back in the 1980s. Long ago. We lived on Almond Fried Chicken in Seattle in a suburb called Lake City. There is the iconic restaurant, Ying's Chinese Kitchen. Their AFC as we called it was battered just like yours, boneless breast, deep fried to perfection, served over iceberg lettuce with a darker brown gravy than yours, and I know there is some - or a lot if - chicken bouillon involved there. Served without mushrooms or any veg, over the chicken, with lots of ground almonds and green onions on top. They delivered, too. We miss Ying's, and if you google it you will find pictures of the coolest 1960s/70s Jetsons style little restaurant, still there on Lake City Way, same polaroid snapshots of each dish taped to the walls, same reader board menu, and same red upholstered seating.
Tina
on: 8/27/13
I'm going to seek that place out next time I'm in Seattle.
Evan
on: 9/15/13
Although it's not usually served on lettuce, it's pretty easy to get almond boneless chicken in the Pacific Northwest. When I lived in the the Portland, Or. area I'd see it there a lot. I'm now near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and it's a pretty common dish here also. In fact when I do take out Chinese-American food I often pick that as one of my entrees. I've seen the stir friend almond chicken as well, but it's not as common here.
Melissa
on: 10/15/13
Thank you so much for this article and recipe. We just moved to Virginia from Michigan a few months ago and my 5 year old daughter has been asking for almond chicken. I have been to every Chinese restaurant and not one has this dish!! I cannot wait to make this for my daughter tomorrow, she will be so happy!!! Thank you again!!
Tina
on: 10/15/13
Melissa, I hope your daughter loves it!
Matt
on: 10/19/13
Having it show up in Florida almost confirms it as a Michigan thing. I've always ordered almond chicken, and had never heard it called "boneless" (though it always is). This article, however, explains why I could never find almond chicken in Boston. It is odd how every region has their own Chinese menu. Thanks for writing this up!
Tina
on: 10/19/13
You're welcome, Matt!
Mary Ann
on: 11/3/13
Tina you rock! Everytime I go home to Michigan and order almond chicken I get ABC. When I order almond chicken in St Louis where I live now, I get something like moo goo gai pan with some almond slivers in it. It's got to be a Detroit thing, otherwise...why WOULDN'T the Sweet and Sour initiative have heard something about it? I suspect it's because Detroit is in that "flyover zone" dubbed by East/West coasters :) Thanks for the sleuthing and the recipe!
Tina
on: 11/5/13
You may have something there, Mary Ann. Can't wait to get my ABC fix at Christmas time. What's your favorite restaurant for almond boneless?
Deb
on: 11/6/13
If anyone has a recipe for Detroit Chop Suey I would love to have it. Never been able to replicate it and they don't even know what Chop Suey is in Washington.
Jamie
on: 11/13/13
I'm an ex-pat Oak Parker (from way back), currently living in the South Puget Sound area of Western Washington. I can vouch for the availability of almond fried chicken, especially in some of the older Chinese restaurants here. While it comes closer to ABC than just about anything else that I've experienced around the US, it just doesn't seem to have the same music and majesty of the Detroit "original". Kind of like regional dinner theater compared to Broadway.
Amy
on: 11/15/13
Before reading this article, I would have to tell you that being a Native Pacific Northwesterner (30+ years), you'd be hard pressed NOT to find Almond Fried Chicken on any Chinese-American Restaurant Menu in all of Washington. Maybe in the more authentic places, but none that I have ventured into in the last 30 years. The one thing about the dish remains the same, fried Chicken Breast. The main difference seems to be the "gravy" and presentation. Before I moved out to a more rural part of the state, my favorite take out was Johnny's Wok in Edmonds, WA. They have Sweet & Sour, Almond, or Lemon Fried Chicken. Thankfully they've moved past the 80's lettuce garnish that seems to date some restuarants. Johnny's Wok gravy is more a yellow-orange in color and is sweet, where other restaurants seem to have a more brown gravy that seems to be heavier on the Soy Sauce. It also helps that Edmonds, WA has a large asian population and numerous Asian-American grocery stores to find authetic and more Americanized dishes. Rest assured to those who visit Seattle and surrounding communites, you can find Almond Boneless (Fried) Chicken just about anywhere!
Matt Barker
on: 12/4/13
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and starting in the early 70s when I was a young boy, my parents took me regularly to Chinese restaurant in the Bexley neighborhood called Wing's. In fact, my parents even ate there when they were children since Wing's has been a family business since the 20s. Ever since my first trip to Wing's over 40 years ago, I have always ordered the Wor Sue Gai. Nice thing about Wing's is that they serve their entrees on large platters set at the center of the table, perfect for sharing. But looking at the photo and recipe above, I don't think Almond Boneless Chicken is the same recipe as Wor Sue Gai. First of all, Wor Sue Gai does not have almonds, but peanuts. Plus there's lots more of the brown sauce. And it's just sauce. Not celery, no water chestnuts, etc. Also, the chicken is thicker, as is the batter, and its more darker brown in color. I no longer live in Columbus, but when I went back last year to visit my parents, I stopped in Wing's. I was sitting at the bar having a cocktail while we were waiting to be seated. Behind the bar was the owner, Ken Yee, who took over for his father, Wing. I stated that I have been to many Chinese restaurants outside of Ohio, but have never found Wor Sue Gai like they have it. And Ken told me that Wor Sue Gai was a dished invited by a family member around 1920. I guess my search for a Wor Sue Gai recipe continues.
Tina
on: 12/4/13
Sounds like they're in the same family, Matt. Good luck in your quest!
Aaron
on: 12/12/13
Amazing story! Love the history behind the dish I've always known as "Almond Chicken". Being from Lake Orion, MI (back when it was still just the village) going to Oceania Inn was a real treat. The kids (I was one at the time, late 80s) would get those drinks in the Polynesian glasses with the paper umbrellas and of course, we always got Almond Chicken. Since moving to Fl, CT, and now in upstate NY I've yet to find anything close. The gravy at Oceania is orange and whenever I gush on about Almond Chicken and people act like it’s just chicken I tell them…it’s the gravy that makes it! Whenever I go home my first and last meal is always Oceania. Now..if I could just find out how they make their egg rolls....never had one like them anywhere else either. I like them with their beansprouts and the duck sauce that's not that packet stuff! So good!
Tina
on: 12/12/13
Thanks for sharing your story, Aaron. The response to this story has been amazing -- little did I realize the impact this dish has had on so many people. Can't wait to get my hands on some ABC when I visit my family for Christmas!
Kat
on: 12/23/13
Thank you for giving me an answer to why I can't find my beloved ABC anywhere in North Carolina! I really enjoyed reading this. I first tried ABC in St Clair Shores and I fell in love right away. I now have an excuse to go back and visit friends and family :) Enjoy your Christmas ABC!
Carol
on: 12/28/13
When I moved from CA to AL this is one thing I've missed! Yes, they have in Yucaipa, CA at a place named Dings! Though they don't serve it on iceburg lettuce...the gravy and nuts on top are just the ticket. Thank you so much for this recipe!!!
Curtis Chin
on: 1/2/14
Thanks for the article. My family owned Chung's Restaurant in the Cass Corridor in Detroit. (It was founded by my great grandfather in 1939.) I'm actually working on a book project right now about my experiences of growing up in a Chinese restaurant. Will definitely be talking about our Almond Boneless Chicken!
Tina
on: 1/3/14
That's great, Curtis! I hope the book is a great success.
John R
on: 1/3/14
Thank you so much for this recipe! I lived in Detroit suburbs all my life, currently in Warren, and grew up on Almond Boneless Chicken. To this day, it is still my mothers favorite dish. I can't wait to make this for her. One thing I'd really like to find or replicate is the egg roll sauce that seems to also be only found in Detroit area Chinese places, the very thin (almost watery consistency) orange sauce, that has very prominent citrus-vinegar taste. It's often in the plastic squeeze bottles on the tables. I'm not sure if I'm looking in the right places online, but Internet searches seem to come up very little info. Another fav of my mothers, she douces her almond boneless chicken with it, as well as the rice!
Jan
on: 1/8/14
I moved to Arizona 10 years ago from Detroit and I have been looking for a recipe for ABC and just came across your web site today. I cannot thank you enough. The Almond Chicken here is the brown meat of the chicken cut in bite size pieces floating in watery brown gravy and it is horrible, so is the won ton soup and the egg rolls. Thank you so much.
DALE ZALAORAS
on: 1/8/14
Growing up and still living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I have been eating my favorite dish, ABC/ warr shu gai for over 42 years. The long gone Sun Sai Gai restaurant had the best version, and most other local Chinese restaurants have it on their menu. All have a yellow "gravy" and are on a bed of Iceberg lettuce. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, I discovered it seems to be unheard of there.
Tina
on: 1/9/14
You're very welcome, Jan. I hope you love the recipe results! Dale, I got a fix over the Christmas holiday at a place near my dad's house in Shelby Township. It was a little disappointing, frankly (the chicken was kind of rubbery, and there was barely any iceberg lettuce). But of course, there are many versions of the dish in the Detroit area, and some are much better than others!
Douglas Gadd
on: 1/14/14
Wow, you have no idea how happy I am to read this! And to find out that I’m not alone! I moved from Ann Arbor, MI to San Diego, CA about 7 years ago and haven't been able to find anything like the precious Almond Boneless Chicken I would easily order 2-3 times per month from this quaint little Chinese spot not far from my old apartment. Eventually, I didn’t even have to say what I was ordering…simply gave my name and they knew I needed a fix of the good stuff Lol I haven’t tried the recipe yet, but hope to real soon. Thanks for posting!!
Tina
on: 1/14/14
Thanks, Douglas. Is your favorite Chinese place in Ann Arbor still open? I may be going there later this year! (:
Diane
on: 1/18/14
I agree with Pamela that Kow Kow Inn on McNichols in Detroit had the best Almond Boneless Chicken but it most definitely was served on a bed of lettuce. I am still in Michigan and cannot find any ABC as good as theirs was. They also had the best egg rolls made with shrimp and pork and bean sprouts. They did not use any cabbage. Does anyone have a recipe for their egg rolls?
Frank
on: 1/23/14
Michigan and Florida have many strong ties, so my guess is fellow ganders helped bring it to the sunshine state.
Tina
on: 1/23/14
I'm sure you're right about that, Frank. The snowbirds were missing their almond chicken...
Glenn
on: 1/24/14
Tina, come to Vancouver, BC, Canada if you want ABC! My family once owned a Cantonese cuisine restaurant (the Ho Ho from 1954-1994) & we (my siblings & I) frequently had Breaded Almond Chicken (called Ha Yan Su Gai). The restaurant is now closed but there are plenty of Chinese restaurants here that serve it! By the way, I spent summers in Windsor, Ontario during the 70's and my Mom's sister had a restaurant there called Chan's & they served ABC too! It was listed on the menu as Chicken Soo Gai. Delish! Unfortunately, Chan's is closed.Tried ABC in Skokie, IL last year, it was yuck! Very soggy & the batter was awful!
Dawm
on: 1/27/14
Wow Tina...you did great work! I am also from Ferndale/Hazel Park and for the past 35 years have lived all over the country. I have never found ABC like in the metro Detroit area. The other Chinese food item that is exclusive to the Detroit area is Egg Rolls. A real egg roll.....not a bunch of cabbage! My favorite Restaurants are The Golden Star on Woodward Ave and The Golden Wheel at 12 Mile Rd and John R. During my Mother's Funeral when we took her back to that area to be buried, we stopped in at he Golden Wheel and it still has the same owner. I brought back a dozen egg rolls for my friends. They LOVED them! Anyway we asked the owner about the difference and he told us that different regions in China cook differently. So, it just depends on what region your Chinese Restaurant owner is from. I make my own Egg Rolls, but they're still not quite the same as the Detroit Egg Rolls :o/ Got any info on the Egg Rolls you can share? Thanks for all the research and for the recipe.....I'm making it tomorrow! Dawn
Robin
on: 1/31/14
There are two places that have some of the best ABC that I've ever had. One is called Dragon Court in Hamburg, MI (north of Ann Arbor) and the other was way up north in Alpena, MI called Jimmy Chen's Hunan Chinese Restaurant. Dragon Court has been a favorite place of mine for the last 20 years or so. I was fortunate to try Jimmy Chen's when I went to visit my brother last summer and I almost hate to admit it, but the gravy actually beat Dragon Court by just a smidge. It was amazing! I highly recommend both places if you are ever in the area.
Tina
on: 2/1/14
Thanks, Robin. Maybe there should be an ABC taste off in Michigan to see whose is the best!
Terri
on: 2/8/14
I'm a Michigander living in North Carolina. I really appreciate your research and shocked to know others were experiencing the same withdrawal I was from ABC. I remember a restaurant on the East side of Detroit on Harper called: "The Golden Buddha" they had the best ABC with their their version of the unique brown gravy. No chestnuts or mushrooms that I can remember in the gravy, but peanuts. The Golden Buddha called their dish War Su Gai as did many others. Thank you for your recipe, I plan to try it this week.
kara
on: 2/8/14
This recipe is PERFECT! I made it this evening and it was exactly like the original Ping On Restaurant at 16 MI/ Garfield in Clinton Twp-better even! I cut up the chicken in bite size pieces because that breading is the best part! I can't believe you got the gravy recipe right. I moved to Charleston, SC for a couple years and one take-out place had an Almond Chicken dish but the gravy was the same brown gravy we eat on mashed potatoes, yeck! If I had come across this recipe while living down there I might not have had to come back home lol. Oh but they didn't have Buddy's Pizza there either. Thank you so much, I really enjoyed this article and recipe.
Tina
on: 2/9/14
I hope you like it, Terri!
Tina
on: 2/9/14
Hi Kara, I'm so glad you liked it! I grew up near Clinton Township, and we often had family dinners at Ping On. Speaking of Buddy's, my next Zester story (for later this month) is about Detroit-style pizza, which is making its way across the country.
Jim Uhrig
on: 2/14/14
I was wondering if you remembered a restaurat in the East Side of Detroit called the Golden Buddah? I remember having War Su Guy there and it was awesome. I can't find it anywhere I look in the Fort Lauderdale area. Probably because it isn't "New York Style" which seems to be the only thing you can find around here. It would be refreshing, to say the least, if we would embrace the fact that there is a whole world of other kinds of food and try making it here. If some chef would try it here, it would probably take off and become a very sought after dish. The could advertise it as "Detroit style".
Tina
on: 2/14/14
Hi Jim, I haven't heard of it, but I think I may have seen it mentioned earlier in this comment thread. On NPR the other morning I heard about a restaurant in Shanghai called Fortune Cookie that serves American-style Chinese food for homesick ex-pats and curious locals. Sadly, the website doesn't include a menu, so I don't know if ABC is included (one of the owners grew up in the Midwest, though not in Michigan).
Jeff
on: 2/16/14
I am making this tonight and set out to find this recipe so thanks for that..... I live in Canada and dated girls from Royal Oak, Birmingham etc. There was a place just off Main St. in downtown Royal Oak that served unbelievable ABC. Even today, some 20 years, later whenever I order Soo Guy locally I recall how it really should be made. I don't miss those girls but the ABC will always be in my heart.
Melanie
on: 2/25/14
Thank you so much for the great article, research, and recipe. ABC sounds remarkably similar to a dish I grew up with in Kentucky called pressed chicken. I now live in Arizona, and crave my favorite Chinese dish on a frequent basis. However, I have yet to find any restaurant that serves my childhood favorite. While the version I remember and love does not include almonds, everything else is extremely similar including the iceberg lettuce. Hopefully, this recipe will at least get me closer to my goal.
Tina
on: 2/25/14
Melanie, I've heard that pressed chicken is similar to ABC. I hope you like the recipe!
Branden
on: 3/5/14
I live in Louisville, Ky. This is my absolute favorite dish here at the Fast food Chinese restaurants but you cant always find it! War Sue Gai # 14 Combo at Happy Buddha! :)
Tina
on: 3/7/14
That's two votes for ABC in Kentucky. Who knew?
Lisa
on: 3/7/14
My family and I first discovered ABC in a Chinese restaurant in Phoenix in the early 80's called Chiam's. They have long since gone out of business and we have been searching for this little platter of heaven ever since. War Shue Guy comes close but is never the same. I came across your post and had to laugh cuz I was born in Michigan, but have been in the Southwest since I was very young...i guess ABC's my birthright lol!! Thanks for your post and recipe, I totally can't wait to try it =)
Lisa
on: 3/15/14
I am from Western Washington, thank you soooo much for the recipe. This is the Almond Chicken from my childhood at Chin's in Everett.
KAYLA
on: 3/19/14
Thank you SOOOO much for sharing this very interesting story & delicious recipe!! When I was young I lived near Union Lake, MI. There is a small little Chinese take out place with the name WING HONG's EXPRESS. It serves the best almond chicken. My family would get it every so often for take out and I LOVED it. My family moved to Northern Michigan when I was around 15 yrs old. I visited every Chinese restaurant in about a 50 mile radius - but there was no Almond Chicken to be found (at least not the 'good' kind). Every time I make a trip down state to visit other family, I always order 2 dinners to bring home with me :-) I can't wait to try the recipe! And Wing Hong's also served the really tasty Bean Sprout Egg rolls. You can't find those anywhere up here either!! So if anyone has a good recipe for those, please share!! Thanks again!!
Tim
on: 3/24/14
I am so happy to have found your post. Thank you! I've found different versions of ABC recipes online before, but none of them were quite right. Your recipe looks decidedly different from the others I've tried. Since you have inside information from your friends, I'm thinking that this is going to be the Holy Grail. Going to try it out later this week! I've been in the Chicago area since coming here for college in the late 80s. The Chinese food here is really good and I've found a couple places with ABC, but they were never quite the same as what I had in Detroit. My favorite place: Kwong Tung Palace on 23 and Van Dyke in Shelby Township. Loved that place!
Tina
on: 3/24/14
I hope you love it, Tim.
Alice
on: 3/25/14
I just want to start out by saying thank you. I had lived in Michigan for 30 some years and moved to tennesse about 5 years ago. A nover thought I would miss ABChigan but I did will that is till I found you. I made it for me and my son and we bouth loved it tasted like home. Thank you so mush for doing all the heard work so that we didn't have to. I will keep making this no mater what.
Alice
on: 3/25/14
Just a thought could you get an egg roll recipe from Michigan here in TN they make them with cab. And there not thata good. Thank you again god bless.
Tim
on: 3/26/14
I made it this evening and it turned out fantastic. I used potato starch instead of corn starch, because that's what I had on hand and it tasted just like I remember. Thank you very much for providing me with a slice of home.
Tina
on: 3/27/14
Alice and Tim: I'm so happy to hear that the recipe worked out and brought you a taste of home. Does anyone else miss Egg Drop Soup? Can't get that in California (at least not where I live) either.
Cara
on: 4/21/14
Tina: How wonderful of you to share your research and recipe in this very interesting article! Back in the 1970s, our favorite Chinese Restaurant was Tung Lee Restaurant, located in Sterling Heights, MI. Their Almond Boneless Chicken was the very best (crispy on the outside, juicy and succulent on the inside, a pale, translucent chicken sauce, all served on a bed of chopped lettuce and garnished with toasted sliced almonds and sliced green onions). Also, their egg rolls were outstanding. In fact, in all of the years since, I've never had an egg roll that I've liked as much as those from Tung Lee. The restaurant is now called Tung Lee Restaurant Carryout and current reviews are very mixed but the restaurant still has its faithful patrons. Thank you, again, and most sincere best wishes to you.
Tina
on: 4/22/14
Thanks, Cara. I grew up in Sterling Heights, and our family used to get take-out from Tung Lee. Good memories!
Jackie
on: 5/6/14
I am from Michigan and now Live in Florida, that is always my first stop when I return home is Chinese food!! I'm so hungry Just thinking about almond boneless chicken. I see that you have said there is places in Florida That have a similar product. Can you tell me where?? PLEASE. THANK YOU JACKIE
Tina
on: 5/6/14
Hi Jackie, I found some Florida examples by Googling menus for Chinese restaurants in Florida. Here's one in Plantation that has ABC: https://foursquare.com/v/lucky-dragon/4f327daf19836c91c7dcf245/menu. I'll bet you could find some more!
kirsten
on: 5/28/14
This is my mom's favorite dish EVER. We would get it in Washington state (Best Wok in Bellevue) and it's called Almond Fried Chicken. Thanks for the recipe!
Tina
on: 5/28/14
I am DEFINITELY going to look for that next time I'm in Washington.
Karolee
on: 5/29/14
I worked at a Chinese restaurant in Northville while going to high school - been hooked on ABC for a long time but have lived the last 30 years in the south. Can't wait to make it this weekend.
Dennis
on: 6/15/14
House Of Lee in Farmington, Mi. We would go there almost every Friday evening when I was a kid (mid 70's - mid 80's) and I would always order Almond Chicken. Now live in Las Vegas and have been searching for years for this dish. Recently found it here in Vegas at Amlee Gourmet Chinese restaurant 3827 E Sunset Road Las Vegas, NV 89120 • 702-898-3358. It was pretty good (tad bit expensive), but not quite as good as I remembered as a kid, though 30 years can play with your memories. Will try this recipe at home. Thanks
Tina
on: 6/15/14
Thanks for the tip, Dennis! Soon you'll also be able to get Detroit-style square pizza along with Coney dogs in Vegas, at the D Hotel.
Courtney
on: 6/28/14
I have been rereading this post over the past year. I came across it in my search for what I know as boneless chicken. I am originally from Columbia, SC, and I have been craving Boneless Chicken for years but can never find it. I don't remember any almonds, however, I cannot forget the gravy - delicious! - or the crunchy, battered boneless skinless chicken thighs (not breast) sliced into "fingers". When my parents ordered take out from various restaurants in our city, the chicken was placed in a foil-lined paper bag (think Chickfila sandwich) and the thick, scrumptious gravy came in a disposable tub. When we dined in, the gravy was served atop the chicken and on a bed of lightly steamed cabbage and carrots. I will try your recipe with boneless skinless chicken thighs to see if it is what I remember. Thanks so much for this!!!
clracine
on: 6/29/14
Yes, we have it in the Seattle area but it had more of a brown gravy instead of the gloppy golden stuff that I remember. Flavor is very similar though
James L. Greenlee
on: 7/21/14
I grew up in Whitehall, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus). War Su Gai was to me, the "gateway drug" of Chinese food! What I mean is, my mother was not an adventurous cook, rarely venturing out of strictly American food. So, I was unfamiliar with anything remotely exotic. My first time at a Chinese restaurant, was told to order War Su Gai when I had no idea what else to order. Loved it! Still miss it, having lived in Las Vegas for 20 years, where no one has heard of it. Since my Columbus days, I've branched out considerably, thankfully.
Sergio
on: 8/6/14
This is amazing coverage of one of my favorite dishes. I grew up in the Detroit area and moved to San Francisco 8 years ago. I'm happily returning to Michigan in a month, not only to return to my family, but to have a regular bi-monthly (probably best) serving of ABC! Wish I would have seen this recipe when I first was searching for it in California. I even moved to L.A. for 10 months, thinking if any place could offer a Detroit-style Chinese meal, it would be there. Nope. They have a Detroit Coney Island, however, and it's about as consistently poor as the real Detroit coney. I wonder if you've tried researching the Michigan egg roll? The one with bean sprouts and little prawns? This is another craving I've never been able to fulfill in Cali. So, here's to Michigan and it's Americanized Chinese food! Thank you, Tina (and Natasha for letting me know) for doing this great research and offering up the secrets. §ergio
Tina
on: 8/11/14
Hi Sergio, A couple of people have mentioned the Michigan egg roll. I never realized that was something unique to our homeland -- I will have to check that out! Another thing I never see in the Bay Area (and miss) is egg drop soup.
Dennis T
on: 8/17/14
I have been eating this great almond soo guy since 1973 in Halifax Nova Scotia Canada.Glad to know its in Michigan where I be visiting this summer and will ii will try it. Thanks !!
Tina
on: 8/17/14
ABC in Nova Scotia too, cool!
Craig
on: 8/19/14
OMG - I love this - I left Toledo over 20 years ago and have been being disappointed looking for it ever since.. I'll be making this tomorrow & I'll keep my fingers crossed. Thanks!!! If you ever stroll through Atlanta diner is on me. :)
Tina
on: 8/20/14
Hi Craig, I hope the recipe brings back dee-licious memories.
Kristine
on: 9/3/14
Like so many others have said, Almond Fried Chicken (sometimes simply called Almond Chicken) is a staple in Washington state. I grew up in Edmonds and was eating it at Chopstix in the 70's. Golden Star in Bremerton has a fantastic version. And the oldest Chinese restaurant in Seattle Tai Tung has it on their menu. Not sure how long they've had it (as long as I can remember) and they've been around since the 30's. In WA it's always on lettuce, but there are no other veggies involved. Lots of toasted almonds on top. Now I live in New England and can't find it anywhere! Such a shame. They have no idea what they are missing.I've been able to make a mock version but I can't get the gravy right.
Tina
on: 9/3/14
Give this gravy recipe a try. It tastes like the real thing to me -- at least the Michigan version!
Wisconsinite
on: 9/4/14
I've been researching the dish for YEARS and finally figured out that "war su gai" was the closest thing to what I had as a kid in the early 60s. We had it at Mark's Restaurant on Main Street in Elkhart, Indiana (close to the Michigan border). The dish on Mark's menu was called Fried Chicken Cantonese Style. The gravy was medium brown with mushrooms-- no celery, bamboo shoots or water chestnuts. The chicken was a deep fried and served on a bed of iceberg lettuce with slivered almonds. I crave FCCS to this day! Ahhh, the memories of birthdays and other special occasions. . . spent with my family in a booth at Mark's.
Doug
on: 9/7/14
Tried this recipe tonight for dinner, and it was not exactly like Ten Yen's in Livonia, but it was excellent and I will make it again soon. Next time I am in Detroit I will have to try Ten Ten's and see if I can figure out what is different. I think it will be a very small thing at best. Thanks for the recipe and a pleasant walk through the old neighborhoods.
Tina
on: 9/8/14
Hi Doug, What I've learned is that everybody's ABC is a little bit different. I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe anyway!
Don
on: 9/13/14
I grew up in Ferndale, the restaurant I remember on Woodward and nine was the best in the Galaxy for almond boneless chicken I would call it breaded and always golden im drooling as we speak the sauce and I do mean sauce, amber light complimented the chicken perfectly. We always had carry out so it would come on top of lettuce, but I always thought that was to absorb the oil.spead the white rice out in a thin layer,place the chicken over the rice and drizzle the sauce over the chicken and my life was changed for ever that was about 60 yrs ago. Very few ever achieved that degree heaven. One day while waiting for our order the Asian gentleman behind the counter handed me a folded crane I was amazed at what he created. The 50s
Tina
on: 9/13/14
Don, that story made me want to get in a time machine and head for Ferndale!
E.J. Wong
on: 9/25/14
Aha! Almond Breaded Boneless Chicken W/Gravy.The last time I feasted on this was my senior year in high school in Portland, OR, 1957. It's been so long ago I can't remember the name of the restaurant...a small neighborhood place. As I recall tho, no other restaurant in Portland had it on their menu. And, if they did, it wasn't the same. Tried to find it in SF when I moved there. No such luck. You did a marvelous job researching. Thanks so much!
Ken
on: 10/11/14
The Great Wall on Grand River and Drake Rd, in Farmington, that was my fix for Almond Chicken. And, sadly, the fried rice in MI seems to be different than most places. I've lived in 6 states in the last 12 years and I've only found it at one place that's close to the MI version, that's in West Linn, OR. Every time I order it they "warn" me that it's battered and fried, unlike the stir fry type that predominates out here. I never found it in San Francisco during the 7 years I lived there, but I had War Su Gai in Santa Cruz once. This weekend I'm on a hunt to find it in Portland, OR. My must haves when visiting MI are ABC and Better Made chips. No wonder I put on the pounds when I'm there.
Tina
on: 10/12/14
Ken, Michigan's delicacies are definitely not for the weight conscious, but they sure are delicious. Just had my first taste of Sander's Bumpy Cake in at least a couple of decades, and it was just as delicious as I remember! Tina
fiona
on: 10/28/14
Ahhh. Just what I was looking for -- I'm in wonderful Washington state but not within a delivery area -- so when I don't want to brave a downpour or rush hour I can make it! Along with the eggrolls with sprouts and shrimp that I unearthed the recipe for. I think the place that I encountered them was run by an expatriate Detroiter:) Anyway, thanks again!!!!!!!
Tina
on: 10/29/14
Happy to help you get your fix, Fiona!
jenni
on: 11/4/14
Omg!!! Almond chicken recipe! ! Thank you.. I moved to phoenix 15 years ago from westland Michigan... I worked at china star palace for 5 years..I think I ate ABC every day... I cannot find it here. Its horrible..!!! I'm going to make it tonight... thank you..;)
Tina
on: 11/4/14
Hi Jenni, I hope you enjoy it!
HELEN
on: 12/5/14
I spent more than an hour reading all of the posts ... So glad to hear that I was not alone in searching for "War Su Gai" as I knew it growing up in Dearborn, MI. I remember it as having crushed peanuts and green onions on top of the 'gravy' not almonds, but essentially the same item ... served on bed of iceberg lettuce. I went to a restaurant at NW corner of Telegraph and Michigan Ave. then, but haven't been back to MI in 17 years or so -- moved to Phoenix, AZ area in 1984 -- but only found 1 Chinese restaurant that ever came close to the 'Detroit way' with this dish. I think they are gone now but will have to check. AZ restaurant was at NW corner of Hayden Rd. and Thomas Rd. in Scottsdale, AZ. PS: Hunter House hamburgers @ Woodward Ave. and 15-Mile Rd. and Detroit Coney Islands are still really hard to find 'out West'. Thankfully Honey Baked Ham made it 'everywhere'!
Sean
on: 12/6/14
Thank-you!! I moved to Virginia from Michigan 20 years ago, and none of the Chinese restaurants there had, nor had they heard, of the "true" Almond Chicken. (Except one... who didn't prepare it quite right since I was probably the only person in years who had asked for it.) I'll give your recipe a try... since I've left Virginia and the new locale likewise knows nothing about this... even with a large Chinese population here. Thanks again!
Tina
on: 12/6/14
Happy to help!
Dawn
on: 1/2/15
Had my first taste of this dish at Dynasty's Restaurant as a child in the Seattle, WA area. You can still find it in many of our local Chinese places. However, I want a good recipe and have been searching for one. I've found several online, and intend to play with all of them until its just right. Thank you for all of the info on this. This particular dish has always been one of my favorites.
Dawn
on: 1/2/15
BTW, no more Dynasty's, sadly. However, the Red Lotus and Top Gun in Auburn, WA are still around and both come very close to the version I remember as a child.
Loren
on: 1/8/15
OMG!OMG!OMG!!OMG!!!! I'm going to tell my housemate about this pronto. We've been friends for 20 years, and we've been looking for this dish for about 17 years - ever since we both had to move to Texas. We met in New Orleans in the late 80's/early 90's and New Orleans is where we BOTH encountered this dish. A deep fried, very lightly seasoned, breaded, boneless chicken breast cutlet, with a crispy coating, and a light brown "gravy" or sauce, served over a bed of lettuce (or occasionally finely sliced cabbage), usually topped with a few slivered almonds and a fair handful of thinly sliced green onions. The only thing is, it wasn't called "Almond Chicken", or ABC chicken or anything like that. In N.O., it was called (bizarrely) Mongolian chicken; or, at least, that's what she and I both remember. It might, actually, have been called Mandarin chicken, it's been so long we can no longer remember, but we both agree on the make-up of the dish and that it was called some name beginning with an "m", almost certainly one of the two names I listed. Sometimes, depending on the restaurant, it might be called "M~~~~ Fried Chicken", always that name that started with an "M". I don't remember EVER seeing it called Almond chicken. In the mid-late 80"s and early 90's, N.O. had a number of hole in the wall Chinese restaurants, many of which were located near the area hospitals, and served primarily lunches, to the staff members of the hospital and nearby doctors offices. Most of them would have a lunch special, where they would have a list of entree's to choose from, then you would be served: a plate with a small portion of the entree, a scoop of white or fried rice and choice of egg roll or cup of soup, or sometimes both. In the 80's this was usually a flat $5, and the chicken was the one with the most protein, as it was always a full chicken breast half. In the more generous restaurants, the gravy might have some sliced celery and water chestnuts, otherwise the only veggies that came with was the lettuce / cabbage underneath it. But it was just delicious, despite its plain look. By the time I left in the mid 90's, I hadn't actually eaten it or looked for it for a couple of years, but my housemate says that the plate lunch specials had crept up to (generally) $6.99 and always included both egg roll and soup. She moved to Texas a few months after I did for different reasons, and for about five years we kept touch long distance. But neither of us EVER found this dish again! We've both been craving it for years now!! It's so strange that a similar phenomenon happened in the Detroit/Ypsilanti area! Thanks so much for doing the research and posting a home recipe - I'm gonna email my housemate upstairs right away LOL! I'm sure that NONE of those little tiny hole-in-the-wall places survived Katrina, and, interestingly, none of the higher grade Chinese restaurants in N.O. had that dish on their menu in any form (kind of as if they were too formal and hi-brow to serve it). We long ago decided that it must have been a New Orleans dish that some restaurateur created and a bunch of other small establishments copied. Just once, when I asked a waitress what the gravy/sauce was (in that joint it looked like american brown gravy LOL), the waitress replied "almond gravy". Since this bore no relationship to the local name for the dish (whichever "M" word it was, it was the same all over the city), and she had seemed to have some trouble understanding me, I doubted that she was correct. Since later requests (in Texas) for "Chicken and Almond Gravy" always brought forth stir fried chicken with a few veggies, I've thought, all this time, that she WAS wrong, the more so since, despite the sprinkling of almonds on top, no menu I'd seen had ever used the word almond in describing the dish. SMH. I'm SO happy I stumbled across this site; you really did a LOT of work tracking this down! I'm going to go back and read ALL the comments, since I only read the first four or five. Then, this weekend, I'm going to try to make this for me and my friend/housemate. Again, THANKS so much from a grateful fan of this dish!
Loren
on: 1/8/15
Oh Heck, what a novel! I'm sorry! I DID put in paragraph breaks, but they didn't show up. Don't know why. But I AM grateful for finding this. We used to be able to get this dish all over New Orleans and really loved it. Whatever it was called there, it is not known under that name anywhere else evidently. Bu the recipe looks right, can't wait to try it. Thanks again! Sorry for the massive post!
Tina
on: 1/8/15
Hi Loren, Thanks for sharing that, I had no idea it was in New Orleans too. I hope you like the recipe!
Kelly
on: 1/28/15
Hi Tina! Great recipe. I can't believe how much interest this has generated. We should try to compile a list of the best places to get ABC based on location... I know I would love it!
Nancy
on: 1/31/15
Thank you so much for doing this. I'm definitely going to try this recipe. Kitty's in Garden City, MI is where I fell in love with Almond Chicken as a teenager in the late 60's. I moved to the Las Vegas area over 20 years ago and quickly discovered that what is called Almond Chicken here is absolutely awful. Nothing like Kitty's or a place on Plymouth Rd & Inkster that we used to go to sometimes. Luckily I make it back to Michigan once or twice a year and get my Almond Chicken fix at Kitty's which is still there after all these years. The last time I was there was in December and it is still great. I'm also going to try Amlee's that was mentioned in an earlier post to see if their's is even close. The sad thing is that Amlee's is close to where I live in Henderson and I never tried it and I think it has been here for a long time.
Brad
on: 2/16/15
Simply awesome find! I moved to Portland, Oregon 3 years ago from Michigan and been dying for some ABC! Haven't even found anything that closely resembles the Michigan style of American chinese food. I so glad I found this article! Thank you Tina! (Wing Yee's Livonia) My fav. Don't know if it still exisits. Anyway thanks for the article.
Tina Caputo
on: 2/17/15
Hi Brad, Some of the previous posts mention the availability of ABC in the Seattle area, so you you may be able to get a fix that way as well!
Kathleen
on: 2/24/15
Hi Tina, You just don't know what you've done for me to find your article. I was born and raised in Detrot but now reside in TN for the past 10 years. I assumed this dish was everywhere but there is none here. I've been missing the taste the ABC Chicken that I crave whenever I think of Chinese food. I'm so glad to know there are others who remember this dish as well and it's a Detroit thing. Bless you my sister.
Mary
on: 2/25/15
For me it was Middle Kingdom in Ann Arbor in the late 80's when I worked at a cheap clothing shop called, simply, Sam's Store. We'd order once a week to 'Mee Kingdom' (how they answered the phone) and like many others never heard it referred to as 'ABC.' It was my favorite! Had no idea it was probably a regional thing, since I got healthier in the 90s and forgot about fried Chinese food as our travels took us farther afield. Middle Kingdom is now closed Nd I miss their dark and exotic dining room on Christmas Day. Good story!
kathleen
on: 3/3/15
to Sandra Lee, there is NO ABC to be found anywhere in Florida. I have been stem to stern and none found. I wish it were true.
Myssi
on: 3/23/15
Back in the 1970's there was a dine-in Chinese restaurant on Eureka Rd. in Taylor on the S side of Eureka (opposite side of the mall). I think it closed in the 1990's. They had the best ABC and yeast rolls. Anyone know the name of it???? Thanks!!!
Eleanor
on: 3/25/15
Chung's, yes, and The Great Wall, but our familycut our teeth on the ABC at Lotus Gardens, on Seven Mile near Outer Drive. Meals there ended with that authentic Chinese dessert -- peppermint ice cream.
Dana Everhart
on: 4/3/15
This is wonderful! Thank you so much for posting this recipe. The first time I tried Asian food I had this dish called Almond Boneless Chicken. I worked across the street from a little Asian restaurant and a co-worker insisted I should try it because I'd probably like it. I instantly fell in love with it! Ordered it once a week or more and the only place I have saw this dish was at this restaurant which unfortunately went out of business a year or so later. I always wondered about Almond Boneless Chicken and I always look for it on menus but I have never found it again, until now when I decided to try and make it so I gave it a google. I was hesitant to even type in the name because I assumed it was some crazy made up thing that this little restaurant in Miamisburg, Ohio had. Thank you again for posting. At least I'm not crazy and I can show others this recipe that I've asked many times about - ha ha. Well, I can't wait to give it a try!!!
Laura
on: 4/8/15
Thank you for the article/recipe!! I moved to Portland OR 6 months ago & was disappointed that I couldn't find ABC anywhere. I am going through 'Wan Kow Chop Suey' takeout withdrawal. My husband told me it a Detroit thing but I didn't believe him. Who wouldn't love ABC? Thankfully I did find a good middle eastern restaurant. Miss that too..
Tina Caputo
on: 4/8/15
Dana and Laura: Glad to help! When I set out to write this story, I thought I was merely indulging my personal ABC obsession. I had absolutely no idea that so many people across the country were also missing this delicious dish. It warms my heart (and makes me hungry) to hear your stories.
Alan
on: 4/11/15
I grew up in Southfield Michigan on ABC and Shrimp With Lobster Sauce as my favorites. I learn traveling that these dishes were made differently on were unknown outside of Detroit. Now thanks to this article I can make or better yet give the recipe to my local Chinese eatery here in Henderson, Nevada. I'm looking forward to trying Amelle's near by. The Detroit version of Shrimp with Lobster Sauce is in a black bean sauce with egg and scallions. Here in Las Vegas and else where it's in a white sauce with diced carrots and peas. Does anyone have a Detriot recipe for SwLS?
Alan
on: 4/13/15
I'm pleased to report that ABC is available at Amlee's Gourmet on Sunset Road near Sandhill in East Las Vegas. As I was waiting for my order to arrive a couple received their ABC and it looked perfect. I asked them if they were from Michigan and they said "YES! How did you know? We've been here for 35 years!" I just laughed and said your choice of Entree gave you away! They would go to Kitty's in Garden City when they live there and recently found out ABC was being made at Amlee's. Need Amlee's to start making some of the other Michigan unique dishes like the Egg Rolls with baby shrimp, plum sauce and Black Bean Shrimp with Lobster Sauce.
Sparks
on: 4/14/15
It's not just a Michigan thing. I was born in Washington state and have lived here my whole life. Almond fried chicken s the gold standard by which I measure a Chinese restaurant. I realize it's not a traditional Chinese dish, but since they got us all addicted, by George, they should all have it! ;) I've gotten the chicken part down (although I'll try yours, it sounds great), but it's the gravy I'm still struggling with so I'm trying yours. Thanks for posting it.
Ted
on: 4/23/15
Mind? Blown. Until tonight I had no idea I actually belonged to a cult--a food-centric Detroit-based cult. I was born in Detroit in '73 (ate once at Chung's, and I *remember* it and its dumplings to this day, so that photo from 2009 miles upthread broke my heart) and Almond Boneless Chicken was a fixture of my childhood. My family moved to Cincinnati in the early '80s, but that was okay: in Cincy, it was called "Hong Kong Chicken" and it was only a minor variant, swapping out the lettuce and almonds for more baby veg. Sadly, in Cincinnati, Hong Kong Chicken/ABC is now all but extinct, as old-school restaurants like the Golden Peacock, Grand China and Golden Chain, have fallen, one by one. The only place that I know of even remotely in the vicinity of Cincinnati that still serves it and keeps the fire of civilization burning is The Chinese Lantern in Hamilton, Ohio. Meanwhile, I now live in Chicago and am totally *screwed.* But, thanks to this article, at least I know now why. *And* I have a recipe to try. Needless to say, you are doing God's work here.
Traci
on: 5/1/15
I moved from Michigan to North Carolina almost 6 years ago. I have gone to so many Chinese restaurants, looking for the almond chicken "made the right way". No wonder I haven't been able to find anything like it. Fortuna Inn, in South Lyon, makes the very best Almond Chicken and the crunchy Almond cookies. I don't make it home very often, but I always make sure to get ABC, even if it is carry out, and eat it in the car, driving back to NC.
DC
on: 5/26/15
Wow, can't believe I found this page... Was snoozing and woke up for a major craving of ABC (war su gui)... Decided to get online and see if I could pull something up about ABC .... YES YES YES... ex-Detroiter (actually Harper Woods)... left in1989, moved to TN and then to Louisville, KY and have had a very hard time finding ABC... First introduced to it back in early 80's when I worked downtown at an insurance company on Grand Circus Park (cross street Woodward Ave)... The Restaurant was located a couple of doors down from us and it was the crisp/flaky breaded chicken sitting atop of lettuce, white rice, green onions chopped, and brown gravy, some almonds sliced real thin ... but don't recall that restaurant's name, but the food (ABC) was great !!!... There is also the Peking Villa restaurant located on Harper Avenue around 8 1/2 mile road (St. Clair Shores) and they are still in business and still serve it... When in town visiting family or friends I'll always make a trip over to Peking Villa, sit down and gobble up a dinner...lol then I order another 5 quarts to go and drive back home to Louisville... (of course freeze the chicken & gravy prior to leaving...), still almost as good other than the breading on the chicken is not as crispy and you have to take your time re-melting the gravy... I cheated last time I was in MI and my friends who live up in China Township found a restaurant up there also... almost as good, but not as good as Peking Villa on Harper Ave or if the one on Grand Circus is still there... I'm going to try the recipe listed above and see what happens... Thank you for publishing the recipe... hope it works out well...
CATHY
on: 6/3/15
Thanks for this ABC recipe and all your hard work tracking it. I'm from upstate SC and this has always been one of my favorite chinese dishes. It's the first chinese dish that I ever tried. I was hooked. And, as I read so many of the original chinese restaurants are closed or closing due to all the influx of fast serve chinese places. Same here. I find it sad that it's becoming more difficult to find good chinese food in my own town. There's one chinese restaurant (New China) that's been in business since I was a little girl and it's still hanging on. I can still get my ABC there. I've noticed how their business has declined the past few years and heard them say yesterday they hope they can hang on for three more years to get their children educated. I loved reading all the comments and hope that the Almond Boneless Chicken dish will live on in SC. This restaurant in Spartanburg is the only place I can find it. So glad so many others love this dish as much as me. I can hardly wait to try this ABC recipe at home.
Beverly
on: 6/4/15
Been in CA for over a year now and no one knows what I speak of when asking about ABC. You took me back home with this one. Thanks so much for the recipe. Can't wait to try it. A family friend worked for Stanley's and Stanley's Other Place in Detroit for decades. That was some awesome ABC. She would never share recipe with us but treated the family on occasion. My mouth is watering just thinking about. The Detroit Free Press printed the recipe in their food section many, many years ago. I had it and lost it. Your recipe awfully close. Thanks again for a wonderful nostalgic journey.
Tina
on: 6/4/15
Cathy and Beverly: I hope the recipe tastes as good as you remember!

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