Unbelievabao! Chinese American man, 72, who keeps a spreadsheet of 8,000 Chinese restaurants he’s eaten insists he ‘isn’t a foodie’ and ‘can’t use chopsticks’

  • David R Chan, 72, from Los Angeles has dined at 7,812 Chinese restaurants and counting, over four decades and has kept a spreadsheet detailing each one 
  • Third-generation Chinese American said the journey began as a ‘search for his identity’  but it also chronicles how changing culture of Chinese immigrants
  • Documents dishes he’s tried on Instagram including the likes of XO fish, fried tilipia, Cantonese sponge cake, Teppan tofu at, and sesame dumplings 

A retired tax lawyer has revealed what he’s learned from eating in nearly 8,000 Chinese restaurants across the US.    

David R Chan, 72, from Los Angeles has dined at 7,812 Chinese restaurants and counting, over four decades and has kept a spreadsheet detailing each one.  

With a collection of thousands of restaurant business cards and menus, the third-generation Chinese American said the journey began as a ‘search for his identity’   but it also chronicles how the changing culture of Chinese immigrants in the US. 

He first made the spreadsheet in the early 90s, when he bought his first home computer, and despite a palate for Asian cuisine he admits he still can’t use chopsticks and doesn’t class himself as foodie.

David R Chan, 72, from Los Angeles has dined at 7,812 Chinese restaurants and counting, over four decades and has kept a spreadsheet detailing each one.

‘When I entered the workforce in the 1970s, that coincided with the rise of what we think of as authentic Chinese food in North America,’ he told Menuism. 

‘As such, my goal was to try every authentic Chinese restaurant in the Los Angeles area at least once.’ 

He has visited restaurants all over the country, including in New York, San Francisco, and Mississippi. Due to his legal career he’d often travel to Canada and Asia where he’d get the chance to sample more of the cuisine too.  

On his Instagram page he documents dishes he’s tried, including the likes of XO fish, fried tilipia, Cantonese sponge cake, Teppan tofu at, and sesame dumplings. 

While he’s the grandchild of Chinese immigrants who moved from Guangdong to California, David didn’t eat Chinese food until he was an adult  – with him being completely unimpressed the first time he ate the fare.

Speaking to the BBC, about his first Chinese meal in the 1950s, he explained: ‘ The food was not sophisticated, We would go to banquets, I’d eat soy sauce on rice, and nothing else.’

He has visited restaurants all over the country, including in New York, San Francisco, and Mississippi. Due to his legal career he’d often travel to Canada and Asia where he’d get the chance to sample more of the cuisine too. Pictured: Buffet at Spring Shabu Shabu in El Monte, California  with their prepared food selections, including marinated pigs feet.

At the time, there were very few Chinese immigrants in the US  -j ust  0.08 per cent of the total population – with many from one town.

‘It was like if all the Americans in China were from a small town 100 miles outside of Los Angeles. Very underrepresented,’ he added, explaining  early American-Chinese food became homogenised for the US palate.  

However, a rise in immigrants from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong from the 1960s to the US meant food from China became a lot more diverse, with regional cuisines becoming popular.     

At the same time, the US Civil Rights movement was growing which implored David  – a student at the time – to explore his own heritage through food.  

Pictured Bitro Na’s in Temple City’s signature Okra dish which was praised by David 

‘At the beginning, it was just a search for identity,’ he added to the BBC. ‘My interest in the history of Chinese in the US led me to eat Chinese food and see what it was like to be Chinese in different parts of the country.’

He added he had ‘no idea’ how varied Chinese cuisine was before he started testing it out.  

David believes the best place to find varied authentic Chinese foods in the US is in the San Gabriel Valley in LA – which has a thriving Chinese community.

Pictured is the ‘The Classic’ chicken ramen at Silverlake Ramen in Irvine, California

He added to the BBC that Dim Sum was the best place to dim sum, while he’s also had ‘unexpectedly good’ chow mein in Clarksdale, Mississippi, while his most disappointing meal was in  Fargo, North Dakota. 

‘The fried rice was like boiled rice, and somebody poured soy sauce on to it,’ he said.

The main eight culinary cuisines are Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Szechuan and Zhejiang.  

These foods vary hugely due to China’s diverse agriculture and climates. Cantonese food features a lot of fresh seafood, due to Guangdong being costal, whie Fujian cuisine is influenced by its own mountainous terrain with popular ingredients used including bamboo shoots and woodland mushrooms.

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