The phrase "authentic" doesn't mean anything unless the region is specified. For example, if you explained "authentic American food" to a someone from China, would it just be burgers and apple pie? Or would it include Cajun-Creole cuisine along with Austin-style barbecue and New York-style pizza?
On the flip-side, what does the term "authentic Chinese food" conjure up in a westerner's mind? Is it authentic Sichuan with use of aromatic, numbing Sichuan pepper? Or perhaps it's sour and piquant Hunan cuisine?
Although China has several influential culinary regions, Canton is most influential with the growth of Chinese cuisine in America.
While most of Tucson's better Chinese restaurants specialize in Sichuan cuisine, one northwest Tucson restaurant has demonstrated exceptional Canton experience: Asian Spice.
The restaurant's red walls feature golden text and dragons are typical of Chinese restaurants, but the shiny blue-purple booths resemble something from a vintage American breakfast diner.
As it turns out, the restaurant space previously housed a Cold Stone Creamery. With a seating capacity of 25, space is limited. However, the open kitchen is a spectacle for anyone dining in; it also helps customers see with their own eyes that everything is prepared fresh.
Asian Spice executive chef Phillip Tan spent his formal culinary years in Shenzhen, China, known for its fresh and tender Cantonese food.
The freshness translates well at Asian Spice, and Tan uses less oil. Even the Canton Style Pan-Fried Noodles ($10.95) taste noticeably lighter thanks to its delicate sauce and tender-but-not-soggy vegetables.
While Orange Chicken is one of the most popular American Chinese dishes, it's not of Canton origin; skip it here. Instead, focus on the chef's specials segment of the menu.
The dishes at Asian Spice aren't unique or new, but you'll think "this is how this dish should taste" after your first bite.
With the friendly and efficient service, you'll also become a regular customer before you know it.
Operating hours are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Friday, noon - 9 p.m. Saturday - Sunday.
Asian Spice is located at 7850 N. Silverbell Rd. Ste. 144. For more information, call (520) 638-8782 or visit asianspiceaz.com.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...