Manager Laura Wei stands by a table in China Chef, which has been in Lawrence since 1991. (Staff photo by Myles Ma.)

By Myles Ma

In China, no one eats chicken with broccoli — at least not the kind we know here in America. In China, the type of broccoli grown is almost unrecognizable in appearance and different in flavor as well.

Luckily for Laura Wei, whose family has owned China Chef since it opened in 1991, Americans can’t get enough of chicken and broccoli, or any of the other food served at the restaurant.

“American Chinese food is very Americanized. It fits the American people,” Wei said.

For example, Wei said, here in America, people prefer their food off the bone, a preference people in China don’t share. In China, the cuisine is regional. Food in one part of China is very different from one area to another, as opposed to Chinese food restaurants in America, where one can find the same dishes on menus in New Jersey or Kansas. But things are changing, at least at China Chef. Wei recently put a few Thai dishes on the menu, responding to the growing popularity of Thai cuisine.

Now, Thai basil chicken and shrimp, Thai mango chicken and shrimp and of course, Pad Thai noodles are on the menu. China Chef has also added brown rice, among a number of healthier options for customers.

Customers have strong loyalties to China Chef. The restaurant has been around for 19 years, and Wei said she has watched many of the diners’ children grow up.

While the restaurant has renovated since opening and the menu has changed, members of the staff have stayed, growing familiar to and with customers — Wei and some of the waiters often know what customers will order before they sit down. And despite the additions to the menu, the most popular dishes are still old favorites like General Tso’s chicken, and the restaurant’s homemade dumplings.

Customers also enjoy some of more exclusive items on the menu, like their Chicken and Shrimp Bahamas dish, which is chicken and shrimp sauteed with fresh pineapple and vegetables and served with pineapple fried rice.

General Tso’s Chicken is Wei’s favorite dish as well, and she has had many opportunities to form that opinion. She is at the restaurant six days a week.

Wei’s family has been in the restaurant business along time. China Chef is the third restaurant they have opened, having previously owned restaurants in Hamilton and at the Lawrence Shopping Center.

Wei has lived in Lawrence for the past 25 years. Wei came to America from China when she was 16, and she and her family have settled in the area.

“I’ve been here so long, my children grew up here too,” she said.

China Chef is located at the Manors Corner Shopping Center, 160 Lawrenceville-Pennington Rd. For more information, or to make an order for pickup or delivery, call (609) 895-1818.