From Los Angeles to Atlanta to Chicago to New York, restaurants all over the country are dealing with trying times. Steakhouses, sushi bars, taquerias and bistros — we miss them all, and they miss us. We reached out to a dozen chefs and proprietors, to hear a little about their stories and their worlds today. And we have a great recipe from each, so you can recreate a little of their food in your kitchen.

Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles

Hwa Yuan, New York City

Craig Lee, The New York Times

Takeout-style sesame noodles in Richmond, Calif., Aug. 17, 2017. While you’re stuck inside, try making food from your favorite restaurants at home.

Chien Lieh Tang, the chef of Hwa Yuan in Manhattan’s Chinatown, grew up in the kitchens of his family’s restaurants in Taipei, Taiwan. “I remember watching the chefs spread the hot noodles on ice,” he said in a recent video call, demonstrating the gentle, draping hand motions used to make the spicy cold noodles dressed with sesame paste that were popular in hot Taiwanese summers.

He added, “Every ingredient in the sauce was put together at the last minute,” and then switched over to furious whisking.

The Tang family’s roots are in Nanchong, in Sichuan province, China, where fresh noodles slicked with dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns are classic street food. Like about 2 million others from mainland China, Tang’s parents moved to Taiwan when the communists took over in 1949 after a civil war. When immigration restrictions were lifted in 1965, many moved on to the United States, including Tang’s father, Yu Fa Tang (nicknamed Shorty).

He opened a restaurant in Chinatown in 1967 and became a successful restaurateur with multiple Sichuanese restaurants in Manhattan and a much-copied recipe for cold noodles — made without Sichuan peppercorns, then unavailable in New York. But he died young, and the original Hwa Yuan Szechuan Inn closed in 1991.

Today, Tang, 67, and his son, James, 35, who helps run the business, are luckier than most Chinatown restaurant owners in the pandemic. The family owns the building, so they do not have to worry about rent, a tremendous barrier to reopening in New York. They have been able to keep the kitchen running for delivery and takeout with a skeleton crew of cooks.

The Tangs have never shared the recipe for their sesame noodles. But The New York Times developed a home-cooking version of it in 2007, with a common twist: substituting peanut butter if the right kind of sesame paste is hard to come by.

Tang said that after the restaurant reopened with an elegant makeover in 2017 and received a two-star review in The Times, there had been a constant flow of customers who announced that they were there to honor a first date, an engagement or a love affair with carp in hot bean sauce, the first dish he ever learned to make.

Anti-Chinese vitriol and violence have risen across the country because of misinformation about the coronavirus, and many Chinese restaurants have been forced to shut down completely because employees fear leaving their own neighborhoods. Still, Tang said, it was tourists, not local residents, who avoided Chinese restaurants in February, when business was down by 40%.

“New Yorkers know better than that,” he said. “We are all in this together.”

— Julia Moskin

Recipe: Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles

Total time: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound noodles, frozen or (preferably) fresh
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
  • 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste, chile crisp or chile oil, or to taste
  • Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes. They should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.

3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts.

Tips: The Chinese sesame paste called for here is made of toasted sesame seeds; it is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of plain, untoasted sesame. But you could use tahini in a pinch. You need only add a little toasted sesame oil to compensate for flavor, and perhaps some peanut butter to keep the sauce emulsified.


Toum (Garlic Whip)

Phoenicia, Birmingham, Michigan

Garlic whip in Sydney, May 7, ...

Con Poulos, The New York Times

Garlic whip in Sydney, May 7, 2020. While you’re stuck inside, try making food from your favorite restaurants at home. Food styled by Donna Hay.

For decades, diners at Phoenicia, a Lebanese restaurant in Birmingham, Michigan, went home with an image of Sameer Eid imprinted on their brains — specifically, his outsize, curling mustache.

“The mustache is first,” said Eid, Phoenicia’s 80-year-old founder. “I come second.”

He believes his customers wouldn’t recognize him if he shaved. “My wife and myself are stopped in airports,” he said. “People ask me, ‘Are you the Monopoly guy?’”

Eid’s son, Samy, is now in charge of running Phoenicia and the family’s two other restaurants, Leila, in nearby Detroit, and Forest, also in Birmingham. Leila, which GQ magazine named one of the best new American restaurants of 2020, has been closed since March, when stay-at-home orders were issued in Michigan, while Forest and Phoenicia remain open for takeout and delivery.

Keeping the elder Eid away from the restaurants for the sake of his health has been “one of the more depressing parts” of the shutdown, his son said.