The Huangs’ three children all grew up in the restaurant world, often spending hours after school at House of Chiu.
Oldest son Jason loves the restaurant’s chicken teriyaki, which patriarch Chao Neng Huang makes himself.
“Teriyaki takes a very long time; there’s a lot of different ingredients that he adds that are homemade as well,” said Jason Huang of his dad’s sauce. “I just feel there’s more flavor” than other teriyaki sauces.
“All teriyaki sauces have a strong soy sauce flavor in there, but ours is a little tangier and sweeter, without being too sweet,” Jason said.
Jason spoke by phone from his home in Chicago, where he is waiting for his physician’s residency to start. Sister Robin is in California, working in pharmacology. And the youngest, Gary, just graduated from Washington University with a degree in biology.
“I kind of grew up” at House of Chiu, which his father and mother, Feng Ming, own. “They didn’t have much family and both worked there.”
Longtime customers Erik and Elaine Tinney, of Belleville, watched the kids grow up. They’ve been going to the restaurant for more than 20 years.
“When we’re on this end of town, we always stop in,” Elaine said. Years ago a good friend lived within walking distance, and the couple and their friends would take the large table in the middle of the dining room twice a week.
“It’s still the best place to get food,” Erik said. The couple frequently orders carry out now that they live on the east end of Belleville. Erik used to drive trucks across the country and says Ming’s egg rolls are the best in the country.
Those egg rolls are homemade, Ming said, and sometimes people order a couple hundred for a party. House of Chiu also sells its homemade sauces.
Ming attributes the longevity of the restaurant to the quality food and service. In the nearly 30 years of House of Chiu, they’ve gone from menu ordering to buffet and back again. Ming said many customers carry out or ask for delivery — House of Chiu delivers for a $3 charge within three miles or so.
“They call and say, ‘I really like your food, can you deliver please?’” she said, admitting that the delivery area can be expanded if the restaurant isn’t too busy.
“Whatever they order is right; we don’t want to make a mistake,” she said. Many dishes on the menu are marked in red to designate the spicy nature of Hunan cooking, Ming said, and the level of spice can be adjusted to the customer’s taste.
“We made sure American people would like it,” she said.
Ming and Neng grew up in Southern China, and he started working at the restaurant in the mid-1980s. They bought it from Neng’s uncle in 1989.
“Dad is the cook,” Jason said. “He learned it all from his uncle. He’s always passionate about cooking, so it was pretty easy for him to learn.”
House of Chiu serves foods familiar to American diners. Sweet and sour chicken and pork, orange chicken, and beef with broccoli combination plates are $6.45 and include soup, rice or lo mein, and an egg roll, crab delight or fried wonton.
Chef’s specialties include General’s Chicken, which is another favorite of Jason’s, and spicy orange beef, both $5.25 for a pint and served with white rice.
“The General’s Chicken sauce looks a lot like other sweet and sour sauces. It has red peppers and some flakes of spice to it, but also the way we make it, I think it’s tangier, thicker and has more substance to it. My dad actually likes making the sauce a lot,” Jason said.
The Huang family almost always ate at the restaurant, Jason said.
“More often it was more traditional Cantonese food; what the restaurant has is more American Chinese food,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s any relation between American Chinese food and the Chinese food that I know,” he said, laughing because he does like the American version so much.
For his parents, they “do a lot of steamed fish and white rice ... still prefer what they grew up on.”
Ming recently returned from an 11-day trip to her hometown to see her 93-year-old mother and two brothers. She was grateful that her sons were in town to help keep the restaurant open while she was gone.
House of Chiu
- 3605 N. Belt West, Belleville
- Call: 618-233-3350 or 618-233-9794
- Website: http://houseofchiubelleville.com/
- Cost: Two egg rolls for $2.20; soups start at $1.65 a pint; a quart of Kung Pao Triple Delight is $10.25
- Sauces: General’s Chicken Sauce, Orange Chicken Sauce, Teriyaki Chicken Sauce and Spicy Sweet & Sour Sauce are available in 12-ounce bottles for $4.95
- Carry out and delivery: Yes
- Dine in: Yes
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 4 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday