A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“Stop posting your problems on Facebook and drink alcohol like the rest of us” (12/13)
“My life is just a series of awkward and humiliating moments separated by snacks” (12/13)
“My life is just a series of awkward moments separated by snacks” (12/13)
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Entry forthcoming (12/13)
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Entry from December 21, 2018
Happy Family (Chinese dish)

"Happy Family” is a popular Chinese-American dish at many restaurants, but the ingredients can vary. Ch’uen chi fu ("happy family") was cited in the Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle on August 20, 1954, from the restaurant Ho-Ho at 789 Seventh Avenue (near Fifty-first Street) in Manhattan.

The New York (NY) Times wrote about Ho-Ho on October 28, 1955:

“Next might come ch’uen chia fu ($2.25). This means ‘happy family,’ an apt name for an engaging mixture of dulse (at least that’s what it looks like), abalone, shrimp Chinese vegetables and Chinese sausage.”

Back Stage (New York, NY), on October 19, 1965, described the dish as served at newly opened Shun Lee Dynasty Restaurant at Second Avenue, corner 48th Street:

“The menu lists all sorts of original dishes with suggestions like Happy Family (shrimp balls, meat balls, fish balls, shrimp, chicken, abalone, mushrooms, snow peas, etc.), ...”

“Happy family:crab meat, shrimp,chicken,beef, pork-not me, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, tiny baby corn cobs, water chestnuts in brown sauce” was posted on Twitter by Molly Walker on January 2, 2015.

“Lucky Family” is a similar name for the same combination dish as “Happy Family.” “This proved to be a combination of many things, fresh pork balls, shrimp balls, pieces of chicken, Virginia ham, snow peas, dried mushrooms and Yuto, (fish stomach) dried, sliced paper thin, then deep-fat fried and added to the dish at the very last” was printed in the New York (NY) Herald Tribune on January 7, 1961, in a Clementine Paddleford restaurant review of Shun Lee on 119 East 23rd Street in Manhattan. “This dish (Happy Family—ed.), sometimes called lucky family” was printed in the Chicago (IL) Tribune on June 4, 1976.

Similar Chinese combination dishes include “Double Wonders,” “Dragon and Phoenix,” “Three Musketeers,” “Triple Crown,” “Triple Delight,” “Triple Harvest,” “Four Precious Jewels,” “Four Seasons,” “Hawaii Four-O,” “Hawaii Five-O” and “Happy Together.”


20 August 1954, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, “Going Places” by Al Salerno, pg. 7, col. 7:
A BIGGER AND BETTER HO-HO—We don’t mean a hearty chuckle but this Ho-Ho should bring a smile of deep satisfaction to your face. This is George Seto’s remodeled, in and out, restaurant at 7th Ave. near 51st St., Manhattan.
(...)
Seto recommends especially his Mandarin dishes such as soo ja shrimps, kung pao chi ting and ch’uen chi fu. Explanations follow:

The first is flaky fried shrimp at $1,75. The ting is diced cut chicken and scallions at $2.25. The fu is a surprised also titled “happy family” item, also $2.25.

28 October 1955, New York (NY) Times, “Food: Dining Before Theatre” by Jane Nickerson, pg. 28, cols. 3-4:
(Ho Ho, 789 Seventh Avenue near Fifty-first Street.—ed.)
Next might come ch’uen chia fu ($2.25). This means “happy family,” an apt name for an engaging mixture of dulse (at least that’s what it looks like), abalone, shrimp Chinese vegetables and Chinese sausage.

7 January 1961, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, “Dining Around New York: Shun Lee, E. 23d, Serves Plain or Exotic Dishes” by Clementine Paddleford, pg. 11, col. 7:
(Shun Lee, 119 East 23rd Street.—ed.)
Our main dish, Lucky Family, price $2.75 and it came family size. We did our best by it and took the leftover home to eat for breakfast. This proved to be a combination of many things, fresh pork balls, shrimp balls, pieces of chicken, Virginia ham, snow peas, dried mushrooms and Yuto, (fish stomach) dried, sliced paper thin, then deep-fat fried and added to the dish at the very last.

Google Books
Mobil Travel Guide: Northeastern States
Mobil Oil Corporation
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
1962
Pg. 379:
Specialties: “Happy Family” (sea food), chicken on sizzling rice.

29 October 1965, Back Stage (New York, NY), “Manhattan Tips” by Sheldon Landwehr, pg. 23, col. 1:
SHUN LEE DYNASTY
The newly opened Shun Lee Dynasty Restaurant at Second Avenue, corner 48th Street, is a far cry from the type of drab, second floor Chinese restaurants that started spreading over the city in the 20’s.
(...)
The menu lists all sorts of original dishes with suggestions like Happy Family (shrimp balls, meat balls, fish balls, shrimp, chicken, abalone, mushrooms, snow peas, etc.), Dragon and Phoenix (lobster and chicken cubes with bamboo shoots, snow peas and mushrooms), Buddha’s Delight...a vegetarian dish of water chestnuts, gingko nuts, carrots, dried bean curd, vegetable steaks and bok choy or scallops Wang style.

24 December 1965, The Record (Hackensack, NJ), “Mandarin Style Meals Served At New York City Restaurant; Chinese Dining Spot Opened In October Under The Direction Of Teaneck Man” by John H. Kuhn, pg. 27, col. 5:
(Shun Lee Dynasty at 900 Second Avenue.—ed.)
Other entries are: Buddha’s Delight, a vegetarian dish which includes all types of Chinese vegetables; sizzling rice with shrimp, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and peas; happy family, a combination of shrimp ball, meat balls, fish balls, shrimp, chicken, abalone, mushrooms, snow peas, bamboo shoots, and bok choy; and dragon and phoenix, in which lobster and chicken cubes are served with bamboo shoots, snow peas, and mushrooms.

Word of Mouth:
A Completely New Kind of Guide to New York City Restaurants

By Jim Quinn
Philadelphia, PA: Mixed Media; distributed by Lippincott
1972
Pg. 63 (Chi Mer, 12 Chatham Square): 
Lucky Family is extremely large, filled with pork and shrimp balls, excellent Chinese ham, lots of snow peas, tasty chicken slices and abalone which does not seem to have come from the same can as most Chinatown abalone.
Pg. 64 (Flower Drum Restaurant, 856 2nd Avenue, near 45th Street):
Happy family ($4.75), a big disorderly pile of vegetables, lobster, chicken and pork with a slightly more spicy sauce than usual, is extremely good—and one of the few recommended entrees.
Pg. 70:
Happy family ($4.25) gets its name because it is supposed to feed a mob, and in most Chinese restaurants it does. Here it is barely enough for one, though part of the difference is that it is completely without chopped vegetables to make up lots of quickly digested bulk. A combination of shrimp balls, meat balls, chicken, abalone and mushrooms, with or without snowpeas, depending on your luck, it is tasty but not worth the money. Besides, the shrimp balls taste like gefilte fish.

4 June 1976, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Mandarin restaurants: Rating the Far East feasts in Chicago and suburbs” by Mary Knoblauch and Charles Leroux, sec. 3, pg. 2, col. 3:
(Dragon Inn, 18431 South Halstead Street, Glenwood.—ed.)
Happy Family [$5.95] is a delicate mix of shrimp, meatballs, sea cucumbers, abalone, strips of pork, pea pods, bamboo shoots, carrots, and black mushrooms. The subtle flavors of this dish, sometimes called lucky family, was nicely counterpointed by ma poo [$3.75], chunks of bean curd in a spicy chili sauce.

Google Books
The Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas, 1979
By Stephen Birnbaum
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin
1978
Pg. 172:
Hong Kong—(...) If you hate making decisions, order the Happy Family Plate of shrimp, chicken, abalone, pork, beef, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and vegetables.

Google Books
How to Open and Run a Successful Restaurant
By Christopher Egerton-Thomas
New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons
1995
Pg. 266:
Happy Family. Dish made of Beche-de-mer, chicken, pork, ham, bamboo shoots, snow peas, sherry, and soy sauce.

Google Books
The Insiders’ Guide to the Florida Keys & Key West
By Vicki Shearer and Janet Ware
Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press
1998
Pg. 64:
... Happy Family, an exotic combination of lobster, shrimp, chicken, pork, ham, mushrooms, snow peas and vegetables; ...

Google Books
Flowers for Evelene
By Joseph A. Pinto
Published by author
2005
Pg. 117:
Before us sat sesame chicken, Kung po chicken, a small order of boneless spareribs, fried baby shrimp, and a happy-family, which consisted of a mix of chicken, shrimp, pork, scallop, and imitation crap and lobster.

Twitter
S.L. Surovec
@SLSurovec
Tonight’s noms: Happy Family (shrimp, chicken, pork, scallions, squid, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms,bamboo, sprouts)
8:57 AM - 8 Aug 2012

Twitter
Fulins of Franklin
@fulinsfranklin
Specials:
Happy Family - $16
~~Scallops, shrimp, crab stick, chicken, beef, and roasted pork with snow peas, broccoli, carrots,...
10:15 AM - 13 Jul 2014

Twitter
Jay
@Via_Purifico88
Replying to @_KyleMcRae
@KyleMcNyc My favorite item is a dish called Happy Family. Shrimp,crab,lobster,corn,snow peas,carrots,pork,beef and chicken. It lasts
5:44 PM - 29 Dec 2014

Twitter
Molly Walker
@mollywalkerz
Happy family:crab meat, shrimp,chicken,beef, pork-not me, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, tiny baby corn cobs, water chestnuts in brown sauce.
11:36 PM - 2 Jan 2015

Twitter
Richard Haase
@RichardHaase
Replying to @RichardHaase @JGolden41002804 @ThePerezHilton
idea 893343; so i was brainstorming with a chef about a cookbook ; and we talked about chino latino; and he said he was going to create “ cubinese delight “ happy family dish w pork chicken beef seafood but spanish chinese? and i said make it cubanese delight a la perez hilton
10:31 PM - 15 Dec 2018

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Friday, December 21, 2018 • Permalink