Category Archives: Food

The White Man’s Interpretation of Chinese food

which is, in true white man fashion, without contextual understanding and completely based on his own unsubstantiated assumptions based on his limited understanding of the world.

Last night, at some point during an intimate gathering of friends and irrelevant blonde hanger-ons, I suggested Congee Village as the midnight dinner spot. To which, my friend basically SNEERS at me, like, what IS it with Congee being the ONE place that white people who eat in Chinatown know and all LOVE. She is a dear friend, with whom I see more eye to eye on food than basically everyone but my mom, but Congee will always be a point of contention. Anyway, I have my own theories about the place – the size, location and the $5 cocktails all make Congee sort of a perfect candidate to be the bridge between east and west. Now, to be sure, Congee is nowhere near being representative of the intricate and complex profiles of Chinese cuisine, but what you do get is consistent Chinese and Chinese American foods. One caveat is, do not go to the White man outpost on Bowery.

So we found ourselves around a table at the original Allen Street location at 12am last night, and despite her OBNOXIOUS dismissal from earlier in the night, my better than normal friend also had an agreeable meal.
Which is all to say that stuff like this Animals Eating Animals video at Congee just UPSETS me. People who go to these “ethnic” restaurants to seek out the “weird” or “intimidating” items on the menu have no concept of “good food” outside of random conceptions about specific cultures, whether it’s their own or of another. I mean, sure, everyone is entitled to their own interpretations and sure, kudos for the bravery, but their ignorant prejudices are laughable and completely skews 1) Chinese food 2) Chinese food in America. Conflating the two would be to ignore the very beautiful results of the organic developments of Chinese food in being adapted to a new country, with its different influences, ingredients, and evolved (not in the sense of being more developed so much as changed) palates and at the same time completely undermining the complexities of original or “authentic” Chinese cuisine. I think it’s the same lack of understanding and reductive mentality that makes Asian fusion concepts such abominations. In addition, I don’t know why Americans still haven’t figured out that if given Chinese waiters are given the chance to “recommend” authenticity to you, they are going to rip you the fuck off without any hope at even a glimpse of authenticity, aka, most expensive item on the menu, aka Wuliangye, which by the way is less a “rice wine” than a grain alcohol. And it realllyyyyy drives me crazy that people like this really feel like they’ve experienced cultural immersion after experiences like this. Nah, brah. And that authoritative take on Chinese food at the end? That really kills me.


Breakfast reinterpreted

I’m in the process of drafting a post for my good friend, David’s website: the Gumship. The topic is breakfast. It also happens to be a major point of contention between my boyfriend and myself. Growing up, breakfast can be anything from steamed fish and soupy rice to scallion pancakes or the ever so popular Shanghainese specialty, Xiao Long Baos. This is not unique to the Shanghainese people either, in Hong Kong this summer, I had noodle soup with chicken leg, skewered and grilled gizzards, and all sorts of other delicious treats before the clock struck noon.

Anyway, Michael, being the American that he is, always tries to shame me for my habit of picking on chicken or salmon for breakfast. Sometimes, I just wake up with cravings for some real food, you know? I often feel like this American concept of breakfast consist of food that were “created” to fulfill a very narrow definition of a particular meal. They are compromised!
But I do love pancakes, especially when I have free reign over how they are compiled!

A few weeks ago, some lovely ladies from school gifted me with this spectacular thing: So, this morning, Michael and I did this:

Freckled cuties!!!!!
Anyway, so we were out of syrup, aka I’m Chinese and we don’t have maple syrup in the house. So, instead, we used chocolate syrup and ice cream. I also spread some peanut butter on these babies later on before a run.

Next week, I’m going to work on sprucing this up. Maybe, red velvet pancakes.

Weekend cooking

3L year of law school is basically like the last 3 miles of a long run. You’re in a groove and have gotten over the hurdle; the act of it is no longer a big issue, but mentally, you are just ready to be done with it. Originally, I had thought to take it easy this semester, but somehow, I have picked up a bajillion new things to do.

In short, I have work piling up higher than a Pinterest eligible stack of pancakes, which I meant to catch up on this weekend. I began by rewarding myself with a bottle of Pinot Noir on Friday, which turned out to be as disappointing as the hangover the next day. So I hunted around for a red wine chicken recipe today and did a little remix (I always remix recipes, not because I am a culinary master, but because I’m too lazy/cheap/broke to always get the exact ingredients).

Original recipe makes 12 servings
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Pretty straight forward, easy to tweak. I had three chicken legs deboned – a tip for the unknowing in New York, Chinatown butchers have chicken that are both cheaper, fresher, and they’ll debone it for you in a jiffy. I always cook with the skin on chicken, but skip the oil, because the chicken fat will give you whatever fat you need in cooking and it’s definitely not as horrendous as you would think. So I salt and peppered the chicken, added some dried thyme and oregano (whatever herbs you have and like, you can add); threw it all skin side down. After about 5 minutes, there will be enough oil in the pan to sautee some garlic, so I threw in like a bulb of garlic (roughly minced). I looked around the kitchen for other stuff to add in, and saw the 5 lb bag of onions my mom insisted on buying because it’s such a deal (she’s the kind to buy Costco shit for the savings in theory and then end up eating it all like it’s a competition so it doesn’t go to waste). So I diced one and threw it in there too. You let the garlic and onions make happy for about 3 minutes. In goes enough wine to sort of cover the chicken, I don’t know exact measurements – probably half a bottle (way more than original recipe).I didn’t have paprika or brown sugar, so I added Sriracha, white sugar and honey. After all that, the color was a little pale for my liking, so I added maybe 2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar (to be sure, that did not help; the color was still too ashy). I let it hang on medium for 10-15 minutes or just until the sauce thickens.

    It is ugly and delicious.

    So my recipe ends up being (scientific measurements and all)

    3 chicken legs, half a bottle of red wine, a bulb of garlic, an onion, 3 squeezes of sriracha (probably a tablespoon), 3 tablespoons of white sugar, 2 squeezes of honey (probably 1 tablespoon), and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, a teaspoon of oregano, a teaspoon of thyme.

    A note though, this post is more about the process than it is about the “recipe”. Be creative, yo.

    I’d like to note that as I was cooking it, it occurred to me that this is kind of like a modified coq au vin (typical Chinese girl behavior to be bootlegging, right); except it’s so much better! My only issue with coq au vin is that stewing takes all the essence out of meat. There is no joy in stewed chicken meat. This recipe takes all the flavors of the coq au vin but maintains integrity of the meat.

    In retrospect, I would have given it one less squeeze of Sriracha.

    So there you have it; please go on and make your own counterfeit!

On chasing perfection

This article is kind of pornographic good for the type A, OCD proneĀ  among us. The titillating sensation of reaching “perfection” is truly exhilarating; it’s also universal beyond making an omelette.

Actually reading this reminded me of the first “essay” I had to write, in 3rd grade, in Chinese, in which I used a “chengyu” (set phrases from ancient Chinese) for the first time. Incidentally, it was an essay about making eggs. At the time, I didn’t even know it was a chengyu – until the sentence was read out loud in class (obviously setting off the worst narcissistic vain streak known to mankind, I think the self-deprecation is a conscious effort to offset it). It was perfect.

Shit, somebody call Freud, I think I just found the cause of my neurotic obsession with finding the mot just. Another reason why languages get me off sometimes; and the rare moments when I can almost understand the logic behind Ezra Pound’s cantos.