Tag Archives: Salt and pepper squid

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.