Korean American culinary sensation David Chang is asked, What is the most under-rated cuisine? Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, he says Chinese food and explains that China is larger than Europe and that US Americans have no idea what real Chinese food is, nor does he believe they want to go beyond Panda Express, egg rolls, and General Tso’s Chicken.
I love that he mentioned the aesthetics of Chinese food as being unappealing to Eurocentric eyes. I think this is really important!!
Chinese dishes are often thought of as unrefined and unappealing precisely because they’re presented in a different manner than European/American/Western food is presented. You’ll seldom see Chinese food in small ass portions on large ass white plates because Chinese food is traditionally eaten communally. Even in the high class, super fancy restaurants in China and Hong Kong (I was dragged along to quite a few as a young child by my parents), the food is presented on a large platter in the middle of the table, meant to be shared by all members of the dinner party. Unless you’re at a noodle joint or a Western restaurant, no one orders individual dishes and everyone decides on the dishes together. Presentation in Chinese cuisine reflects abundance and community. Also, there’s just no need to dress up food that you know is going to taste amazing.
Reblogging for commentary.
I didn’t grow up in a very traditional Chinese family in terms of either genetics or geography: pretty much everyone two or three generations back has been an immigrant of some kind, and I’ve lived in Canada for most of my life. But the culture of food transcends and persists like nothing else, and I have the same hesitancy as David Chang when it comes to acceptance of Chinese food in North America or Europe: because it’s an entire different culture. As the above says, dishes are shared in the center and decided upon together - this is why Chinese restaurants almost always have round tables, never oblong. Consideration is shown by offering dishes to the eldest first, or by turning someone’s favorite towards them. Your bowl is filled with enough food for the next few bites, then refilled continuously in this manner throughout the meal. You as the diner keep an eye on everyone’s teacups, not reaching for a dish if someone else is going for it. Taste and culinary validity notwithstanding, it is impossible to understand a culture’s food if you don’t or are unwilling to understand just a little bit about the culture itself, to respect how we show respect.
True. In Chinese culture, feeding one another is a way of showing affection. It’s one way grandparents typically demonstrate their love for their grandchildren, placing choice morsels in their rice bowl. In normal Chinese family-style eating, you give the best parts to others; you pay more attention to making sure others are being well fed than yourself; you always pour tea for others first; and you make sure nobody is even eyeing a dish in front of them before you fucking turn the lazy susan. Unless you’re an apprentice in a kung fu movie, then you have elaborately choreographed chopstick battles to compete for the last tea egg or fish head or duck leg which always ends up in the master’s bowl.
One thing I’d add amid all this talk of Chinese food is that there really isn’t a singular “Chinese food”. There are thousands of kinds of Chinese food and styles of eating and dining. Even beyond the eight great regional culinary traditions (i.e. Cantonese, Sichuan, Hunan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Huizhou, Zhejian, Fujian), Chinese food really becomes micro-regional once you start travelling through the countrysides, because there are different plants and animals in different places and people cook and eat what’s there. The Buddhist monks in Huangshan have been developing recipes for a thousand years based on local mushrooms, herbs, roots, bamboo — which is just as Chinese as Peking duck or Cantonese crab. There’s street food and beef noodles in Taiwan, dumplings in Shanghai, hot pot in Sichuan, all of which are eaten differently. And there are formal banquets where food is served in individual portions for ten courses. It’s all Chinese food. Because Chinese food is many, many things.
Helll yes this commentary is amazing. I’m not Chinese but lucky enough to be exposed to many different types of Chinese foods by close friends and at first I was hesitant to eat. But now I’ll try anything! Love it! yes every culture is different in the way the present and dine with each other.