Rethinking Chinese Food

Pan Fried Crispy Noodles

Writing about Chinese food is honestly one of the most difficult editorial work I’ve had to do. What  constitutes good Chinese food? Where are the standards?

The category Chinese food is just as broad as “American food.” There’s Shanghainese (sweet and sour), Taiwanese (stinky tofu yum), Beijing (meat pies and dumplings), Hainan (chicken rice), Sichuan (spicy) and the list goes on. Americanized-Chinese food is another genre in and of itself (an article on that soon…).

Quite frankly, my litmus test is “what would my parents think?”

They’re first-generation Taiwanese immigrants who refuse to eat anything but decent Chinese. Yes they’ll go for the bargain all-you-can-eats in Vegas, but before we leave the city a stop at the local Chinatown for some quality dim sum is absolutely mandatory.

“Yummy yummy,” my dad would say, eyeing the live lobster tank. (He’s a seafood aficionado in the most extreme way. He can barely accompany us to a aquarium without getting hungry. True story.)

But even his taste buds aren’t completely partisan. They’re Taiwanese and by default, discriminatory toward overtly spicy dishes.

There needs to be more coverage on regional Chinese food and we need to get into the nooks and crannies of it’s intricate taxonomy. Chinese food isn’t just stir fry over rice. It’s a large map of regional cuisines with historical underpinnings that are far older and much more profound than we give it credit.