I love, love, love Asian cuisine. Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Chinese preferably Sichuan. The first Sichuan dish I ever had was Kung Pao chicken. I thought my mouth was on fire. I was in love.
I’m no expert or purist about Chinese food. I just like what I like. The tough part for me is cooking it at home. I don’t even own a wok. Shameful. I’ve got the rice thing down, though. But the entree part is still pretty sketchy that is until Annie Chun came along.
Using prepared sauces and box ingredients isn’t the way real cooks or foodies roll. I do keep staples that would resemble a respectable novice’s Asian cooking stash: short grain rice, basmati rice (sometimes jasmine), fresh ginger root, pad thai noodles, fresh garlic, industrial size bottles of soy sauce, corn starch, brown sugar, oyster sauce. Is this what fusion looks like?
Annie Chun is Korean. But taking on the task of Asian convenience cooking at home that tastes (sorta) like take out will probably lift her to the status of Betty Crocker or dare I say Aunt Jemima. The exception being that Annie Chun is a real live person. But so was Aunt Jemima – Nancy Green was the spokesmodel’s name introduced at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. And Nancy Green worked in an office, not a plantation kitchen. And, Yes, I do buy the pancake mix and the syrup, but I still make my cakes from scratch.
The Joy Luck Club exposed the myth about fortune cookies for non-Asians like myself. And guess what? I used to make my own fortune cookies at home. Is this exposing my obsession?
Thanks to a post on racialicious.com, the clip below of Jennifer 8. Lee, reporter and author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, gives nearly a complete rundown of Chinese food as real American food in this almost 17 minute presentation, i.e. how often do you have American apple pie vs. Chinese food.
There are times while I’m picking up my take out, I catch the restaurant owners on their break eating their own food. It never looks like the food in my black plastic covered plate. It even looks tastier. I’ve been told, if you really know how to order from a Chinese food menu, you can get the real Chef specials.
Unless things have changed, don’t order Chinese food in Harlem (NYC). I’ve done this twice, and on that second try at one of their more “upscale” restaurants even they hadn’t figured out the difference between sauce and gravy. The third time it’s “shame on me.”
All this to say, it’s already a Chinese New Year. The year of the Ox. Beijing has already launched the fireworks. We could use a little Ox-idizing right now – calm, hard work, resolve and tenacity…and of course, a dash of Kung Pao.