Sunday, August 06, 2006

Badly Represented

Following on the heels of dear Ridley's rant on the Chilean stand at Heritage Days, I thought I would also follow suit with my analysis of the Chinese and Hong Kong menus from H-Days, for their level of authenticity or lack thereof.

First of all, though, let me just say that it is a darn shame that so much of "Chinese food" (as the general population knows it) consists of crap such as chicken balls, egg rolls, and ginger beef. These greasy fried dishes by no means represent the delicious cuisine that is truly "traditional" to my people.

What happened to the steamed white chicken with green onion-and-ginger dipping sauce? Where is the lai-cha, the uber-strongly steeped tea sweetened with evaporated milk and liquid sugar? Where are the leafy green veggies, the choy-sum and gai-lan cooked to a nice bright green and covered with oyster sauce and/or full-sodium soy?

Anyway, here's the run-down:

AUTHENTIC:

Shanghai Noodles (3 tix) - our homemade verisons are usually more loaded with meat, though
Sweet and Sour Pork (5 tix) - okay, this isn't totally authentic but is a Westernized version of an authentic Chinese dish called goo-low-yook, which is a form of deep fried pork that is prepared in a sweet and sour glaze with pineapples and green pepper pieces. If the sauce comes separate in a sickly orange hue or the thick layer of batter can be removed to reveal a microscopic piece of pork, then this isn't authentic at all.
Chow Min (4 tix) - again, this won't be as loaded as the traditional variety of chow mein
Fish Ball (3 tix) - very much a BBQ staple food in HK, and usually very cheap to buy
Green Onion Cakes (3 tix) - this one I'm not totally certain about, but I suspect is at least derived from a real Chinese snack dish

Sticky Rice (4 tix) - this is the standard commerical form of something called zhong that is made by the Chinese in the country (including my aunts and grandma); traditionally, glutinous (sticky) rice, bits of Chinese sausage, pork, dried salted egg yolk, dried shrimp, and nuts (or other dried meats and beans) are wrapped up together inside bamboo or lotus leaves and then boiled. The commercial kind is far greasier than the homemade ones, as well as less loaded and less healthy, but Chinese people eat the store-bought variety anyway. I still long for the real stuff, though.

INAUTHENTIC:

Everything else. Don't be fooled by the "Chinese" or "Hong Kong" labels on these goods - they're not part of the traditional diet, folks. I don't ever remember anyone in Hong Kong walking around with "Hong Kong coolers," although these "bubble-tea" cottages seem to be all the rage in our town. Go figure. If it's deep-fried, it's also not likely to be authentic.


(Nothing in this picture is considered authentic Chinese food by any
self-respecting Chinese person.)

So, consumers be wary! Not all Chinese food is really Chinese, and in an attempt to cater to Western palates, much of our best foods have either been bastardized or else concealed from your attention.

While we're at it, Chinese fire drills aren't Chinese, either!



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