Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Questioning Food Authenticity

Ken and I went to Asian Legend, a chain restaurant specializing in Northern Chinese food, for lunch. We were seated next to a squeaky-clean, preppie Asian couple in their 20's. It was obvious from a quick listen-in on their conversation that they were both born and raised in Canada.

The young couple had already ordered, so their food arrived before ours. Ken, always very much a voyeur in restaurants, examined their dishes and tried to determine what everything was. There was a plate of brownish, noodley stuff that was difficult to identify. I guessed seaweed salad, because seaweed comes in a wide assortment of odd shapes and sizes. The preppie guy looked over at us with a friendly grin and informed us that it was bamboo shoots. Not terribly exotic. I've eaten bamboo shoots before plenty of times as part of mixed veggie dishes.

Next up for them was a plain steamed bun. Emphasis on plain.

After that, our food started to arrive. We had a steamed bun stuffed with savoury beef, followed by ma po tofu and a veggie mix. I must point out that our veggie mix included fungus. This is relevant to the story.

The other couple went more down the road of dim-sum, with a selection of steamed dumplings. Nothing fancy. As the food came out onto the tables, there was some interested smiling and chat on both sides about our respective choices. I thought how nice it was to be seated next to such friendly people.

And then. Then the preppie guy turned to Ken and said, with a big smile, "Looks like you guys picked the Canadian Chinese food."


What did he just say? Did he just question the authenticity of our food? Because them's fightin' words. Ken and I are proud that when we eat ethnic, we go all out. Tentacles, seaweed, fungus, gizzard, tripe - we eat all the weird stuff. (For the record I don't enjoy chicken feet. It's too easy to imagine that I'm nibbling on a child's hand. But I have tried them. I'll try almost any food once.)

Ma po tofu is authentic Chinese food. It's a comfort dish - the macaroni and cheese of China. Ken should know - he's half-Asian. Half Japanese, to be exact, but Japan is close enough to China that the cuisine was popular with his Japanese relatives. The authentic cuisine. It's not like we had our table spread with shiny, red Bo Bo balls, egg rolls and fortune cookies.

Anyway, we both smiled and nodded, because what else could we do? Stand up and overturn the table? I would have liked to do that.

After the insulting preppie couple left, Ken and I debriefed. We both felt indignant. Neither of us is Chinese, but dammit, we know how to eat Chinese. You'll certainly never catch either of us asking for a fork.

So there!


whatigotsofar said...

The only times where I'll go out for Chinese is with my friends, the Wonder Twins. Both of them are from the Far East. Zan is from Singapore or Malaysia or something and Jayna is from Beijing. When we go out for Chinese, we only go to those places where you have to order in Mandarin because nobody there speaks English. That's authentic Chinese food. So, if you ordered in English you got gwylo food.

Sparkling Red said...

One of my favourite Chinese food vendors (it's not a restaurant- it's in the food court at Pacific Mall) offers no English-speaking staff. You order by pointing at the picture on the menu and holding up a number of fingers for quantity. I have a favourite dish there. I don't even know what it's called.

In the case of Asian Legend, go ahead and call it Gwylo food if you want, but I maintain: if I my food wasn't authentic, preppie guy's food was equally inauthentic.

DarcsFalcon said...

Oh my goodness! I am so inauthentic it's pathetic! LOL I can barely eat standard
American fare - things like grits and okra, never had 'em, never will. I'm one of those people who will never try most things and wonder how people like you and your hubby can put that in your mouth? LOL I'm a big baby that way!

Jameil said...

ROTFL @ this post!! Who do those people think they are??? Indeed you should've turned over the table-- theirs! That's so rude! I was dying at "It's too easy to imagine that I'm nibbling on a child's hand."!!! HILARIOUS!!!

Warped Mind of Ron said...

I would have declared shenanigans and knocked over their table. I then would have done several backflips landing in the pose of the "Dragon" and declared their food unauthentic (with the words not matching my lips as I speak) and challenged them to death match!!!!

San said...

Wow, what a squeaky-clean, preppy, rude mofo.

LL Cool Joe said...

I'm terrible with food, so I'm impressed with everything you ate. I wouldn't be brave enough to eat any of the delights you did, with or without a fork!

Sparkling Red said...

DarcsFalcon: The truth is, people like us love people like you, because you make us look brave by comparison. ;-)

Jameil: I've eaten worse-tasting things than chicken feet, but nothing is creepier.

Ron: I wish you'd been there! If you ever make it to Toronto, we're going to Asian Legend to hunt down those preppie jerks. And if we can't find them, at least we'll have a fantastic, uninterrupted lunch.

San: You've got to watch out for those too-good-to-be-true young adults. They may look friendly on the outside, but on the inside they're judging you. Harshly.

Joe: How about with a spoon? Would you eat them with a spoon?

Karen said...

I don't like Chinese food very much. Or Indian food. I do try things things, but I haven't found something I enjoy.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

I like Chinese food, but I don't eat it all that often because I don't find it that healthy ... and I'm pretty sure that means the Chinese food available to me is likely Americanized. Sigh. I'd be willing to try the authentic stuff, though.

Sparkling Red said...

Karen: It may be that the Chinese food you tried wasn't very good. Or maybe it's really not your taste. But there is an awful lot of really terrible Chinese food available. I'm very picky about where I'll eat, and it's not Mr. Pong's.

Nilsa: Authentic Chinese food that I'm familiar with is not especially healthy. There's a heavy emphasis on meat, especially fatty meat. Menus literally boast that they will serve you "fatty pork". Of course, there are over 50 ethnic groups in the country of China, and they probably all have their own cuisines. I'm generalizing.

powdergirl said...

I'd like to say something clever, but I'm almost crying from the chicken feet/tiny hands comparison.

Most foods you mentioned, you'd need a sledge hammer to get them past my teeth : )

G said...

That was definitely a pretty tasteless comment for the preppy couple to make.

If anything, they should have inquired about what you were having, instead of saying what they said.