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On Authentic Regional Food


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On Authentic Regional Food

Ex-Expat | Mar 30, 2002 04:18 PM

So I'm listening to WNYC, and I hear this guy (who apparently runs this site) going off about this arranging a party at an "authentic Chinese restaurant" that serves the PRC bigwigs when they come to town, but which actually served stuff he considered "American-style" Chinese food.

Well, what can I say... He clearly demanded that only REAL Chinese food be served at his get-together. Unfortunately, like so many of my fellow Americans, he had a delusional idea of "authentic" Chinese cuisine. (There's a PoMo _Simulation_and_Simulacra_ angle in there somewhere.)

He actually described one dish -- a fish turned inside-out, de-boned into a "pineapple" pattern, batter dipped, deep fried, and covered in "sweet-and-sour" sauce. It is called Song Shu Guo Yu (squirrel-style rainbow carp) is a top-dollar treat back in the PRC. I can tell you that he was getting exactly what he asked for -- he just had no idea what he was talking about.

Don't feel too bad, though; this craze over "authentic" regional food ignores the fact that some regional dishes just aren't that appealing to Western tastes, or that the authentic version is pretty well represented (and sometimes improved) by the Americanized versions.

For some imaginary exotic version of the commonplace, I suggest you look for more obscure pockets within the same general region, which one can pass off as "the real stuff which they've been holding back from us." This only works as long as one's dinner guests are equally-ignorant of the region's food, but few if any of one's guests (even my fellow New Yorkers) are likely to have an accurate an idea of what's truly authentic cuisine.


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