Over the past two centuries, the Chinese community and its cuisine have endured several forms of discrimination. The Chinese exclusion laws of the late 1880s left Chinese food in America exclusively Cantonese for over a century. Housing discrimination restricted Chinese Americans to a limited number of neighborhoods, affecting the geographic distribution of authentic Chinese restaurants to this date. And twentieth-century protests by labor unions threatened the very existence of Chinese food in the U.S.(more…)
As bad as the pandemic has been, we’ve all needed to look for small silver linings along the way. In my case, it’s been the rediscovery of the mid-20th century Toishanese/Cantonese favorite, pressed almond duck.(more…)
In May, I painted a rather pessimistic picture of the early effect of the coronavirus pandemic on Chinese restaurants in the United States. A combination of xenophobia, prescient caution in the Chinese-American community about dining out, as well as a high concentration of mom-and-pop enterprises, the Chinese restaurant industry seemed to be perilously close to wide-scale collapse.
Los Angeles Chinatown looked particularly stark. In April, a good two-thirds of the Chinese restaurants had shuttered. The restaurants that remained opened for take-out only significantly pared their food offerings. For example, only a handful of dim sum varieties were available at the two remaining eateries, Tian’s Dim Sum and Keung Kee. These establishments were likely the least-known in Chinatown, until Ocean Seafood and Golden Dragon closed, eventually followed by Won Kok Restaurant, Long’s Family Pastry, Lucky Deli, CBS Seafood, ABC Seafood (which remained open for steam tray but not dim sum), and others.(more…)
Even in good times, a restaurant operation can expect a net profit of about 3% on sales. Employee wages are often 25 percent or more of restaurant costs, so it doesn’t take much of a decline in restaurant revenue in such a low-margin industry to trigger labor cutbacks.
But Chinese restaurants have been hit by a triple whammy during this pandemic. Not only have they been buffeted by the general economic disaster, but they have suffered additionally for serving Chinese food. COVID-19 originated in China, and from the beginning has been associated with unfortunate terms such as “Chinese virus” and “kung flu.” Immediately as the virus spread through China, business at Chinese restaurants in the United States, and indeed throughout the world, began to sink — even before the rest of the world economy and other types of restaurants became impacted.(more…)
A few years ago, I discussed the merits of ordering dim sum from a menu versus serving dim sum from heated carts. I argued that menu-driven dim sum is more conducive to creating new and better dishes, because offerings would not have to wheel around the dining room.
Carts have been dishing out longtime favorites like steamed barbecue pork buns, har gow, siu mai, cheung fun (rice noodle rolls), pineapple buns, turnip cake squares, lotus leaf sticky rice, and many others since arriving on the dim sum scene in the 1960s and 70s.
But America’s dim sum palaces are innovating all kinds of new, non-traditional dim sum items. Here are five ways they’re changing our expectations of Chinese brunch.(more…)