Do you have a Chinese takeout place on speed-dial? You know, for those not infrequent times when the urge for Chinese food is too overwhelming to ignore. KungPow Chicken, now! Sweet and sour shrimp, stat! Fried dumplings, with a side of fried rice … and some crispy egg rolls to boot. How about steamed pork dumpling? Or those fried crunchy and cheesy, lobster wontons? I could go on.
I can hear the professor now: “That’s not authentic Chinese gastronomy, you know? It’s been contextualized to American tastes.”
We know, Professor.
“Most people don’t know it, but there exist eight dominant, regional cuisines in China,” his pedagogy drones on. “And really, that’s just scratching the proverbial surface.”
We know, Professor! Go lecture someone else!
Chinese ain’t real Chinese; Italian ain’t real Italian; Mexican ain’t real Mexican; we get the idea. But look, sometimes we enjoy surrendering to the siren call of Americanized, ethnic cuisines. And now we have Jasmine Garden on speed dial.
This store front Chinese restaurant has been around for years, and with good reason. It’s quintessential Chinese-American: you don’t know how they make this stuff, you don’t want to know how they make this stuff, you don’t care how they make this stuff — because most of this stuff is just fried meats, breaded and covered in sugary sauces. And somehow that’s just fine by us. It hits the spot.
The cheese wontons are crisp and light, if a bit skimpy on the cheese part. Steamed dumplings are with a thick and enjoyable dough, and somehow six of them are not enough.
The house special of deep fried beef becomes the night’s favorite. Strips of lightly breaded beef with sauce — lots of sauce. It’s deep flavor without being overpowering.
The accompanying fried rice is on the lighter side, without being oily or heavy, working well as a general base for everything, especially the orange chicken, that classic among classics — at least on the American-Chinese side of things.
While you can skip the “Chinese doughnuts” (what’s Chinese about these?) don’t skip this place when that urge for Chinese food — as we know it — arises. Overall this is good American-Chinese fare. But the professor’s words still echo, causing us to wonder.
Has it always been that we’ve embraced the cultural contextualization of cuisine? Is there even an alternative? The sustained mantra is: “Give the people what they want.” But is this actually what we want? Do we know the difference?
We can’t help reminiscing back to past jaunts through the Chinese capital. Beijing, a thronged city, full of diverse peoples and even more diverse cuisines, spurred us to wondering how, or why, we have left unexplored so many authentic culinary iterations. But that’s another article for another time.