By Assunta Ng
“What’s the best place for Chinese food?” many Seattle Chinese are frequently confronted with this question.
“Drive up north,” many of my friends usually reply.
So I panicked when my childhood friends from Vancouver B.C. and Hong Kong called and said that they would visit Seattle together.
Where should I take them to eat?
It’s an interesting dilemma because many Hong Kong Chinese are not only foodies, but they are also very particular about the choice of cuisine.
So what should I do to present proper hospitality and appease all tastes? My friends have always taken me to dine at the best restaurants in British Columbia (B.C.) as well as Hong Kong.
B.C. is world-renowned for its Chinese cuisine and Seattle will probably take years to match its level. B.C.’s Chinese food is so refined that my Vancouver Chinese friends have developed critical tongues.
“You can take them to an American restaurant,” my husband suggested (so we wouldn’t have to compare our Chinese food with theirs).
“No, they are typical Chinese,” I said. “After one long day of shopping, I bet they will want nothing but Chinese.”
My friends usually eat Cantonese-style in B.C. I thought if I perhaps took them to a Mandarin-style Chinese restaurant, maybe they wouldn’t be able to tell that much of a difference?!
So after the shopping, the topic came up. Where to eat? Taiwanese, Shanghai-nese, Peking duck, hot pot, Japanese…and I casually mentioned Indian, giving her many choices.
“Your Seattle Chinese food still has some way to go,” she said. “Let’s go for Indian.”
My jaw dropped when she said Indian, but I was delighted they aimed at an adventure, and at cuisine which she would be less likely to compare with her hometown’s.
So what impedes Seattle Chinese food from raising its standard for the past decade?
Maybe it’s the fault of the Chinese community–many are content with low prices and big portions instead of quality Chinese cuisine. That’s the mentality of many old timers.
Strange, even when great chefs are hired to work in Washington state, they might lose their glow and effectiveness. Some complain they can’t find the right ingredients, while others groan that they are overworked with no assistants.
It’s a constant debate in the Chinese community. For the time being, I am content with what I’ve got. I’ve learned to adapt—not to be too picky. I don’t judge food purely on taste any more. Instead, I dwell on food’s freshness, and appreciate cooking with less grease, MSG, salt and preservatives. To me, delicious food requires the ability of the chefs to preserve the food’s original taste and nutrients, to reveal its true flavor and richness.
That is what makes eating joyful and interesting. (end)