Something I asked on Twitter last week... "Is it racist that I don't trust non-Asians when they make Asian food suggestions?" The answers varied. A few Asian people lol'd and told me they do the same. On the other end of the spectrum... someone suggested that it wasn't racist, but that it was ignorance. I won't try to deny that I have more than my fair share of idiotic views in life, but let me clarify what I really meant by this statement - I don't (generally) trust non-Asians when they preach about how deliciously authentic an Asian dish is i.e. don't trust whitey. Is that really so bad? It's not that I don't trust my non-Asian friends' perspectives on food. If you have good taste, you have good taste, but how can someone possibly comment on the authenticity of a dish if they have never had it from the source before? As I've learned from my engineering writing source... if you're just following fobs around, you're simply paraphrasing the source. Give credit where credit is due.
Last week I went with a friend to a small Chinese restaurant near Reading Terminal Market called Dim Sum Garden. The name is kind of deceptive, it's not so much a dim sum place in the traditional sense as it is a place that serves Shanghai style entrees and appetizers.
One of the things I most definitely wanted was 炸醬麵 (zha jiang mian), the Northern Chinese take on black bean noodles. DSG's version was super traditional - gobs of loosely strewn pork combined with a salty and slightly runny black bean sauce peppered with a hint of spiciness and sweetness. It was good, and to me... it was super authentic. My grandfather was from Northern China, ate this shit all the time, and cooked it for me all the time. See? I can say that because I've been there eaten the food, and have a direct comparison.
Shanghai shumai (上海燒賣) are apparently a sticky rice variant on normal shumai. Instead of gob of pork you get a gob of sticky rice with bits of pork inside. As much as I love rice, I think I enjoy pork more. I was not in love with this dish, but the texture was admittedly as interesting as anything I've eaten recently. See... I will not comment on the authenticity of this dish because I have no fucking clue if it's legit or not. I have never been to Shanghai, nor do I hail from there... so I will refrain from making assclown statements about whether it is "native" or not. They're fun to eat, I'll leave it at that.
We also got pan-fried dumplings (生煎包). These were, in fact, actually awesome. As good as most, and filled with more meat, than any I've ever eaten in Taiwan. The skins were super thin, borderline transparent, and they exploded with pork juices upon puncture. Again, I can make this statement because I know what the OG versions taste like, having sampled directly from the source.
What can I say about this? It's a cold dish of roasted pork (將肉). Flavor-wise it's pretty bland, you dip it in sugary soy sauce or vinegar soy sauce, but texturally it's fun to play with. The odd bits of cartilage make for curiously gelatinous nuances, adding a slight crunch to an otherwise plain cooking of meat. Twas good. Again, I have no clue where this dish actually originates, but it's something that was always on my table growing up... so I feel 100% validated in making asinine statements about it.
To conclude on this post which I'm surely to get bashed for... it's not that I completely distrust non-Asians when it comes to Asian food suggestions, I just find it ridiculous how often people make ridiculous commentary on things that they're completely oblivious to (I'm sure I do this too... and I hate myself for it). I mean, I'm sure an aeronautics engineer could explain to you how an airplane flies from reading books, but I wouldn't want them flying a plane. Similarly, you can tell me food is good, but leave out the commentary on authenticity unless you've hard the original for comparison. Until then, I'll continue to listen to Asians when it comes to Asian food.