Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Think I'm Turning Japanese (Korean?)

I'm approaching exam time here at school and it's in stressful situations like these that I begin to crave a lot of comfort foods. In my case this usually means taking some chicken thighs and braising them with mushroom soy, Xiaoshing wine, Chinese rock candy sugar, star anise and a lot of garlic. I like to enjoy this served over steamed white rice and a spoonful of garlic chili sauce whose hot acidity contrasts with the dish's fragrant sweetness.

Over the years in Atlanta, my cravings have adapted from Chinese-centric to something more pan-Asian: dirt cheap banh-mi, pho, soondubu and the banchan that accompanies it, bibimbap, a good bowl of freshmade ramen, izakaya snacks, rendang... With the exception of Chinese and the Japanese food I mentioned, it has been in Atlanta, and not my hometown of New York, where I was first introduced to exceptional Asian cuisine.

I've found that the massive hoards of the Chinese population in New York really dominate a lot of the flavors of Asian food there. Much in the way that authentic Chinese restaurants will still include General Tso's Chicken on their menus for the occasional non-Chinese diner, I've seen a lot of authentic Vietnamese and Japanese restaurants in New York include authentic Chinese dishes. It's a peculiar phenomenon, but it really happens.

In Atlanta, it's the polar opposite: massive hoards of Vietnamese, Korean, Thai... not so much of the Chinese. The authentic Chinese food is generally okay, not great, because there isn't a huge Chinese population here. Likewise, at authentic Chinese restaurants, you'll find Vietnamese and sometimes Korean options. The tables have turned. I don't think my father could survive with these options, but I know I've enjoyed it quite well.

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