Books & arts
Immigration on a plate
A bao in every steamer
The development of Chinese-American cuisine reflects the community’s own upward trajectory
For several years, beginning in the mid-2000s, devotees of Chinese food on America’s east coast obsessed over a mystery: Where was Peter Chang? A prodigiously talented—and peripatetic—chef, Mr Chang bounced around eateries in the south-east. One day diners at a strip-mall restaurant in suburban Richmond or Atlanta might be eating standard egg rolls and orange chicken; the next, their table would be graced by exquisite pieces of aubergine the size of an index finger, greaselessly fried and dusted with cumin, dried chillies and Sichuan peppercorns. Or by a soup made of pickled mustard greens and fresh sea bass, in its way as hauntingly perfect and austere as a Bach cello suite. A few months later, Mr Chang would move on.
He now seems to have settled down, running a string of restaurants bearing his name between Rockville, Maryland, and Virginia Beach. His latest—Q by Peter Chang—in the smart Washington suburb of Bethesda, may be his finest. The space is vast and quasi-industrial, with brushed concrete floors, massive pillars and not a winking dragon in sight. Order a scallion pancake, and what appears is not the typical greasy disc but an airy, volleyball-sized dough sphere. Jade shrimp with crispy rice comes under what looks like an upturned wooden bowl (perhaps, you think, for the shells). On inspection the bowl turns out to be the rice. Thumping through it with a spoon reveals perfectly cooked shrimp floating in shamrock-green sauce.
现在他似乎已经安定下来了，在马里兰州罗克维尔和弗吉尼亚海滩之间经营着一系列以他的名字命名的餐馆。他最新的餐馆Q by Peter Chang位于漂亮的华盛顿郊区贝塞斯达，可能是他餐馆中最高档的。餐馆空间很大，有点工业化的感觉，有刷过的混凝土地板，巨大的柱子，没有一条眨眼的龙。点一份葱油泡饼，你看到的不是那种典型的油腻的饼盘，而是一个通风的、排球大小的面团球。虾仁锅巴，下面是一个翻过来的木碗(也许，你认为，是用来装壳的)。细看，这碗原来是米饭做的。用勺子敲一下，你会发现煮熟的虾浮在三叶草绿酱里。
A tab for two at Q can easily top three figures—several times the outlay on an average Chinese meal. Nor is Mr Chang’s the only such restaurant in the area: like many big American cities, Washington has seen a rise in high-end Chinese cuisine. That is good news, and not just for well-heeled gourmands who can tell shuijiao from shuizhu. The culinary trend is underpinned by two benign social ones. Chinese-Americans are becoming wealthier and more self-confident; and customers are shedding old stereotypes about Chinese food. To put it another way: sometimes a dumpling is more than just a dumpling.
在Q by Peter Chang餐厅，两个人的价格很容易超过三位数——是普通中餐价格的好几倍。张鹏亮的餐厅也不是该地区唯一一家这样的餐厅：和许多美国大城市一样，华盛顿也见证了高端中餐的崛起。这是个好消息，而且是个不仅仅针对可以区分水饺和水煮的富有美食家的好消息。两种良性的社会趋势支撑着这一烹饪趋势。美籍华人正变得更加富有和自信；消费者们正在摆脱对中国食物的陈旧成见。换句话说:有时候饺子不仅仅是一个饺子。