Meanwhile, although racism persists, the pervasive discrimination of earlier ages has waned. Witness the presidential campaign of Andrew Yang, in which his ethnicity has scarcely been mentioned. Since the Chinese-American population is six times as big as 40 years ago, Americans overall are much more familiar with Chinese people and their cooking. All of which means that, in your correspondent’s fairly extensive experience, the new fancy breed of Chinese restaurants draws a heartening mix of Chinese and non-Chinese diners.
Not everyone is enticed. The same cult of authenticity which decrees that good tacos only come from trucks posits that the best Chinese food is found in humble settings. That is as inaccurate as the snobbery that Mr Huang decries. Chinese chefs are as ambitious as any others; a bowl of noodle soup no more stands for all of Chinese cuisine than a slice of pizza does for Italian.
In any case, authenticity is a slippery commodity. Recipes constantly evolve as people move and mingle. The chillies now considered essential to Sichuan dishes were actually brought to China by Iberian traders in the late 16th century. Hot dogs were originally German, pizza Neapolitan, bagels Polish—but now they are all American, and like America, infinitely varied.
The goat ribs at Duck, Duck Goat, in Chicago’s trendy meatpacking district, are more Chinese-ish than Chinese. So is the place itself—headed by a non-Chinese chef and kitschily decorated with paper lanterns and bright redwalls. The ribs come as a mesh of burnished meat stilettos with a wonderful chew, the sweetness of the glaze giving way to the goat’s irresistible gaminess. They spark fights over who gets the last one. They are as inauthentic, and as imaginative and lovingly created, as Mr Chang’s scallion dough sphere—and as delicious, which in the end, is what counts.
Duck, Duck goat店里的山羊肋骨，在芝加哥时髦的肉类加工区，比中国菜更加具有中国特色。这家餐馆本身也是如此——它的老板不是中国人，店面却用纸灯笼和明亮的红墙装饰。肋骨就像一层层磨得锃亮的肉质细高跟，嚼起来很好吃，肉汁的甜味让位于羊肉那不可抗拒的野性。肋骨们争夺上桌的最后一个席位。它们和张先生的葱油泡饼一样不完全真实，一样富有想象力，一样充满爱意，一样美味，这才是最重要的。