Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Theoharides on Chinese Food

I'm here, I'm here, my Puddlers. I know it seems like a long time, but I needed you to digest my epic Memorial Day post. Also, I took a long weekend for a Bachelor Party for my good friend Jeff. We all went to Fire Island. Needless to say there was plenty of beer drinking, swimming, cigar-smoking and carousing.

But now I'm back. We are going to get back to regular posting for the next few weeks. However, starting on July 15, the blog will be on a bit of a summer hiatus. I know, I know. You're probably saying, "How much work can this be, Domino? You don't post everyday and now you've got other guys posting for you out of the goodness of their hearts." And you would be right about all of that. However, I want to work on the redesign of the site as well as focus on my fiction for a bit. Starting around that time, the site may be down or you may see some slight changes, but I will definitely alert you when it is back up and running under the redesign. After the immediate redesign, I may throw up some short posts from time to time.  However, you can follow me on Twitter and on Facebook where I will be throwing up some posts from the archive to bide your time.

Overall, the break should last about a month to a month and half. And, I will be returning with extra energy and effort when I'm back.

Now, today's post sees Alex Theoharides discussing a topic very near and dear to my heart—Chinese Food.  I'll hand it over to Mr. Theoharides, even though he reveals some secrets about how I run things over here.

Theoharides On Chinese Food

Alex Theoharides

A few years ago, (well to be honest, more like six or seven years ago, Zeus, I’m old) I got in an argument with a pseudo-friend (I’ll call her Dumb-Dumb) over Chinese food. To be clear, we weren’t eating Chinese food. The argument was in fact about Chinese food.

Dumb-Dumb claimed to be from the city, which meant she grew up in New Jersey but had visited New York on the weekends, and had read enough gossip columns to know the trendy restaurants from the steaks houses of yesteryear. Based on her romps in the city, Dumb-Dumb claimed that the best Chinese food in the world came from an establishment known as P.F. Chang’s, located on a little island she called Manhattan (never heard of the island? Me neither. Gal was crazy!)

Now, I have nothing against P.F. Chang’s … well … (come on Alex, muster your inner snob, your audience of none expects it, and also please refer to yourself in the third person more often, as in, come Alex, you can do it, come on Alex, there’s nothing to it) … okay, so I have a lot against P.F. Chang’s. 1) It’s in no way, shape or form unique to NYC. In fact, there are branches scattered across the U.S of A. 2) The food is only as good as the nearest toilet. 3) Need I say more?

At the time, however, I had never heard of P.F. Chang’s and I responded to Dumb-Dumb’s comment by suggesting my favorite Chinese Restaurant, the one, the only Amherst Chinese.

“Well,” replied Dumb-Dumb, “It’s not in New York, so how good could it possibly be?”

“It’s very good,” retorted our always quick on his feet hero (me, myself, and I). “New York doesn’t own the patent on good food. There are hundreds of great chefs who would rather serve poop than cook on the garbage crusted streets of New York.”

“Why would anyone want to live anywhere but the City?”

And this is when things got ugly, which means, this is when I stuck out my rather sizable jaw and managed to piss everyone within earshot off with my ridiculous form of arguing, which boils down to a mixture of semantics and bull shit.

Lost in all my nonsense? My real argument.

Finding good Chinese food, like finding a good version of most ethnic food, is a problematic endeavor, made exponentially difficult by the multiplicity of definitions people have about what constitutes good ethnic cuisine. Of course, its my job, (one which Fraulein, excuse me, Editor Matt Domino pays me handsomely in … er … oh wait, that’s right I do this shit for free. God, please remind me again, why was I an English major?) to break these people down into neat little categories for you.

1) People who think the only good Chinese food involves Stinky Tofu and thousand year old eggs.

2) People who think that Chinese food should result in severe abdominal pain and rabies.

3) People who think that Chinese food should be served by pretty blond waitresses who don’t speak Mandarin.

And finally,

4) Geniuses such as myself, who realize that good Chinese food is a construct of my American food identity. Just as my favorite Indian meal will always be Chicken Tikka Massala, a meal invented by Brits, my favorite Chinese dishes are Moo Shu Pork and Sesame Chicken. Boring? Safe? Run of the mill? Yes. Yes. And No. Just because a dish has been westernized, doesn’t exclude it from being delicious. I love food. I love cooking food. Most importantly,  I love eating good food. I just don’t want to turn food time into a visit to the museum. If my palate tends toward Americanized versions of Chinese food, so be it. Its damn tasty food when done right.

Which leads my to my next point. Very seldom is my kind of Chinese food done right. Typically, the chefs, perhaps conscience that they are catering to dumb Americans, add too much grease and MSG and processed ingredients to their meals, which results in a disgusting mishmash, vaguely reminiscent of food. Good Chinese Restaurants, such as Amherst Chinese (which I miss more than any other restaurant on the East Coast) use organic ingredients in their dumbed down, American versions of Chinese food. They make their own pancakes, noodles, sauces and dumplings. They only speak Mandarin. And they get mad at you when you take too long to order. But by Zeus, they know their business.

Long story short, Dumb-Dumb was an idiot. I’m still bitter. And if you’re looking for good food a few hours away from any major city, look no further than Amherst Chinese in, where else?, Amherst, Massachusetts.


  1. Listening to Dumb-Dumb talk about Chinese food must have been really irritating for you. Probably almost as irritating as it was for the rest of us to read about a giant white guy with the last name Theoharides claiming dominion over all Chinese cuisine. New York really does have the best Chinese food though - way better than what we have in the Bay Area - although it probably doesn't come from PF Changs.

  2. Your blog about Chinese Food is really nice. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I like Chinese food very much . I have taken courses to learn Chinese recipes for being a good chef. I like visiting Chinese restaurants in weekend.