Nina and Tim Zagat’s op-ed in the New York Times blames 9/11 for the abysmal state of Chinese food in the United States. The visa restrictions prevent good Chinese chefs from working in the US. Salon picked up on the issue and says that can’t be it. Why is there good Thai, Vietnamese and Korean food? Those people are also subject to visa restrictions. Here are a few theories:
1. Thai, Vietnamese and Korean restaurant owners are relatively new immigrants to the US and have not lost touch with the authentic recipes. Because US-born Chinese are no longer in touch with their homegrown cuisine, restaurant owners have to import Chinese chefs and the visa restrictions are making this impossible (Zagat theory).
2. The type of Chinese cuisine that got locked in was Cantonese which is relatively bland.
3. The Chinese who settled in the US and Europe cook differently when they make dishes for Western people than they do for themselves (my theory).
4. China’s one child policy is to blame. Chinese chefs (almost always men) pass their secrets on to their sons, not to their daughters. With fewer sons, there are fewer good chefs (my Chinese dad’s theory).
Chinese food in the Netherlands is abysmal. Amsterdam has no good Chinese restaurants. There is one dim sum place near the Waterlooplein, but that’s it. The rest range from so-so to awful.
San Francisco, on the other hand, has a few good restaurants, but the truly outstanding ones are difficult to find.