In the black night sky, Against the stars of distant galaxies, a lonely Chinese manto Steam rises from the cake, flanked by red pepper oil like a hot ring of Saturn. This is not a newly discovered solar system; It is one of the 100 artworks in #ChineseFoodiesOfIG100a digital gallery of illustrations welcoming viewers to dining tables in the Chinese diaspora.
Curator Jenny Lau, a Briton from London who writes and coordinates events about Chinese food under the pseudonym Celestial Peach, grew up in Hong Kong until the age of 11, when she and her mother moved to a London suburb. She is one of about 45 million Chinese of Chinese descent who live outside mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and together they make up an amazingly diverse Chinese diaspora found in nearly every corner of the world.
Starting in June of 2019, Communications Consultant Lau daily interviewed 100 chefs, food writers, food artists, and food entrepreneurs from across the China diaspora for an Instagram series called #ChineseFoodiesOfIGand ask them questions via email such as “Where are you from? Where are you from truly From? “,” What’s in your fridge? and ‘What does Chinese food mean to you? For more than two years, Lau has published an interview nearly every week, her topics ranging from Chinese-Malaysian-British photographer Louise Hager to Chinese-American culinary star Grace Young. Last October, after her 100th interview, the series crowned the series with #ChineseFoodiesOfIG100 An exhibition, commissioned by 40 artists, mostly of Asian descent, to illustrate the interviewees’ answers to the question, “What does home taste like?”
“I knew I wanted to make my interviewees feel comfortable and to set some kind of interview tone,” she says of the question. “It was a sign of…” I want you to show me your truth. “
Identity can be a precarious topic among the Chinese diaspora, a group that has formed permanent communities in an estimated 130 countries and faced xenophobia in many of them. The diaspora began in the 1500s, when Chinese merchants established Chinatowns throughout Indonesia, and began centuries of emigration throughout East and Southeast Asia. In the 19th century, millions of Chinese workers settled in Europe, Africa, the Americas, and other parts of Asia after the Opium Wars forced the Qing Dynasty to allow mass immigration. And in the last century, millions of people from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China settled around the world in search of economic opportunity and political haven.
The descendants of these migration waves were formed and formed by each of the adopted homes. In Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, home to some of the largest Chinese populations in the world, centuries of intermarriage between the Chinese and the peoples of Southeast Asia have produced a mixed Peranakan culture, and in Peru, the Latin American country with the largest Chinese ethnic group, the Peruvian Chinese people are responsible for rice hoopa Peruvian national dish that reminds us Oatsor fried rice.
Although millions of Chinese live in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia, Lau says that in much of the English-speaking world, “all the people who talk about Chinese food that are described and practiced are white.” A few years ago, An agent rejected a book suggestion by Lao, saying, “I’m sorry, we’re already representing Ching Hee Huang,” a Taiwanese-British food personality. “This very high profile client with a list full of white men was telling me she couldn’t even entertain me for being on a list with another Asian woman,” Lau says. with #ChineseFoodiesOfIGLao passes the microphone to the Chinese so they can tell their own stories, on their own terms.
One hundred people interviewed at the exhibition share countless delicious iterations of home in the Chinese diaspora, brought to life in visuals drawn from disciplines ranging from illustration to 3D design. David R. Chan, a historian of American-Chinese restaurants, told Lau that “ripening [the taste of home] He was very Americanized – we didn’t even celebrate Chinese New Year, but he absorbed culinary influences from Taiyuan, his wife’s hometown. Cartoonist Caitlin Chan provided his answer with cartoon postcards of vegetables hovering over a frying pan and men eating hot dogs. Erika Ho, a Los Angeles-based designer, painted a psychedelic red-green print of shrimp, tamarind, and coconut to depict the Peranakan roots of Jian Lu and Brian Oy, Malaysian-Australian owners of Australia’s first massive Asian grocery.
Together, these illustrations create a virtual community. One of the things I always hear from other expats is ‘I feel like I can’t be myself,’ or ‘I feel like I have three or four versions of myself…’ Well, maybe I don’t have to choose, because we all play those the game “. Interviewees told her they cried to answer her questions, and readers told her the same thing. Artists, speakers and viewers formed friendships. Travis Post and Lisa Zack, owners of Sichuan’s Play of Clouds restaurant in Seattle, met Tiffany Run, the chef behind the Taiwanese pop-up Ba Ba Lio, through #ChineseFoodiesOfIGand since then began to collaborate in cooking, says Lau.
Amid the variety on display in these illustrations, Lau says, “There was something really connecting these 100 different answers. I think that’s what I call Chinese.” It’s impossible to define, but Lau says that for Chinese people who live far from mainland China, “Chinese” may be “more to do with this process of having to define what home is.”
Many of the interviewees found their home in comforting local Chinese dishes that they had eaten during childhood. “It tastes home like all the childhood dishes I had when I was a little kid in China,” said Berlin-based recipe developer and food writer Sissi Chen. “My favorite dishes were fish-smelling eggplant, whole roasted chicken, tomatoes, fried eggs and stir-fry Baoziand just simple manto With any kind of hot dishes cooked. “
But for many in the diaspora, home tastes like a mix of Chinese foods and foods remarkably not Chinese to the naked eye. “Cantonese cuisine clearly values fresh ingredients, and so my parents loved looking for the best that the Pacific West Coast had to offer,” said Li Fman, Chinese-Canadian food writer and founder of the Chinese Restaurant Awards. “Rock cod fished by my father, wild arugula collected by my mother, and locally-bred chicken made its way to our dinner table.”
Malaysian-born, Australian-raised, London-based recipe developer Helen Goh said, “Home tastes like congee with all the trimmings. And it’s also paralyzed on Friday nights when I eat Saturday meals with my husband and kids.”
Many of those interviewed described the house the women had built. Growing up with Hokkien, Hainanese grandmothers and a Filipino assistant, Sihan Lee, a Singaporean restaurateur in France, said, “If you ask me what home tastes like, it would be a joint effort of the three female forces in my life. Humble bowls of chicken adobo, spicy Szechuan vegetables dipped in pork. , old cucumber cooked in broth until tender and cooked, as well as Hainanese beef stew with a bowl of steamed white rice.
If there’s one thing these interviewees share, it’s that their kitchens are windows to their most vulnerable selves. “For many of these people, the dining table is a safe place, and it’s comforting, because home cooking allows you to embrace your Chinese flair,” says Lau. American Food Podcast Director Coral Lee said. Burmese-Chinese-British cookbook author Emily Chung said it tastes like “warmth and comfort, [a] “A hug in a bowl,” this feeling. “
When the COVID-19 pandemic triggered an onslaught of racism against Asia about nine months into the project, the interviewees’ answers became more accurate. Gabe Chan (@woke_wok), a Chinese-Canadian chef, said in his interview: “My heart goes out to all the Chinese restaurants that are struggling during these times and the racial violence that has and will continue to happen (let’s be honest). Chinese food has been around before us and will be around long after us even with Epidemic. Chinese food forever.”
Amid this rise in xenophobia, Lao hopes the show’s dazzling food images and poor interviews will help non-Chinese viewers understand the vast and diverse Chinese diaspora. “Come over to eat, keep the conversation going,” says Lau, before adding, “And help with the dishes.”
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