The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

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  • China

    They have Chinatown in Chinacountry!

    Sunday, August 17th, 2008

    I was in Beijing and I saw a mall called Chinatown — 唐人街 (tangrenjie). 唐 refers to the Tang Dynasty, still considered the glory years in Chinese history. So Chinese people are sometimes referred to as 唐人, and è¡— is street. So it’s Tang Person’s Street. There is no consistent name for Chinatown in Chinese. […]

    The Fortune Cookie (Chronicles) goes to China

    Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

    My editor, Jon Karp, just let me know that we’ve licensed Simplified Chinese rights (Mainland China) to Shanghai Sanhui Culture & Press. Which is very very exciting. Yay. Even if fortune cookies won’t be sold in China, a book about them will be. The best part of foreign rights is how they are titled and […]

    Is this where fortune cookies go to die?

    Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

    Hal Bergman, a local Los Angeles photographer, stumbled upon three dumpsters full of fortune cookies. LAist has an interview with him. Here is the entire photoset on Flickr. I was looking at the cookies. The two largest manufacturers of fortune cookies in LA are Peking Noodle and Umeya. These don’t look at either.

    Chinese food for Chinese vs. Chinese food for Americans

    Sunday, August 5th, 2007

    Nicole Mones writes about the duality of Chinese food for Chinese people and Chinese food for Americans in The New York Times Magazine. What’s the difference? According to Mones, “American taste” means Chinese-style dishes prepared with a limited range of pre-mixed sauces, usually no more than 5 to 7 per restaurant (These sauces — sweet and […]

    Wow. The cardboard in porkbun story was a media hoax to get ratings?

    Thursday, July 26th, 2007

    So a few weeks ago there was a huge ruckus about a Chinese television report that showed a vendor mixing cardboard into his bun filling in Beijing. It ran around the world — picked up by CNN and Fox News — because it seemed so resonant with the dominant narrative at the time (food scandal […]

    More Culinary Xenophobia? Pat Oliphant’s Chinese Restaurant Cartoon

    Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

    Click to enlarge. Lots of debate in the Asian American circles over this Pat Oliphant cartoon commenting on the recent food issues in China. If you can’t tell well enough. It depicts a well-to-do white couple in an alleyway behind the “Inn of the Lucky Happiness Chinese Restaurant” picking through scraps from dumpsters and trash […]

    A How-To Menu Guide for all the Laowai!

    Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

    Ben Ross in China has compiled three years of culinary exploration into a very handy guide to ordering Chinese dishes in China, complete with pictures, phoenetics, and descriptions at It’s also useful for people who want to order “off the menu” or more authentically at an American Chinese restaurants. It’s not the most aesthetically […]

    Imagine if America only had 100 restaurants today. That was China’s culinary scene in in 1976

    Thursday, July 19th, 2007

    Oliver August‘s new book was released yesterday — Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China’s Most Wanted Man (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). It is the product of seven years of working, hunting for Lai Changxing, a country-boy turned billionaire fugitive and a fascinating tale of how China is wrestling with its new freewheeling wealth. […]

    So why are Chinese restaurants all over the world? (Because the Chinese are all over the world)

    Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

    Professor Peter Kwong, who studies Chinese immigration and labor issues, has an amazingly detailed piece about the Chinese diaspora on the Yale Global web site. About 180 million people around the world have moved countries since the end of the Cold War, about one-tenth of them are Chinese. The Chinese have spread to 150 countries. […]

    WP: Culinary xenophobia? A Taste of Racism in the Chinese Food Scare?

    Sunday, July 15th, 2007

    Jeff Yang discusses the China food scare in today’s Washington Post Outlook section — in a piece titled “A Taste of Racism in the Chinese Food Scare.” Culinary xenophobia is a fascinating topic, and long tied into the Chinese presence in America from its earliest days. (see my General Tso’s Kitty post from before). Jeff […]

    Australia is (literally) a penniless society and other notes from the Chinese restaurant frontier

    Thursday, July 5th, 2007

    The Australians eliminated their penny in 1991 — without too much of a fuss, so all cash transactions are rounded to the nearest five cents. Some Australians feel that Americans shouldn’t give up the penny without a fight (and indeed Americans for Common Cents seems to be holding the torch there). Other thoughts. Southern hemisphere, […]

    Despite Castro (or because of him?), the Chinese are back in Cuba

    Monday, June 25th, 2007

    Nathanial Hoffman of McClatchy discusses the resurgence of Chinese in Cuba, (and with it, a new breath of life for El Barrio Chino, which was once the largest Chinatown in the Western hemisphere (yes, bigger than San Francisco and New York Chinatowns). Massive numbers of Chinese originally arrived in Cuba to work on the sugar […]

    NYT: Why immigration reform affects your Chinese takeout

    Sunday, June 17th, 2007

    Tim and Nina Zagat of (yes as in those Zagats) have an interesting op-ed piece in The New York Times about why Chinese cuisine in the United States is stagnant — and they blame it (partially) on the difficulty with getting visas for Chinese chefs. This is something that I have thought long and hard […]