The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

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    Chef Peng, creator of General Tso’s chicken, passes away

    Friday, December 2nd, 2016

    I knew this day was going to come. And in fact as surprised how long he lasted, since we rushed to film him for our documentary when he was 91. But Chef Peng, our famed creator of General Tso’s chicken passed away at age 97. I was in the middle of the Nieman Foundation board […]

    Las Vegas “Chinatown,” Giant Mall Developments For Miles on End

    Sunday, June 13th, 2010

    I finally witnessed the famed Las Vegas “Chinatown” for the first time — which is a series of very large strip malls with Chinese and assorted other Asian businesses on Spring Mountain Road. The original called Chinatown Plaza (pictured above), which is anchored by a Ranch 99. The strip mall was conceived by Taiwanese American developer […]

    The Chinese Restaurant Workers’ View of America: Through Area Codes. Chinatown Bus Ads

    Monday, February 2nd, 2009

    These two are Chinatown bus advertisements for routes that go to the more obscure regions of the eastern United States. (Chinatown bus goes all over, not just Boston, NYC, Philly and Washington). Notice how they emphasize the area codes. That is because many Fujianese restaurant workers are not educated and thus don’t really read and […]

    My Worlds Converge: Fortune Cookies meets City Room

    Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

    This piece by Willie Neuman talks about fortune cookies (protesting the M.T.A.) on City Room. Some of the sayings (none by Confucius, as much as we can see) “If you cut transit service, this cookie will give you heartburn.” “Raising transit fares will wreak havoc on your love life.” “In a tough economy, it is […]

    Print Magazine: The History of a “Racist Font”

    Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

    Print magazine had an article by Paul Shaw on ethnic fonts (It ran in August but  I’m just getting to it now), which highlights the history of the ching-chongy chop suey fonts — which had become synonymous with Chinese restaurants during the first half of the 20th century. This is of particular issue to me, […]

    Happy oh-eight-oh-eight-oh-eight!

    Friday, August 8th, 2008

    It’s my holiday. Sort of. At least people think of it as such. I was even asked to write a piece on the day for the New York Times , which inspired all sorts of radio interviews. Here are some of the notes I’ve gotten from people thus far. From a former professor: “Best wishes […]

    Sneaking in on Google’s top search page for “fortune cookie”

    Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

    I noticed a few weeks ago that people were landing at my blog with search of just “fortune cookie” so I was curious where the book was on Google’s search results. It looks like I snuck onto the front page of results. I don’t even sell fortune cookies.

    幸运签饼纪事 (“Fortune Cookie Chronicles” in Chinese)

    Friday, March 28th, 2008

    Another random Chinese article…from a few weeks back, forwarded to me by my classmate from Beijing University Charlene Wang. I chose Charlene as a name for her in college, because her original English name was Beryl, and I was like nononono. You sound like some British grandmother. 华裔女记者掀起正统中餐热 李竞的新书《幸运签饼纪事》出版后带起了美国人的正统中国菜文化热。   幸运签饼是由日本人发明、”左宗棠鸡”不关左宗棠事、两代布什总统有特别留座的防弹中餐台,还有中国以外全世界最好吃的中餐馆原来在温哥华……这些有部分你或许知道,不过,更多的是你闻所未闻,这都是美国《纽约时报》华裔女记者李竞(Jennifer 8 Lee)走遍全美、横跨六大洲的游历收获,写成新书《幸运签饼纪事》,美式中国菜大发现加上正统中国菜的寻根,在美国带起了新的中国菜文化热。

    Meat vs. Rice, American Manhood against Asiatic Coolieism, Which Shall survive?

    Monday, March 17th, 2008

    So I spoke at the Library of Congress today. (Packed room! maybe 150 or so people, with people standing in the back. Sometimes I think, who are all these people and how did you hear about the book?) Anyway, Abby Yochelson, a librarian there, pulled some documents from my bibliography, including this one.  It is […]

    More Fortune Cookie Memoir: from Bill Stephens

    Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

    I’ve become quite the magnet for fortune cookie tales both real and fictional. Bet you didn’t know there was a whole genre of fortune cookie writing, but there is. Bill Stephens sent me an excerpt, chapter 25, for book proposal, ‘Uncorking & Forking: It’s Been a Good Life.’” Uncorking & Forking: It’s Been a […]

    More on the Baghdad Chinese restaurant: no Sweet and Sour Pork

    Friday, January 25th, 2008

    Media just loves the Chinese restaurant in Baghdad story. The Times of Lonndon also takes alook at the Chinese restaurant in Baghdad with a piece that is horribly headlined: “Chinese chefs take a wok on the wild side in world’s most dangerous city.” Tidbits we learn It is probably the only non-Iraqi restaurant — and […]

    My galley, still on world tour, in Istanbul

    Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

    My galleys continue their world tour, I guess. This is in front of the Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. I guess it goes to say that anyone who wants to send me a picture of my book in a weird place, please send it in.

    No justice! No noodles! Restaurant workers stand up for their rights

    Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

    I did a blog post on City Room on Wednesday about Chinese restaurant workers organizing for City Room. With chants of “No Justice! No Noodles!” (you got to love that) Chinese restaurant workers called for a boycott of Ollie’s Noodle Shop and Grill restaurants yesterday, claiming that the president of the popular restaurant chain was […]

    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.

    Stuck Elevator: The Super-Heroic Stationary Journey of Ming Kuang Chen (in Opera!)

    Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

    Ming Kuang Chen — the Chinese deliveryman who was stuck in an elevator for more than three days in 2005 — has apparently become quite the muse for creative artists. A movie script is in development, I’ve heard. I have a whole chapter in my book wrapped around him. And he also has been the […]

    The leading cause of death in the Chinese restaurant industry is homicide

    Monday, August 6th, 2007

    Peggy Lim of The News and Observer in North Carolina has put together a touching profile of Song Ni, 34, a Chinese restaurant owner who was fatally shot at the end of July in Stantonsburg, N.C. (population 800) during a robbery in his home. His wife and two daughters were in the other room. In […]

    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 […]

    And when they came with their torches and nooses, the Chinese fled to restaurants

    Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

    Denver Riot of 1880 Jean Pfaezer’s new book: Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans is thoughtfully reviewed this Sunday in The New York Times. The book chronicles the waves of anti-Chinese violence that hit the West in the late 1800s, which culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in stages from 1882 to […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    Long-awaited Wakiya is now taking reservations starting July 25th!

    Friday, July 6th, 2007

    Eater informs us that Chinese-Japanese-French Wakiya at the Gramercy Park Hotel is now taking reservations: (212) 995-1330. It has taken more than a year and a half for Ian Schrager to get his upscale Chinese restaurant as Alan Yau of Hakkasan dropped Park Chinois (what is with all the French-Chinese?)  earlier this year because of […]

    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, […]

    Is Mitt Romney Sticky Rice? Well, Supposedly the Chinese Voters Might Think he Is

    Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

    Frank Phillips of The Boston Globe has a piece discussing the seemingly awkward translations of candidates names into Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) as required by law. According to the article, Mitt Romney could be read as Sticky or Uncooked Rice, Fred Thompson as Virtue Soup, and Tom Menino as Rainbow farmer — or worse. The […]

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