Looks like I’m the first one to the party. Welcome. Thanks, me.
For those of you who don’t know me, I fell in love with Chowhound in the early days of 2003. The resident Los Angeles hounds educated and informed me about all manner of regional, non-American cookery, and it’s been a crazy, wild ride ever since. I’ve since spent about a year and a half traveling through SE Asia, China and Taiwan with my wife, who I met back in 2004. She’s from Taiwan, and my then-newfound interest and education in regional Chinese cookery sparked a connection. In many ways, she was the key that helped me to unlock the less accessible mysteries of LA’s Chinese San Gabriel Valley, and that curiosity led to where I am today. Which is to say, an overinformed, opinionated critic of Chinese food with a breadth of experience to draw upon, though I am no expert. To some extent, I know what the Chinese expectations are, and can parse why things are presented or prepared a certain way, which may run afoul of non-Chinese expectations. I do speak and read some Mandarin, though I’m not fluent.
But in Portland, a town not exactly known for it’s cultural diversity (nor for it’s breadth of Chinese cuisine), I’ve found there’s not that many people like me. (If you’re out there, please contribute here!)
I’ve encountered people in other food boards that are unaware and/or uninterested in learning about regional Chinese cookery, instead happy to sing the praises of places whose food would not stand up to any level of Chinese scrutiny…
One of the things I’ve observed in my time here is that this is a small town-- certainly smaller than LA, and as a result people know their neighbors. And when you know your neighbors, it’s hard sometimes to be truthful with them about their faults. While that makes for a better overall quality of life, it means there really is no source (that I’ve found) of truly critical (albeit honest and informed) opinions. I’ve had a few exchanged with Michael Russel of the Oregonian, and he does seem to have at least some practical knowledge of having traveled in Asia, and knowing what certain foods are meant to taste like-- without being “reinvented” for a Portland taste or aesthetic. That’s a valuable perspective, and a rare one, as far as I’m concerned. And that’s what I hope to contribute here, as long as there’s an audience willing to listen, and to have a dialogue with.
Please let me know you’re out there. Let’s have a conversation.