Friday, July 1, 2011

The Merits of Authenticity (Ken's Asian Taste)

Sliced Beef with Chinese Broccoli

The question of what constitutes "authentic" Chinese cuisine is something that actually makes me pause for a second. This might seem strange since, after all, I am Chinese. But as my friend Nicholas noted in this post, our determinations of what is or is not "authentic" ethnic cuisine often comes from people of said ethnicity. Of course, this comes with the stipulation that the person whose opinion is being sought has a proper grasp of authentic cuisine, but then what becomes of individuals who were born in a country different from their ethnic background? I bring this up not because I'm bored and have too much time on my hands (which I probably do anyway during the summer), but because, as a person of Chinese descent who was born in the US and has only gone to Hong Kong once in my life, my idea of what is "authentic" Cantonese cuisine is pretty much based on what I ate as a child at home and at Chinese restaurants that my family would go to. What if the only Chinese food I ate growing up was egg foo young, chicken and broccoli and mushu pork? Then my concept of "authentic" Chinese food would likely include these dishes because 1) I wouldn't know any better, and 2) I had never been to Hong Kong and seen that these dishes aren’t served there. So isn't my judgment of what is and isn't "authentic" Chinese food just as dependent on others’ concepts of authenticity as, say, my white friend who asks me for a restaurant recommendation to an "authentic" Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown

Well, if one of my white (or Caucasian, if you want to be PC, but I’m not so into being PC) friends really were to ask me where to go for some solid food in Chinatown, I would point them in the direction of Ken's Asian Taste. The Chinese name of the restaurant actually means "three brothers," so I have no idea why Ken is the only one who gets his name to the restaurant. Probably because his other two brothers don't know English, so that would make Ken a bit of a prick. But naming transgressions aside, Ken's Asian Taste serves up some really delicious Cantonese-style food. Is it authentic? Well, I’m probably not the one you should ask, but the food certainly fits my concept of authenticity, so that's enough for me.

No matter what Cantonese restaurant my family goes to, we almost always order the Sliced Beef with Chinese Broccoli (top), and Ken's does this dish very well. My Cantonese-speaking abilities are basically nonexistent, so I won't embarrass myself by trying to phoneticize the name of this dish, but trust me, this dish is great. While the beef at some restaurants is way too chewy and tough, the steak at Ken's is much more tender and succulent.

House Special Stir-Fry

The House Special Stir-Fry (that's a literal translation) is something that pushes the bounds on my ideas of authentic Cantonese cuisine. Asparagus? Macadamia nuts? Are those even found in Hong Kong and southern China? But you know what? I really don't care if this dish isn't "authentic," as it is simply amazing. The best part is that there are tiny strips of caramelized bacon that basically melt right into the small wedges of pearl onion, and then there are the chunks of squid, razor clams, and other similarly-textured sea critters (I honestly have no idea what seafood goes into this dish, but who cares, this stuff is off the hook).

Garlic Chicken

Garlic Chicken comes as either a half chicken or a whole. Go for the whole, as you'll probably finish it all up anyway. The meat is sufficiently juicy and comes topped with soy sauce and a shit ton of fried garlic. Maybe not the best dish to get if you're about to go on a date and would rather not smell like you're trying to ward off vampires.

Seafood Casserole

Finally, the Seafood Casserole is a dish that is done well enough here that my family usually orders it. An amalgam of seafood, tofu, and veggies, this dish really hits the spot in the winter, but be warned, the tofu traps heat like no other and, if you're overly eager, will leave you with dead skin peeling off of the roof of your mouth.

Not only is the food good, but it's also pretty reasonably priced, too. The four dishes above, with a couple of bowls of rice, come out to something like $65 and is enough to feed a family of four. So, while my concept of authenticity may not actually be correct, what I can tell you is that Ken's puts out some really delicious food that is definitely worth trying, authenticity be damned.

Ken's Asian Taste
40 Bowery
New York, NY 10013

No comments:

Post a Comment