After a lovely dim sum lunch with my cousin at Jin Fong, (the new iteration which I wish were as large as the old version wrecked by Covid), I went to the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) at 215 Centre Street.
A more highly designed version of MOCA has been developed by sculptor and architect Maya Lin although it’s unclear whether when or if it will materialize be due to budgetary issues. While the current museum isn’t as glamorous as the proposed new one purports to be, it does its job admirably, showcasing interesting material devoted to Chinese American history.
In the entrance two young men in costume were learning the Chinese dragon dance, coached by an older guy who was clearly an expert. Moving past, I went through the exhibit, In a Single Step, which deals with the many layers of the Chinese American experience in the U.S.
I knew that the Chinese were, (and still are), treated badly as expressed by this old poster. I did not know that a ball of opium was as big as a basketball. One section of the exhibit presents examples of “yellowface” in mainstream culture while showing how Chinese Americans have survived in economically marginalized environments.
The area devoted to Chinese food is both poignant and funny, exemplified by a magazine ad that manages to put down China’s superb cuisine and dredge up the social mores of the sixties. I remembered a radio jingle “La Choy makes Chinese food … swing American” and cringed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbgiV1jYIrY
Another food-related exhibit Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America opened under MOCA’s umbrella at 33-33 39th Avenue, Flushing, NY, explores how Chinese food is interpreted through personal stories of 33 Chinese and Asian American chefs. (Sounds worth seeing.)
If visiting MOCA interests you it’s currently open only Saturdays with other days by appointment.
No way on this earth will either you or I produce a genuine Chinese meal. However, I’ve made sesame noodles many times (and would make them more often if I had the will power to keep peanut butter around.)
Serves 4-6 ( seams skimpy for six —maybe double recipe for that number)
8 ounces Chinese egg noodles (or your preferred kind of noodle)
2 large carrots, grated
1 cucumber, grated
Half of a small red cabbage, finely chopped
1/2 cup thinly-sliced scallions
Toppings: chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, lime wedges
Sesame Peanut Sauce:
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2–3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup (optional)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder, ground ginger, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until combined. Taste and add extra soy sauce, if needed. If sauce seems too thick (it should be thin enough to drizzle), whisk in a tablespoon or two of water.
Cook the noodles al dente according to package instructions. Drain, then rinse with cold water in a colander until noodles are chilled.
Add noodles, carrots, cucumber, cabbage, scallions and sesame peanut sauce to the bowl. Toss until evenly combined.
Serve with passed garnishes.
Who needs take out?