Eddie Huang On Danny Bowein’s Mapo Tofu: It’s ‘Not Authentic’
In a profile for the Wall Street Journal previewing his upcoming memoir, Eddie Huang discusses the entirety of his life in the span of a breakfast (the version easily contained within a newspaper profile, anyways), focusing specifically on his reputation as a Rabblerouser With Dangerous Ideas. As a refresher course, let’s revisit a debate he had with Gilt writer Francis Lam about traditional food versus altered versions for the American palate:
“We have to be cognizant and respectful of the people and cultures we take from, and America is a place where we co-opt the shit out of everything and there’s no easier place to do it than food. It IS taking whether people want to admit it or not…I wish that Americans didn’t have the need to cut off the narrative from the motherland and butcher our culture into components for a tasting menu.”
But the funny thing about the nature of ideas: they evolve and they get away from you, to the point where they sometimes just don’t apply to certain situations. Consider his assessment towards fellow Asianish chef Danny Bowien, and the reception of his “weird Chinese” restaurant Mission Chinese:
“The first few times I went to Mission, I’d be upset,” he said. “It bothered me. I don’t get it. It boggles my mind. It challenges me. I think everyone likes Mission for the story and its place on the restaurant timeline. Now the tables have been turned, and I can see why people are mad at me for not coming up in restaurants the way they did. I look at Danny’s Mapo tofu, and I’m like: ‘That’s not how you do it. That’s not authentic. That’s not good to me. But that’s how Danny has decided to make Mapo tofu, and a lot of people like it….
“I’m the traditionalist now,” Mr. Huang said, digging into stuffed-cabbage for breakfast. “My heart tells me I’m mad at that Mapo tofu, but my head tells me: ‘Congratulations, Danny. You did it, man.’”
Notably, Bowien told the WSJ, “No comment.”