BY ROGER BAYLOR | PHOTOS BY DAN DRY
It was a pivotal moment in 20th-century geopolitics. America’s collective jaw dropped as President Nixon appeared on television wielding chopsticks during a banquet with the Chinese communists in Beijing. Mrs. Nixon was particularly adept with the utensils, having practiced diligently beforehand. It wasn’t clear whether ideological negotiation or table etiquette was the major takeaway from the telecast, or the trip. Change was in the air in 1972, but there was no way of foreseeing China’s quantum leap from economic basket case to influential world power. Nor was there any indication that the legacy of indistinct Chop Suey houses and La Choy Chow Mein in cans (it still exists) would eventually yield to 41,000 Chinese eateries across America. More than 70 of them do business in Food & Dining’s metro Louisville readership area. Their very ubiquity is key; since significant numbers of Chinese began arriving in
California in the mid-19th century, their hot pots have yielded to our melting pot. A diverse culinary heritage many millennia in the making has proven perennially re-adaptable, and today it’s clear that Chinese buffets, egg rolls and General Tso are as much a part of “real” American eating as burgers, barbecue and fried chicken. 45 years after Premier Zhou Enlai introduced the visiting Nixons to pot stickers, perhaps it’s time for a culinary reboot. Without leaving Louisville, how might we sneak a peek behind the Bamboo Shoot Curtain for a more realistic taste of an ancient land and its varied regional cultures? A local expedition of rediscovery begins at two restaurants with long and successful tenures in Louisville, each complementing a core lineup of tried and true Chinese dining options with supplemental “authentic” menus filled with regional specialties. Oriental House emphasizes Cantonese and an all-day array of Dim Sum, and Jasmine Chinese Cuisine specializes in classic Szechuan dishes. (right) Oriental House serves up Beijing roasted duck, the classic banquet dish known for its crisp, glassy skin and tender meat, decorated with artful garnishes.
34 Summer 2017 www.foodanddine.com
MAY - JUNE - JULY 2017