THE ASIAN CONFUSION 



THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT CHINESE FOOD 

AND “ CHINESE BUFFETS”


The New World Order   —  Asian Con-Fusion  —  Our world is shrinking and we are a country of many people, ethnicities and religious beliefs and it does in a sense boil down to two things.  Our commonality in life centers on food and music.  I tell things that are true, I am a big fan of dishes from around the world, my favorite mentor, hours of TV envy Chefs Anthony Bordain and Andrew Zimmern and where they travel.   I don’t go that far in what Zimmern eats, maybe 80% and maybe when  I was younger and braver,  I would probably like some of the things on a dare but not at 78.  

I am not here to bash buffets, but trends are changing and many younger intelligent people look more carefully at what they eat.   Buffets took the heaviest toll during this pandemic and many so call Chinese buffets are just conglomerate dishes thrown together and there is the problem.  I call these place Asian ConFusion  —
  

It Hit Buffets Hard —  Many poorly run buffets were shut down during the pandemic and deserved it.  We found problems with them before the pandemic.    If you eat at six or seven, when was that steam tray cooked  — three, four, hours or yesterday?  Nothing gets thrown out but reused chilled and mixed with fresh, reheated for lunch menu in many cases.

Five Decades Ago  —  About six decades ago, when I first stated writing about things,  It was a real treat when Mom said we were going out for Chinese Food.  It was a restaurant about a block away and we knew the owners, people who were of all things actually Chinese.   We had Chinese Restaurants with the usual soups, Egg Drop, Wonton, Hot and Sour, Egg rolls, Spring rolls and Vanilla Ice Cream for desert. 

Rice.  Everything landed on a bed of white or fried rice like Shrimp in Lobster sauce,   Hot right out of the wok and cooked to order over 700-1000 degrees of heat.   And it was spot on, fresh, hot, safe to eat and delicious.  That has since changed and the Chinese Oddball Mixed Buffet was born  — COMB  — 

When I went on my journey to discover,  “ What else is out there to eat”  and add to my culinary skills and knowledge, much of it driven ( well courtesy of  Military.GOV who sailed or flew me there) westbound toward ASIA and brought to the US as foods supposedly typically called Chinese Food.  Not what I saw there, but what was created here.

Today there are fewer Chinese style higher sit-downs, street type vendors, mobile or small open eateries, specializing in one particular dish and more buffets,  and that brought us to the “ Asian Fusion” .


Asian Fusion —  
As we assimilated more refugees from LAOS, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, their dishes added to some basic Chinese dishes like Egg and Spring Rolls, the usual soups,  and lots of Chicken  — Many of those still living in the Orient came from China but settled in the aforementioned countries.   Food and processes are similar with small differences.  Fusion put the spin on things.

Few standalone Chinese full service restaurants exist today in my area, luckily my favorite Oriental habitat in Tampa Bay is ZOM HEE and on Park Blvd,  going west just past Starkey Rd.  ( about 100 yds on the right ) in Seminole Florida. The owners,  three generations, thirty-five plus years I have been going there and they maintain their standards. I know Kenny, his Dad and even the kids help on weekends.  It’s  was a seven day operation and finally after forty years 7/29/2021 Dad said we are taking Tuesday’s off.  Tuesday is the usual slowest day in the restaurant business.

He’s always busy, the foods great, consistent,  bountiful and fresh, old school.   Dad rules the kitchen and has for forty years.  And it’s kept clean.  Not on the violations list of the food police   The decor shows it’s traditional age, old school, and it’s nostalgic looking like places I ate in forty-five years ago. I think thats what I like about it… not that it’s the same in Hong Kong,  A different world. 

Countries of origin create a problem as those Cultures formulated what winds up on your plate and we all hope that rules and regulations put in place here in Florida by the Agricultural Department and county inspectors are followed to the letter and there are no exceptions because of health, ignorance, indifference or financial digressions…  


Asian Fusion  —  Or Asian Confusion  — HARDCORE FACT — Hardest hit during the pandemic were places advertised as CHINESE buffets.  In this section  I believe all six of those Chinese Buffets in my county and joining counties alone failed the Food Police tests.  People are being more cautious, diets are changing due to obesity, trends change, authenticity challenged, poor service.  Horribly it’s all true!  See   data.tallahassee.com 

POINT:  Two of the largest held on for years, beyond belief and finally closed, I like many who served in the Asian Peninsula and it was like De-Za-Vu.   But they soon opened up under another name,  or a Brother-In-Law same scam, same dirt, new name…I bear witness to that fact, I have seen those discrepancies and the stale food they put out.  Im not picking on them,  but they have a slightly different code of ethics than I have.  And I am not anyones friend when I see what I see.

POINT:  What was OK back home does not work here and that led to four of them getting nailed for Human Trafficking, Some of the management failed to realize people in this country have rights.  Even immigrants or students. A huge task force from Clearwater and Tampa got on their case and several went to jail, fines and closures.   SEE TRAFFICKING

POINT:   I tried all of the places listed  on my webpage for the writeup that normal food critics do.  The food at that time was edible but over time after arrests, it went downhill from there.   OK.  They deserved to be fined, temporarily closed and for three of them forever.   What bothered me the most was attitude, seeing ungloved food being handled and some of the bathrooms not exactly monitored and filthy would drive me up a wallThose same bathrooms were used by the help handling your food.  And in some areas that too is a violation.

POINT:  And thats not taken into consideration if the food had survived three days of heated-chiller-heated again-chiller-heated.  We call that reconstituted leftovers.  Testing:  I have sterile plastic sticker I could put on the edge of a tray , come back three days later and see the same food, tray never cleaned and gotcha!

POINT:    Over 40,000 Chinese style buffet restaurants are in strip malls or occupying real estate along crowded boulevards, more common than McDonalds, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken combined.  In places like New York, American-Chinese restaurants have deeply embedded themselves within the city’s cultural fabric thanks to garishly lit picture menus, trapezoidal takeout containers, and pork-fried rice with fries and chop suey. Differences between a Chinese restaurant in China and an Chinese-American restaurant… 

POINT:  Bring people straight from China into the latter, and most likely they will be terribly confused by all the zodiac placemats, fortune cookies, and dishes smothered by an extremely generous amount of corn starch to thicken.  I brought Me Lai,  my mentoring exchange student  to dinner at a buffet and she just stared. 

POINT:  Little did we know that dairy products are seldom used in Chinese food, few dairies exit in China and that most of the take-out dishes she grew up eating can’t even be found in the mainland.   “People in China don’t eat fried rice.  The bulk of these dishes were created by accident. 

POINT:  Chop suey, for example, was invented in the nineteenth century by San Francisco chefs who threw a bunch of ingredients into a pan and unintentionally started a craze. It’s a money maker, rich, rice is cheap and filling.  Many of these dishes were created using available ingredients at the time because chefs didn’t have much else at their disposal. 

POINT:  The substitutions occurred mostly in the greens department: broccoli was swapped for kailan; carrots, peas, and white button mushrooms were put in place of mustard greens or shiitakes. 

POINT:  Americans lean toward white meat, whereas Chinese are more partial to dark which has more flavor… Good chefs cook with thigh meat for that reason, the meat had a better blood supply…   Bones don’t make a frequent appearance on the American-Chinese menus. “Americans don’t like bones”  —  

POINT:  Fortune cookies are Japanese,”   and are based on a Japanese confection called “tsujiura senbei”.   For a buffet to work you will see a host of American dishes added tot he menu for those who find what they see not appealing.

POINT: Sushi and Sashimi are not Chinese they are Japanese  —  Rice with various and quite attractive partners formed in appealing one bite, pieces.  At most buffets I can tell you the selection is basic almost all of the buffets  copy each other and know which selections are popular but not expensive.  You will see a difference when you attend a $100-150 dollar  Omakase master chef  Sushi - Sashimi personal dinner.

POINT:  Kim Chi is a Korean One vegetable dish like a slaw, heavily spiced, hot peppered Napa Lettuce and fermented, and not Chinese.  I love KimChi, IN SMALL NUMBERS.  But it has a problem with most alimentary canals, again  being made from the NAPA cabbage, which takes a long time to break down and digest actually fermenting and drowned in some of the hotter pepper sauces.  
WARNING:  With its popularity, It is active and produces when you are in sleep mode, and with contact with the colon enormous amounts of gas.  Soon we will see signs prohibiting KimChi lovers from riding in elevators or smoking.  The retorts are vile, I do not eat it any more.  So bad if you eat too much, you could clear a basketball  court.  Or windup sleeping on the couch — 

POINT:  Because of immigration patterns, Chinese restaurateurs in America traditionally represented a limited pool of people from areas like Fujian, Hong Kong, and Guangdong. This was the demographic that introduced recipes for certain dishes like Kung Pao chicken, Moo Shu Pork, and Orange Chicken—based off of Sichuan, Beijing, and Hunan dishes, respectively. 

POINT:  This has been changing over the last decade, especially with an influx of immigration from mainland China.  You'll see different types of Chinese food trends in countries across the board. “In Thailand, there’s a heavy Chaozhou population. India is Hakka.”

POINT:  There’s an unofficial network that connects American-Chinese restaurants across the nation. Kari-Out, makes most of the soy sauce packets in the United States. And much of the soy sauce is not soy-sauce.   Sugar, salt and brown food stain concoction.  Fold-Pak is responsible for two-thirds of takeout containers.   Chinese people don’t receive separate menus at American-Chinese restaurants; the only real “secret” is to speak the Chinese language. 

POINT:   In the Mecca’s of food like NY and San Francisco you’ll find more authentic street and High End Chinese food.   Many have in their name Golden, Garden, Lucky, and Happy in them. This isn’t incidental.  In China, restaurant names aren’t chosen for their quirkiness, but rather for their auspiciousness. This practice has carried over even in America. 

POINT:  The most interesting thing to me about Chinese restaurants in America is that while the food may undergo a dramatic transformation for the sake of the masses, the superstitions are left untouched.   The crystal ball, the fat happy Buddha, that bowl overflowing with gold ingots—even the cat with the moving paws (which is Japanese in origin, not Chinese)? Those pieces aren’t just decorations.   
They’re fengshui tactics to bring in more money, superstitions that have been transferred down through family lines over centuries. So while Chinese people may compromise their food, they definitely won’t adjust their rituals involving superstitions.  I would rather they work on the better food part…


TRANSFORMATIONS AND INDIGESTIONS


Interview, Insight  and Confessions Of A Chinese Buffet Owner  —  

POINT:  Buffets had its roots in the Swedish smorgasbord, which was originally a spread of appetizers — usually meats and cheeses — offered before the main course —  The Stockholm Olympics elevated the idea to the world stage in 1912, and the concept was expanded to include the main meal, with everything from soup and salad to dessert and more.   And it became popular because less servers needed,  and less headaches with help, just add a few more cooks, more profitable, sometimes.   

POINT:  Whats really funny is in two of the ten places we tested, most of the back help appeared to be Mexican or South American.  The DIY grill and Sushi bars were staffed Asian.

POINT:  Less Staff,  Less training, you need less highly paid staff,   Customers don’t get redo’s or returns, they don’’t like it,  they dump it and get something else.  

POINT:  Same food cooked every day.  Not chefs but cooks…  Bulk food purchase including things like cheap sacks of vegetables and cheaper cuts of meat, beat to death and served,  Odds are those who do eat the expensive stuff,  like Crab Legs and goodies,  there are many who don’t overeat and the crab legs are an attraction but few are good quality.

POINT:  We’ve only got so much room in our stomachs, and buffets count on filling that space quickly with low-cost, high-carb foods. When you hit the Chinese buffet, what's first on the table?  Probably the white rice, fried rice, and noodles. 

POINT:  Plate size is a huge factor in buffets, too. Most buffets will offer small, half-sized plates, ramekins for soup instead of bowls, and tiny dishes for desserts. That limits how much you can pile on your plate and carry, and once you’re back at your table you might rethink whether or not you really need that extra trip up to the line for another go. 

POINT:  One thing that’s probably huge, though, is the water glass. It’s essentially free for the restaurant, and it takes up space in your stomach.   More expensive food items will typically be surrounded by cheaper ones, and some places might even go as far as to keep the expensive items only partially full, in order to encourage you to take less and more of the cheaper.   That’s made even more effective by dividing expensive foods into smaller portion sizes. 

POINT:  So how can buffets minimize their food waste.  Science. What you're going to eat is very predictable. The restaurant probably knows what you’re going to pile on your plate before you do.   Food placement -  when you get in line. Around two-thirds of what ends up on your plate comes from the first few items you get to. 

POINT:  At a glance, the amount of food waste from a buffet might seem like it would be off the charts.  But in some areas, buffets are being put to incredibly good use combating food waste by putting it in the chiller overnight and serving it the next day.

POINT:  Humans waste enough food every year to feed around two billion people.  You probably know someone who cringes at the thought of heading out to a buffet. Eating out anywhere is putting a lot of trust in a stranger, and buffets ask you to trust employees and other customers.  You have to be out of your friggin mind to believe that.

POINT:  Hitting the buffet and going right to the seafood section might seem like a good idea, especially if it's piled high with things you just don't get often, like oysters and crab legs.   But buffets on a budget are not those places if you do not know seafood.


WARNING:   SeaFood — Not a Good Idea  — There are a few reasons you should think about skipping these, and the first is obvious: the potential for some serious food poisoning, as MedlinePlus says shellfish and fish are both extremely susceptible to contamination and the epidemic is world wide.  

POINT:  In the US, most of the seafood unless stated and certified locally is imported for distribution. To me fresh is when the boats come in to and I am standing there with a ten to twenty dollar bill in my hand. 

POINT:  There’s something else to consider, too, and it comes from an all-you-can-eat buffet operator who took to Reddit to dispel some mysteries about the buffet. When someone asked what food they would stay away from at all costs, the answer was  “CRAB LEGS”. 

POINT:  The TV show Deadliest Catch is a reality television series that premiered on the Discovery Channel on April 12, 2005. The show follows crab fishermen aboard fishing vessels in the Bering Sea during the Alaskan King Crab and Snow Crab (Opilio) fishing seasons.  The boats home at the Aleutian Islands port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  

POINT:  The crabs you see caught are the real crabs rated by size minimums and sex, quick frozen and sent fresh to fine restaurants and markets by food brokers who know good from bad.  What you see being caught is not what winds up on buffets usually harvested by other countries like Russia.

POINT:  

  1. Some ( albeit many)  buffets are the seconds, unsold inventory, broken pieces, undersized back legs etc, not what you might find in a select specialist honorable Crab house.  
  2. Adding to the problem, seafood is expensive ( good seafood) they are the bait the buffet uses to draw you in offering crab, shrimp, and mussels. And if someone there is from lands close and far away they will jump ahead of you and take as much as they can and leave you nothing because they don’t eat the other stuff and they are greedy.
  3. I went to the line three times and this one family was cleaning the tray as fast as it was loaded.  I had met the manager and he may not like what I was about to write the next day.  He came over and had his staff dish out the crab legs which were nothing to talk about.  
  4. This was common in all the buffets and because many immigrants come from countries where seafood is the main course , a family will come in and clean the trays of everything seafood. 
  5. Whats left is, will be then be picked over and handled by the customers with the same utensils, no gloves and in a Pandemic situation, this is stupid and extremely dangerous… since COVID-19 can sustain on metal.
  6. "I'm being serious," the  owner continued. "I have seen Chinese buffets at the fish market going and buying bottom of the barrel seafood, including crab legs past their prime. And then they don’t steam them properly either to save on volume.”  And when you see mushy particle substance in the water or legs, run fast, don’t walk away.
  7. The Redditor also adds that oysters are usually less-than-fresh, often imported and past their prime once they make it to the buffet table. If you’re not skipping these, you might be risking a trip to the hospital.  
  8. When it comes to dangerous foods, you might want to consider giving some of the other seafood (particularly raw things like oysters and sushi) a miss for the time being as they require hands on handling. Gloved because oysters can cut but not washed.
  9. Just think that buffet can get you COVID-19 and food poisoning all in one meal…There’s a huge potential for illness there, especially when those foods aren’t kept at the proper temperature.  Thats a real bad combination
  10. Aside from improperly cooked or stored foods — which can be a danger anywhere, not just at buffets — the other big danger is cross-contamination.   Cross-contamination can also happen anywhere, but buffets have more potential hazards. With all customers serving themselves, there's a huge chance for the transfer of germs on serving utensils. And it isn't hard for someone to use one serving spoon for multiple dishes. This is bad; please don’t do it. 


👺 
 Buffet Survival Issues  —  Best Answer is Not Now  —  Not Worth It —

  • Long sleeves making contact with the food or serving line is bad, especially during covid
  • People who might pick up a dinner roll, change their mind and put it back and is common
  • Look for telltale danger signs like spoon handles touching food
  • Other customers returning with dirty plates, not allowed...
  • Dishes that don’t have their own individual serving spoon or set of tongs. 
  • Since you’re already thinking about buffet safety, let’s touch on the sneeze guard.  Don’t go around it.
  • Take advantage of the small plates on offer.  They’ll minimize food waste and encourage you to take less food, which might be exactly what you want.  Don’t opt for a bigger plate, and make sure you’re seated as far from the buffet 
  • Since you know now that the first things you see are the majority of what you take, the experts also suggest that you break that pattern, take a look around first. 
  • See what’s on the menu, and if you know ahead of time that your favorite roast chicken is halfway down the buffet, you’re less likely to pile the carbs on your plate before you even get there.
  • And while you might be tempted to go without eating for the day before you hit the buffet, snacking on some fresh veggies before you head out will go a long way in managing the worst of your impulses.


REAL ORIENTAL FOODS

Japan  —  We credit the explanations to Benihana on Sushi and Sashimi as they work with basic Japanese cuisine in the United States but close enough to the real Japan.  They are many independent Japanese restaurants, some highly rated and expensive in the market with followings and reputations

Miso Soup  —  Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup consisting of a stock called "dashi" into which softened miso paste is mixed. Many ingredients are added depending on regional and seasonal recipes, and personal preference.

Thailand  —  Thai food is based on the five basic tenets of taste as expressed in the culinary world. In reality it is shared by many other countries in that part of the world.  They are:  SWEET, SOUR, BITTER, SALTY AND SAVORY.  Any dish will fit into one or more of these categories and to achieve the authentic Thai taste certain ingredients are called for.

LAO Food  —  Food and Music.  Every culture I have encountered, has its own DNA in these two fields.  Lao is interesting and in some cases tends to be controversial.  Mostly not true, the entire controversy stems because LAO food sometimes gets a bad rap based on spiciness. It’s only as spicy as the Host or Chef makes it.

Real Rice  —  Rice is my favorite side dish  and very popular with the takeout gang who make a meal of it in a small white containers with a metal hanger.  I love rice, it’s good for you and being bland and flexible it can be made exciting in a million different ways.  With chicken and vegetables its a real meal.

I use and believe in rice cookers. Yes,  many do it the old way but I use enough rice to to let the cooker do the thinking and it has never failed me. I have a Sanyo M100S, a great size for my appetite and friends. Measure, one click perfection.  I give it five stars.

08/21/2021   aljacobsladder.com