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My Turn

Wayne Chan

From The Asian Reporter, V27, #23 (December 4, 2017), page 6.

If someone could come up with a matzo-ball dim-sum restaurant, we’d all be set

It’s interesting what one feels pride in.

Not long ago, I was playing tennis with a group of guys during our weekly match. We’ve been playing regularly for years.

During a break in play, we started talking. It’s usually never anything important. It could be about family. It could be about sports. It could be about making fun of what one of the guys is wearing. We almost make an effort to choose topics of discussion that have no real significance whatsoever. That’s what guys do.

But in this instance, we began chatting about something that’s very close to my heart. In fact, I can think of few other topics that would equal this one in importance.

What’s the best Chinese restaurant in town?

First, a little background.

In our tennis group, except for me, everyone is white. Therefore, if my buddies ask for recommendations about where to go for the best Chinese food in town, they’ve found the right guy to ask.

Well, except they didn’t.

They didn’t say, "Wayne, where’s the best Chinese restaurant in town?" They asked, "Where’s the best Chinese restaurant in town, Rhett?" Rhett happens to be Jewish.

Now, I’ve heard most of the stereotypes about how Jewish people know where all the best Chinese restaurants are, but when someone says something about it, my usual reaction is akin to gently tapping a young boy on the top of the head after he attempted to tell a joke, as if to say, "Nice try, young lad. Good for you for trying."

In other words, I’m usually a little condescending.

But in this case, my reaction was downright hostile. Why? Because when these guys asked someone where the best Chinese restaurant was, that someone wasn’t the Chinese guy standing in front of them.

It doesn’t matter that my friend Rhett actually did seem to know where all the best Chinese restaurants were. This wasn’t about the validity of the answers, this was about who should be PROVIDING the answers.

As Rhett was calmly rattling off the names of four or five restaurants, I chimed in, somewhat indignantly.

Excuse me? You’re asking Rhett about the best Chinese restaurant in town? What am I, chopped liver? As a matter of fact, if you were interested in chopped liver, then you should ask Rhett! But for Chinese food, don’t ya think you should be asking me?!?

I wish I had been quick enough to have actually come up with the chopped liver line on the spot. Nevertheless, I made my point clear.

Here’s the thing about pride. It doesn’t matter that I don’t own a Chinese restaurant, or that I wouldn’t be cooking any of the Chinese food my friends wanted. For some bizarre reason, my pride seemed to dictate my belief that my Chinese-ness made me uniquely qualified to authenticate the location of the best Chinese restaurants in town.

On the other hand, is that really so strange? If the tables were turned and the guys asked where the best Jewish deli was in town — I would have immediately chimed in with, "Let me tell you, you’ve got to try a blini over at Mortons, they’re to die for" — I think Rhett might be a little peeved.

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