Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Shifts in sources of immigration and their consequences

Joshua M. Bernstein, "Dumpling grounds", Time Out New York, 2004 September 16-23.

Until ten years ago, says Dumpling Man owner Lucas Lin, the city's Chinese immigrants hailed from southern provinces, where thick-skinned dumplings are popular. Then travel restrictions eased and northern Chinese immigrants streamed into NYC. They brought with them the secret to the vellum-thin, steam-fried version...tangmian [a yeast free method of mixing dough with boiling water] is painstaking, but the payoff is softer dumpling skins and a sweeter flavor.
The above passage is from an article about the proliferation of dumpling houses in New York, among which Chinese joints are well represented. The article is quite correct: until recently, Chinese migrants to the English-speaking world were predominantly southern, usually Cantonese and, in the earliest stages of immigration to New York City, often from Taishan and its environs. Early Western perceptions of Chinese food were shaped by the specific local origins of Chinese immigrants and, unfortunately, by the paucity of professional cooks among their ranks.

So, what I really want to know is, when is Manhattan going to get cheap and plentiful South Indian food? Yes, I about the dosa cart on Washington Square South but let's face facts; Thiru is the exception rather than the rule. Pongal? Good but expensive. Jackson Diner? I said Manhattan, didn't I?