Tuesday, April 27, 2010

General Tso's WHAAT?

There was a really good comment on the Village Voice blog Fork in the Road.

Seth Gordon says:
It's an admirable menu, and it seems like he's on to something as far as the price for the neighborhood... but when you look at some of the prices in a larger context (i.e. extending the radius a few blocks) they're not terribly good. The prices may be 30% lower than you'll pay for entrees at white-people owned establishments on the LES but they're 200% higher than you'll find for similar fare in Chinatown.
I don't know what will make his $18 Hainan half-chicken better than, say, Sanur's, which is $6.75, or any of the other Malaysian eateries a little further South. And a "dumpling" - singular - for $6 also seems a bit out of whack when they're four or five for a dollar elsewhere, but I'm going to guess maybe that should have been plural. Or it's a really big frickin' dumpling.
Also, it's a bit odd for someone who's gone on about "authentic" cuisine in the past putting "General Tso's" anything on the menu, which is only authentic to North America as far as anyone can tell. But hey, I don't give a crap where the hell something was concocted or how "authentic" (as if that even means anything) it is if it tastes good.
But mostly, it's cool to see someone making stinky tofu in the neighborhood - assuming that it's legit and not the jarred sufu (a/k/a "fermented bean curd") one can already find in every Chinese market.

So I responded:

general tso's was invented in taiwan. read Jennifer 8. Lee's Fortune Cookie Chronicles. Additionally, Taiwan's Tourism Board even put the recipe in one of its magazines. You're comparing apples and oranges when you compare this restaurant with the rent I'm paying to Chinatown. #1, does Sanur's use a free-range chicken? #2 can you get drinks and sit with friends there? #3 are they employing sweat labor? Have you been downstairs at Grand Sichuan on Canal? The waiters are sleeping on cots downstairs so you can eat cheap. I do appreciate the feedback. I think that the public just needs to be more informed about chinatown and why things are exorbitantly cheap. Look at the meat you buy there next time, its color treated red. We are going to be 30% less than comparable Asian establishments you can go have a drink at on a Friday/Saturday and don't employ sweat labor or color treat meats. I fully admit, I will never be able to compete with those prices because I am trying to deliver good Taiwanese/Chinese food while not employing Machavellian ideologies where ends justify means. FYI, dumpling is definitely plural haha. Its more than say Vanessa's (which I love!) or prosperity (which i don't), but again, I'm going to deliver a quality blend without being at minetta tavern prices. I hope this makes sense. It is valid for you to point out that my claim of 30% less does not apply to chinatown, but I don't recognize their prices because its not a sustainable business model if you value human rights. That said, I do respect the Chinatown system because its the only way a lot of us get over here. We have to eat shit to come up. I just don't want to perpetuate it. Its difficult to give a straight answer on Chinatown because there is so much good and bad. "There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so." - Big Bill haha

I like it a lot when readers respond. I will defend/challenge, but it makes you better when people give you feedback. They just need to be informed, but this guy Seth def knows his shit. I'm just a nerd about Asian food. I hope people can see that there is A LOT of value at Xiao Ye for the quality of food we're offering, the ability to bring friends, go on a date, and not feel like you just funded terrorism or sweat labor LOL. Lastly, restaurants may list the same thing on a menu, but as you know, its one thing to write it on the menu, its another to deliver. That said, I can't wait for June to put this out for you guys!


  1. what, no love for prosperity dumpling? I gotta say, they make em like my parents do, nice and greasy

  2. Preach on.

    We can only be more informed and make better choices when we're educated about things going on behind the scenes.

    Fair wages and legit ingredients.