Don't ask him to use chopsticks because he may very well go hungry, but once a fork is on the table there is no hope for boiled noodles... not even one of them will be left.
That would be David R. Chan, an American from Los Angeles, descendant of a Chinese family that moved to California in 1900. He's a third generation American with few ties to China, if not for his almond-shaped eyes. Mr. Chan may have only been to China five times, yet he can be called one of the greatest experts of the culture of its people - at least gastronomically. Hundreds of business cards, menus and receipts; more than 6,000 Chinese restaurants where David R. Chan has eaten over the last thirty years - 6,090 to be exact, concentrated in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Canada, listed on a spreadsheet by name, address and year of visit.
Even though the first receipt dates back to 1951, his culinary journey from spring rolls to noodles officially began in the seventies. "What drew my attention to Chinese food and the restaurants that serve it was the ethnic consciousness created among minorities in the United States in the late sixties. When I was in college I attended the very first class focused on the commingling of Asian and American culture. From that moment on, my interest in Chinese people living in the States quadrupled," Chan told Fine Dining Lovers. It was in this interest that he found his gastronomic passion, which made him change his mind. "As a child I didn't eat much Chinese food," Chan explains. "Both of my parents were born in Los Angeles in 1920. Aside from rare occasions or special banquets, I never even touched Chinese food. In the fifties and sixties Chinese food wasn't exactly appreciated like it is now. From 1850 to around 1960, Chinese immigrants came from the rural areas of Toishan, and their diet was certainly not representative of China as a whole. It was only in the mid-sixties that people from Hong Kong, Taiwan and many other areas moved to the U.S. - and they brought their culinary traditions with them."
It was precisely this evolution of Asian cuisine moving into Los Angeles that David R. Chan became passionate about; he was bewitched by fish dumplings, his favorite dish. Although he defines himself as an enthusiast of Cantonese cuisine on a regional level, the food that he holds close to his heart is a symbol of Northern China's eating habits. It's not that surprising - after all, contradictions are this top Chinese "foodie's" specialty. Amongst the innumerable restaurants that he's eaten at, Chan finds it hard to say which is his favorite. "I usually don't go back to a restaurant that I've already eaten ate because I want to try more of them, but I go to the Seafood Village in Monterey Park, California often. I enjoy eating there because their menu is great." And if you think his love of noodles and Cantonese rice might inspire him to learn how to cook them, think again. "I wouldn't even know how to make plain rice. I'm only forced to turn on the stove when I'm at home and practically starving, but I really have no idea how to make Chinese food."
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