We hate racism then promote culturalism, discrimination against people based on culture. Hollywood movies push over simplified stereotypes. Books aimed at the same market use the same stereotypes. You would think it would stop there. Surely a cook book would not denigrate people based on culture but here it is in a modern cook book.
Old cook books used to over simplify some cultures. Modern publisher would not dare repeat the mistake. Would they? They do in the book Asian cuisine: the best in Asian food.
Emigrating southern Chinese cooks first ignited interest in Cantonese-style dishes when they opened humble eating places in their adopted new homelands. The dishes were often modified to allow for the unsophisticated palates of diners in western countries.
So, according to the authors, Chinese cooking is more sophisticated than Western cooking.
Chillies are from South America. The Spanish carried chillies to Europe. The Portuguese carried chillies and chilli based food to India, Indonesia, and other places in Asia. The Portuguese, or Arabs who traded with Spain and Portugal, carried chillies and chilli based cooking to China. The absolute best Chinese cooking, Sichuan cuisine, uses chilli extensively. Therefore the best of Chinese cuisine is based on Western influence. The chilli and cooking with chilli was already popular in Europe when the first Chinese emigrants arrived in Europe. Blah to the authors of the book!
Mediterranean cuisine, and European cooking in general, is one of the most sophisticated in the world in the important area of seafood. When you look at Chinese cook books, they treat endless seafood as a bland white protein to be buried in sauce. Where is the sophistication in that?
Sydney and Cantonese cooking
Sydney, Australia, is flooded with Cantonese
cuisine and most of it is undistinguished meat buried in unsophisticated batter then fried or steamed in the simplest way then drowned in a strong sauce because the food is otherwise tasteless. You can go into these restaurants with a Chinese friend and order
what the Chinese eat and, for the most part, you just get more salt, more garlic, and more chilli. Where is the sophistication?
If sophistication is based on exotic taste, Cantonese cooking is the second least sophisticated cuisine in the world, beaten only by McDonalds. Just about every other cuisine in China is more exotic than Cantonese and, with the exception of Sichuan cuisine, Chinese cooking is one of the least sophisticated cuisines in Asia, and has very little range compared to the rest of the world.
If sophistication is based on hot taste, Cantonese cooking is the second least sophisticated cuisine in the world, beaten only by McDonalds. Just about every other cuisine in China is more exotic than Cantonese and, with the exception of Sichuan cuisine, Chinese cooking is one of the least sophisticated cuisines in Asia, and has very little range compared to the rest of the world.
The original settlers in Australia, the aboriginals, found several hot spicy local plant materials to add to their cooking. The Europeans arrived with white pepper, black pepper, heaps of herbs, and a span of spices all unrelated to China. Look at the original Western recipes for preparing local meat, native fruits, and nuts. That is sophistication.
For a few milliseconds many years ago Cantonese cooking was promoted as healthy then someone looked at all the pork and all the frying and the frequent use of noodles instead of fresh food and batter covering so much of the food. Today for health you would choose Thai cuisine or Japanese or food from one of the many European cuisines where fresh in season ingredients are promoted. Cantonese food is a long way down the list of Chinese cuisines based on health and Chinese food in general does not stand out.
Sophistication is the ability to distinguish and understand many flavours from many ingredients. You do not have to like an ingredient or like food containing an ingredient to understand the ingredient or to distinguish the ingredient. Both salt and garlic are anaesthetics that reduce your ability to smell and taste food. Cuisine that uses significant amounts of either salt or garlic are, by definition, unsophisticated because the consumer loses the ability to distinguish the flavours in the food. The Cantonese food served in Sydney and Hong Kong uses too much garlic and salt to be sophisticated.
Monosodium glutamate is, like garlic, another taste destroyer used to hide stale food. Monosodium glutamate does occur in small amounts in natural ingredients but today it is mass produced in industrial processes and added to several Asian cuisines in artificial amounts. In some cased the industrial process produces monosodium glutamate concentrated from the fermentation of natural ingredients but the concentration is not natural. Food containing added monosodium glutamate or laced with sauces containing concentrated monosodium glutamate cannot be sophisticated. Much of the Cantonese food in Sydney and Hong Kong is served with enough monosodium glutamate in the sauces to fail a sophistication test.
Not cultural or regional
There is absolutely no justification for saying a regional or cultural cuisine is
unsophisticated in comparison to either Cantonese cuisine or Chinese cuisine. People who make thoughtless generalisations of that type are cultural bigots or, in the case of food, food bigots.
There might be a case for claiming a cook or a restaurant serves unsophisticated food. There are lots of canteens and fast food places that aim to do exactly that. Simple, bland, and cheap. There is no justification for extending the claim to large regions or whole cultures.
The one good thing about the book is the mention of Vietnamese food as the best in Asia. Based on experience, I would put forward the best Thai food as the best in Asia. Vietnam starts with a similar climate, a bigger coastline for seafood, and that French influence brought a wider range of ingredients and cooking styles. I hope one day to travel Vietnam from one end to the other to try the full range of Vietnamese food and decide for myself if Vietnamese cuisine or Thai is the best in Asia. Sichuan is also on my list of places to visit. I might visit Guangzhou (Canton) but not for the food.
The book should be reprinted with the paragraph deleted.