“In the opening moments of Ang Lee’s film Eat Drink Man Woman, Chef Chu (Sihung Lung) slits a fish, scales it, slices the fatty pink filets into strips, coats them with flour, and drops them into a sizzling pan of oil, all with the exquisite control of a master musician. Crisp chopping sounds intersperse the upbeat tune of a guqin plucking throughout the background of the scene, and we watch with satisfaction as Chef Chu slices a daikon radish into wafer-thin, perfect white moons.
Maybe “we” is a bit of an overstatement here.
This scene fish-hooked me with childhood nostalgia, for I had grown up hearing the clatter of chopsticks against bowls of sunny egg custard, mapo tofu swimming in fiery oil and sichuan peppercorns. But to the general American audience that first viewed Eat Drink in 1994, it might have seemed charming. Quaint.
Eat Drink certainly would have seemed less accessible than celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s new show on ABC, Fresh Off the Boat. Adapted from Huang’s 2013 memoir of the same title, the sitcom tells the story of his experience growing up Chinese-American in hard-core suburban Florida. Yet in comparison, Eat Drink Man Woman challenges the popular consensus that Fresh Off the Boat sprang out of a vacuum for Asian and Asian-American narratives in American media…”