In 2004, New York City's Museum of Chinese in America had one of its most successful exhibitions ever with "Have You Eaten Yet?" – an in-depth look at the storied history of the Chinese restaurant in America. Twelve years later (fittingly, the full cycle of the Chinese horoscope), MOCA returns to the always-appetizing topic of Chinese food with "Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy," an engaging multimedia installation that digs even deeper into the cuisine's cultural impact in both the personal and professional spaces.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is unquestionably an elaborately laid-out, 26-foot-long banquet table that calls to mind Judy Chicago's landmark feminist work "The Dinner Party" (on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum). Laid out with individual settings for over 30 chefs and home cooks, the MOCA piece is more than a stateside who's who of the Chinese culinary scene today, although it's that too: Shun Lee's Michael Tong, Mission Chinese Food's Danny Bowien, and The Mandarin Restaurant's Cecilia Chiang all have places at the table, as do Martin Yan (Yan Can Cook), Ming Tsai (Simply Ming) and Ken Hom (Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure).
- Inside chef Danny Bowien’s San Francisco launching pad, Mission Chinese Food
- A Brilliant Asian-ish Dinner from Mission Chinese Chef Angela Dimayuga
- The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World
Should you come across a dinner guest whose name you don't recognize—Doniyar Sobitov of Brighton Beach's Kashkar Café, perhaps?—simply open the menu at his or her place setting to get a bit more background and some information on a signature entrée or ingredient. At the center of the table, six lazy Susans extend this interactivity even further as visitors are invited to gently spin the devices to learn more details on the wide variety of cuisine types that fall under the heading of "Chinese": Some of them are obvious (Cantonese, Sichuan, Hunan), while some may be less familiar to American audiences (Yunnan, Anhui, Hainan). And lest you underestimate the importance of Chinese-American as its own distinct style of cooking, this too is accorded equal stature, as is Chino-Latino and East Meets West.