A newly opened Chinese restaurant in Greenwich Village, New York has come under fire recently after its owner used the word “clean” to describe the food.
Eater reported that Arielle Haspel’s aim was to create a Chinese-American restaurant for “people who love to eat Chinese food and love the benefit that it will actually make them feel good.
” As a nutritionist, a lot of Haspel’s clients couldn’t eat mein, fried rice, and kung pao chicken, she decided to “healthify” these traditional Chinese foods.But others have called her racist for saying that lo mein makes some people feel “bloated and icky.
Haspel had written in a now-deleted post: “We heard you’re obsessed with lo mein but rarely eat it. You said it makes you feel bloated and icky the next day? Well, wait until you slurp up our HIGH lo mein. Not too oily. Or salty.”
Haspel explained to Eater that her restaurant Lucky Lee avoids using MSG because of its negative effects on some people although the article noted that no scientific evidence exists for that.
“There are very few American-Chinese places as mindful about the quality of ingredients as we are,” she told Eater. “We’re excited to offer it to people who want this type of food, and it can make them feel good and they can workout after and they can feel focused after and it will add to their health.”
While her restaurant celebrates Chinese-American food, she added that she had no desire to “put down a culture.”
“I love love love American Chinese food. I made some tweaks so I would be able to eat it and my friends and other people would be able to eat it,” she said. “I am by all means never ever looking to put down a culture at all. I am very inclusive, and we’re here to celebrate the culture.”
But Haspel quickly faced backlash on social media with some people decrying the fact that she did not properly appreciate Chinese food by stereotyping it as greasy and MSG-filled.
“This white woman just opened a ‘clean’ Chinese food restaurant,” said one user, “not only is she using Chinese food stereotypes/naming, she is shaming traditional Chinese food cooking with MSG/grease/starch.”
Lucky Lee’s Yelp page has received a stream of negative reviews although Haspel does have some supporters.
“Love to watch a Becky go bankrupt for racist appropriation,” one Yelp user wrote.
“This restaurant uses racist tropes to position itself as better than a traditionally Chinese-owned restaurant for no good reason,” said another.
Haspel hasn’t issued an apology despite the intense backlash. Lucky Lee actually defended their positioning as a “clean” Chinese-American restaurant on their Instagram account.
The post said: “A number of comments have stated that by saying our Chinese food is made with ‘clean’ cooking techniques and it makes you feel great that we are commenting negatively on all Chinese food. When we talk about our food, we are not talking about other restaurants, we are only talking about Lucky Lee’s.”
The post continued: “Chinese cuisine is incredibly diverse and comes in many different flavors (usually delicious in our opinion) and health benefits. Every restaurant has the right to tout the positives of its food. We plan to continue communicating that our food is made with high-quality ingredients and techniques that are intended to make you feel great.”
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