At its best, Kwan’s book reveals the ways in which diasporic Chinese restaurants are like test kitchens experimenting in opportunities for a better life, however nebulous that pursuit might be ... Perhaps owing to his experience as a documentary filmmaker, Kwan structures his story into episodes organized by place, although the more compelling drama is in the multigenerational family evolutions through time ... Kwan’s book is a kind of love letter to his varied homes and a memorial to his journey through them, as refracted through the lives of far-flung strangers.
Have You Eaten Yet? is similar to Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour, though Kwan’s writing is more equanimous than Bourdain’s ... Kwan describes the racism his subjects experience primarily through a historical lens, without digging very deeply into the implications of structural racism today. Readers will learn about injustices they likely weren’t aware of ... Poignant as these immigrant stories are, they blur together over the course of the book. Even the dishes Kwan and his crew enjoy are repeated; Kwan says they are delicious, no matter how they’ve been adapted to suit the tastes of locals. Have You Eaten Yet? isn’t the most provocative read, but it will certainly leave you hungry for Chinese food.
Flavorful descriptions of foods mix with adventuresome travel mishaps. Less-remembered history surrounding the Ming dynasty’s venturing into Africa, and how Chinese people fared under apartheid, enrich the book, while sprinklings of film references are hip, atmospheric flourishes. Here, traveling encompasses word-of-mouth scouting for film locations from the Amazon to Norway, but also lessons in ethnography. The stories of women in particular are resounding, encompassing both vulnerability and stalwart resolve. Have You Eaten Yet? is a fascinating, inquisitive global search for Chinese tastes that evoke home in any corner of the world.
More than culinary tourism, the book portrays enterprising individuals striving for better prospects ... Filled with lesser-known facts, such as China’s ancient maritime ties with Africa or the dominance of Chinese restaurants in Peru’s dining scene, the narrative never flags. Have You Eaten Yet? joins the growing list of books about restaurants and the Chinese diaspora. Beyond conveying the perseverance and hope behind these establishments, Kwan offers a solid introduction to the forces that shape expatriate Chinese cultures and identities alike.
His rich descriptions, humorous tone, and extensive research make for a pleasurable reading experience. The connections he draws between far-flung places are particularly impressive, revealing a deep empathy and knowledge about the people he encountered. Kwan’s inclusion of his personal history—and the histories of his film crew—gives the book an added feeling of intimacy. Only occasionally does the author feel out of touch—e.g., his lack of a critical lens about Israel’s tumultuous history. A heartfelt and entertaining culinary and historical survey of the Chinese diaspora.