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.