Why the ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ Myth Lingers

racism and msg lead art

IN 2019, a fast-casual restaurant called Lucky Lee’s opened for business in New York City with an extremely problematic premise: The white owner, Arielle Haspel, promised to serve up “clean Chinese” that was less salty, less greasy, and MSG-free, so that diners may enjoy their favorite dishes without feeling “bloated and icky,” according to one of her Instagram posts.

The restaurant shuttered after less than a year of operation amid accusations of racism and cultural appropriation from the Asian American community. (Haspel also deleted her post and couldn’t be reached by MH for comment.) But the whole experience is just one battle in the war of mixed messaging around MSG.

This idea of an improved Chinese food fit for the refined white palate is the culmination of decades of insidious mythmaking with MSG, or monosodium glutamate, sprinkled at its center. Today, there are still some Chinese restaurants that feel the

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Chicago’s Chinatown restaurants reopen slowly as fear of the coronavirus still lingers

Chinatown in Chicago was hit first and hard by the coronavirus. Not so much by the virus itself, but fear of the unknown. Masks had sold out and Lunar New Year events were already canceled by the time the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the city was announced on Jan. 24. Data now shows confirmed cases have remained relatively low in the Chinatown area compared with ZIP codes with the highest numbers in Chicago.

Business has still dropped dramatically. Most restaurants have tried to stay open — some never stopped serving bubble tea, bao and dumplings for takeout and delivery. The few bars — all karaoke — went dark until recently. Less than half of the restaurants have reopened for indoor dining and hardly any have room for outdoor dining.

As restaurants and bars across the city reopened indoor service four weeks ago, Chinatown has remained cautious. Owners, employees

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