In the video, Ng smalt BBC Food presenter Hersha Patel's unconventional way of cooking Chinese-style egg-fried rice, which, among other things, drained the rice through a strainer after cooking.
"What is she doing? Oh my God. You're killing me, woman. Empty ̵
Shortly after, he groaned, "You're ruining the rice," when Patel used tap water to wash it off starch.
What Ng intended to be a comic video, triggered a storm of dismay and disbelief when it was disbanded around the internet, garnering more than 7 million views on YouTube and nearly 40 million on Twitter.
Many viewers, including Asian-American celebrities such as author Jenny Yang, mocked Patel's methods of deviating from how Chinese egg-fried rice is traditionally made. Patel had not washed the rice before cooking it. She had added too much water. She must have used day old rice. Scrambled eggs were overcooked instead of runny.
But the problem at hand goes beyond a difference of opinion about the different methods of cooking rice.
The controversy surrounding the BBC Food clip, and the reaction it provoked in certain Asian societies, speaks to a broader, long-running debate about the intersection of food, ethnicity and culture – the fundamental question of who is allowed to cook what kind of food .
Acquisition and money laundering
In recent years, countless white chefs have been accused of cultural appropriation by cooking from other ethnic groups using methods and phrases considered "unauthentic," disrespectful, and sometimes outright racist.
The restaurant does not distinguish between very different and unique types of Asian dishes, and lumped them together as generic Asian. And at the time of opening, there did not appear to be any Asian chefs.
CNN reached out to Ramsay's restaurant group for comment after the initial controversy.
Tokenism is when racial, ethnic or cultural diversity is only emphasized on a symbolic level, without much significant effort to understand that culture – in Ramsay's case, labeling a restaurant "Asian" without taking the time to distinguish between these individuals nuanced kitchens.
Food is not just food, it carries history and heritage, and that is why many people are greatly offended when these traditional cooking methods are thrown aside.
Sometimes chefs do not just change cooking methods, they openly insult the kitchen and the culture of origin.
And then there are chefs who do not at all acknowledge the ethnic origin of a dish – equivalent to money laundering.
In response to the setback, the NYT eventually posted a line in Roman's recipe on their website, saying it "evokes stews found in southern India and parts of the Caribbean."
But some people have pushed back against the idea of cultural appropriation.
Setting boundaries around food – for example, saying that only Chinese can cook Chinese food, or Chinese food can only be prepared in a certain way, as those who react to NG's video positively – seems like the antithesis of this sharing spirit in our globalized world.
But sharing is different from appropriating without respect, especially when the chefs who do it profit from making these foods.
A calculation in the food media
The Uncle Roger video is the latest in a series of events that have attracted attention around questions about food and culture. This summer, the calculation of race and racism, embodied by the Black Lives Matter movement, has spread from the streets to newsrooms and companies.
In the food media, Bon Appetit – owned by Conde Nast – is the best known example. Current employees, including assistant food editor Sohla El-Waylly, accused the company of underpaying and exploiting employees of color, and viewers shouted the brand for many cases of food allocation.
Each time the brand would give an apology and a promise to do better – but it has happened for many years.
"In all these cases and more, BA has been called upon to grant, to decontextualize recipes from non-white cultures, and to knight" experts "without considering whether that person should actually require mastery of a kitchen that is not theirs, "wrote Joey Hernandez, BA's research director, in the statement.
These topics sound abstract at times – but they are related to and help perpetuate broader real inequalities such as discrimination in the workplace, inequality in pay, balance of power and prevailing whiteness in the food world. .
Ng and Patel may not have intended for their respective videos, and upcoming collaborations, to raise these issues.
But viewers' frustrations are inherently linked to the idea that there is an authentic way to cook fried rice, and that Patel's mistake is made worse by the fact that she is a non-Chinese chef who presents herself as an authority on the dish.