petition to b&n to pull blog on chinese bootlegged books

Today I began the morning as I often do: perusing social media and checking out articles and other information I wanted to reference later on when I’d have the time to read. I came across this fun article on Barnes & Noble’s blog on why adults (ahem, like me) can put away their “YA shame,” that is, embarrassment over the fact that they still read young adult novels. I enjoyed this quick read, tweeted about it, and saw in the right-hand column that there was also a recent blog post about the bestselling 50 Shades phenomenon hitting China.


Not only in reference to 50 Shades; you know who they’re *really* for.

Now, I won’t touch the 50 Shades trilogy, in English or in any other language, but the headline grabbed me enough for me to check it out. The result? I spent the rest of my time at home before leaving for my personal training session in the afternoon in a huff.

The problems I have with this blog post all have to do with its author’s obvious lack of basic research. The strikes are twofold:

  1. She refers to the translations being smuggled from Taiwan into China as having been  “translated into Taiwanese.” All right — first off — a quick lesson here. Technically, there is no such thing as “speaking Chinese,” as Chinese is essentially a written language. All languages under the Chinese linguistic umbrella are pretty much written the same — the different regions simply pronounce the words differently. In fact, there is some disagreement among linguists as to whether to call it “Chinese language” or, more confusingly, “Chinese languages,” because of all the regional dialects. Additionally, the national languages of both China and Taiwan is Mandarin!
    I won’t bore you with the scientific nerdy stuff that goes into the differences between languages and dialects, but think about this: If Taiwanese were a separate language completely from Chinese, just how would the Chinese be able to read said “Taiwanese” copies of the book? That’s right . . . just as no standard American would be expected to blow up black-marketed copies of fiction imported here from Brazil, if in fact Taiwanese were a different language entirely, the Chinese would not be able to comfortably read it.
    Furthermore, as it turns out (and I only found this out a couple years ago when my cousin’s family came to visit), there is more than one Taiwanese dialect. The one my family speaks is the version common to Taipei. So when it comes to talking about a written book being translated into what is essentially only a spoken dialect, you can understand my confusion. Until I realized she was just lazy (keep reading).
    Now, I could perhaps forgive the writer of the article for not knowing that Taiwanese in fact is not its own separate written language, if not for . . .

    Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 6.32.22 PM

    Image courtesy of

  2. She refers to Chinese currency as “yen.” Now, if I’m mistaken and it is actually clear to others that she suddenly COMPLETELY SWAPPED COUNTRIES to Japan, which for me was never once mentioned otherwise in the article, then that’s my bad. My problem with her talking “yen” when meaning to talk “yuan” (actual Chinese money) is the negligence that implies that hey, it’s still an Asian currency — after all, aren’t all Asians the same?
    This is precisely the battle that we must beat every day. Look, even I had to look up Chinese currency myself, because I’ve never been to China, nor have my parents. When we talk about prices in their homeland, it’s always the New Taiwan dollar. But when it comes to perpetuating the ignorant grouping of “all Asians” as one and the same? That’s like calling Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans all the same thing because we happen to occupy the same continent, regardless of governments and culture.

I’ll point out as well that I only know what I do about the written Chinese language being more or less standard across dialects because I remember this fact surprising me when I took an Asian studies class as an undergrad. (I’m a writer; you can hardly fault me for taking an unnatural interest in the nature of words!) I checked my facts doubly before I made any snarky comments on the blog — there is nothing worse, after all, than someone who corrects others with the wrong information — and this is officially my complaint against this article . . . no, this writer.

This article makes several entities look bad besides its author: It represents Barnes & Noble, a national brand that I have VERY regularly supported since the early naughts (as I call the beginning of the 2000s); non-Asians and some of their not-so-savory decisions to classify Asians as one indistinguishable group of people; Americans, because after all this time this ignorance should not still exist; and writers BECAUSE YOU SHOULD NEVER PUBLISH SOMETHING WITHOUT GETTING YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT . . .

This all just reminds me of that huge scandal that hit Kitchen-Aid with their (now dismissed) social media marketer who tweeted an unspeakably insensitive remark during the presidential debates.

Having both mistakes present in the same article is just about the highest level of writing faux pas I’ve ever seen. It takes away everyone’s credibility (not to mention — and I kid, here — the Chinese people who are gobbling up that literary monstrosity!), and nobody wins.

Barnes & Noble, I love you, but please, for the sake of diplomacy and respect to the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Asians at large . . . take down the article, or at the very least, edit it.


goodwill & some general housekeeping

Here at Mei Shung, we’d like to wish you, during the interim, happy holidays!

All the critters of the Hsieh household (incidentally, all mine -- this is what I'm doing when I'm not at the restaurant)

All the critters of the Hsieh household (incidentally, all mine — this is what I’m doing when I’m not at the restaurant)

If you follow us on Facebook (and you should!), you will have seen that, due to popular demand, we were open for a half-day on Christmas Eve last week — never been done before on a Monday (notoriously the only day my folks have the day off)!

Clearly, I’ve taken too many days off of blogging for you guys, and I’m working on a more regular schedule for you from now on, so . . .

I actually have NO idea what this is about, but I felt it strangely appropriate somehow. From

I actually have NO idea what this is about, but I felt it strangely appropriate somehow. From

We’re staying open for you again this New Year’s Eve, so if you’d like to join us for some good eats prior to getting your 2013 celebrations on, give us a call and make a reservation!

On another note, I’m sure all of you know that we got new gift certificates printed not too long before Christmas, since many of you snagged ’em for some lucky foodies out there. 🙂

We still have to do our drawing for our 100th Facebook “like” — and to make up for the delay, the prize for this drawing will be a $30 gift certificate instead of the usual $15. Remember, per our ongoing Facebook Likes Us contest, for every 50 “likes” we get, we do a random drawing. The 100th will be drawn by New Year’s Day. By now we’re well on our way to 150, so thanks again to you all, and keep spreading the word! The more fans we have, the more drawings we’ll do!

A big thank you to everyone who attended our Secret’s Out launch party! We are collaborating with the Taiwanese-American Professionals (TAP-Chicago) group to set up another (even more hardcore!) one, and we’ll extend the Hello New Dish contest for the Hello Kitty tumbler till February.

(special event) mom’s birthday & save the date

Happy birthday to my mom! (She always forgets, but I don’t!)

I thought today would be a great day to release our special save-the-date for our most loyal and foodie friends out there . . .

Stay tuned for further details.

We’re also undergoing a considerable makeover this coming weekend, just in time — so you’ll be able to enjoy the food and check out the new ambience of our restaurant space. Can hardly wait!

Tickets will go on sale within a week. Questions? Comment here or drop us a note on Facebook. (Don’t forget to like us!)

Are you a food blogger? Contact us here for a free ticket to our launch party. 🙂

labor day shenanigans, our style

From Hello Kitty’s Facebook page —

Hope everyone had a terrific Labor Day! Just wanted to share what my family did yesterday on our day off — as many of you know, Mondays are our family’s only day off — speaking of which . . . my sister found this the other day on Facebook from one of her old server friends at (gasp!) another restaurant: Image

(No idea why it is a picture of a picture, but never mind.)

I digress. Anyway, my boyfriend Anthony had been asking my mom to teach him how to prepare live fish (i.e., fresh-picked while still alive) for ages, so we finally figured that Labor Day would be the perfect opportunity for her to take him “fishing” at Chinatown (her preferred spot for live fish) and teach him her kitchen skillz at home. (We have a townhouse in the city near the restaurant, but since the ’rents spend most of their time there at Mei Shung, the kitchen at the townhouse isn’t fully equipped for cooking.)

To our surprise, my sister opted to join us for the outing, which she is currently writing for on her own blog, The Naked Canvas. (I will re-post her article on Thursday.)

When we got to Chinatown, we of course got distracted by shiny things — gift shops, kitchen wares, and wound up shopping around for a good hour or so before we even managed to pick out our fish.

ImageMoose and I started a mini-collection of kitty mugs and cups. Not too sure of the significance of cats in Chinese culture, but they’re fairly prevalent — turns out, though, that that golden cat with the moving arm? The one you see in tons of Chinese restaurants? It’s actually Japanese, called the Maneki-neko. I found this photo on Google images —


. . . which is why we don’t have one in our restaurant!

But I do have to confess one guilty pleasure: Hello Kitty! She’s Japanese, too, but too cute for us to ignore. More on this later.

For some reason, the first two supermarkets that carry live fish were out of the fish my mom prefers (big-mouth bass), but third time was the charm — managed to get hold of two medium-sized fishies, at my request, because I love live fish so much I can have an entire one on my own.

At home, Anthony promptly put on my black Cucina Italiana apron (I know, it’s blasphemous — but the only food I know how to make is Italian from all my time in the country ;)) and vigorously took notes of my mom’s instruction.



The result? DELICIOUSNESS. If you’re curious, this is one of the savory delights off our upcoming Super Secret Authentic Taiwanese menu that you can order. My mom will most likely not be the one personally cooking it for you, but I assure you it is just as tasty. (And, by the way, you can order it even before we release the Super Secret Menu! Just make sure you give her ample time to go buy your fish.)


Moose also randomly asked her to teach her how to make miso soup, so my kitchen-goddess mom also decided to whip up some spicy sushi (maki).

. . . So this is extremely clear, Mei Shung is NOT an Asian fusion restaurant — it is strictly Mandarin and Taiwanese cuisine. This means no Pad Thai, no sushi, no sake.

But I can’t say the same for what goes on under our roof. 😉

A glimpse of the feast that ensued:


And just for fun, since we love to give things away, and since we apparently have such an affinity for Japanese fare —


This Hello Kitty coffee tumbler (double-porcelain walled) is up for grabs! One lucky winner of our newest contest will win this eco-friendly alternative to to-go cups, detailed here:

Hello New Dish Contest

Come in to Mei Shung in the month of September (or get delivery), order something you have never tried before off our menu (perhaps off our upcoming Super Secret Authentic Taiwanese menu!), and write us a short review covering:

-what you ordered & what was in it

-comparison to what you normally order

-how you liked it

We have TONS of stuff to choose from, even if you’re not adventurous enough to try something you can’t pronounce. 😉

Entries will be posted to our Facebook page as well as the blog for a voting contest — the review with the most “likes” will win the Hello Kitty tumbler! (While you’re at it, be sure to “like” the page, too, for our ongoing Facebook Likes Us contest.)

Contest ends Sunday, 30 September at 11.59pm. (This gives you about two hours after we close!)

I’ve been diligently working to convince my parents to go green with the restaurant, but alas, old habits die hard (especially for old-school immigrants from Taiwan). So . . . instead, I can ensure giveaways will be environmentally friendly, when possible.

Good luck!

Stay tuned for my sister’s guest post on Thursday!

customer loyalty programs

So, just a heads up, our Foursquare promotion went officially live today. For every eight check-ins from dining in at the restaurant, you earn a free entrée of your choice. (The only catch is, it has to be $12 and under.)

On that note, I also challenge you to steal my mayorship from me! (Remember, I only come in very occasionally.) Mayors earn a free plate of onion cakes (my favorite appetizer)!

What is Foursquare? It’s simple: download the app to your smartphone and “check in” whenever you visit us — and it’ll keep a tally on how often you’ve checked in. Certain venues, like ours, run specials you can unlock at certain points (e.g., when you’ve dined with us eight times, or even when you’ve checked in for the very first time).

We also offer “social media coupons,” which reward you for checking in on Foursquare or Facebook (which doesn’t track cumulative visits, but will work for this purpose). You’ll get a coupon to use next time you come eat with us (but not every single time, of course! The coupons are one-time only).

Bummed about not having a smartphone? You can still get 5% by ordering food from our website 😉 . . . I suppose it’s pretty safe to assume you’ve got access to a computer!