Friday, February 1, 2008

Joyce Chen-What are you doing?


I was perusing the A&P ads today during work deciding what groceries to purchase this week. And I stumbled upon this item on your left.
"Joyce Chen Ravioli"?!!?? What??!! Shouldn't it be "Joyce Chen Dumplings"? I can't really see the picture too well but based on the fillings which consist of either chicken & vegetables or pork & vegetables, I would assume this item is more akin to dumplings than ravioli. Plus I don't think a woman with the name of "Joyce Chen" would be touting her ravioli skills to America. Initially, I felt annoyed. I think the American public is aware of what dumplings are and there's no need to compare it to a more popular mainstream dish that people are familiar with. These aren't "Chinese Tamales" here (which frankly are really difficult to explain so I'm not even going to try). So I thought to myself, let me look up this Joyce Chen person.

Apparently, she was a Chinese chef, restauranteur, and entrepeneur. She had restaurants, cookbooks, and sold other products under her name. Chen is credited with popularizing the Mandarin style of Chinese cooking in the U.S. Her focus was making Chinese food accessible to the American public. She actually called dumplings or potstickers "ravioli" because her first restaurant was in a predominantly Italian area. Also, please keep in mind that Chen was alive from 1917-1994 so these were different times when she was starting out. Apparently, Chinese restaurants in the greater Boston, MA area still call dumplings "Peking Ravioli" or "ravs". So now that I know the history, I can accept the usage of ravioli for dumplings. It's clearly part of the Joyce Chen legecy and a nod to her history. However, I really hope people in Boston aren't really saying "ravs" still because that type of colloquialism would probably annoy me if I heard it.

5 comments:

janet said...

Actually, your dad will speak of Joyce Chen fondly. He took your sister and me there last time we were in Cambridge together (ok, 1998). He used to eat at her place in college. The woman is a legend, even if she did say ravioli.

I wonder if this was part of the MoCA exhibit a few years ago.

Joyce Chen Foods said...

I use Goggle search to notify me by email every time Peking Ravioli is posted on the Web. I came across your Blog on Joyce Chen Peking Ravioli.
I am Joyce Chen's son and the one responsible for the product at A&P. It has been almost 50 years when my mom opened her restaurant in Cambridge, MA and the first to offer Peking Duck, Moo Shu Pork and other unheard dishes in 1958. Peking Ravioli was one of them, dumplings were known as heavy thick noodles, ravioli made more sense since they were meat filled.

Yes, they still call them Peking Ravioli in Boston/Cambridge area. As more and more Chinese restaurants appeared the name stuck. Joyce Chen Restaurant is no longer in business but the name and Joyce Chen Ravioli still goes on.

Hope you will try the Joyce Chen Ravioli. They are very good and have no added MSG, No preservatives and are lower in fat and sodium.

Stephen Chen
Joyce Chen Foods
joycechenfoods.com

Lisa XX said...

Me thinks I'll have to try Joyce Chen ravioli now. Too bad the sale is over at A&P. Maybe next week!

Me Again said...

Interesting post. I followed up your post with one of my own. I started the Wikipedia article on Joyce.

dkinoshita said...

Stephen,

Come on now. Your mom was a great marketer and being a new person opening a resaurant in a part of Boston where Italian Americans were the majority, she re-named the "Dumplings" "Peking Ravioli" to make them more attractive and less intimidating to the local crowd. That is the sotory that I remember being told, am I getting old and forgetful as the person that told me was your mom!
Hope you are doing well!
DMK