Monday, July 28, 2008

KFC’s Taste of Asia Menu… wait, what?!

Recently KFC has been airing a new commercial in Canada for their new “Taste of Asia” menu. The first time I saw it, I thought the commercial was clever, partly because I’d recently learned the Chinese characters (booya CHIN 101) they were using. In the commercial, a little animated 母 and 父 (mǔ and fù – the mom and dad) calling their kids 女and 男 (nǚ and a weird looking nán – the girl and boy [EDIT: after talking to my cousin, I've learned that the character for the son is actually the traditional character 兒, which would be 儿 (er) in simplified) to their KFC dinner. I forgot what happens in the rest of the commercial… maybe someone will stick it on YouTube.

EDIT: Dec 9, 2011 - I found it!

Anyways, it just hit me today, this isn’t really a “Taste of Asia,” it’d be more accurately described as a “Taste of China” or better yet a “Taste of a Part of China.” No wait, I thought of something better; a “Taste of a Part of [North-]American-Imagined China.”

Let me explain. Firstly, the stars of the commercial are animated Chinese hanzi. Secondly, the “flavours” advertised for the menu are Szechuan (safe to assume, from Sichuan Province) and honey-garlic, which is… wait, isn’t honey garlic more of a western flavour? Fine, let’s be generous and count honey garlic anyways, since you can commonly order honey garlic spareribs at Chinese fast food places, at least in North America. Thirdly, you can get fortune cookies with your meal which again can be obtained at Chinese fast food places, but I’m 99% sure fortune cookies are of American origin, not anywhere in Asia. Anyways, mix all those things together, and the common thread between them is Chinese-ish, not “Asian.” Sort of.

Here comes the semi-rant part. If this were a true “Taste of Asia” menu I should be able to expect a little more variety, perhaps from the entire Asia continent and not just from one country (or a partly-imagined country)? Maybe the brilliant marketers behind this promotion reasoned in their minds, that if you took all the countries in Asia, mixed them altogether in a bowl and dipped your finger in your multi-national “Asian slaw” (see pic, and don’t get me started on that name “Asian slaw” either), you’d taste more Chinese than anything (if we were to be doing this reasoning by the total populations of countries)? But what about India’s taste? No curry? As long as I’m doing semi-stereotypical flavours/dishes, what about kimchee? Teriyaki? Alright, east Asia is covered, now what about the flavours from south-east? North? And the middle-east? Is this “Taste of Asia” menu kosher? It better be, if it’s truly a “Taste of ASIA” (which so far, we have determined it isn’t).

You will notice in the picture (which by the way, is a screenshot from the KFC Canada website which I took today) there’s a chance to win a trip for four! Wow! But not just any trip! Follow the link and you’ll se that it’s an “ASIAN-INSPIRED TRIP” (I capitalized that because it’s capitalized on their promotional site: Wow sounds exotic! Where could the destination(s) be? No doubt, it must be somewhere in Asia right? A reasonable person might guess somewhere in China, because of all the “Chinese references” in the menu. Click on the link to the Contest Overview/Prizing Details and it says:

Grand Prize: Enter your code for a chance to win a 7-day trip for four to New York, Chicago, and San Francisco! Visit some of North America’s premier Chinatowns; experience the beauty of authentic Asian cuisine and culture. This once-in-a-lifetime trip includes flights, accommodations, and spending money!

Good, sweet crap! I didn’t see that coming! A contest originating in Canada, for an “Asian-inspired trip” to three American cities and their Chinatowns?! Why is this trip described as “once-in-a-lifetime,” when it’s on the same continent I would be originating from (ahem, North America) if I won this contest?! To be fair, most Canadian live only a few hours drive from the US border… so, crossing the border to go stare at some Chinese Americans isn’t really once-in-a-lifetime (well, for the majority of Canadians anyways). Besides, I’ve seen Chinese Americans before, they sort of resemble me, a Chinese Canadian. How about me for being “Asian-inspired? “…Oh but your face…[trails off]…”

(Note: The above video is sort of irrelevant, but I thought it’s funny)

Maybe someone in KFC Canada should read Chinatown: An illustrated history of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax by Paul Yee. Just a suggestion.

Chances are, I won’t be eating anything from this “Taste of Asia” menu, not because I don’t agree with it, but more along the lines that I hardly go out and there’s not many KFC’s near where I do happen to go out. Ironically, though, I had the KFC Snacker just over a week ago ($1.89). It was a tad salty, but still declious. Mmmm, I do like fried chicken.

I am heavily anticipating KFC’s “Taste of Africa,” “Taste of Europe,” and “Taste of Antarctica” menus, but not as much as I anticipated The Dark Knight.

I was feeling very lethargic yesterday afternoon, so I drank some Red Bull. I thought it might help. It tasted like I was drinking yellow-ish chemical. Very unnatural tasting. I didn’t really like it. And I ended up falling asleep after drinking it. So much for “helps temporarily restore mental alertness or wakefulness when experiencing fatigue or drowsiness.” *Shrugs*


Anonymous said...

I think they were going more for a "random sampling" for their definition of "Taste" of Asia. What you seem to be expecting is a "representative" sampling of all of Asia.

However, what I was offended by was the supposedly "Chinese" characters called Szechuan, "Sesh-shwan". I hate that pronunciation! I've never heard that in my life! Only North American anglophones say that. In Mandarin or Cantonese it's either "suh-chuan" or "sae-cheen". Not "sesh-shwan". At least "see-chuan" sounds better (less Caucasianified).

Also, I would like to add that "Asian" seems to have emerged as the number one descriptor for very Chinese things. People don't usually mean the other parts of Asian when they say "Asian". They either mean Chinese or other Orientals (but apparently that term is no longer PC - that's news to people who are actually Oriental, though).

Tim said...

that "Asian" seems to have emerged as the number one descriptor for very Chinese things

i think "Asian" has also emerged as the desriptor for very Korean and very Japanese things as well (so "Asian" mainly describes the east Asian countries-ish of China, Japan, and Korea). pan-asianism perhaps. (i could go on, but then i'd just be repeating what i learned and mulled over a lot in ASC 301)

fun fact: i believe in the UK, when people are talking about "Asian people" they are actually referring to who we would refer to as "south Asians."

wah, i really want some fried chicken now...

Anonymous said...

Asians/Chinese/pronunciation of Szechuan aside, I'd like to throw in my 2 cents about the meal itself. You get the chicken, regular ol' KFC chicken, with FLAVOUR packages on the side!! It's nothing more than sugar and cayenne a separate package on the side!!! They certainly didn't mention this in the commercial, or I would have saved myself the $33 and change. Boy, typing that out and rereading it makes me realize how dumb I was for spending that much money at KFC regardless of the "flavour of the month". Lesson learned.

Tim said...

太贵了! that is some crazy expensive flavouring! thanks for nothing colonel sanders!

maybe the lesson for us all is to take the secret kfc recipe learned from "Bender's Big Score" and to make our own finger lickin' goodness

(and for the record, the recipe is: chicken, grease, salt)

Anonymous said...

“Taste of a Part of [North-]American-Imagined China” - no kidding.

Although I have to confess I like "Canadianized Chinese" food like sweet & sour pork and honey garlic spareribs.

And ya, so much for the Asian inspired trips to Chinatowns in North America. I actually think that's hilarious.