There has long been a search in the world of food enthusiasts for cuisine that reflects a chef’s heritage — that smacks of “authenticity,” whatever that means — but that also presents it in a way that doesn’t require interpretation for the uninitiated.
Chris Cheung has done that with East Wind Snack Shop.
The dumpling house that opened its first location in 2015 has won rave reviews, as well as financial success, with items like Cheung’s dry-aged beef potstickers and “Incredible Har Gow” — an updated version of the Cantonese shrimp dumplings to which the chef has added a crunchy element in the form of a tapioca crust.
He has not been an overnight success, however. A native New Yorker of Toisan Chinese heritage who grew up between the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst and Manhattan’s Chinatown, Cheung has been cooking in the city for more than 20 years, first working the line at Vong, Nobu and Jean Georges, and then going on to be chef at Ruby Foo’s before opening his own restaurant, Tiger Blossom, in the East Village in 2001.
That restaurant fell victim to the economic downturn that followed 9/11, but Cheung moved on to other gigs, sometimes doing obvious Asian-fusion dishes like foie gras dumplings, sometimes doing more multicultural fare, such as when he was chef at the landmark Midtown Manhattan restaurant Monkey Bar.
He also took time to travel to an island near Shanghai, where his wife’s family is from, and learn the cooking techniques and traditions of that side of the family.
At one point East Wind Snack Shop had grown to four locations, but one in a food hall and another at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, closed in the wake of the pandemic.
In the meantime, Cheung has written his first cookbook, Damn Good Chinese Food — Dumplings, Egg Rolls, Bao Buns, Sesame Noodles, Roast Duck, Fried Rice, and More—50 Recipes Inspired by Life in Chinatown, published by Simon & Schuster.
Cheung recently discussed his journey, his extended stay with his wife’s family, the upsurge of anti-Asian racism in New York, his new book and his plans for the future.