More than 40 years ago, Sonny Pang was fairly new to this country. He’d been working in Chinese takeouts on Cape Cod for a few years, learning the business. When he noticed there were no takeouts in the Dudley Square area of Roxbury, he opened Peking House in a tiny storefront. Pang’s son Peter recalls those early, tiring days.
“Yeah, I used to fall asleep on the counter. Because I was working for him since I was about 11 years old,” he said.
Take Yum Yum for instance. It’s been serving Chinese food for more than 30 years in the heart of Dorchester’s diverse Fields Corner. On one hand, it’s part of the urban fabric. On the other — it’s a world apart.
We go behind the counter with multimedia producer Val Wang joins Callie Crossley on Boston Public Radio to discussPlanet Takeout — a web project and documentary about the Chinese takeout business as a cultural crossroads in Boston and beyond.
When you spend as much time inside of Chinese takeouts as I do, you start to notice some patterns. Like, every takeout has its regulars, people for whom the takeout is an essential part of their lives.
Food Wall in Jamaica Plain is one example. It has inspired something of a cult following. I walked up and down the street one afternoon asking people who work nearby how often they stop in.
Sometimes the best way to find the flavor of where we live is … through a restaurant.
Not the fancy places people cross the region to see. The humble spots where people stop and get something to go — and in the process, have conversations across the counter that make life a little bit more human.
WGBH News' Val Wang is spending the next 6 months documenting these for her project "Planet Takeout": a look at Chinese food, our neighborhoods and ourselves.
May 24 is the first installment of Planet Takeout, Val Wang's exploration into Boston Chinese takeout joints as a nexus of community. She talks to Bob Seay about how she got the idea for the project. To share your experiences with Chinese takeout, visit planettakeout.org.
Planet Takeout is produced by Val Wang and brought to you by WGBH 89.7 and Localore, a national initiative of the Association for Independents in Radio.