SEA SALTY: Passion for Chinese Cuisine leads to Guinness World Record for Menus, Cured Crab, Ding Hay, and Westfield NJ

I have collected Chinese restaurant memorabilia since I moved to NYC in 1981 and was jolted by the riffle of a takeout menu sliding under my door. My collection numbers over 10,000 artifacts and is subject of sufficient attention. I’m jaded now but it was still a very happy day when the illustrious Asian American Writers’ Workshop asked me to write the inaugural essay for “Anatomy of a Dish” a new column in their online mag Margins. I chose to write about Ha Cha, a little-known cured preparation that sparks memories of John Pin, a dear friend. In order to write from experience, I made Ha Cha. You can see from my red thumb that the blue crabs were fighting that day. Please read my short illustrated essay, which is online at:

and written up by the Village Voice at:

Two sidenotes:
1. Rose and John Pin pronounced their home island “Ding Hay” and
2. I learned about the “orangey stuff” in crabs from seafood maestro Vince Bruns:

The orangey colored mass or mustard is the hepatopancreas, a tasty digestive organ (though it concentrates any toxins in the crab if it has come from polluted areas). Brains in all of us are a far smaller proportion of our bulk.

Be sure to sample Vince’s “honest fresh fish” at

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