Updated 22 January 2020, 4:11p.m. with comment from Pachamama.
Peruvian restaurant group Pachamama has promoted upcoming Chinatown restaurant Yiu Fat Noodle by using racist tropes in an email stunt. The restaurant group wrote “unlike many China Town restaurants, we intend to celebrate the rat, not catch it, kill it and mix it into a bowl of steaming noodles!” in an email promoting a Chinese New Year event, according to Hot Dinners.
The stunt leans into xenophobic tropes that cast Chinese restaurants and their staff as primitive; suggests that Chinatown’s restaurants are overrun with rats to catch despite the fact that any kitchen with a rat infestation would be shut down; and suggests that this, new, as yet unopened restaurant is capable of celebrating Lunar New Year — a fundamental of east and south east Asian culture — better than the people of China itself. It also casts eating rats as intrinsically barbaric, playing into a stereotype that ignores what Soleil Ho describes in a seminal piece on the “dog eating” trope: people come from “diverse countries—South Korea, Vietnam, China, the Philippines—where people eat all kinds of regional delicacies that are unknown to the Western palate, not because of poverty or barbarism but simply because they enjoy them.”
Yiu Fat Noodle, which the group describes as “our own take on Chinese cuisine, using British ingredients & Western techniques,” announced itself with a website focussed on cutesy, infantilising, and aestheticised versions of the East. It is set to open in Newport Place, and has been getting ready for over a year.
Eater contacted Pachamama to explain the email, with the group providing the following statement:
We want to apologise if we caused offense to anyone in our newsletter yesterday, this truly wasn’t our intention.
We pride ourselves at Pachamama Group for having a diverse and fun loving team, with our two founders being from Central Asia themselves and diversity being at the core of our business. We have many friends and neighbours in China Town and eat there regularly. We would be heartbroken to think that we offended anyone. Our newsletter tends to be fairly tongue and cheek, but looking back we can understand how this might have not come across as intended and we can only apologise deeply.