When considering what it means to be an artist, few take the time to consider the artistry chefs practice daily. Whether a chef is experimenting with spices, fusing dishes of different cultures, or innovating a classic dish with a new presentation, they are using their artist’s eye to make a food masterpiece. Lucas Sin, Executive Chef at Junzi Kitchen and Nice Day Chinese Takeout, has practiced these skills since he started cooking seriously at a private kitchen within a newspaper factory in Hong Kong.
Focused on getting people to think twice about Chinese food, Sin has been “cooking, cooking, cooking” for years. Since moving to the United States in 2011 at age 18, he has opened two restaurants. The first, Junzi Kitchen, serves northern Chinese food crafted with healthy ingredients. The second, Nice Day Chinese Takeout, honors American Chinese food and the mom and pop Chinese restaurants that have closed since the pandemic.
“Chinese food is, by and large, misunderstood as a sort of singular, old school type of cooking. But really, it’s colorful and it’s diverse. When people say Chinese food to me it’s like saying European food,” Sin said. “So the two restaurants that I run between Junzi Kitchen and Nice Day, both of them embody small aspects of that belief that Chinese food is wide and colorful and wonderful.”
Sin has taken this idea to the next level with his new menu at Nice Day Chinese Takeout that features various fusion dishes including Mapo Mac & Cheese, PB & Coco Jam French Toast, and Cheeseburger Egg Rolls. Coming from Hong Kong, a city that is built on fusion, Sin embraces this food practice that typically has a negative connotation.
“These days there is a sort of dirty association with the word fusion, like it’s forced and that sort of thing,” Sin said. “But if you understand that fusion, or at the very least, cultural interconnectivity, is the very basis of how food develops and traditions develop, then you would embrace fusion.”
The PB & Coco Jam French Toast comes from Hong Kong style western food that was created by the British colonization of Hong Kong. Although the French Toast itself is British, Sin notes, the addition of deep frying a dish with peanut butter in the middle honors Hong Kong.
“Fusion is already a part of the DNA of a lot of Chinese cooking, Chinese American cooking, and Cantonese cooking in particular. So, it just makes sense to continue with that energy throughout the menu,” Sin said.
Many customers gravitate towards these fusion dishes because they are simply interesting and funny. The Cheeseburgers Egg Rolls were “flying off shelves” the first weekend they were for sale at Nice Day Chinese Takeout.
Other types of fusion egg rolls exist throughout New York City and the World. RedFarm, a Chinese fusion restaurant based on the Upper West Side and in Chelsea boasts a Pastrami Egg Roll. A Vietnamese woman working in a Jewish deli invented a Detroit style corned beef egg roll. She served this dish primarily to African Americans. The creativity is limitless.
When not perfecting his cheeseburger egg roll, Sin and his colleagues are creating their own fusion dishes daily. Many dishes, including the General Tso’s Chicken Sandwich, have arisen from happy accidents. Other fusion dishes are intentionally created to honor regional ingredients or recipes. No matter their origin, five new fusion dishes have been added to the Nice Day menu by chef, artist, and innovator Lucas Sin.
Although Sin’s future is uncertain, he hopes to open a Cha Chang restaurant, which is a Hong Kong style diner. These diners typically serve french toast and scrambled eggs alongside noodle and rice dishes. Milk Tea is often on the menu as well. Despite spending so much time in America, Hong Kong will always be Sin’s home.
“Cross cultural fusion and any type of creativity is at the heart of what I think what Hong Kong stands for,” Sin said.
Edited by Sydni Dichter