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How Chef Eric Sze Is Changing the Game for Taiwanese Food in NYC

The chef and Eater New Guard member throws the concept of “authenticity” out the window in favor of serving up mouthwatering spins on his favorite dishes

“‘Authenticity’ means jack shit to me,” says Eric Sze, a member of the 2021 Eater New Guard. “What’s authentic to me doesn’t mean it’s authentic to you, even if you grew up in Taiwan.” Sze uses this philosophy to help guide his delicious, Taiwanese-inspired creations at his restaurant 886 in NYC’s East Village. “Whatever I like, and whatever I want to serve, is authentic to me and authentic to us.”

Sze’s knack for melding traditional Taiwanese dishes and flavors with what New Yorkers (including himself) want to eat right now is on full display as he tests recipes for his forthcoming second restaurant in Brooklyn. For this new menu, he tries his own spin on spicy stir fried pigs’ blood rice cakes, Taiwaneses Baijiu garlic sausage, and a skin-on, deboned, whole fried chicken. “It’s very important to me to showcase chicken raised by the Chinese farmers,” he says. “It’s a different flavor of chicken. The meat is not the ‘conventional’ tender, but it’s still delicate and delicious.”

Sze makes a point to support Chinatown suppliers, shopping at local markets for his meat and noodles, and developing relationships with local butchers who understand his vision. “It’s very important to me to buy from Chinatown directly, because it was a place where I always went when I was homesick during college when I first came to the States,” he says. “It gave me a level of comfort, and the more time I spend in New York, the more connected I feel with the Chinatown community.”

As for advice on owning a restaurant, chef Sze says he would tell his younger self to trust himself. “I think that’s a very important lesson. Because for the longest time, I was thinking about what other people would want, and this really all ties back into being authentically myself.”


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