If you’ve ever found yourself scrolling through #IrishTikTok then there’s a very high chance you’ve come across an account with the tagline: “Chinese Guy Rates Chinese Restaurants in Ireland”. It’s an account that has fascinated me for quite a while and for a number of reasons.
One: I hadn’t seen the simplicity of this idea showcased on IrishTikTok. Two: He seemed like a lovely person. Three: I’m also Asian.
The account is run by Tian Xu, who grew up in the Jiangnan region of China and who kindly accepted my invitation to be interviewed for this site!
Tian loved art and drawing as a child and later majored in graphic design. He describes China as a foodie country and has an uncle who’s a great cook and always cooks for the family. Thus the interest in food was a natural one.
Tian’s premise for his TikTok account is a straightforward one. He journeys to various places in Ireland and reviews Chinese food. On the surface, as I said, it’s a simple concept, but it’s actually Tian’s charm that’s so inviting for the viewer to keep watching.
But despite his newfound Irish TikTok fame, Tian Xu wasn’t actually on social media at all before creating his account.
“I’ve always been a silent viewer of some other content creators,” Tian tells me. “But one day I saw a YouTuber mentioning nowadays people are always consuming content, and instead of consuming we should start producing as well which made total sense to me”.
Tian certainly had ideas that he wanted to share and a friend encouraged him to rate Chinese restaurants on TikTok. Immediately, one thing that stuck out to Tian is that some of the menus in Chinese restaurants were different and not always in English, depending on who it was catering to.
“I posted my first video as a trial and it went viral afterwards,” he tells me. “I also kinda use TikTok as a way for me to break my comfort zone because I’m actually an introvert and not very good at public speaking and also overall as a platform for me to express creativity as I majored in similar fields.”
The reaction to Tian’s TikTok videos has been positive and has spurred the content creator to keep going.
“I love the fact that there are many people in Ireland who appreciate the foods that represent my culture. People also DM’ed [direct messaged] and thanked me because my videos are helpful to them.”
“No one has recognised me yet thankfully since I only started being comfortable speaking online. Not sure how I would react if I suddenly need to make conversations with strangers who suddenly recognise me on the street!”
Tian Xu’s favourite foods include the ones that his uncle made at home like 炒螃蟹/Stir-fried crabs, 红烧肉/red braised pork belly, 油焖大虾/braised prawns, 猪脚汤/pig’s feet soup.
Those memories stay connected with Tian, who then when at a restaurant usually likes to rate dishes that he ate at home.
But aside from Chinese food, Tian also loves Italian, Japanese and Vietnamese food as well (and most importantly) a full Irish breakfast!
“I love black and white puddings,” he tells me. “You know a while ago Supermacs had full Irish pizza and I really liked it – [though it] probably will offend the Italians!”
“I’m open to and love all kinds of food from different places.”
Though Tian Xu hasn’t been to many restaurants in Ireland yet, so far he likes Good World Restaurant (18 South Great George’s Street, Dublin), Lee’s Charming Noodles (105 Parnell St, Rotunda, Dublin) and Yang Guo Fu Malatang (27 Marlborough St, North City, Dublin).
When I asked if he thought there maybe was a misconception that Irish people have about Chinese food he said that maybe just a little bit.
“Because sometimes I see some people only order sweet and sour chicken, fried rice or noodles when it comes to Chinese food”, he tells me. “But I don’t blame them tho because the restaurants here sometimes really don’t offer a full menu here!”
“That’s why I hope my TikTok can show people there’s so many other Chinese food.”
What about Tian Xu’s plans for the future of his account?
“I don’t have a certain plan but for now, I want to focus on sharing Asian culture here in Ireland including food and other aspects.”
Despite having food on his mind, Tian explains that he always had really easy access to great and cheap food in China so, therefore, didn’t have a need to ever cook for himself.
“Not sure if I’ll be good at sharing recipes. But I’ve attempted to make something here which could be fun to share in the future I guess!”
Many thanks to Tian Xu for answering all of my quests. You can check out his excellent account here.
All pictures were kindly shared with me by Tian.