The Chinese messaging app is where an underground cottage industry of amateur chefs touts their marinated duck wings, Shaanxi meat buns and stewed pork knuckles to Southern Californians in the know. All Zhang has to do is place an order, agree on a meeting place and pay for her bag of dumplings.
The service puts extra cash in the cooks’ pockets and sates a community’s hankering for the authentic stuff. It’s also mostly illegal.
California allows for some small-batch sales of food prepared in home kitchens. But the 2013 law, known as the California Homemade Food Act, skews heavily toward jams, pastries and confections such as fudge and flavored popcorn — not exactly staples of the Chinese diet. Meat, which is more susceptible to food-borne illness, is forbidden.
Ethnic groups have long turned to unregulated vendors to feed friends, neighbors and fellow religious worshippers — be it for Mexican tamales, Vietnamese spring rolls or Chinese sticky rice wraps. But never has it been enabled so effectively by technology.