It feels like Thanksgiving was just yesterday, but that may be due to the fact that I am still digesting and coming out of my food coma. That’s not just me right? You might be wondering, do Asian Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?
In 2016, world chili production exceeded 34 million tons. Of that amount, China produced about half of the worlds' chilies. Half you say? That's not a typo I swear. Although spicy food is often an exotic flavor in American cuisine, it has been an integral part of Asian culture. Asian cooking is largely dependent on the heat of chilies today. It is just another household staple, like rice and soy sauce.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending the weekend in Portland and I stumbled across a Thai restaurant. What is so exciting about this Thai restaurant? It was exciting, because it was different, but different how?
Chicken is Americans' favorite food. In fact, for the last 30 years, American chicken consumption exceeded beef, pork, and turkey on a pound for pound basis. But it wasn't always that way. For most of American history, poultry and eggs were luxury foods. Before the 1940s, poultry was more expensive than pork or veal. Chicken was so prized, that it was eaten only on rare occasions, giving rise to the phrase “winner, winner, chicken dinner!”
In God We Trust. All Others Pay Cash" reads a sign at at the cash register at Thanh Restaurant in Westminster, one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants. Thanh serves broken rice. The juicy pork chop, tasty fish sauce, served over perfectly steamed broken rice makes a fantastic lunch plate on any given day. But while a plate of delicious broken rice may not cost much, you can't pay with a credit card.
Have you seen the Lactose Intolerance map? See that dark blue category with 80-100% lactose intolerance in the region? Yes - welcome to Asia.
My favorite Peruvian dish (lomo saltado, a stir-fried dish of beef, french fries, onion, and peppers) uses soy sauce for its flavor base. A full 5% of the Peruvian population is Asian. And, according to one source, as many 5 million Peruvians have some Chinese ancestry, which equates to 20% of the country's total population. Peru isn't unique. All of the Latin American countries have sizeable Asian populations. Brazil has the largest asian population of any Latin American country. It has a large Chinese enclave, a quarter million strong. It has an even larger Japanese population of 1.7 million. Today, there are more than four million Asian Latin Americans, composing nearly 1% of Latin America's total population.
Dose of Don’ts Lately there have been a few companies who have committed some cultural faux pas especially when referring to the Asian community. It is always tough to distinguish between what can be deemed as cultural attunement or stereotyping. How do you reach the proper target, the right community and come off as genuine? Well this week, we will look at some cultural missteps and essentially a Dose of Don’ts when it comes to the Asian Community.
Are you a fan of phở? Did you know the most iconic Vietnamese soup noodle actually came from the French cuisine? "Phở" is derived from "pot au feu," a French signature beef stew. The Vietnamese pronounced 'feu' as pho and that's where it all started. Before the French colonization, beef was not consumed in Vietnam. After all, Vietnam is a country with limited land and cows are far more useful as a farming tool. This all changed as Vietnam became the French Indochina. Under the French colonial influence, beef became the symbol of gourmet luxury. That's why Vietnamese blended the French and Chinese flavors together to created phở.
Who doesn’t love great food? Is a Michelin starred restaurant really that much different from a simple mom and pop serving more homestyle food? I know that I get just as much joy eating at a fancy restaurant as I do from tacos out of a truck. A lot of times when we eat, we think only about the taste and not about the story behind the food. A series called Ugly Delicious on Netflix dives deeper into history behind a cuisine. On the surface, the brain child of David Chang (chef/owner of Momofuku) and Peter Meehan (A New York Times food critic) aims to tackle the hypocrisy of food today. Why does Tortellini command a higher price than Asian dumplings? Why can’t ugly and cheap food also be delicious? These are all things that the series breaks down, but when you look deeper at the meaning behind food you find a lot more substance.