Articles & News - Asian American Soul Food

Photo by Nancy Matsumoto from original article

My friend emailed me an interesting (and lengthy) article the other day on the face of Asian-American cuisine and the main developers of what is present-day fare at such proclaimed restaurants. Many of you may have heard the name Roy Choi thrown around several times as a big instigator of this new wave of Asian cuisine as he was the chief chef of the Kogi BBQ truck (which also jump-started the food truck craze) and now the owner of Chego. Admittedly, he has done a lot for the culinary Asian-American community, so naturally the article focused a lot on him. Yet what is the more specific focus of this discussion?

"Fusion" food is. The Kogi BBQ truck has a menu with a combination of American, Latino, and Asian cuisine with items such as kimchi quesadillas and kalbi sliders. The author of the article started calling the food Asian Soul Food, which I found to be accurate. How else would one label the homestyle favorites turned into modern plates with flavors from other influences? So why did I put quotation marks around the word "fusion" up above? Well because it might be difficult to call this food wave as one of fusion cuisine. It isn't formed by non-Asians adding in copious amounts of soy sauce, sesame seeds, and lemongrass. It's made by Asian-Americans who have learned techniques and styles for other types of cuisines and are incorporating their own home-style recipes brought about by being the children of immigrants (and eating strange foods all the time at home).

I think a large part of this upbringing comes from how food-centric the Asian family is. Like many of them, when I reach into my parents' fridge to look for something to munch on, it isn't full of junk food or typical American snacks. It's full of savory Asian bites that may be a little weird to others. That experience is what the chefs in the article are trying to recall as they bring dishes to life - finding the bits here and there that make an Asian-American home Asian. I think this new spin on Asian food is exciting as it brings in more culinary creativity and techniques typically used in European (or other) cooking. Read the article to learn more about all the different Asian-American chefs making news in this up and coming wave of Asian-American cuisine.

Reader questions: What do you think of these trends? Is the article an accurate depiction of Asian-American food nowadays? Do you think there is a reason for the seemingly all-too-common link now of food being Asian and Latino (I'm thinking about Kogi, Dos Chinos, etc)? If you aren't Asian-American, how have you received the food?

Original article: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/07/stinky-spicy-and-delicious-the-radical-reinvention-of-asian-american-food/259864/1/

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3 comments

  1. I honestly am not too fond of this growing trend of "fusion" food found in the culinary world. I mean, it's nice and all to have the novelty of Asian and Latino (or any other combination) every once in a while, but when it comes down to it, I like things just where they are. If anything, I'd like to delve deeper into a culture's food instead of trying a new mishmash dish simply because I feel it's more "authentic". I know, I know, melting pot, salad bowl, American diversity and all that jazz, but whatevs.

    In short, this new wave of Asian Soul Food is interesting and unique to try, but I'd never incorporate it into my daily life.

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  2. What type of foods/dishes would you incorporate in your daily life?

    I think what's interesting is how this food has come about as another way to try and describe what it means to be Asian-American. It certainly isn't Asian food but it also isn't strictly American/French/Latino/etc food. Isn't this fusion food helping to define this culture that Asian-Americans find so hard to pin down? This may seem like another topic but I think that it's hard for someone to explain what exactly Asian-American culture is. It's a lost in-between area.

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  3. Ideally, I'd cook a variety of things that differ from day to day. I wouldn't wanna blend foods together to create some kinda new dish or anything, I would cook pasta and chicken one day then maybe do steak and mashed potatoes the other. I'm a fairly plain person with no real desire to mix/change things up.

    Yeah, I totally do agree with the idea that food helps a whole lot in identifying a culture and that the new wave of Asian-Americans creating new fusion/Asian soul food is a part of that, but I just don't think I fit into that movement. It's cool and all, but just not my thing. Also, pinning down an identity for any group has always been a struggle for all groups and I think this rings especially true these days than ever before.

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