Americans Overreacting to Asian Food

Recently, Buzzfeed released a video called “Asians Taste Exotic Asian Food.” It’s pretty easy to guess what happens in the video, but we ended up rolling our eyes while watching it anyway.

As expected, the Asian food chosen were some of the most intimidating options imaginable. They clearly had the goal of scaring the unsuspecting food-tasters. In fact, almost all of the dishes in this video were part of our list of “Top 10 “Scary” Asian Dishes We Love.” Admittedly, we’d be pretty hesitant to try some of these too. We definitely don’t blame anyone for reacting with shock when they realize their food can still move.

No, shock was not the reason we ended up rolling our eyes.

We understand hesitance and even dislike for unfamiliar food, but based on the reactions from this video, you would think Asian food is the most horrible thing imaginable. It’s an understatement to say that the food-tasters showed disliked for the Asian food. They gagged, spit it out and called it “rotten” and “gross.”

A few of the tasters were able to show some courtesy. They ate the food no matter how intimidating it looked and even admitted when it tasted better than expected. After all, these dishes are delicacies in many Asian cultures.

The rest of the tasters? Watch the video and see their reactions for yourself.

Top Asian Comfort Foods

When we think comfort food, most of us revert back to the dishes our moms made us. Here, we salivate over home cooking-from-another-mother. 

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PORK ADOBO BY CHEF CHARLEEN CAABAY, KAINBIGAN 
by Kristine Ortiz.

In the Asian food scene, Filipino food is like that last person picked for the dodge ball team: under-recognized and little appreciated. Despite Filipinos being the second largest Asian ethnicity group in the United States today, the culinary landscape has yet to reflect its ever-growing population. Even in the Bay Area, an area home to some of the highest concentrations of Filipinos outside of the Philippines, there are only pockets of Filipino food wastelands.

This is where chef Charleen Caabay of Oakland’s Kainbigan comes in. She started out cooking pinoy food for friends, and after seeing the lack of Filipino culinary offerings in the region, she opened her restaurant this past August. “As diverse as Oakland is,” says Caabay, “they don’t have enough Filipino food.”

With a name that means “Let’s eat, my friends” (in Tagalog, pagkain means food, kaibigan means friend) and a straightforward, stick-to-your-ribs menu, Kainbigan is not one of those places with too-fancy offerings and sky-high prices. Rather, the restaurant specializes in home-cooked, straight-from-the-heart Filipino food, which is characterized by its salty, sour and sweet flavors and Chinese and Spanish influence, remnants of the country’s trade and colonial histories. Take the adobo, arguably the national dish of the Philippines. Meat is marinated and cooked in a blend of soy sauce and vinegar alongside black pepper, bay leaves and garlic. While the chicken adobo (the most common and recognizable version) is absolutely delicious, Caabay is most proud of her Pork Adobo. It may seem like a simple marinade, but “the way it’s cooked and how long you braise it for — when it’s cooked for just long enough, the taste is amazing,” says Caabay. Served in a wooden bowl atop a heaping cloud of white rice, meant to soak up the expertly balanced sauce, the adobo is comfort food 101, filling you up in the most delicious way possible through a flavor profile that is as complex as it is appetizing.

Another standout item at Kainbigan is Caabay’s own unique creation, Crispy Chicken Adobo over Garlic Noodles, an interesting take on pancit, another Filipino food staple. Instead of the typical rice noodle, Caabay opts for an egg noodle, the chef’s personal favorite, which is combined with the flavorful house garlic sauce and topped with bits of crispy adobo. “I think that’s one of my best dishes because I created it here, and it has a little bit of everything,” she says with a smile. It may not be your typically dry pancit, but the flavor profile of the Garlic Noodles is purely pinoy.

Caabay’s passion for traditional Filipino culture is something she wants to share through the meals she serves. “If you were at home, this would be how mom or lola [grandma] would make it,” she says. And her challenge to potential diners? “Come with an open mind and a big appetite, and I can guarantee that you’ll leave here feeling good.”

 

 

pho

PHO BY CHEF KIMMY TANG, 9021PHO
by Anna M. Park.

When it comes to comfort food, chef Kimmy Tang knows a thing or two — as owner and chef of 9021Pho in Beverly Hills, Calif., her whole career revolves around hers, the Vietnamese noodle soup known as pho. “Pho is like your breakfast,” she says, “very nutri- tious and energetic. It sets your energy for the rest of the day.” In addition to traditional beef pho and chicken pho, Tang offers a spicy pho that is reminiscent of the southern style of pho she loved in her native Saigon. “Northern Vietnamese cuisine is often less spicy and is not bold in any particular taste,” she explains. “Southern Vietnamese cuisine is often vibrant, flavorful and sweeter than other regions.” Either way, what makes pho is the broth, and for Tang, “the broth is a labor of love. It’s cooked slow for a long period of time, about eight hours.” She also carefully selects lean, high quality meats and offers reduced fat and low-carb versions to cater to the local clientele.

Surrounded by pho day in and day out, does Tang ever tire of pho? Apparently not. “I get my [serving of] daily vitamins with small portions of pho throughout the day,” says Tang. “The concentrated broth is full of vitamins and nutrients and gives me a nice dose of energy, the healthy way.”

 

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CAMBODIAN SOUPS
by Kanara Ty.

When people want comfort food, some may reach for a calming chicken soup or greasy fried chicken. I turn to Cambodian food. I crave things that pack a lot of flavor, and Cambodian cuisine incorporates a lot of spices (often made into a spice blend known as kroeung). And with cold weather around the corner, I know I’ll want a particular kind of Cambodian comfort food: the hearty soups.

During the winter in any Cambodian American household, hearty soups are always on rotation for any meal of the day, with plenty to go around for everyone (including our neighbors, who also make more than enough food). Noodle soups (like kuyteav) and rice porridge (babor) make for popular breakfast dishes, while sour soup dishes
like somlaw machu kroeung, which incorporates ingredients like kroeung paste, turmeric, morning glory, coriander, stewed beef ribs and tripe, make for a great main dinner course. Another popular dish is somlaw machu youen, which incorporates fish, shrimp, pineapple, tomatoes and the celery-like bac hà in a tamarind-flavored broth.

For me, the one soup that represents the epitome of Cambodian comfort food is the national dish somlaw koko (Cambodian ratatouille). It’s perfect for anyone who likes to savor the discovery of various ingredients in a complex dish. With your first sip, you’ll be overwhelmed by the layers of contrasting flavors and textures of lemongrass-based kroeung paste, prahok (fermented fish paste), palm sugar, ground toasted rice, assorted veggies (including kabocha and Thai eggplants), and meat (most Cambodians prefer pork spareribs cut into bite-sized pieces). I also eat the soup with a side dish of fish sauce (chopped with Thai chilies) and serve it over rice — the perfect way to enjoy the ultimate Cambodian comfort food.

Dying to try somlaw koko? Check out elephantwalk.com for recipes, or Sophy’s in Long Beach, Calif. (sophysthailongbeach.com).


DinTaiFung-dumplingdroop2
SOUP DUMPLINGS, DIN TAI FUNG
by Anna M. Park.

Mention soup dumplings as gourmet fare, and one immediately thinks of Din Tai Fung. The Michelin-star Taiwanese restaurant that sparked a million lines around the world (there are more than 80 locations globally) has just opened its fourth U.S. branch at The Americana at Brand in Glendale, Calif. Go for their Juicy Pork Dumplings, which burst with flavorful soup in your mouth. Just make sure to do it the proper way: make your dipping sauce 80-20 vinegar to soy sauce, cool the dumpling in the sauce, and then eat whole (do not bite and do not slurp soup out!). unless, of course, you’re having their coveted Truffle Dumplings, normally reserved for dignitaries and exclusive to The Americana branch — that you eat straight out of the bamboo steamer.

 


This story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here

 

Hot Beverage: World’s First Sriracha-Flavored Vodka Launches (Yes, Really)

While an LA judge may have just ordered a Southern California sriracha hot sauce factory to partially halt its operations after complaints from neighbors, it seems like there is a new, and definitely interesting, way for us to get our spice-fix.

In what may be the most genius (or horrifying, however you look at it) alcoholic concoction, Phillips Distilling — the same company that has debuted other flavored vodkas like UV Cake and UV Espresso — has just released UV Sriracha Vodka.  As stated by the company’s press release, the vodka has a blend of “chilis, garlic and vegetables” that “honor(s) the traditional sriracha hot sauce.”

UV recommends putting it in a Bloody Mary or a strawberry margarita and offer recipes on their website.  Of course, you could also take a shot of it straight on like other vodkas or put it on your food like regular sriracha, but we don’t necessarily suggest that.

As unique of a concept as it is, we have to ask, would you take a sip?

Image of The Day: These Amazing Food Miniatures Are The Ultimate Tease

It’s a sad day when you see such appetizing food and there is no way for you to eat it. First of all, most of the food you see here is made out of polymer clay. While it looks lovely, we highly doubt that the clay would satisfy your taste buds. Secondly, these things are all about 1-2 inches each. What a tease, right?

The e-commerce site, Etsy, which focuses on handmade and vintage items, has been exploding with tiny polymer clay figurines. Simple enough to use, the modeling clay is shaped then simply placed in the oven to harden. Within a few minutes, your art piece is complete.

The clay is a relatively new medium for arts and crafts. Although it does not contain any actual clay minerals, the plastic can be shaped and re-shaped. Previously, polymer clay was a favorite among jewelry makers and even used for christmas ornaments.

Audrey ad rinko

But now polymer clay fanatics have taken this art onto a much more serious (and cute) level. A simple scroll through Etsy will lead you to a number of minuscule figurines featuring everything from fandom characters to cute Asian food.

The amount of detail on these food pieces clearly require skilled hands and keen eyes. The attention to detail is nothing short of impressive. Sushi, steamed buns and dim sum are only a few of the Asian food items that have been skillfully created.

 

Check them out for yourself:

mf 1 mf 2 mf 3 mf 4 mf 5 mf 6 mf 7 mf 8 mf 9 mf 10 mf 11 mf 12

 

Counting Down to LA Food and Wine 2013′s Asian Night Market: Thi Tran of Starry Kitchen

Asian Night Market at this year’s Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival is quite the studded spectacular. Hosted by popular Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto, the event will attempt to re-create the same flavors and experience of night markets in Asia, ranging from Taipei to Kuala Lumpur. The 25 restaurants that will be participating will include high-end established eateries, as well as mom-and-pop spots. Admission to the event will include food and drinks.

We got to have a quick chat with Thi Tran of Starry Kitchen – check it out below! For more info about the event, click here.

1. What’s the sexiest dish you’ve ever served/prepared and why – is there a story behind it?

Hmmm. Depends on what you want. Hot and spicy or do you want silky and slippery? Sounds dirty, but it’s how I think. I think the dessert I created for the Marijuana Dinners I collaborated w/ Chef Laurent Quenioux on- the Osmanthus Panna Cotta w/ red wine poached Asian pear. It’s silky, lightly sweet with a hint of floral essence because of the Osmanthus flower petals infused into the cream. It melts in your mouth, and is really good with the Asian pear too.

2. What was the last best thing you ate (and where was it)?

Hot pot at Boiling Point. I just love hot pot in any form. It’s something about tasty hot broth with meat I really love . It’s just fun and gets me excited. So satisfying.

3. Your-go-to recipe for an end-of-summer party?

Even though I make Asian food, I have a thing for homemade corn dogs. Just love hot dogs or spicy links, and always taste better when you make the batter yourself.

4. What’s your food guilty pleasure?

So many, but I have a thing for Slurpees and Kit Kats. I can’t explain it, but it’s just too tasty.

5. (If you have been to Asia) Where was your favorite place to eat and why?

HK or Taiwan street food. I love curry fish balls from the streets of HK, and love the stinky tofu in Taiwan. It taste different than the States. Love it, LOVE IT!!!

Strangest of Strange Asian Cuisine

The Fung Bro’s and AJ Rafael released the music video “Asians Eat Weird Things” and gave us a good laugh. Needless to say, we’re all aware that some Asian dishes would be considered weird and unappealing to the typical American cuisine even though we may love the stuff. Check out the music video below as well as our list of “Strangest of Strange Asian Cuisine”.

century eggs
CENTURY EGGS
A Chinese delicacy where duck, chicken or quail eggs are preserved until the yolk of the eggs to take on a creamy texture and the whites turns into a dark-colored jelly.

 

durian

DURIAN
A southeast Asian fruit known for its large size, strong (and often disliked) odor, and horn-covered exterior.

stinky tofuSTINKY TOFU
A form of fermented tofu that actually does have a strong enough odor to gain its name.

blood sausageBLOOD SAUSAGE
Links of pork and other meats mixed with blood to give them their distinct, dark color.

balutBALUT
A developing duck embryo that is boiled and eaten in its shell.

Are these too strange that you can’t stomach it? Or do you absolutely love the stuff? Tell us what you think and list some of your own strange Asian dishes.

L.A. Weekly’s 99 Essential Restaurants 2013: Which Asian Restaurants Made the List?

What I love about L.A. Weekly’s 99 Essential Restaurants list is that it’s a good mix of places that has something for everyone – especially in a city with some of the world’s most eccentric characters. I’ll admit there were some surprises, but I was pleasantly pleased with the numerous Asian entries on the list.

This year’s list is a little different – not just because of the new entries on the list – but because this is the first time other contributors have also worked on this list besides famous food writer Jonathan Gold (Tien Nguyen and Christine Chiao were enlisted). With a place as big and diverse as L.A., it’s important to have a mix of different voices  to offer their opinions (and you know, share with us their hidden gems).

Did some of your favorites make the list? Click on to see!
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