Foods & Culinary

What does Asian food mean for America? A national Smithsonian series will speak about it.

One of the most striking images to emerge from the rallies and protests that emerged after a white man killed six women of Asian origin attacks The tagline was on spas in the Atlanta area last month “Love us as you love our food” painted on strike post signs. In a four-part series hosted by the Smithsonian in May and June, some of the country’s foremost experts on Asian-American food will address the discrepancy between the way mainstream American culture likes to cook on the continent and how it is used investigate with the people who produce them.

The free series of zoom control panels called CULINASIA, The Future of Asian Food in America, includes events dedicated to America Chinatowns (5th of May), Southeast Asian restaurants (May 19), the Stigma and devaluation of Asian cuisine as “ethnic” or che food (June 9th), and the Asian American Farmer Experience and Vinters, as highlighted in the Oscar competition Threatening (23rd June). Register using the links above and find more information about each event below.

The series will pass the mic to top-class chefs from across the country, including Brandon Jew of Chinese-American appearance Mr. Jiu in San Francisco, frequent host of the Food Network and partner of Pei Wei Restaurant Group, Jet Tila, Master chef Winner Christine Hà of the contemporary Vietnamese Xin Chao in Houston, Top chef New York City contestant Dale Talde and DC’s own Katsuya Fukushima, the cook and partner in the Daikaya Group’s ramen shops in town.

The series will also include a number of activists, organizers, agricultural experts such as Mai Nguyen from the Asian American Farmers Alliance, and writers such as James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Grace Young and Food and wine Restaurant editor Khushbu Shah. In one segment, Badv owner Genevieve Villamora will cook dough with Vilailuck “Pepper” to demonstrate a recipe from Teigen’s new Thai cookbook.

Simone Jacobson, co-owner of award-winning Burmese restaurant Thamee on H Street NE Corridor in DC, is the official curator of CULINASIA. She presented topics of conversation and guest speakers Lauren Rosenberg, a program coordinator Smithsonian Associates, the education and events wing of the museum. Smithsonian Associates worked on the series while working with federal grants Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and Smithsonians National Museum of Asian Art (Freer and Sackler Galleries) the one Online screening of Threatened.

Kristyn Leach grows long beans, Korean melons and shiso at Namu Farm in Winters, California.

Michelle Min/Eater

Rosenberg and her team applied for grants and started planning the series before the pandemic before taking a hiatus for the final year. While Smithsonian Associates typically schedule in-person live events for a local DC audience, the move from CULINASIA to Zoom opens up the possibility for anyone looking to tune in to the first iteration, ”she says.

Discussing the issues on the CULINASIA agenda, Jacobson says that the Asian-American community “continues to make us visible as an integral and essential part of American food and culture”. She wants to work towards a future in which “we don’t have to worry for our safety when we go to work, we don’t have to work twice as hard for half as much forever.”

From left the Thamee owners Simone Jacobson, Jocelyn Law-Yone and Eric Wang.

Thamee’s co-owner Simone Jacobson (left) curated the CULINASIA conversation series for a joint Smithsonian campaign

Rey Lopez / Eater DC

Jacobson hopes the series can foster broader understanding between people who consider themselves experts in cooking across myriad Asian cultures and audiences unfamiliar with cuisines beyond American-Chinese food.

“At the interface between these two target groups, we can actually grow and learn from each other,” she says.

Jacobson’s overall goal is to promote a future “normalization of funk,” where fermented, sweet, sour, and umami dishes occupy a place on the average American table alongside pizza and cheeseburgers.

Here is the full description of the CULINASIA events as described by the Smithsonian hosts. Register for tickets at the link in each title.

Save Chinatown and our legacy (May 5, 6.30 p.m.)

In the COVID era, anti-Asian racism and violence were widespread, and many Asian restaurants, large and small, have permanently closed their doors. Why is the survival of Chinese restaurants and the preservation of Asian food heritage in America so important to the soul of cities?

Panelists

  • Grace Young, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and co-creator of Coronavirus: Chinatown Stories
  • Brandon Jude, head chef and owner of Mister Jiu’s, Moongate Lounge and Mamahuhu in San Francisco and Co-author of Mr. Jiu is in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the birthplace of Chinese American food
  • Jennifer Tam and Victoria Lee, founders of Welcome to Chinatown, a grassroots initiative to support New York’s Chinatown businesses
  • Dhne Wu, co-organizer of Save Our Chinatowns, an arts and culture initiative that uplifts the Chinatown communities in the Bay Area
  • Wellington Chen, Managing Director of Chinatown BID / Partnership in New York.

Southeast Asia has something to say (May 19, 6.30 a.m.)

Opening a Southeast Asian restaurant, bar, or grocery store has always been an uphill battle. How can they keep their doors open during a global pandemic when the double stacked odds of anti-Asian racism are at an all-time high?

Panelists

  • Jet Tila, Food Network Star and Head Chef for the Pei Wei Restaurant Group
  • Christine Hà, the first blind candidate from Master chef – and 2012 season three winner – and owner of The Blind Goat and Xin Chào in Houston.

* Genevieve Villamora, co-owner of the award-winning Bad Saint restaurant in Washington, DC, and Vilailuck “Pepper” Teigen, author of The Pepper Thai Cookbook: Family Recipes From Everyone’s Favorite Thai Mom, shows a recipe from the new cookbook

“Fast, casual, ethnic”: Asian food beyond misnomer and myth (June 9, 6.30 a.m.)

A national panel of Asian-American food professionals examines the ubiquitous, harmful, and persistent myth that so-called “ethnic” eating is supposed to be quick and easy. The speakers examine the origins of longstanding assumptions about Asian food and challenge people to explore how they can collectively go beyond it.

Panelists

  • Kim Pham, a first generation Vietnamese American and co-founder of the Asian pantry company Omsom
  • Executive Chef Katsuya Fukushima, co-owner of DC’s Daikaya, Bantam King and Haikan
  • Chef Dale Talde, three-time Bravo nominee Top chef, with restaurants in Brooklyn, Jersey City, and Miami
  • Sana Javeri Kadri, a third generation native Mumbai American and founder and CEO of Diaspora Co., works for a fairer and more delicious spice trade
  • Food and wine Restaurant editor Khushbu Shah, whose main interests include the foodways of the South Asian diaspora.

Asian-American farmers look back to go forward (June 23, 6:30 a.m.).

Historically, Asian Americans have been underrepresented in films and popular media, as well as in agriculture and land ownership, and have repeatedly denied career opportunities. Oscar-nominated Minari provides a unique opportunity to explore how the fact that you are Asian in America is complicated by the myth of the minority model and the community-borne burden of “eternal aliens”. Asian-American farmers and winemakers come together for a discussion inspired by the semi-autobiographical story of a Korean-American family who begins a new American dream and travels from their California home to a rural Arkansas farm to see the hopes father’s on promoting growth Korean products for sale at dealers in Dallas.

Panelists

  • Mai Nguyen, founder of the Asian American Farmers Alliance
  • Ariana de Leña, co-founder of Kamaya Farm
  • The Thai-American winemaker Kenny Likitprakong of the family-owned Hobo Wine Co. in California.

* Participants can view Threatening in the run-up to the program, Friday, June 18, at 7 p.m. as part of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s film program. More information can be found here Here.

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