Mélomane by nature. A 20-something businesswoman, nerd, and ambigamist in love with friends, wine, food, traveling, birds, words, a boy, and everything in between.
Proud supporter of FC Bayern München.

Catching Elephant is a theme by Andy Taylor

All original content by me is licensed under the CC BY-NC 3.0 License

 

This whole pallet was $6 at the produce market, sweet as candy. California, you make it hard to not love you. #strawberries #fruit #food

This whole pallet was $6 at the produce market, sweet as candy. California, you make it hard to not love you. #strawberries #fruit #food

Japan in the 1950s - The Ramen Museum at Yokohama

Yesterday I took Ben and my father to the Ramen Museum, an indoor amusement park-meets food court-meets museum-meets period reenactment set, in search of Japan’s best ramens. The museum has a constantly circulating cast of 9 restaurants deemed to be the creme de la creme of Japanese ramen in the soy sauce, tonkotsu, salt, and miso categories, with both straight and crinkly, thin and fat noodles. Reconstructed “old school” extinct ramen, ramen shops lost in the tsunami, and sweets can also be bought. You can buy a mini bowl of ramen for between ¥500-850 and sample from as many stores as you wish. The ¥300 admission allows you to leave to digest and come back for more.

The interior is a throwback to post war Tokyo in the 50s - crowded, wooden and grimy, movie posters and flyers touting the new inventions of televisions and refrigerators (that few could afford). The music streaming out of the fake bars are hits like “Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” with Japanese lyrics sung by Japanese stars of the time.

I forgot to warn my dad about this - My dad who was born in 1940 and remembers the war, remembers Tokyo, and the ramen of the time. This place is basically a recreation of his childhood, but more crowded and with a ton of queues for a tiny bowl of gourmet ramen. But instead of disengaging, he was wandering, snapping photos, and smiling at all the little details of who was on the television, the old logos of brands, the feel of everything. He talked about his first telephone number (three digits), his wooden non-electric refrigerator that had to be refilled by the ice delivery man everyday, and the ¥40 straight thin buckwheat ramen he ate as a kid that we were now paying ¥850 for. All as he holsters his iPhone and DSLR.

The ramen of course was exquisite and delicious (perfectly rendered pork slices and umami filled, long-brewed broth, handmade noodles, drool, you get the picture) but as we walked back on a steel and glass bridge over a highway back to the train station - its high speed bullet train and earthquake-proof skyscraper a small token of today’s seemingly impossible modern technology - the real treat was seeing my father continue to float through it all like a ghost, simultaneously a stranger and local of a city that he’s called home for 73 years.

My favorite foods on Oahu include: Fresh warm malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery on Kapahulu. Cinnamon, sugar, li-hing, custard, and haupia. Don’t ever miss out if you’re here!

When I go to contemporary Asian restaurants, like Wolfgang Puck’s now-shuttered 20.21 in Minneapolis and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market in New York City, it seems the entrées are always in the $16–$35 range and the only identifiable person of color in the kitchen is the dishwasher. The menus usually include little blurbs about how the chefs used to backpack in the steaming jungles of the Far East (undoubtedly stuffing all the herbs and spices they could fit into said backpacks along the way, for research purposes), and were so inspired by the smiling faces of the very generous natives—of which there are plenty of tasteful black-and-white photos on the walls, by the way—and the hospitality, oh, the hospitality, that they decided the best way to really crystallize that life-changing experience was to go back home and sterilize the cuisine they experienced by putting some microcilantro on that $20 curry to really make it worthy of the everyday American sophisticate. American chefs like to talk fancy talk about “elevating” or “refining” third-world cuisines, a rhetoric that brings to mind the mission civilisatrice that Europe took on to justify violent takeovers of those same cuisines’ countries of origin. In their publicity materials, Spice Market uses explicitly objectifying language to describe the culture they’re appropriating: “A timeless paean to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market titillates Manhattan’s Meatpacking District with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s piquant elevations of the region’s street cuisine.” The positioning of Western aesthetics as superior, or higher, than all the rest is, at its bottom line, an expression of the idea that no culture has value unless it has been “improved” by the Western Midas touch. If a dish hasn’t been eaten or reimagined by a white person, does it really exist?

Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, often claims that to know a culture, you must eat their food. I’ve eaten Vietnamese food my whole life, but there’s still so much that I don’t understand about my family and the place we came from. I don’t know why we can be so reticent, yet so emotional; why Catholicism, the invaders’ religion, still has such a hold on them; why we laugh so hard even at times when there’s not much to laugh about. After endless plates of com bi, banh xeo, and cha gio, I still don’t know what my grandmother thinks about when she prays.

Soleil Ho, “Craving the Other” (via cmao)

Amen. This ideology is why I don’t like most non-Asian run, Asian/Asian-fusion restaurants. The trend of “elevating” Asian food, of simply traveling and understanding or “finding” Asia is problematic in itself AND it fails to produce genuinely good food. Fusion food with false heart speaks to no one. My culture is not yours to re-imagine and re-sell as a fad.

The last paragraph is also just beautiful, and really speaks to my Asian American Experience.

Midori and Annie dreamt of sushi… And then ate it all 😋

Many thanks to Chef Kousaka for the amazing meal, sake, and cronuts! (at Jewel Bako)

Midori and Annie dreamt of sushi… And then ate it all 😋 Many thanks to Chef Kousaka for the amazing meal, sake, and cronuts! (at Jewel Bako)