8Books Review: Pulutan! Filipino Bar Bites, Appetizers and Street Eats

If you need some last minute inspiration for your Thanksgiving extravaganza, take a look through Marvin Gapultos brightly-colored book of finger foods, Pulutan! Filipino Bar Bites, Appetizers and Street Eats. Now given if you don’t cook a lot of Filipino food (hi, me), you might not have fermented shrimp paste on hand which makes the pork meatballs with spicy coconut sauce temporarily out of reach. But you probably do (or your neighborhood run-of-the-mill American grocery store will) have the ingredients to whip up some spam mac’n’cheese.

Pulutan! is seriously flashy, with bold colored pages, and drink pairings for every dish. Organized by how you cook it (grilled, fried), the opening chapter introduces the concept of pulutan to novices (hi, me again). No recipe is longer than an open spread, so you know it can’t be all that complicated. The instructions are easy to follow once you’ve got all the ingredients on hand.

Ellen DeGeneres Surprises McDonald’s Pranksters Pushing For Asian American Inclusion

This a great story on a prank when two Asian American men noticed that Asian Americans weren’t being profiled in some of McDonald’s restaurant’s posters:

“Earlier this month, Jevh Maravilla and Christian Toldeo became viral superstars because of a mock poster they created and hung on the wall of a McDonald’s restaurant in Pearland, Texas. It featured themselves in an apparent advertisement for the fast food chain.

The image was so convincing that it had reportedly gone unnoticed by the eatery’s employees for 51 days before Maravilla tweeted about it Sept. 2. As of Monday, it had been liked more than 1 million times.”

Inspired by ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ for representation, Jevh and Christian were motivated to have themselves represented.

In mid September, day time talk show host Ellen DeGeneres in hosted Jevh and Christian and surprised them:

“She also revealed that the pair will be highlighted in a forthcoming McDonald’s ad campaign, and handed them each a check for $25,000 as “payment” for their commitment to diversity.”

Imagine making onto to national TV and getting a surprise $25k for a prank! I’m looking forward to seeing this at a local McDonald’s hopefully.

Some People Just Don’t get Pixar’s Bao

I wrote a review about how I really liked the Pixar Short Bao that appears with The Incredibles 2, but apparently not everyone one likes as much as I did or even gets it.  A number of articles (some spoilers) like this one, this one, and this one, mention how some non-Asian Americans just don’t get it.  Some were confused or even laughed.  Leaving in the Asian American bubble where I live, I initially thought “WTF!” but on further thought, I realized I shouldn’t have been surprised.

One niece of mine said she was bawling at the end, and the Daughter said she was about to cry.  I think if you have never faced the tension of having to deal with conflicting cultures in your household tearing at you in different directions, its much easier to not understand.  I first saw Bao at Pixar, and I don’t recall any one really laughing at the points mentioned in the articles.  Then again, there were a lot of Asians Americans there and also a lot of people who knew about Bao since many of them helped make it.  When I saw it with The Wife in a commercial theatre with a mostly non-Asian audience, there definitely were some annoying laughs.

I still think Bao has some universal themes such as the tension between generations, but other parts resonate strongly with many Asian Americans.   I did find it sad that many people just didn’t get it, but again, as I mentioned, I really shouldn’t have been surprised.

(h/t:  Mike)

Tasty Presents: How [Din Tai Fung’s] Soup Dumplings Are Made

If you followed my blog posts, you know I am a fan of Din Tai Fung (DTF) and note every new opening of the restaurant in the U.S. (the latest announced restaurant will be in Portland, Oregon). Many say that DTF is “overrated,” but I don’t care. Din Tai Fung has created a Taiwanese brand that is beloved and known to those in the know for Xiaolongbao (XLB) and quality Chinese food.  So it’s not surprise that I was excited to see a Tasty video on Facebook about how Din Tai Fung makes its Xiaolongbao, or how it’s known in the West as “soup dumplings.” You get to see how DTF’s Xiaolongbao are meticulously made by hand.

What’s also interesting in the video is that the grandsons of the original founder of Din Tai Fung, Albert and Aaron Yang. I also read about the brothers recently in an industry publication (who according to the video, manage the U.S. operations of the restaurants):

“… In 1972, the store was transformed into a restaurant specializing in soup dumplings and noodles. The elegant, best-in-class dining venues have since expanded to Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Macau, mainland China, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Dubai.

[Albert] Yang and his brother Aaron, both graduates of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, run day-to-day operations in the U.S., where they have established the company’s dominance.

When Din Tai Fung opens restaurants, diners descend on each location with wait times reaching up to two hours. In the dining room, customers are treated to a show, as dumpling masters fold hundreds of the juicy wonders in an exhibition kitchen. The hand-folded, thin-skinned dough is filled with meat, often ground pork, and gelatinized stock. The stock liquefies upon steaming, creating a juicy burst with every bite.”

 

Continue reading “Tasty Presents: How [Din Tai Fung’s] Soup Dumplings Are Made”

A Short Review: Bao

Accompanying the Pixar movie The Incredibles 2 is a short called Bao.  It starts, as you can see from the trailer above, when a woman who has just cooked some bao is shocked when one of them comes to life.  While we have talked about Russell from Up being Asian American, this short was striking in that in deals directly with issues that Asian Americans and Asian Canadians face.

Bao was created by Domee Shi, who moved from China to Canada when she was two.  She joined Pixar as an intern, and eventually pitched the Bao concept and got it made.  The mom in Bao was inspired by her own mom and other Chinese women in her life.

I really liked Bao.  While I am not of Chinese origin, it spoke to me of my own experiences with food and family.   A bao becomes more than just a bun – it becomes a metaphor for many things.   I am also around the same age as the mom, making her not just Asian American/Canadian but universal concerns very meaningful to me.  So if you go to see The Incredibles 2 (also recommended) and are thinking about getting popcorn when you see Bao come up on the screen, don’t.  It will be worth your time, whether you are Asian American, American Canadian, or not.

Din Tai Fung Expanding into Portland, Oregon

To date in the United States, you could only go to a Din Tai Fung in either California or the Greater Seattle region. Now, it looks like the restaurant brand will be expanding into Portland, Oregon:

“Often lauded as the maker of the “world’s greatest dumplings,” Taiwanese dim sum restaurant Din Tai Fung seems to be planning its first Oregon location in the Washington Square mall. Over the past months several readers have emailed Eater saying that the dumpling shop intends to open an Oregon location, and Din Tai Fung has filed a business license with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. When Eater contacted corporate HQ, a rep didn’t deny the rumors, saying: “We decline to comment at this time. Could you check back with us in a month for updates?” No one from Washington Square has responded to multiple requests for comment.

Din Tai Fung currently has 11 locations in the United States, specifically in California and Seattle. The restaurant is known for its long wait times, polished and modern decor, and its text book xiao long bao (soup dumplings) with fillings like truffle pork and pork and crab.”

I’ve only been to Portland once (a few days after the 2016 election …) and did check out their Chinatown, which I have to say, was kind of rundown … Not to say that a Chinatown’s cuisine is any indicator of Asian cuisine in general …

But from what I have heard from others who have lived in Portland, the Chinese and Taiwanese food scene there is not the greatest. So congrats to Portland on getting a Din Tai Fung sometime in the future.

To be honest, I’m kind of surprised that Din Tai Fung is expanding into Portland when they haven’t even penetrated the East Coast. Portland is a relatively small market. But maybe Din Tai Fung wants to establish their brand on the West Coast first?

CAAMFEST 2018 – May 10-24, San Francisco & Oakland

CAAMFEST 36

One of the things that I appreciate about the San Francisco Bay Area after I moved here is the rich cultural activities in the area, and that includes the annual Asian American film festival known as CAAMFEST (known prior to 2013 as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) – quite a mouthful). The festival is organized by the Center of Asian American Media (CAAM), which is based in San Francisco.

This year kicks off with the premiere of a documentary about Norman Mineta:

““An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy” will have its world premiere Thursday night in San Francisco.

The film about the former San Jose mayor, Congressman and cabinet secretary to two U.S. presidents is the opening night film of the Center for Asian American Media film festival, known as CAAMFest. Mineta, 86, also will be honored by the city of San Francisco on opening night as part of the 40th anniversary festivities for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Mineta’s story really is a classic American tale of success, with the tragic irony that begins it: As an 11-year-old, he was interned with his family at Heart Mountain, Wyo., during World War II. (Even that story has a cinematic twist: Mineta met fellow Boy Scout and future Sen. Alan Simpson there.) In 1971, he became the first Asian-American elected mayor of a major U.S. city and served two decades in Congress, starting in 1975. He was appointed U.S. Secretary of Commerce by President Clinton in 2000 and served as Secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush in 2001.”

I live near San Jose, and I’m often reminded about Mineta when I fly out of Mineta San Jose International Airport, which is named after him. And I’m a big fan of documentaries and recall seeing Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority at CAAMFest back in 2009 and being blown away about learning her story and surprised that I hadn’t known about her beforehand.

A big change from previous years is that the film festival is now being held in May, to coincide with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, instead of being held in February or March like it has in the past.

There are a quite a number of films to screened again this year. However, the San Francisco Chronicle has recommended the top 10 films to see this year, including (in alphabetical order):

Also, since 2013, the CAAMFEST organizers have expanded the nature of the festival beyond films to incorporate food and music programs and over time, increasingly more to convey cultural experience through the world’s most innovative Asian and Asian American artists.

This year’s festival theme – “Culture, In Every Sense”- is emphasized throughout the program with expanded music and food sections, a virtual reality project that is also produced by CAAM, and a special closing night performance by Bay Area native, Brenda Wong Aoki.

There’s even a Disoriented Comedy Show, where I’m looking forward seeing comedian Jenny Yang perform and finally meet her in person (I mostly know her for her funny videos posted on Facebook and elsewhere)!

Be sure to check out the CAAMFEST36 festival website as well as online program guide to learn about all the films and events going on.

Din Tai Fung Opens at Westfield Mall in Orange County, CA

The last time I went to a Din Tai Fung opening, it was also at a Westfield Mall – specifically the Valley Fair Mall in San Jose/Santa Clara, California. Well now, another one has opened in Orange County:

“There has been a great deal of anticipation, but Din Tai Fung, the dumpling and noodle chain that is known for its delicious food and four hour waits for a table in Orange County, has finally opened its doors at Westfield, Century City.

The restaurant officially opened on March 23 and now locals will be able to partake of their famous xiao long bao (soup dumplings), which are made fresh on the premises every day.”

A lot of people say that Din Tai Fung is overrated. I don’t care! It’s one of the few Taiwanese brands I think Americans recognize in the U.S. – or at least in California!

Asian American Commercial Watch: Panda Express’ “Breaking the Ice”

I just saw this new Panda Express TV commercial, “Introducing Peking Pork – Breaking the Ice“:

“New Peking Pork from Panda Express is peking your appetite with crispy pork chop bites, hand- cut peppers and white onion, wok-tossed in a sweet and sour glaze. It’s American Chinese comfort food that’s made to satisfy in any situation.”

It surprisingly stars Wong Fu Productions’ Philip Wang. I think this is the first time I’ve seen Wang star in a TV commercial. Also, I think this is the first Asian Male / Hispanic Female pairing in a commercial ever. Additionally, I wonder if we’ll start to see more of Wang in TV commercials, then television and then movies (like how Randall Park’s career progressed).

The premise of the TV commercial is that Wang plays the Asian American boyfriend who is bringing Panda Express takeout to his Hispanic girlfriend’s home. The woman’s father is not exactly that friendly – until Wang offers (or is “breaking the ice”) some Peking Pork for the father to try. After that, the father lets down his protective guard.

Asian American Commercial Watch: Tostitos “Reposting”

https://youtu.be/QmXWZDSLuAc

Although this commercial was uploaded to Tostitos’ YouTube channel over 7 months ago, I only recently caught this TV commercial, which stars actress Alli Chung.

I like how this commercial kind of mocks those who tend to be a bit too active on social media, although to be honest, this could include me.

 

Asian American Frozen Foods: Ajinomoto’s Shoyu Chicken Ramen Bowls

I was at Costco the other day, and noticed this new frozen meal – Ajinomoto’s Tokyo Style Shoyu Chicken Ramen Bowls. I’m always looking for something I can bring to work, since I had mentioned, the company cafeteria kind of sucks. So the fact that this packing has six dishes for $12.99, that definitely caught my eye.

Although, as usual, the dish alone probably wouldn’t be that filling for lunch. I’ll probably have to bring something else, like a salad. In any case, you really can’t too much about how the dish is going to taste after taking it out of the box:

But once you remove the plastic, fill the plastic container with water until a certain line, and microwave for about four minutes, this is what you get:

I was pleasantly surprised – the dish tasted pretty decent. On the packaging, the instructions suggest:

“Add some soy sauce, black pepper, or a soft boiled egg to customize your ramen!”

And I am sure that will make the ramen dish taste better, but I’m not going to bring soy sauce, etc. to work with me. Again, the meal size was okay – but I’d definitely still be hungry in a few hours if I only had this for lunch.

8Books Review: The Discovery of Ramen

Instant ramen noodles have been one of my comfort foods since I was a kid.  I wrote about how I even ate them raw as a kid in a previous 8Asians post, and how I’m still searching for the elusive and probably relegated to history “Sun Lih Men” brand of instant ramen noodles.  When I was asked to review a new kid’s book, The Discovery of Ramen, I jumped on the chance, even though my daughter is probably a little too old (she’s twelve now) for the picture book format of this title.  The new book is from the same publisher and one of the authors and illustrators of the Chinese New Year kids books, Tales from the Chinese Zodiac including the most recent one, The Year of the Rooster, that I reviewed back in January of 2017.

While the book appeared to target a child younger than my daughter, I asked her if she’d be interested in reading it.  When she saw the title, she said yes, as ramen noodles are also her favorite (she takes after her dad in that respect!).  She sat and read the book completely engrossed in the contents.  After she finished I asked her what she thought of the book, and she agreed with my initial assessment that the title was better suited for a younger child (ages 2 to 10), but she did thoroughly enjoy reading about the history of ramen, and how it came to be a staple for many Japanese restaurants.

If ramen figures highly among your child’s favorite  foods, this will be a great addition to your reading library.  The new book will release on November 14, 2017.

Footnote: Unfortunately I never found a source for the elusive “Sun Lih Men”, but I know I’m not the only one looking.  It appears the factory that manufactured these instant noodles burned down, and none of the other brands seem to satisfy the taste buds of those who had the original “Sun Lih Men”.