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”.
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I saw this article by Durham, North Carolina’s The Hearld Sun posted on Facebook recently and was outraged by what I had read, and immediately made a small contribution to Hongbin Gu’s campaign for city council in Chapel Hill:
“She’s not US born,” [member of the Orange County Local Facebook group, Douglas] Roberts wrote. “What’s happened to us?”
Roberts, when asked in a comment whether Gu living in the U.S. for 22 years was enough for her to be considered American, said, “born in the USA works, born a North Carolinian is better.”
Gu, 49, responded to the social media criticism by posting her immigration story.
She was born during the Cultural Revolution in China, she said, and her parents were sent to labor camps when she was barely a month old.
Gu remembers seeing photos of tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square that brutally put down student protests in Beijing in June 1989. Gu said she was a student in Shanghai at the time and participated in similar marches and protests as part of the nationwide pro-democracy movement led by students.
“I think my experience, especially coming from an authoritarian state, makes me appreciate even more this democratic system we have over here,” Gu said.
Gu came to Chapel Hill two decades ago with just $50 in her pocket, and now has a family and researches autism as a faculty member in the psychiatry department at the UNC School of Medicine. Gu has a Ph.D in mathematical psychology.
“As an immigrant, I actually appreciate more about how valuable our system is, what it really means, and what kind of sacrifices people have made to actually make this system happen in this country,” Gu said.
Candidates for municipal office do not have to be born in the United States. They do need to be U.S. citizens, at least 21 years old, registered to vote, live in the municipality and not be a convicted felon, according to the Orange County Board of Elections.
Gu became a U.S. citizen in 2015, she said.
I thought Gu’s response was brilliant. I myself was the son of Taiwanese immigrant parents and I know my father came with almost nothing to the U.S. when he came for graduate school (in fact, he didn’t have enough money to fly all the way to Atlanta – he had to take the bus cross country from LA to Atlanta).
Except for Native Americans, it boggles my mind that some Americans refuse to recognize that the United States is a country of immigrants, and built by immigrants. The U.S. is a country that is built on ideas, not based on race. If Gu happened to have been a European immigrant, I wonder if she would have received this kind of criticism? I doubt it. In the age of Trump, I’m not surprised, but am disgusted, by this kind of criticism (I mean, after all, Melania, violated immigration law).
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 2: “The First Day”
Original airdate October 10, 2017.
Synopsis: (deep breath) It’s the first day of school for the Huang boys. Eddie gets a little insecure when he sees the jocks flirting with Alison, so he tries out for the football team without his mom’s permission. Emery is excited to finally have middle school to himself, now that Eddie’s in high school, but the charmed life he has lived seems to have turned: the girls don’t respond to him, and he spills a droplet of milk on his school pants — right on the pleat! Evan has a little surprise for Emery too. Louis has some trouble with a Kenny Rogers representative, now that Michael Bolton has sold his interest in Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch (now Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch). I sorta can’t believe I just typed that sentence.
Yay: Evan and Jessica don’t really have their own stories here, and that’s completely okay! There’s still too much going on, but maybe the writers are coming around to one of my biggest complaints about this show: they try to cram too much story into each episode. There’s a teeny bit of further development of the secret Nicole shared with Eddie in episode one; I like that the writers don’t feel the need to push it way up front. I’ll be pleased if it takes its time.
I was worried last season that Hudson Yang as Eddie had hit a dead end as an actor, but he seems to be growing into his skin. He’s still a little cardboard at times, but he has his moments, especially with his timing in dialogue with his mom. That’s probably a reflection on Constance Woo as an actor too. Isabella Alexander as Alison continues to be the best of the regular young actors.
In case you’ve lost track of the timeline, it’s the fall of 1997. The Huangs move to Orlando in the spring of 1995 (as it still says in the opening music), so season two begins in the fall that same year, season three begins in the fall of 1996, and here we are in 1997, as confirmed by Grandma’s declaration that it’s the year of the ox in the Chinese zodiac. It’s good that they give us enough to keep this straight.
Eddie’s cafeteria scene with his estranged friends is really well edited. Not quite an O Captain My Captain moment, but you know, at least a distant cousin.
Boo: This Cattleman’s Ranch arc is getting ridiculous. The acting by Forrest Wheeler (as Emery) and Ian Chen (as Evan) is both awkward and charming at the same time. I’m not sure what I’m reading here, especially after Wheeler’s very good season last year, but I suspect they’ll find their groove.
FOB moment: Grandma tells Emery that everyone has bad luck during his or her zodiac year. Emery is smart: why doesn’t he ask her why it doesn’t seem like everyone else in his grade is also having a bad luck year?
Soundtrack flashback: I didn’t hear anything. Did you? Seems like they missed the chance to flash us back to almost anything great when Nicole is driving Eddie to school.
Final grade, this episode: Kind of a boring episode, but I do like the way what seems to be the A plot resolves fairly early while we get resolution on the antagonistic friends, which seemed to be a C plot at best. Nicely done. The Dolly Parton jokes are bizarre and funny, but this Kenny Rogers story has to go. B-minus.
Inspired by frightening favorites like The Twilight Zone, the first animated series about Filipino horror folklore, Umbra will feature creatures and monsters from traditional Filipino folklore retold in the modern-day Philippines. The series includes stories about a flesh-eating, shape-shifting monster; the lost soul of a dead bride looking for a new husband to join her in death; and the conquest to destroy a murderous mermaid.
I’m not into horror, but I’m down for anything bringing Filipino culture into the mainstream, and the animation looks promising. Umbra premieres Wednesday, October 11 at 8:00 Eastern on Myx TV. New back-to-back episodes air every Wednesday, with episodes available for streaming online the next day at www.myxtv.com.
My First Book of Vietnamese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book of Vietnamese Language and Culture, the latest addition to Tuttle’s My First Book of [fill in blank] Words series came out recently. It is written by Tran Thi Minh Phuoc, and artfully illustrated by Nguyen Thi Hop and Nguyen Dong. The book guides visitors through the English alphabet with short rhymes and some contextual information:
C is for Cu.
The owl flies at night,
but when he hoots our grandma says
that something isn’t right
A contextual note on the same page explains that an owl’s hoot in Vietnamese culture is bad luck or bad news.
With minimal existing knowledge of Vietnamese, I requested to also take a look at My First Book of Chinese Words to compare. Both are nicely illustrated and take readers through each letter of the alphabet explaining, for instance, that V is for violin, or xiaotiqin, because there is no “v” in Chinese (this being Mandarin Chinese of course).
My main critique of both was that though there is audio pronunciations available through the publisher’s website, the minimal explanation at the opening of each book does not adequately set anyone up to really pronounce these foreign words. Are the books for children whose parents speak the language? Perhaps, but I would guess this is not the main audience. The most useful aspect of these volumes is buried in the subtitle–an introduction to the cultures associated with these language, be it Chinese or Vietnamese. Superstitions and festivities, family relationships, and of course, food culture are liberally sprinkled throughout, and it is there that these books offer the most to their young readers.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 1: “B as in Best Friends”
Season 4 premiere airs tonight, October 3, 2017 on ABC.
Synopsis: (deep breath) The Huangs have moved out of the new home they decided they don’t like. They’re homeless because their former landlord has already leased their old place to a guy played by Chris Elliott. Honey and Marvin invite them to stay over as long as they’d like until they get the housing situation resolved, but Jessica and her family are terrible houseguests. Eddie’s friends haven’t forgiven him for calling them losers, so he hangs out with Nicole, his former crush who has a new car. Emery and his father build a birdhouse. Evan, committed to the reading list of the private school he’s been unadmitted to, turns his nose up at Nicole’s old books, a collection of The Babysitter’s Club. Jessica and Honey compete on Wheel of Fortune.
Dope: It’s a genuine pleasure to have the Huangs back, and maybe it’s not fair to put extra weight on their return because Dr. Ken didn’t make the cut, but there it is. They are back to being the only Asian-American sitcom on broadcast television. I need them to be good.
I can’t explain it, but two little visual details really cracked me up. A Dolly Parton photo in an unexpected (yet not surprising) place, and a tiny welcome mat. They bode well for a show whose visual gags have usually been good. And it’s great to have Nicole back. She and Eddie have always been good together.
Whack: I’m not backing down from my distaste for celebrity cameos, although I can sorta look the other way on Pat Sajak and Vanna White, who are pretty funny. There’s another cameo I really dislike.
Also, Evan continues to be a little prick sometimes. This is not an Evan I like.
The episode is all over the freaking place, but it’s okay. It’s like that first day of school in eleventh grade. You’re so busy running around making sure to say hi to everyone that you don’t have any real quality time with anyone except the hot Asian girl who can’t stand you. But I showed her. I took her best friend to the prom.
FOB moment: Can’t type it without spoiling a moment, but it’s what Jessica says to Honey when Honey finally calls her out on her awful behavior. Also, there’s a callback to the dishwasher episode.
Soundtrack flashback: Awwwwww yeeeeeah boyeeeee! “Don’t Sweat the Technique” by Erik B. & Rakim (1992). I seriously love this song. Also a little snippet of the Michael Bolton cover of “Lean on Me” (1993). I was less thrilled to hear that.
Final grade, this episode: You can’t get a high grade on the first day of school, or you’ll expect good marks for mediocre work all year. Let’s grade this like summer homework: credit for doing it but no letter grade. I’m just happy to see the Huangs again. Really, though: you’ll want to see this one. I’m leaving out something rather unexpected, so check it out and let me know what you think. CREDIT for completion.
“Here’s a quick dinner idea we think will really excite you! Trader Joe’s Korean Style Beef Short Ribs. It’s a simple entrée, really — lean beef short ribs marinated in a slightly sweet, soy-based marinade. That’s it. Exciting, right? The genius is really in the preparation, and that’s where you come in. In about 15 minutes (if you count the time it takes to thaw the meat), these simple Short Ribs cook to utter perfection — just pop them on a grill — or grill pan on the stovetop — at medium-high heat, cook for a couple of minutes on each side and, you’re done. See? Genius! We’re selling Korean Style Beef Short Ribs in a 20 ounce package — in our freezers — for $9.99, every day.”
Per instructions, I did defrost the frozen ribs in the bag in tap water for about 10 to 15 minutes. Afterwards, I put the six ribs in the frying pan and fried for about 3 minutes on each side:
I’d say they tasted pretty good for the amount of effort I had to put in. Obviously, the beef short ribs are not going to taste as great as fresh ribs BBQ infront of you at a Korean restaurant, but I have to say, this is a pretty good dish and deal. There are Korean grocery stores about 8 miles from where I live, but a Trader Joe’s less than a mile from me. The fact that I like frozen foods since I’m afraid of anything spoiling … this is definitely another frozen food I will buy again and again.
After he graduated from high school this year, Number Two Son mentioned to me that one conversation he has continually had with a close Filipino American friend regards how few of their Filipino American peers were ambitious with their college choices. Their levels of achievement and college choices seemed much low, especially compared to other Asian American students at their Silicon Valley high school and despite that many of their parents were well educated. While I personally could see some examples, without real data, it was hard to say whether the kids he saw were just cherry picked examples within a self-selected group in an area heavily obsessed with education. A Pew Research Center compilation of Asian American data shows that Filipino Americans are indeed downward mobile from the initial immigrant generation (data shown above). This compilation should be useful to people who want to make data driven conclusions about Asian Americans.
The Pew Research Center has conveniently disaggregated data nicely into specific facts sheets for specific Asian American groups. A blog post looked at the aggregate data, and some of the findings surprised me – there are more than 20 million of us now and growing. Other interesting facts – Asian Americans are 11.3% of illegal immigrants, with the top country of origin being India (not what I expected). Asian Americans live in a multi-generational household more frequently than the general population (been there).
The data that shows that Filipino Americans are downward mobile doesn’t explain WHY that is the case. I looked up some work in that area and found Susan S. Kim’s Ph.D thesis comparing Korean American and Filipino American youth. The thesis concludes that Korean American communities have education institutions that encourage and support education much more heavily, and that the rapid acculturation that Filipino Americans experience, especially given the colonial history of the Philippines, doesn’t necessarily contribute to better performance. This makes a lot of sense to me. Also, I find that Filipinos, like many Americans, buy into the myth that academic performance in things like math is much more from innate abilities rather than hard work. “Such bullshit!” is Number Two Son’s comment on that myth.
While I find disaggregated data to be very useful, others find the mandated collection of disaggregated data to be objectionable. Other studies looking at Filipino American downward mobility are here and here (focusing on San Diego), and Susan Kim’s thesis contains many more references.
From a racial perspective, the reality TV shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette has been somewhat contorversial, considering that for most of the TV series existence, both shows has been pretty white. And 8Asians has covered this issue with blog posts such as:
Wong Fu Productions does an *awesome* and hilarious parody of the shows and highlights a lot of the issues related to the stereotypes of Asian American men.
The production quality is also through the roof – very similar to what you’d expect to see from a network show.
I thought the actress, Jamie LaBarber, who plays the Bachelorette, does a great job, and couldn’t help notice that her red dress was quite a bit revealing and loose fitting …
There were some really funny lines pick-up lines that the Asian bachelor use. But what I think the parody does best is parody the style, conflict and emotions found in the The Bachelor & The Bachelorette shows.
It’s been a long time since I last recall blogging about Target for my Asian American Commercial Watch series, but I caught this ad recently:
“Running low on the stuff you need? Time for a Target Run. Get everyday low prices on everyday essentials like milk, toothpaste and diapers. Target Run, and Done.”
The ad features an Asian American Mom:
her son & daughter:
and the kids’ grandfather:
My favorite Target ad though is the first one I had blogged about – All-American Asian Family in Target Ad:
Target, keep up the great work!
September 21 is International Peace Day, what more fitting a day than to talk about origami cranes–or at least a book on cranes. Origami Peace Cranes: Friendships Take Flight by Sue DiCicco is a children’s book about friendship and making connections despite differences. Emma–pictured center on the cover–is nervous about going to a new school and thinks no one will want to be her friend. That is of course until her teacher invites them to all make paper cranes and write messages to one another. Then, Emma makes connections with her (very multicultural) classmates. It’s a very straightforward story about accepting others and accepting yourselves. The book includes easy to follow instructions for how to make an origami crane as well as paper.
I appreciate that the story touts self-acceptance and features a diverse crew (Kumar, Juana, Takako eating a bento box for lunch…you get the drift). That being said, I really did wish reading through it, that the main character was not white. And while it may not be traditional to write on your origami crane, the author is clearly interested in fostering creativity and self-expression in all forms and I can’t criticize that.
“While most of its big name new restaurants are lined up to launch in Westfield UTC this fall, it will be a slightly longer wait for dumpling specialists Din Tai Fung. As part of the shopping center’s multi-million expansion and remodel, there will be plenty of fresh food and drink options to celebrate come October including Shake Shack, Great Maple, True Food Kitchen and more, but a rep for the Taiwanese chain confirmed that it will not be opening in Westfield UTC until 2018.”
I’ve only been to San Diego for work, so I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Westfield UTC mall, but from Google Maps, it doesn’t look too far from UC San Diego (less than 3 miles).