Food For Thought

I used to bring to high school lunch a plastic container filled with rice and some slices of sai ua, an aromatic, spicy sausage from Northern Thailand.  My mom often got entire rolls of it shipped to us through her sister in Los Angeles. These sausages came directly from Thailand, a 12,000-mile journey that normally ended in my stomach. The unboxing ceremony during lunchtime was never quite eventful whenever I brought sandwiches or pasta but whenever I opened my plastic container filled with rice andsai ua, I knew I’d be mobbed by my friends and classmates. Not with derision or mocking but with curiousness and maybe a little bit of envy at the foods I could bring. Part of it might be the city (Miami) my high school was in, where you can find a blend of cultures and cuisines that do not shy from spice and aroma. I tried to limit the amount of sausage slices I would give out like war rations to people who will probably only ever get to taste these flavors once, maybe twice more. It reminds me of how much people don’t know about Thai food.


Growing up in a Thai household made me the recipient of many food-based remarks,like “Do you eat pad thai everyday?” or “You’re Thai? I loooooove Thai food!” Compared to the comments that I could get on my food and heritage, I much preferred the curiosity and culinary envy from being able to say that I have Thai food for dinner mostly every night than disparaging remarks about my heritage. The Thai food I eat ends up being different than most people expect, the egg omelets, stir fry broccoli and chicken (always with rice of course) being a nightly staple at my house, with the occasional curry. I’ve eaten more pad thai at a Thai restaurant than in my own home.


The reason why I bring up all ths talk about Thai food is that I recently watched the clip of Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman on the Food Network, disparaging “Asian” Wings on her show in order to promote her more “legitimate” wings. Watch the clip below and I’m sure you can see why I take issue with this video.

First off, those Asian wings look delicious. Ree, you may be insensitive but I’ve followed many of your recipes and you know how to cook. Second, what does “Asian” wings mean? There are billions of “Asians” in Asia but she seems to adopt the “add soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and ginger for an oriental flair” style to making “Asian” food. It may be have similarities with certain cuisines but what is “Asian” cuisine? Is Thai food “Asian” cuisine? What about Mongolian food? The issue with the term Asian is that it aggregates an entire continent into one label, and I doubt you can reduce an entire continent into a plate of wings.  Third, you can also just as easily promote your recipe without having to do this nonsense with “Asian” wings. Was anyone actually convinced by that mediocre bait-and-switch? Even her guests started to grab wings before she pulled out her other batch indicating that they were probably perfectly happy to eat her “Asian” wings regardless of what the script wanted them to do.  They can eat their Asian wings though, I’ll just have my bowl of rice and sai ua.

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