Episode 12: MOCA + Chinese Food in America

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The team from Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) joined Lynda and Iris in the studio to talk about their exhibit, “Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America”, which explores Chinese food in America through the personal stories of more than 30 Chinese and Asian American chefs.

Unlike our episodes that dig deep into the story of a specific Asian dish, it was great having three co-curators from MOCA to talk about the exhibit, the Chinese immigrant experience, and Chinese food in America on a more macro level. We interview food writer Kian Lam Kho, Curator and Director of Exhibitions at MOCA Herb Tam, and Assistant Curator at MOCA Andrew Rebatta (pictured below, left to right).

First, the co-curators explain the name "Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy" and how this Chinese idiom is about the trials and tribulations in life as much as it is about food. They then talk about how the exhibit came together and why it's been so well-received in New York.

They tell us about the different regional Chinese cuisines represented in the exhibit, and Chinese food in America versus Chinese food in China. Does the term "authentic" mean anything? Lynda also asks the curators whether or not we should be worried about certain Chinese food traditions and arts (e.g. making dim sum) being lost with the new generation. 

23:26 "A lot of young chefs in America are experimenting. In a way, when they experiment they move a little bit off from the 'traditional' method of cooking. For example, Tim Ho Wan, the new dim sum restaurant that just opened up in New York--they trained their chefs and brought in experts to come in and revive the dim sum art. I'm just using dim sum as an example, but there are a lot of other forms of culinary arts that are traditional, and I see them as being modernized rather than lost." - Kian Lam Kho

Finally, they talk about what's next for MOCA and the three co-curators speculate what the next Chinese food trends in America will be.

If you haven’t visited MOCA yet, please go check it out! They are located at 215 Centre Street and the extended “Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy” exhibit will be running until September 10th. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to subscribe to Feast Meets West on iTunes or Stitcher.