Poke: Gotta Catch 'Em All?

Feast Meets West returns to its OG format for our last episode of the season! We end 2016 with a bang by talking about what is one of the trendiest foods right now: poke. While poke is not an Asian dish (it's from Hawaii), we discuss the influence of Japanese flavors on this dish, and how quickly it has travelled around the US, Asia, and even Europe.

We chat with Sons of Thunder owners, James and John Kim, which is located in midtown, NYC. For the Asian perspective, you'll also hear from Steph Kudus, owner of Pololi in Hong Kong. Both poke shops were created because of the owners love of poke and connection with Hawaii. Little did they know that they were at the forefront of an international phenomenon.

Lynda and Iris touch on the origins of the dish and talk about what makes good poke, while James and John Kim tell us how Hawaiian poke's texture differs to New York poke (and probably the rest of the world).

"New Yorkers don't know poke like Hawaiians know poke. They know sushi, they know sashimi. They know fresh fish, dabbing it in soy sauce, and then sticking it in their mouth, and getting that fresh texture with the salt." - James and John Kim on why New Yorkers don't prefer Hawaiian poke's gummy texture.

We then discuss our theories on why it's so popular worldwide, as well as the sustainability issues associated with the food and the future of poke.

"I'm pretty sure at the rate that we're going with what we're trying to do at Pololi, it's definitely going to be here to stay. I think it's going to move toward having more sustainable and traceable fish. We actually work with suppliers that are moving toward being sustainable or traceable, at least over here in Asia, and that's really important for us." - Steph Kudus on the future of poke.

Please keep listening to the end of the episode because we announce some BIG NEWS about where Feast Meets West is going in 2017! While we're on our holiday break, take the chance to catch up on old episodes, leave us a rating and quick review on iTunes, and sign up for our newsletter. And of course, keep in touch via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Interview with Wilson Tang of Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Today we're sharing one of our favorite interviews with you: Lynda's chat with Wilson Tang of Nom Wah Tea Parlor. If you've heard our episode, "The Story of Dim Sum, and Then Some", you may remember hearing clips from him as the owner of NYC's oldest dim sum restaurant. If you haven't … then damn. Get on that, 'cause it's a good one.

In the full-length interview, Wilson tells us about how he left a white collar career to follow in his family's footsteps, pursuing his passion for hospitality and food. He also talks more about Nom Wah and the varied clientele of the original restaurant in Chinatown thanks to its history (bloody angle!), location (jury duty!), and Wilson's use of social media and all-day dining concept. Who says you can't enjoy dim sum at night with a beer or a nice glass of wine?

He then discusses the challenges of running a dim sum restaurant business as making dim sum is becoming a bit of a dying art. But Wilson is doing something right as Nom Wah opens their 3rd location in Nolita, and he gives us a preview of what the future of dim sum and Nom Wah might be like.

But as we mentioned in "The Story of Dim Sum, And Then Some", the tradition of yum cha is almost less about the food and about the weekly gathering of family and friends to break bread together. Wilson mentions his concerns with modern day dining and how we're consumed by electronics, even at the dining table.

"I feel like we're in an age where communication is lacking. We forget that people come together at a dining room table with food, and you talk, and you converse, and you eat. That has become increasingly unseen." - Wilson Tang on modern day dining.

Let us know what you think by rating us on iTunes and leaving us a review, or hit us up on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We'll be taking a holiday break soon so make sure you sign up for our mailing list to stay updated. And of course, be sure to get some dim sum at Nom Wah next time you're in NYC or Philly!

Pad Thai with Andy Ricker of Pok Pok

We're honored to have Andy Ricker, who is behind the Pok Pok empire, on the show this week! Andy is a chef, a restaurateur and a cookbook writer, known for his expertise in northern Thai cuisine.

This episode is all about Pad Thai--the famous Thai noodle dish that is a gateway to the robust Thai cuisine for many. We discuss our experiences with the dish and how Thai cuisine differs in NYC and Hong Kong.

We feature Feast Meets West's full-length interview with Andy Ricker here. He tells us about the origin of the dish and how it's the ultimate Thai dish as it was invented to instill Thai national pride, and why it's so popular amongst Americans. He also tells us about the different variations, its trends and evolution, and why there's nothing wrong with a little MSG.

"It's a little bit ironic that in America a lot of people say, 'oh that's not true Thai food,' but it's perhaps the most Thai of all dishes. It's literally invented in Thailand so it's definitely a quintessential Thai dish." - Andy Ricker on the authenticity of Pad Thai.

To learn more about this chef, Lynda also recommends checking out the Munchies episode "Farang" on Andy Ricker.

We're taking a quick break for the holiday season soon, so we hope you love and savor the last few episodes! Show us some love by rating us on iTunes and tell us what you think via email, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Lynda and Iris Interview Each Other

We take a break from our regular programming for a very special one-off episode...for the hardcore fans. All three of you. Lynda and Iris take advantage of the fact that they're in the same city, for once, and record a face-to-face episode, over a platter of cheese! 

Instead of talking about a specific Asian food or releasing a full-length interview, Lynda and Iris interview each other on their upbringing in both the East and the West, and how that affected their food habits and palates, and how these changed over the years.

Iris talks about growing up in Hong Kong with Chinese and Belgian parents who didn't cook, while Lynda discusses having parents from Northern China and a mom who cooked Chinese at home but incorporated meals in that they enjoyed from other cultures.

We move on to how we fed ourselves in college. Lynda hated her college meal plan at NYU whereas Iris embraced the Lucky Charms and Taco Bell chicken quesadillas at St. John's. But we both started to learn how to feed ourselves, thanks to roommates' influence. We end the conversation in the present day with what are now our go-to cuisines and meals.

Before we end the show, we do a not-so-quick quickfire session and ask each other ridiculous food questions. Find out Lynda's most recent shameful food experience and what Iris thinks is wrong with Jolibee (Filipino friends, cover your ears!)

Hope you like this special episode. We'd love to hear about how your upbringing shaped your food habits. Drop us a line on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or email us at feastmeetswestpodcast@gmail.com. Back to regular programming in two weeks!

Interview with Matt Le-Khac of An Choi

This week we have another full-length interview for you! This episode is Lynda’s chat with Matt Le-Khac, head chef at An Choi, a Vietnamese eatery in the Lower East Side of New York City. You may have heard him on our episode, “When Life Gives You Baguettes, Make Banh Mi.”

In this interview you won’t just learn about banh mi, but also about how Matt became the head chef at An Choi after pursuing a doctorate in bio-chemistry, why cilantro might not be the right herb to use in your pho, how DJ-ing is like serving food, and the differences between selling Vietnamese food in Vietnam and in New York.

“The heart and soul of Vietnam is in the streets. You have to be siting on the sidewalk. You have to have fifty motorbikes zooming around you, dogs walking up to you, charcoal smell drifting by. And you're sitting, eating, just enjoying it." - Matt on how street food is the essence of Vietnamese cuisine.

Enjoyed this episode? Show us some love by writing a quick review and leaving us a rating on iTunes so more people can find Feast Meets West.

The Story of Dim Sum, and Then Some

We are super excited about this week's show as it's a food we grew up eating in Hong Kong almost every weekend. This food is of course dim sum, and we tried our best to keep it under 40 minutes but we just had so much to say on the topic.

You'll hear from Wilson Tang, owner of Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the oldest dim sum restaurant in New York City, as well as Alex Chau, owner of Ding Dim 1968 in Hong Kong which celebrates the master chef's (his uncle) 50 years of craftsmanship.

We explain what exactly this cuisine is, and more importantly, its place in the tradition of yum cha of the Cantonese people. We touch on the possibly anecdotal history of how dim sum was born and the yum cha etiquette of tapping your fingers to thank someone for pouring tea for you.

We name the three must-know dim sum dishes, and share our personal favorites. And as it turns out, neither Lynda nor Iris is opposed to sucking on chicken feet.

Don't know what makes good dim sum? Alex tells listeners what to look for when judging the quality of it as well as sharing Ding Dim's belief on what makes a good dim sum chef.

"We always think experience, passion, and persistence makes good dim sum. Of course not everyone has talent, but as my uncle the master chef told me, everybody can make good dim sum as long as they are persistent, believe in the recipe, and stick with it". - Alex on what makes a good dim sum chef

Iris talks about the Cantonese diaspora and why dim sum and Cantonese food is perhaps one of the more familiar Chinese cuisines to Westerners.

We then cover the various recent changes and trends in the world in dim sum in both Hong Kong and New York, which seem to parallel each other. Goodbye dim sum carts, hello healthier items and all-day dining! We also cover the newest hate-it-or-love-it innovation in dim sum. Tune in to find out what "butt juice" has to do with yum cha. Wilson also tells us about the difficulties in finding dim sum chefs in New York and how it might become a lost art.

"It's going to be hard going forward. This is kind of a lost art. The average age in the kitchen of Nom Wah in Chinatown, it's over 50. It's becoming increasingly hard to find chefs that have the skill set to hand-pleat the dumplings or to make this certain kind of dough. It takes a long time to really learn how to do all the different marinades, make all the different skins, and make all the different fillings." - Wilson on the challenges facing dim sum restaurants

Let us know what you thought of this episode by leaving us a rating and quick review on iTunes. Also, we have launched a monthly newsletter! Sign up here to make sure you don't miss any episodes or our blog content. If email isn't your thing, you can follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Sorry Steph, Indian Curry is the Real MVP

We bite off almost more than we can chew this week with the OG of Asian dishes: curry. With over 4,000 years of history, we can only scratch the surface of this topic and its rich history. 

Thankfully, we get experts to share their knowledge and opinions on the show with two amazing guests. Lynda talks to Hemant Mathur, the proprietor and Managing Executive Chef of 6 successful Indian restaurants in NY and the first Indian chef in the U.S. to be awarded a Michelin star. Iris talks to Lakshmi Harilela, a health chef based in Hong Kong who practices Ayurveda principles--a system of medicine with its roots in the Indian subcontinent.

We start by attempting to define curry. Iris breaks down the general differences between Northern and Southern Indian cuisines and how these regional variations affect the curries, while Lynda breaks down Iris' UK/US accent variation of the word "herbs".

Lynda talks about the history of curry and how it came to hold a special place in the hearts of British people. Iris then unpacks where else curry travelled to and how. Few dishes can touch curry in terms of its widespread migration, considering its influences have reached everywhere from Japan to Thailand to South Africa to the West Indies. Shout out to Berlin's currywurst?

"Human beings---they're always on a quest to find the next new flavor, the next new thing. And once the senses are awakened on the tongue, there is no going back." - Lakshmi Harilela on why curry has such an international appeal.

We also debate whether or not curry is a healthy dish, and as you'd expect, there are two sides of the story. Lakshmi tells us all the amazing health benefits of curry...when it's cooked at home. But Hemant tells us that the general trend in both New York and in India is for restaurants adapting to diners' increasing health consciousness. 

We love ending our episodes asking the question, what's next for this food? But how can there possibly be more evolution for a dish that has 4 millennia of history? Tune in to find out what Hemant and Lakshmi think what the future holds. Hint: it ain't over yet.

We hope that you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we loved producing it. And just like the fact that curry isn't over, our discussion on curry isn't done yet either. Look out for Feast Meets West's Curry Part II.

In the meantime, we're still a new podcast and need your support! Show us some love by leaving us a rating and quick review in the iTunes store, and by following us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Interview with Graham Fortgang of MatchaBar

Feast Meets West is releasing its first full-length interview! Instead of our usual episode format, this week we're sharing the entire interview we recorded with Graham Fortgang, CEO and Co-owner of the extremely popular MatchaBar in New York. You may remember him from our Matcha Madness episode.

Graham's passion for matcha is contagious. In this episode, he tells us more about the history of matcha, the health and mental benefits, as well as the story behind how he and his brother started their business.

"It's kind of funny how this holistic version of this tea that makes us feel good versus the society now in America which is, I need the science behind it, I'm not going to just trust how something makes you feel. And so that's something that of course we need to do because we live in America and that's what the society calls for and that's what the FDA as well calls for. But in our mind, it's like, drink the thing. If it makes you feel good, drink it again." - Graham Fortgang on matcha's rich history of health benefits in Asia and what happens when it comes to modern-day America.

We hope that you enjoy this interview and get to check out MatchaBar in NYC!

Taiwan's SpecialTea

Chances are you've tried bubble tea at least once, aka pearl milk tea or boba tea. It's cheap, fun and delicious. But what exactly is bubble tea and where is it from? Lynda and Iris delve into the topic of this Taiwanese drink. 

To learn more, Lynda interviews Anchal Lamba, president of GongCha USA in New York City, while Iris talks to Nana Chan who is from Taiwan and the owner of the artisanal tea house Teakha in Hong Kong.

As you know, Lynda and Iris love talking about trends so we kick off the episode with a discussion about a very important trend: Pokémon GO. Iris also contemplates the irony of serving customers in Cooking Dash when she serves customers for a living. Life imitates iPhone game, or iPhone game imitates life? Hmm.

We discuss what exactly bubble tea shops sell and all the customizations and chewy add-ins available. But by far, the most popular and iconic add-in is tapioca pearls or "boba", with the latter apparently referring to large breasts.

"It doesn't really taste like much, but the way [the texture] balances with the tea that you're having...I think it offers a different sensation in your mouth. It just gives an interesting take on the beverage. And slowly becomes addicting." - Anchal Lamba on the unique appeal of bubble tea

Lynda then tells us about the short history of this beverage, which started in the 1980s in Taiwan. In the spirit of past episodes, Lynda still somehow manages to butcher names even though she grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese. Skillz. We also talk about the international reach of bubble tea and how unlike some other Asian foods that don't leave Chinatown, it appeals to a wide audience.

"Even though [tea] is such an ancient product, I don't feel like people have really fully explored the different ways you can drink tea. Bubble tea is one very good way of doing that, and it's a very friendly drink. It's kind of fun, it's got these chewy bits. Whereas hardcore Japanese or traditional Chinese tea is less approachable and takes more time and patience to appreciate." - Nana Chan on why bubble tea is so popular and a great beginner's tea

However, it's not all fun and games. We talk about the health concerns surrounding bubble tea. Remember, the sugar content is very high, even if it may seem healthier than soda. There's also some controversy about cheap or dangerous ingredients used by some bubble tea shops. 

We then get into new innovations in the world of bubble tea in Taiwan. On one hand, there are artisanal bubble tea stores cropping up in Taiwan. On the other hand, old school marketing tactics still work and one bubble tea shop has gone viral by hiring buxom Taiwanese women to sell bubble tea in lightbulb shape cups. Boba, literally.

Finally, if you want to support the show, please log onto the iTunes store and leave us a rating. Five stars would be lovely, but you do you. Also, please do write a quick review letting us know what you enjoy and what future topics you would like to see discussed on the podcast.

When Life Gives You Baguettes, Make Banh Mi

The banh mi has quietly risen in popularity over the past several years and has become a staple in many American cities. Lynda and Iris decided to look into the story of this humble Vietnamese sandwich. If you thought our Japanese was bad after our Japanese Whisky episode, wait till you hear our Vietnamese.

We interview two Vietnamese chefs who provide awesome insight into the banh mi and Vietnamese cuisine: Matt Le-Khac, head chef at An Choi in NYC, as well as Peter Cuong Franklin, former executive chef at Chom Chom and Viet Kitchen in Hong Kong.

Iris discusses her recent trip to Vietnam and how impossible the language is to her, while Lynda has some recommendations for where to get a good banh mi in New York. (Get the no.1 House Special at Saigon Vietnamese in Chinatown.) We also take a moment to remember the no longer existent Baoguette chain. #RIP

Matt helps us define a traditional banh mi, and Peter guides us through the different regional variations in Vietnam. Lynda and Iris contribute with a sexy definition of head cheese. #fleshofthehead

We then go into the history of the banh mi and how it's a positive by-product of years of colonization. Lynda explains how the Vietnamese market was flooded with discounted European food products during the First World War, and how that contributed to the cuisine. Shout out to Maggi sauce, which Iris will always think of as ghetto soy sauce and not a Swiss product.

"All these beautiful things came out of [colonization]. I love that about Vietnam, because we can make the best out of it, even though we're always in these oppressive, dire situations." - Matt Le-Khac on Vietnam's various colonial influences on the cuisine. 

Lynda and Iris then get into the banh mi's journey to the US, but how it didn't make it big in France. Tune in to find out how it became a staple, and possibly even trendy in cities where there isn't a huge Vietnamese community like NYC. Hint: it's to do with street food becoming legitimized. And of course, Americans' love for meat between two pieces of bread.

But the best part of the episode, by far, is when Lynda forgets how to speak and uses the word "flaccid" instead of "wilted". Hmmm.

We finish with a quick discussion on the future of the banh mi, and a great thought about the necessity of evolution and adaptation in the culinary world from Peter.

"I think it will continue to evolve and change and that's the nature of food. It's not static; it doesn't stay the same. If it does, it'll become a museum piece, and it dies." - Peter Cuong Franklin on the future of the banh mi.

We're on social media! Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And as always, we will love you forever if you could leave a review for Feast Meets West on iTunes, so other Asian food enthusiasts can find the show. 

The Spirit of Japanese Whisky

Boy, do we have a good episode for you this week. Over the past several years, Japanese whisky has been experiencing so much international recognition to the point that there is currently a scarcity problem. Lynda and Iris decided to unpack its history, the story of its rise in popularity and the future of this trendy beverage. You also get to listen to Lynda and Iris get drunk on air, forget how to pronounce words, and butcher a whole lot of Japanese names.

We interview two very knowledgeable industry professionals: Rachel Kim, a cocktails and spirits consultant based in New York City and instructor at the Astor Center, as well as Elliot Faber, Beverage Director of Yardbird, Hong Kong and author of Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries. Both discuss what sets Japanese whisky apart and why it’s so hard to get your hands on it these days.

“It’s not about Japanese whisky being better—it’s about Japanese whisky being limited in its availability and then the average quality being very high.” – Elliot Faber, Beverage Director of Yardbird.

We start off the episode introducing what we’re drinking while we record. Lynda opts for Michter's Small Batch Bourbon, while Iris does a tasting of Yoichi NAS (No Age Statement, at 11am). We also discuss whether or not that makes one a degenerate.

Scotch, rye, bourbon…what do all these terms mean? Lynda breaks down all the different main types of whisky in the world so that we're all on the same page. Iris then briefly describes the history of Japanese whisky production. We then get into how it’s consumed in Japan and how it got so popular both domestically and internationally.

“There's a huge movement in the US towards craft and heritage. You can make fun of all those terms all you like but what it just means is that there is more of a consideration towards what we’re consuming and the effort that went into it. Everyone’s general awareness around what they’ve been consuming and how it’s made has made everyone also veer towards maybe less industrial-focused products and more to things that have a little bit more character.” – Rachel Kim, cocktails and spirits consultant.

Canned whisky highballs, anyone?

We also talk about TV and films’ effect on whisky consumption, especially Mad Men, Lost in Translation and Japanese TV drama Massan, a show about Japanese whisky industry founder Masataka Taketsuru and his wife Rita.

New to Japanese whisky and don’t know where to start? Tune in to find out Lynda and Elliot’s guides for beginners and which bottles to look out for if you want to get into it!

Finally, Feast Meets West is a brand new podcast and to help people find us, we need your help. Please log on to the iTunes store, search “Feast Meets West” under podcasts and leave a review. We would also love to hear from you! Hit us up on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Matcha Madness

Thanks for checking out our pilot on the gua bao and for your feedback! Feast Meets West launches this week with our first OFFICIAL episode. It’s in Starbucks lattes, it’s in Kit Kats ... we’re talking about matcha, the trendy Japanese powdered green tea.

We kick off the episode with a much-needed introduction of who we are, what we do, and how Lynda dissed Iris in the 5th grade. Rude.

Lynda talks to Graham Fortgang, CEO and Co-owner of MatchaBar in Williamsburg.

“It’s just so hard to educate this early on, and so one of my biggest fears for the category is that someone across the country will go to somewhere like a Starbucks and have a bad first experience. And so part of our mission and why we’re working on more locations is because we’re trying to raise the bar.” - Graham Fortgang on representing matcha in the States.

She also checks out Matcha Cafe Wabi in the East Village and interviews owner Hide Minamida, with Chie Dambara, the social media manager of the cafe, translating for him.

Iris hits up a crazy popular matcha ice cream store in Hong Kong called Via Tokyo and talks to owner Kosei Kamatani. She also tells you what she thinks the next tea trend is going to be. But for now, we’re still riding the matcha madness wave.

“When you have Japanese food in general being popular in a country for decades, then you do, as collateral, get Japanese desserts as well. People, including myself, have expanded on that concept. They see that what was once an afterthought after a meal...they can tailor their concept around it and make it a concept in itself: a matcha-dedicated store.” - Kosei Kamatani on why matcha got so popular worldwide, especially matcha desserts.

We go through the history of matcha (Monks! Shoguns!), how it’s produced, how it’s consumed and what makes it so special. We also talk about how it made its way to the rest of the world. Spoiler alert: it involves health fads, Starbucks and ice cream.

We also go through some of the more interesting matcha products out there. Matcha Kahlua“Luxurious Matcha potato chips”, anyone?

Feast Meets West needs your support! To help other people find us, please rate and review us on iTunes. We will love you forever. And of course, contact us through email, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with your feedback, ideas, and thoughts.

All aBao the Bao

We're so excited to launch Feast Meets West with our pilot episode on the Bao! We dissect the history and food trend that is the gua bao (aka Taiwanese pork buns) popularized by David Chang's Momofuku.

Quick definition: "bao" is a general term in Chinese cuisine for steamed buns. You may have heard of bao ziman tou, or xiao long bao which are all in the Chinese bun family. The gua bao is a specific type of steamed pork bun from Taiwan (though, originally from Fujian). Thanks to NYC restaurants like Momofuku and Eddie Huang's Baohaus, the gua bao became internationally famous and is often referred to just as "bao".

In this episode, Lynda records a live tasting at Baoburg in Williamsburg/Greenpoint, NYC and Iris interviews chef/restaurant owner May Chow of Little Bao, Hong Kong.

"It's harder to do Asian food in Asia because you have to answer to say, my mom or your mom or people who are Chinese. And they look at your product and are like, that's for white people." - May Chow on being a Western-influenced chef in Asia.

Remember to listen to the end of the episode for Lynda's mildly inappropriate comparison of the bao to a certain part of female anatomy. (.)(.)

Thank you so much for checking out our pilot episode and bearing with a couple sound quality issues ... and the fact that we forgot the plural of phenomenon is phenomena, not phenomenons, oops! We would LOVE your feedback so please do rate us on iTunes and contact us through email, Facebook or Twitter and let us know what you think.