Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | food & dining
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Our friend JozJozJoz came across this TV commercial on YouTube and posted it on the excellent team blog, 8 Asians, with a poll asking what aspect of the commercial was most racist. For me, it might be the fact that the person who posted it to YouTube titled it "Borderline Racist 1960's Jell-O Ad" and in the description says it's...

Since the fastest-growing population in the United States is mixed-race and we live in an increasingly global and multicultural world, it makes perfect sense that a restaurant like Boa on West 32nd would open, and serve a mashup of Mexican and various Asian cuisines. Erin and I got to sample some of Boa's cooking recently, when we were asked by Asian Avenue magazine to write up one of their 'Restaurant Peek" features on the eatery. We met photographer ace Brandon Iwamoto there and tasted the food and spoke with the owners on an afternoon interrupted by a tornado warning and a twister curling down from the sky in the neighborhood (it never touched down). Inside, the restaurant reflected none of the dark fury of the weather outside (except when the entire staff and all the customers ran out in the street to gape at the funnel cloud). The small, comfy eatery is located in the heart of the bustling, hip Highlands business district off 32nd and Lowell, and welcomes passersby who look puzzled at the combination of Asian and Latin foods. When they give it a try, say the co-owners and chefs, Julie Villafana and Braydon Wong, they like it.

Author and activist Phoebe EngErin Yoshimura and I started visualizAsian.com to interview Asian American Pacific Islander leaders and tell their stories to empower other AAPIs to follow in their footsteps. So far, it's been an absolute blast. The website launched with a conversation with former Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta on May 21, and this week we spoke with Yul Kwon, the hunky winner of "Survivor: Cook Islands." Both men told powerful stories about the challenges they faced as Asian Americans, and the stereotypes that had to battle. The next guest on visualizAsian.com's AAPI Empowerment Series is social activist and author Phoebe Eng. The interview will be held Tuesday, June 23 at 6 pm PDT (9 pm EDT). I met Eng when that book came out, a decade ago, and she was in Denver for a book reading and signing. She was a great speaker, and as inspiring in person as she is in the prose of her book, which is in part an autobiography of her search for identity as an Asian American and as a woman, a double-whammy of identity-politics.

Coca Cola just introduced Coke with Green Tea in Japan.Consumer culture in Japan is where you'll see the collision of Asian and American tastes. More than in the U.S., Japan is where East mashes West. You can get shrimp Filet-o-Fish sandwiches at McDonald's, or pizza with seaweed or squid, and spaghetti with salty plum sauce. So I supposes I shouldn't be dismayed at the new Coca-Cola flavor, Green Tea Coke. After all, here in the states there seems to be a growiing market for almost anything with green tea added, from soap and shampoos to Lipton Ice Tea and Starbucks' Matcha Latte. But Coke with green tea? I'm not much of a Coke fan (Pepsi's the choice if I have a cola at all), so I don't care that much about the purity of the soft drink. But it seems heresy to put green tea into the syrupy sweetness. Can you even taste the subtle bitterness? This fits right in with conversations I've had recently with (non-Asian) co-workers about Lipton's green tea flavored ice tea. I pointed out that Asians don't sweeten their tea.

WendyWhile we're on the topic of pronunciation, I've been meaning to write this for a while, since Wendy's began airing TV commercials for their new Premium Fish Fillet Sandwich. The commercials seem to have stopped, but the sandwich is still available at select locations across the country. The commercial got Erin, our son Jared and me all riled up every time I saw it because it mispronounced "panko" whenever it was mentioned. Panko is the traditional Japanese breadcrumb coating for fried food, and it's become something of a hip ingredient in American restaurants and kitchens. So it's cool that Japanese food (starting with sushi a couple of decades ago) are catching on in the US and becoming mainstream. However, it irritates me that so many Americans, including the guy on the TV commercial, pronounce the word as "PAN-koe," like "pants." The Japanese pronunciation is "pahn-KOH," with the first part more like "pawn" -- almost like "punk" -- and the second like Homer Simpson's "DOH!" Here's a caveat about this rant of mine: Language evolves, and as cultures merge and are assimilated, words and pronunciation patterns change and are re-invented. I'm sure the British still think Americans are buffoons for mangling their language, mispronouncing words and using "incorrect" words like "trunk" for a car's "boot" or hood for a car's "bonnet." I'm the first to admit that I don't follow my own rules about Japanese words for other languages. I don't walk into a Taco Bell and order a "bu-RRRIT-toh." I don't order a "kwassahn" at the bakery when I want a croissant. I say "kraw-sahnt." Servers at Thai restaurants snicker when I ask if I pronounced "yum nue" (spicy cold beef salad, truly yummy) correctly. Vietnamese servers guffaw out loud when I ask if I've said "bun dac biet" (combination grilled meat over rice noodles) right. Amazingly, I always think I've nailed it, but the guffaws come anyway. And by the way, when you go to the Vietnamese restaurant for a bowl of "pho" noodle, it's NOT pronounced "foe" or even "fuh." A server explained to us that you have to add a slight upward lilt to the end of the word, as if you're asking a question. So it's, "Hi, can I have a medium bowl of fuh?" Erin and I may not get it exactly right, but the point is, we're aware of our inadequacy at pronouncing other languages, and we always try to learn and say it correctly. On the other hand, let's face it, people in other countries aren't any better at pronouncing English, so turnabout is fair play, right?

Soon doo bu, a spicy Korean stew with tofu, with chicken and kimchee Erin and I made soon doo bu jjigae, a Korean stew for the first time the other day, and had a blast cooking it up. Food is a foundation of culture, so we love enjoying different cuisines from around the world. People who follow our Twitter tweets that are marked "#twEATs" which are copied to our Facebook updates tell us we eat out too much, but what can we say? We love food! We don't just go out -- we eat in a lot more, to save money. We cook a lot of ethnic dishes at home: some Italian, Mexican ... the usual. And of course, Japanese food. But we haven't made Korean food other than cooking up pre-marinated bulgogi, the delicious thin-sliced beef that's my favorite at Korean BBQ restaurants. We just happened to have a gallon jar of spicy kimchee from my sister-in-law from Colorado Springs. Several times a year, she makes a jar of kimchee for us. We love it, though sometimes there's so much it goes quite sour before we can finish it. Koreans use old kimchee as ingredients in soups and stews, so that's what got us started. So we got this crazy idea last week to try making soon doo bu jjigae, a tofu stew that we love. We were turned on to it at a restaurant in San Francisco's Japantown called Doobu that specializes in the dish. Soon doo bu is a rich combination of a lot flavors and textures, starting with silky tofu in a spicy red chili broth, with meat, seafood and vegetables added. We thought this would be a terrific way to use some of a huge jar of kimchee that my Korean sister-in-law, Pok Sun, had given us.

Kalua Pork and Lau Lau dinners, with a bowl of saimin on the side to share, at Okole Maluna, a great little Hawai We drove an hour north from our house last night, to dine in Hawai'i. Well, not exactly Hawai'i, but an outpost of Hawai'i, in the most unlikely place: On a quiet Main Street corner in Windsor, a typical small, old-fashioned mid-western town on the plains of northern Colorado. Definitely not a tropical paradise, although inside the clean modern restaurant, you might as well be along Oahu's North Shore, or somewhere in Kauai. But Okole Maluna (Bottoms Up) isn't in the islands. The intimate restaurant is in Windsor. Erin and I love Hawai'ian food and seek it out in the few places where it's available in Colorado. Most often, we find ourselves at L&L Hawai'ian Barbecue, a Hawai'i-based fast-food chain with a franchise in the eastern Denver suburb of Aurora. We think it's a bit pricey for what you get, as well as being entirely too generous with salt on everything they serve (maybe it's needed in hot humid Hawai'i, but our palates don't require so much sodium). We've also tried 8 Island Hawai'ian BBQ in Boulder and were disappointed both by the food and the service -- especially when the staff made a bog deal of charging us 75 cents extra for a little dollop when we changed our mind on the kind of sauce we wanted on a dish. Come on, that's like charging for ketchup and mustard! And more recently, we had a very fine meal for my mom's birthday at Iwayama Sushi and Da Big Kahuna Bistro, which is as known for its sushi as for its Island vittles. Iwayama's fun, and closer. But I'd make the hour drive any day for the Kalua pork at Okole Maluna. Its deep smoky flavor is tantalizing, and it's not overly salty (hooray). It's served with two mounds of rice (for the full portion), a side of creamy Hawai'ian macaroni salad, a little bowl of Lomi Lomi salmon, which is like pico de gallo with bits of salmon mixed in, and a little serving of haupia, a conconut custard. In fact, overall, Okole Maluna is the best place in the state we've found for Hawai'ian food.

Bento Zanmai on the Hill in Boulder serves up tasty real ramen. We returned to Bento Zanmai today and got some good news: the shop, which operates out of a tiny food court on The Hill in Boulder, just across the University of Colorado campus at 13th and College, has extended its hours. The joint used to close up at 6 on weekdays and 3 on Saturdays. It unfortunately still closes at 3 on Saturdays (we got there just in time after seeing an early -- and cheap -- showing of Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" movie, a post to come). But it now stays open until 8 pm on weekdays. Joe Simonet, the affable young hapa who's a corporate officer of the Sushi Zanmai restaurant corporation that owns Bento Zanmai as well as Amu, the izakaya next door to Sushi Zanmai that's currently our favorite Japanese restaurant in the region, chatted with us about Bento Z.