Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | food & dining
36
archive,paged,tag,tag-food,tag-36,paged-3,tag-paged-3,qode-quick-links-1.0,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode-title-hidden,qode-theme-ver-11.0,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.1.1,vc_responsive

For most people -- but I think especially for Japanese Americans, who tend to come from very defined communities bound together by geographic roots, generational branchings and, for many, the shared trauma of internment -- meeting a stranger and finding out you're somehow related isn't such a big deal. It might be novel, or surprising, but it's probably not a life-changing fact. My wife Erin and I joke that in Denver, there are only a few Japanese families, and that everyone's related, if not by blood then certainly by marriage. She plays the "six degrees of separation" game all the time when she meets a JA, and invariably finds that they have friends or family in common. For Erin, whose nuclear family all live in the area as well as a huge number of extended family members, funerals and holidays are like frequent family reunions. Not me. My family has always lived in a community and family vacuum -- an isolation chamber devoid of contact with relatives. We didn't live within JA communities, didn't grow up attending the Buddhist temple or Methodist church with other JA kids, and seldom saw or made contact with cousins, uncles and aunties. Even when my dad died, it was difficult tracking down the contact information for his brothers and sisters. Certainly, I've never had someone come up to me in Colorado and play "six degrees of separation" to see if we're related. But last weekend, I was in San Jose to attend the bi-annual Youth Conference for the Japanese American Citizens League (the APA civil rights organization for which I'm on the national board). Erin gave a workshop and the closing keynote speech for the conference, and I went to give a book reading and sign copies for the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. That's when my little isolated world was shattered. A young woman came up to me with a copy of my book, "Being Japanese American." She explained she didn't buy it at the reading, but brought it with her. She had moved to California recently from Hawaii, and her mother had sent her the book. And, she added, her mother told her she was related to me. WOW.

Two news items worth noting, although one is kinda old already: First Burger King has announced that in Hawaii, they're selling a new item, a Spam Platter -- two slices of Spam nestled between white rice and scrambled eggs. BK, which is based in Miami, also serves its Croissanwich or Biscuit Sandwich with Spam for the Hawaiian market.

The Washington Post recently reported that the government of Japan is going to start checking out Japanese restaurants all over the world and handing out seals of approvals for those deemed to be serving “authentic” Japanese cuisine. This rather extreme step (it sounds like something the snooty French would do) is the result of a recent visit by the country's Minister of Agriculture, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who went to a Japanese restaurant in Colorado and saw that the menu also featured Korean barbecued beef.

Photo_090906_012.jpgOne great thing about living in the New York area is the simple fact of its diverse population. I've been shopping regularly at various Asian markets in the area -- a Japanese grocery store in Manhattan; the huge Japanese supermarket, Mitsuwa, in northern Jersey; the Korean Han Ah Reum (better known as H-Mart) -- and buying everything from eggs and orange juice to Asian staples like rice, packaged ramen and a variety of unique Asian snacks and junk food. Here in Jersey City's Journal Square area, there's a concentration of Indians and Pakistanis and a two-block stretch of nothing but Indian groceries and restaurants along Newark Avenue. Today, I explored the neighborhood around Journal Square and discovered to my delight that on another stretch of Newark Avenue, there are a number of Filipino businesses.

badsushi.jpgI've been looking for Asian restaurants in my area of Jersey City, and only having limited luck. Part of Jersey City is becoming "Hobokenized," which is to say, the yuppies are overflowing from Manhattan and settling in parts of New Jersey that are closest to New York. But my part of Jersey City, which is close to where I work in Journal Square, has not been Hobokenized. And it probably won't happen anytime soon. Anyway, the one Asian cuisine I found right away was Indian food. There's a concentrated South Asian community here and a stretch of Newark Avenue just off Journal Square is dotted with Indian restaurants. I've eaten at a couple of them so far, and they're great.

Diversity on St. Marks The ebb and flow of New York neighborhoods is a great example of how cities evolve. When I attended Pratt Institute in the late 1970s, the East Village neighborhood in Manhattan along St. Marks Place (8th Street becomes St. Marks Place east of 3rd Ave.) was a haven for punk rockers and hipsters, with used record stores (this was pre-CD) and tattoo shops. Drugs were a currency on the street, and leather the couture of choice. I can recall walking the block of St. Mark's between and 3rd and 2nd Ave. shopping for rare British import albums and marveling at all the street vendors with their wares -- jewelry, records and cassettes, used books -- spread out on blankets on the sidewalk. That was then. This is now.