This article is part of our ongoing spotlight for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Star-studded new web series “Family Style” takes a look at the diverse fabric of Asian food culture in America through the lens of its “foodie fam,” a posse of Asian and Asian American actors, including Sujata Day, Arvin Lee, Anthony Ma, Stacy Fan, Gilbert Galon, Amanda Suk, Lana McKissack, and Oates Wu.
The 12-episode series, executive produced by Marie Jamora, Jason McLagan and Philip W. Chung, premiered earlier this month on the Stage 13 website, YouTube, and Facebook Watch. Chung says he’d like it to “feel just like you’re hanging out with Asian American friends from different backgrounds, sharing different viewpoints, knowledge, and the experience of food.”
With sit-down interviews, cooking demonstrations, and plenty of food exploring, each episode examines a different cuisine or dish from noodles to night markets. The show welcomes special guests like Daniel Dae Kim (“Hawaii Five-O”), Dianne Doan (“Vikings”), Ally Maki (“Wrecked”), and director Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”), with new episodes released every Tuesday and Thursday through June 17.
In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we asked members of the foodie fam what being Asian American means to them.
“Being Asian American means your mom is overly superstitious and when she tells you the family astrologer predicted that you’d die at the age of fifty, you believe her. Being Asian American means I have zero taste for coffee and all the taste for tea. Being Asian American means your childhood bedroom is exactly how you left it, bunk beds and Barbie dolls, and no one has turned it into an exercise room. Being Asian American means when you go back to India, your Indian-born cousins will make fun of you because you speak Bengali with a Valley girl accent. Being Asian American means there’s always a natural cure to any ailment.”
“To me being Asian American means being American, above all. I love being Filipino, I have so much pride in my Filipino heritage, but I wasn’t born in the Philippines. My first lumpia (spring roll) was in Chicago, my first kiss was in Atlanta, and my first past due rent notice was in LA. To quote Marq Hwang on a Quora thread, “Your blood might have come from overseas, but your heart started beating here.”
“To me, being Asian American simply means being an American. As with all people of mixed heritage, I feel fortunate to have been born to two people with distinct and different cultural identities and experiences.”
Ma said that one of the highlights of working on the show was sharing the screen with his mother, and visiting the 626 Night Market in Arcadia, California together. “Being Asian American means having watched ‘Doug’ or ‘Hey Arnold!’ on Nickelodeon or TRL with Carson Daly while sipping on a juice box of Chrysanthemum tea as your mom prepares Shanghainese rice cake soup for dinner.”
“It means being proud of your roots, but that’s easier said than done, of course. Growing up Asian in a predominantly Caucasian world caused turmoil inside me that manifested through a sort of rolling identity crisis. Simply put, I was embarrassed to be Asian and so did everything I could to make others forget my race. Whether it was a reluctance to bring non-Asian friends over to my home with the pungent smell of kimchi in the air, or just feeling a little ‘cooler’ walking down the hallway with white friends, I did everything I could to feel accepted, and ignored the battle brewing inside. I would eventually come to realize that hiding my heritage was making me bitter and resentful as it eroded my sense of self. Working in the entertainment business in Los Angeles has helped open my eyes to the beautiful and supportive Asian-American community that exists here and all it has to offer. Though it’s not something I could always say, I am proud to be Korean-American and to share my rich culture and traditions with others.”
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“Being Asian-American, to me, means the same thing as being American with an added sprinkling of culture and tradition on top. As an American born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, I am thankful for the diverse community I grew up with that gave me an early understanding of what it looks like to treat others with kindness and compassion despite any variables in color of skin or beliefs. As an Asian-American, I am thankful to be a vital part of the beautiful ‘melting pot’ that makes America an exciting place to learn freely about the history of others as well as my own. While this fairly utopian response to what it means to be Asian-American doesn’t quite reflect the time and environment we currently live in, this is how I choose to reflect the honor it is to be who I am.”
“While I identify as Chinese, my heritage asks me to learn and understand the complexities and richness in my culture, social background, and history. It teaches to appreciate and celebrate my individuality, but also those of my fellow Asians and Asian Americans. To hear and appreciate their perspective as I would have them do of mine. There is a long history of struggle when it comes to having our voices heard, having a fair portrayal, and being allowed the freedom to be proud of who we are, where we come from, and what we represent. That has given me a deeper understanding and sense of responsibility to respect and learn other cultures that are not my own.”
“What it means to be Asian British was always a tricky question to answer. I lived in Hong Kong (with my Chinese father and English mother) for six years but when I moved to England, I essentially became estranged from half of my family and culture. I remember looking at my mother, with her blonde hair and blue eyes, desperately searching for a resemblance of myself.
I remember going to Chinatown and hearing Cantonese music flooding from a store. I looked up and saw a Chinese pop star on a poster hung on the wall dressed like Britney Spears dressed, except she was Chinese. It had never occurred to me that there were Chinese female stars, people who looked like me and that day I bought my first Chinese CD and listened to it proudly at home. Hearing the language in a context I knew started to pull me home, to some of my first memories.
After college, I traveled to Hong Kong alone to revisit the places of my childhood including my family’s ancestral home in Shantou, and my Grandmother’s first home and the tiny room of concrete where I imagined her cooking with her small children, my uncles and aunts, running around her feet. I visited the large shrine courtyard where every member of my family before me was commemorated on the family ancestral walls. I lit the incense and kneeled to thank them. What was meant to be a short trip turned into much, much more and I decided to move to Beijing and learn Chinese. I used my new-found language to shop, hail cabs, and explore the many wonders of China, its rich culture, and especially the wonderful food.
I am not only aware of my beautiful English history and culture but so proud of my Chinese heritage, too. Being Asian British has given me a perspective on the world I wouldn’t have had if I’d only ever stayed in England, and has even been the inspiration behind EurasianVogue.com, a medium I use to truly celebrate my unique cultural fabric.”
Header image courtesy of Stage 13