Review: “Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader” Edited By Robert Ji-Song Ku, Martin F. Manalansan IV & Anita Mannur


This book was received from NYU Press, via NetGalley, for the purposes of reading and providing a review. The book is scheduled for publication on September 3, 2013, so note this review is on an advance copy of the book, not the final product.

Before I begin the review proper, let me run through a checklist identifying why I was looking forward to this read:

  1. I love Asian food: Check
  2. I love history: Check
  3. The book was provided at no cost: Check

With that in mind, I certainly dug into, pun intended, this offering. Many facets of cuisine in America and how it has been influenced by different Asian cultures were covered in this book. Everything from food trucks in Los Angeles and Austin to Cambodian Donut Shops In Los Angeles to Mess Halls in World War II Japanese Internment Camps to the Transnational Queer Kitchen as well as many other topics

My favorite likely was the mess halls of World War II Japanese Internment camps and how they affected core family life of the Japanese families, who were accustomed to eating meals around a single table as a single family. Mess halls certainly changed that, and the article certainly addresses how this change in dining habits affected the families, and youths in particular, not only during but after the war.

Another favorite was how the Kogi BBQ Truck altered the landscape and perception of food trucks in Los Angeles. The article not only discusses how the cuisine offered by the trucks are a mirror image of the mixed cultures of the Los Angeles area, it also addresses the history of where the truck has appeared and, possibly as telling, where it hasn’t.

Overall, I found the book very fascinating. I did find it a bit heavy on Japanese and Chinese cuisine, but seeing as how they are certainly the two most common Asian cuisines in America, that’s not surprising. However, it also had several articles on Filipino cuisine, which is not as common as those that were not covered as heavily, such as Thai and Vietnamese. That said, it was a great collection of scholarly articles, well-documented with footnotes and a bibliography.  I will probably spend more time hunting down referenced books and articles than what I actually spent on this book itself.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

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