Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Eating Asian America A Food Studies Reader by Robert Ji-Song Ku, Martin F. Manalansan IV, and Anita Mannur


Chop suey. Sushi. Curry. Adobo. Kimchi.  The deep associations Asians in the United States have with food have become ingrained in the American popular imagination.  So much so that contentious notions of ethnic authenticity and authority are marked by and argued around images and ideas of food.

Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader collects burgeoning new scholarship in Asian American Studies that centers the study of foodways and culinary practices in our understanding of the racialized underpinnings of Asian Americanness. It does so by bringing together twenty scholars from across the disciplinary spectrum to inaugurate a new turn in food studies: the refusal to yield to a superficial multiculturalism that naively celebrates difference and reconciliation through the pleasures of food and eating. By focusing on multi-sited struggles across various spaces and times, the contributors to this anthology bring into focus the potent forces of class, racial, ethnic, sexual and gender inequalities that pervade and persist in the production of Asian American culinary and alimentary practices, ideas, and images. This is the first collection to consider the fraught itineraries of Asian American immigrant histories and how they are inscribed in the production and dissemination of ideas about Asian American foodways.

Robert Ji-Song Ku is Associate Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies at Binghamton University. He is the author of Dubious Gastronomy: The Cultural Politics of Eating Asian in the USA.

Martin F. Manalansan IV is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora.

Anita Mannur is Associate Professor of English and Asian /Asian American Studies at Miami University. She is the author of Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture.

I enjoy learning about how other cultures view my culture, especially our food culture, so I was eager to read this book.

In Eating Asian America, we are treated to essays about Asian-American food, history and culture, particularly about how Asian immigrants adapted to American culture to create a new yet familiar food culture and how the Americans came to embrace their food as well.

The essays were divided into four categories: Labors of Taste, Empires of Food, Fusion, Diffusion, Confusion?, and Readable Feasts. While it was fascinating reading about the evolution of other Asian food cultures, my favorite articles, of course, were the ones discussing Filipino food and migration. Although I didn't grow up in the era that the essays were talking about, I have heard stories that agreed with what was written, and I was familiar with all of the food mentioned, which made it easier for me to appreciate the essays.

You don't need to be Asian or Asian-American to appreciate the book, though. As long as you appreciate well-researched essays and Asian culture, you will like this book.

Thanks to NetGalley and NYU Press for the e-ARC. Publication date of Eating Asian American is on September 3, 2013.


  1. You learn more about Asian-American culture.
  2. There are plenty of pictures that make the essays more interesting.
  3. The entries are well-researched.


  1. Some of the essays may be boring for those who prefer reading anecdotes over facts.

Lolo Ambo served food familiar to most Filipinas/os, like chicken and pork adobo, diniguan, pancit, sinigang, beef nilaga (boiled beef soup), and sarciado (meat braised in tomato sauce).

  1. You are fascinated with Asian culture.
  2. You want to learn more about Asian-American cuisine.
  3. You like reading well-written essays.




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