From bulgogi and kimchi tacos through to the latest craze to hit the streets of NYC, ramen burgers, Asian-American food defies both convention and a simple definition. What was borne from necessity has become a movement in its own right, as waves of migrants from Korea, Japan, China and beyond cooked traditional food using local ingredients or added flavours from home to make American staples more familiar.
The children who grew up eating kimchi over pasta and sriracha on hotdogs have gone on to become the second-generation Asian-American chefs making a name for themselves today. Liberated from tradition, they borrow techniques and ingredients from both worlds without a second thought. This isn’t forced or over-thought fusion; the focus is simply on making exciting food that tastes really good.
Leading the way in the US is the reluctant poster boy for Asian-American mash-up, Korean-American David Chang of the Momofuku group, though he is more likely to call the food he cooks ‘American’. Then there’s fellow Korean-American chefs, Roy Choi, who began the LA food truck scene with his Korean tacos; Edward Lee, who combines Southern and Asian flavours in his Kentucky restaurant 610 Magnolia; and Daniel Yi of Salt & Fat in Queens, who serves burgers on steamed buns.
With the arrival of Momofuku Seiobo in Sydney in late 2011, and the likes of Merivale’s Ms. G’s, Asian-American food has well and truly hit Australian shores in a wave of pork buns, fried chicken and sticky lamb ribs.
Over the following pages, we’ve channelled these chefs to assemble a line-up of dishes that are both unapologetically bold and delicious.
Photography Chris Chen
As seen in Feast magazine, February 2014, Issue 28. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.