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Volume 99: April 12, 2019

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

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Huy Fong’s sriracha is playing with fire

Huy Fong Foods’ famous sriracha is living its best life. Asian Americans still love it. The Rest of America puts it in their mayonnaise. And a vivid IG account and plenty of weird merch show just how far Huy Fong’s come.

But two years ago, Huy Fong sued its chili pepper supplier of 30 years, Underwood Ranches. Last year, Underwood countersued, and a jury trial commences April 29.

To top it all off? Underwood’s created its own competing sriracha. Awkward ...

Not the first time it’s been in hot water

You don’t sell 20 million bottles a year without making a few enemies. In 2013, the city of Irwindale temporarily shut down Huy Fong’s factory, because it made the air all spicy. And Tabasco, Heinz, and more have muscled in with their own takes.

These days, Huy Fong is expanding to Asia—the birthplace of its most famous product, and yet another battleground.

Is it getting hot in here or is it just us

Forget Underwood’s knock-off—some might argue Huy Fong makes a knock-off, too. After all, sriracha is a Thai creation, first concocted 80 years ago by Thanom Chakkapak, a woman from Si Racha, Thailand. And the current owner of the recipe, Thaitheparos PCL, is ready for a flame war.

Thaitheparos PCL’s sriracha, called Sriraja Panich, uses cayenne peppers from northern and central Thailand, whereas Huy Fong uses American jalapenos. It’s a taste that’s familiar to Thai Americans, but thanks to Huy Fong’s ubiquity, slightly foreign to others.

So despite its claim to authenticity, Thaitheparos PCL faces an upward climb in the States. But it’s good news to us. After all, what’s better than sriracha? More sriracha.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, whose body may be betraying him but will still guzzle sriracha

Remember that Oatmeal ode to sriracha?

NOW PLAYING: This isn’t technically out yet, but it was too exciting not to get other folks excited about it as well. Brought to you by the creators of Chef’s Table, Street Food brings us the grandmas, the aunties, and the uncles, none of whom need culinary classes or Michelin stars to their name. Street Food finally takes us through the craft of local, affordable, and accessible cuisine across Asia (Thailand, India, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, to be exact).

So far, the trailer does an amazing job to center these individuals without the white gaze—putting their voices, their reasons, their stories on the forefront. And how do you go through the street food of Asia without talking about sacrifice, love, and family? Of course, you don’t—you can’t! The trailer is awe-inspiring; we hope the show delivers.

Natalie Bui, editor, who eyes watered while watching the trailer

How not to fight food stigma

This week in New York City, a new Chinese American restaurant opened to much fanfare and immediate derision. Chef and owner Arielle Haspel claimed that her restaurant aimed to create healthy, “clean” versions of beloved Chinese American dishes such as lo mein and orange chick- er, cauliflower? Yes, okay.

Turns out, when you advertise your restaurant as “Americanized Chinese food intended to make you feel great,” the implication that typical Chinese food doesn’t is lost on no one. Fans and foes duked it out on Instagram, Twitter, and Yelp, as the owner apologized for some of her dubious branding without backing down.

Restaurants that do it right

Asian Americans don’t need reminding of the stigma that clings like sticky rice to our beloved homeland dishes. But in California, leading the charge to create new, culturally-appreciative fine dining experiences are restaurateurs like Mei Lin, Corey Lee, and Jon Yao, who prove that Chinese food has a definitive place on the ten-course tasting menu.

Los Angeles has always been a food-lover’s paradise when it comes to Asian cuisine. Find Taiwanese street food at Vivian Ku’s Joy, or Uighur specialties at Bughra Arkin’s hot spot in Alhambra. Find NorCal farmers like Scott Chang-Fleeman and Mai Nguyen reclaiming the history and heritage of bok choy, tatsoi, and perilla.

And rest assured: none rely on tone-deaf advertising.

But when you want fried chicken ...

Go ahead, grab a bucketful at Filipino fast food chain Jollibee, which also recently opened in NYC. If you’ve been craving banana ketchup spaghetti, Halo-Halo, or the famous Chickenjoy, Jollibee wants you to know that it’s got your back.

With its record growth, the chain is looking to bring joy to those unfamiliar with Filipino food, or at least this version of it. Not that there aren’t enough fried chicken challenges going viral on YouTube, but we’d like to see the five-bucket Chickenjoy × five-bottles-of-Sriracha challenge one day.

— Andrew Cheng, editor, who is vegetarian except for when his grandmother makes youfan.
Some good tweets from subscriber Mark Tseng-Putterman

I always admired Wonder Woman and the Incredible Hulk — but I don't know if I'd be a very convincing Hulk.

— Lucy Liu, actress

This Weekend ... 📅

  • HIT ME WITH THAT DDU-DU DDU-DU DU, but gently, please. I want to be able to watch Blackpink’s Coachella debut, which will be live-streamed this weekend in Times Square.

  • SAVOR THE SIGHTS OF SAKURA at all of the cherry blossom festivals taking place this weekend all across the country: Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. (also: Sakura Matsui!), Nashville, San Francisco, and even Branch Brook Park, New Jersey. Let there be pink!

  • DELIGHT IN THE DAILY ROUTINE of Marie Kondo, magical organizing genius-fairy-godmother, who shares her tips for maintaining a joyful workday. Also, clean your kitchen.

  • THROW DOWN IN MIDTOWN at The Tank’s Asian comedy takeover. It’s made-in-a-day sketch comedy featuring the city’s most funny-bone-ticklingest Asians, live at 11pm and ded 😂😂😂 by who knows when. Also, friend of The Slant Karen Chee is hosting!! GO SEE IT!!

  • BOARD THAT BOATFresh Off the Boat, that is, which has reached a milestone one-hundredth episode. Catch up on its latest forays with this LAist piece on the new horizons for the pioneering show, as well as an exciting new crop of Asian American-led comedy.

This week's stories are curated by Andrew Cheng, editor, who is hoping to land an audition for some pilot about nerdy Asian writers. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at news@slant.email.

The Slant is brought to you by:

 

Brian Hsieh • Marina Cheung • Billy Huang • Kevin Lin • Paulina Dao

 

AJ Grey • Delwin Lau • Mandy Diec • Carl Shan

 

Patrick Trinh • Lloyd Lee • Emily Chi • Naomi Iwata • Kyla Hsia

 

Gloria Lin • Yi Cao • Cat Xia • Curtis Leung

 

Crystal Shei • Jerome Finuliar • Ryan Ikeda • Meher Kohli • Matt Young • Sooyun Choi • Abby Wang • Tracey Baumann • Mika Kennedy • James Boo • Chris Moe • Alexander Quion • Jeffrey Wang • Vivi Nguyen

 

Angela Yang • Diane Lee • Katherine Chin • Paul Kerr • Talisa Chang • Claire Tran • Sara Mitchell • Teresa Nguyen

who are like answers to all the questions we've ever had. Join them in supporting The Slant on Patreon.

See ya next time.
Copyright © 2019 The Slant, All rights reserved.


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