By Assunta Ng
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Not too many Asian Americans celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with a splash of fun, thrills, and originality. But Jinyoung Englund did just that on May 30.
Englund, a former Dino Rossi campaign staffer from the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign, has a flair for creating entertainment as well as bringing people together.
Englund and a group of young Asian-American and mainstream professionals organized themselves into a group called Dynasty and planned a reception at the upscale Club Cielo at Escala, a downtown facility topped with condos that sell for over a million bucks, to celebrate API Heritage Month. The fancy club, according to organizers, fits young Asian Americans professional’s lifestyles.
Englund themed the event, “Iron Chef —Asian Fusion Cuisine” because, after all, we Asian Americans are foodies.
The event organizers produced an odd judging team. In addition to myself, judges were former Attorney General Rob McKenna; Peter Vessenes, CEO of CoinLab; and Darcy Northnagle, government relations manager at Google.
Who can be an Iron Chef judge
As you can see from the judging panel, anyone can be an Iron Chef judge — especially if you can be mean. I didn’t know I could be as mean as American Idol Judge Simon Cowell until this experience.
The meaner he was, the higher the ratings the show received and the more popular he became. You’ve got the idea even if you have never watched Iron Chef.
I’ve been a judge for scholarships, singing competitions, grant proposals, pageants, leadership group projects, calligraphy, and speeches before, and the only difference between judging those events and judging the Iron Chef contest was that I had never judged in front of a live audience before. The judges announced their scores in front of the contestants and the audience, a format which lends itself to judges purposely making fun of contestants. Adding a little bit of humiliation is the fun part and lets judges spice up their comments with humor, sarcasm, ferocity, and criticism to liven up the show.
If you don’t have a thick skin, you should never participate in a reality show contest.
Asian fusion cuisine?
You and I have probably already created Asian fusion cuisine at home without even paying attention. Just use your imagination.
My favorite example is the Asian taco. Start with a tortilla and put meat and veggies on it. Then dip the taco in peanut, hoisin, teriyaki, Korean BBQ, or, really, any non-Mexican sauce.
Use Thai hot sauce with Chinese roast duck, satay sauce with wonton noodles! Combine Indian curry and soy sauce to bake a chicken! Make sushi rolls with all kinds of wild ingredients! Mixing seaweed in salads? Now you’re getting the hang of Asian fusion.
Fusion food will be the future of Asian restaurants, believe it or not.
Ming prawns vs. Beef ribs
Albert Shen, candidate for Seattle City Council, won the People’s Choice Award. Smart Shen showcased a great package for his dish, focusing on taste, name, and back story. He was the only contestant who gave a name to his dish, Ming prawns (Chinese stir-fried prawns with catsup sauce). Catsup was the only fusion element.
“My parents owned a restaurant in Pullman, and the men in my family do all the cooking,” he said.
Yes to the tradition that men cook all the meals at home instead of the women. My husband lives up to this tradition pretty well!
Shen was a little miserly, however. He only bought two pounds of shrimp, and I was the only judge to get a taste of the dish after the audience. Fellow Judge Peter Vessenes only got to taste the catsup sauce!
Chris Lee also knew how to sell his stir-fried organic chicken by bringing out his assistant. Oh man, a white guy! Wasn’t that wonderful that the Asian-American boss had a white assistant?
Another contestant, Deborah Yi, prepared an organic spinach and udon noodle salad with a delicious wasabi dressing. She could have been the No. 1 chef if she didn’t serve her salad in a big plastic container that was like the ones used to serve to prisoners. When I said that, everyone laughed.
The first-prize winner was Nelson Yong. He served stewed beef ribs with white rice and Caribbean salsa. Yong impressed the judges by personally serving each of us with napkins, knives, and forks. I enjoyed the ribs — they were moist and not dry. The rice was cooked just right, soft but chewy. He must have practiced his cooking hundreds of times before the contest.
The contest brought out the skills, identity, and creativity of Asian Americans. You can cook anything with the smarts of both the East and West. Many guests brought a fusion dish too since it was a potluck.
Well done Englound, Yong, and Dynasty — the group formed to plan the event! (end)
To read the publisher’s blog in Chinese, visit www.seattlechinesepost.com.