If It’s Not Fusion, What is it? Top Asian Chefs in America

International Chinese Culinary Competition. Photo credit Francis Latif

By Ismary Munet

From who’s cooking it, to what exactly they’re cooking, many chefs across America are redefining Asian-American cuisine itself as we know it.

Whether or not they accept the term “fusion” or “Asian Hipster” to describe what they’re cooking, these top chefs have been recognized as being exemplary in their craft. While sticking as close as possible to authenticity is key, culinary creativity and vision are just as important.

David Chang

One well-known chef is David Chang. Chang opened Momofuku Noodle Bar back in 2004, in New York’s East Village, which focused on serving ramen bowls and pork buns, and is now also the owner of Momofuku Ssam Bar, and Momofuku Ko. Chang has become a breakthrough star, and was named “Chef of the Year” in 2007 by GQ, and was also one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chef back in 2006. He is said to have paved the way for redefining Asian-American cuisine, and serves “Asian style Burritos” at his Momofuku Ssam Bar.

Danny Bowien

Also gaining great attention is Danny Bowien, who is owner of Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco and New York City. He refers to his style of cooking, not as fusion, but as “Weird Chinese food.” Bowien’s signature dish is mapo tofu, which he says really got him started with his neo-Sichuan style of cooking.

Asian food came to the U.S. in the mid-1800s when Chinese immigrants from Canton began to settle in California. It wasn’t until after WWII that Chinese, Japanese, and Polynesian cuisine sparked interest in America. New immigrants started first generations, and their children were born in the 1970s. From those children, we now get some of the rising chefs in America.

Chris Cheung

One chef that AsianInNY has interviewed, chef Chris Cheung, is who Anthony Bourdain goes to for recommendations when Bourdain wants to explore the Chinese restaurants in New York. Cheung has appeared on Bourdain’s show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservationsthree times. Cheung wants to change people’s perspective on Chinese food, and the use of greasy wok cooking. He combines modern style cooking with traditional Chinese techniques to create a savory, fresh New American and Chinese recipes.

Dale Talde

Another one of America’s culinary stars is Dale Talde. Formerly Sous-Chef at Buddakan and a contestant on tv’s Top Chef Masters, he now co-owns Talde, and draws inspiration from Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisine, which he pairs up with his French technique. He’s Filipino-American and simply calls his cooking Asian-American.

Eddie Huang

Eddie Huang refers to his cooking as authentic Taiwanese, and is owner of New York’s Baohaus. Joe Ng, known for his unusual Dim Sum is owner of Red Farm, which is also located in New York. Others, such as Corey Lee of Benu in San Francisco, Paul Qui of Uchiko in Austin, and Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Kentucky are known for contributing sophisticated authentic dishes.

Roy Choi

There’s also Roy Choi whose food-truck Kogi BBQ made Korean tacos famous. Vietnamese-American Tien Ho who used to work at two of Chang’s restaurants in New York, and also Vietnamese-American, Hung Huynh who won tv’s Top Chef in 2007, and works at New York’s seafood restaurant Catch.

Hooni Kim

There’s also Hooni Kim, chef and owner of Danji, who serves up Korean “the way New Yorkers like to eat,” and Jason Wang who owns Xi’an Famous Foods and Biàng!, and sells authentic Liáng pí cold-skin noodles.

Jason Wang

However, Asian-American cuisine isn’t necessarily only cooked by Asians. Lindsay Salminen, who’s a chef at a noodle/dive bar called No Name Bar, won’t hesitate to add in an untraditional spice or flavor. Miguel Trinidad, who is Dominican, but learned to cook from people’s mothers, cooks modern Filipino at Maharlika where he’s also a business partner. Andy Ricker traveled and studied in Southeast Asia, and is now chef and owner of Pok Pok Ny and Pok Pok Wing where regional Thai and Vietnamese cuisine is served.

Ming Tsai

There are also iconic Asian-Americans who serve as example and have really marked the way for up and coming chefs. Among these are Ming Tsai, Chinese-American celebrity chef, whose restaurant Blue Ginger received the Ivy Award, and has written many cook books. There’s also Nubo Matsuhisa, a world-class celebrity chef, who is known for blending Japanese cuisine with South American flavors.

Nubo Matsuhisa

There are certainly many more Asian-American chefs on the rise whether they are actually Asian-American or not. The passion for cooking authentic and creative dishes that highlight the food and culture of Asia is at its most high, and will most likely continue to be a sensation as chefs all throughout the U.S. continue to think of new ways to highlight the food they love so much. A few chefs to watch include: Brian Tsao of Mira Sushi & Izakaya, David Lee of Barn Joo, and Jimmy Tu of Bunker Vietnamese.

AsianInNY is co-sponsoring an event, “Asian Chef Culinary Battles,” to search for America’s Supreme Asian Chef, and the competition will be held on March 1st at Caesars Atlantic City. If you are interested in attending, please visit: http://www.asianinny.com/?p=39145 for details.

Brian Tsao

David Lee

Jimmy Tu (left)

AsianInNY

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