First Hello Kitty ‘pop-up’ cafe opens in Irvine

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OC Register (by Nancy Luna):
Sanrio will open the first Hello Kitty Cafe Pop-Up Container in the U.S. at the Irvine Spectrum Center on Friday. Housed within a metal shipping container, the pop-up cafe sells an assortment of baked goods, pastries, cookies and espresso drinks featuring Portola Coffee Lab coffee.NANCY LUNA, STAFF
About the cafe:

The Hello Kitty Cafe Pop-Up is having its grand opening this weekend at the Irvine Spectrum, in the Giant Wheel Court.

Its hours are:

Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Friday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Sunday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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The temporary cafe, initially expected to debut over the holidays, opened at 11 a.m. today. It was so popular, drawing a line of about 200 people, the store temporarily shuttered. It was expected to reopen later in the day, according to a representative at Spectrum Center.

The cafe is housed in a bedazzled steel shipping container — refurbished with pink and white Hello Kitty hues. The menu features a limited assortment of cookies, pastries and pint-sized cakes, as well as hot and cold beverages.

Signature drinks include strawberry mint lemonade, peach iced tea and passion fruit tea. Espresso drinks feature coffee sourced from award-winning local roaster Portola Coffee Lab. Menu prices range from $4 to $11.50 for desserts, and $3 to $5.50 for beverages. (Note: Coffee comes only in a 16 oz. size. Sorry skim fans, but only whole milk is served here.)

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Every item on the menu pays homage to the pop icon, first introduced to the world 42 years ago. Pastries are topped with Hello Kitty-shaped shortbread cookies, or bows. Plastic water bottles ($3) are bow-shaped. Hello Kitty’s face is stenciled with cocoa powder on the milk foam of latte drinks.

Allan Tea, managing partner of the cafe, said the container will stay at the Irvine mall for a year before moving on to its next location. Tea and Sanrio marketing representative David Marchi said Sanrio and the Irvine Co. are in negotiations to bring the first U.S.-based brick and mortar Hello Kitty Cafe to Irvine.

Sanrio has other themed cafes in other countries. But there’s no brick and mortar cafe dedicated exclusively to Hello Kitty in the United States, Marchi said. “This (pop-up) is the first of its kind,” he said.

Over the last 12 months, the Hello Kitty food truck has parked at the center twice, triggering throngs of shoppers. The turnout prompted Sanrio to choose the Spectrum as home base for its first Hello Kitty pop-up cafe.

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We know we have a huge fan base here,” Marchi said.

The cafe does not sell savory dishes — only desserts. Some merchandise such as ceramic mugs and T-shirts also will be sold at the cafe, located at the Giant Wheel Court at the mall.

The first 50 customers each day through Sunday will get a limited edition key chain.

What proper table etiquette looks like in East and Southeast Asia…

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Mashable (by Chelsea Frisbie):

Whether you’re planning an international trip or you’re headed to a local cultural experience, it’s important to learn about the eating habits of the folks you’ll be dining with. What might seem silly to you could be incredibly important to someone else, so don’t judge.

Langford’s silverware shop has compiled a collection of the dining “Do’s” and “Don’ts”…

Here is an excerpt of East Asian and Southeast Asian countries’ dining etiquette.

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Award-winning filmmaker Grace Lee’s food documentary “Off the Menu: Asian America” now streaming on PBS.org

 

Angry Asian Man:

The feature documentary Off the Menu: Asian America, produced by CAAM and KQED, is a road trip to the kitchens, factories, temples and farms of Asian Pacific America that explores how our relationship to food reflects our evolving communities. From Texas to New York and from Wisconsin to Hawaii, award-winning filmmaker Grace Lee takes audiences on a journey using our obsession with food as a launching point to delve into a wealth of stories, traditions, and unexpected characters that help nourish this nation of immigrants.

This is not your typical food travelogue. If you missed the public television broadcast of Off the Menu: Asian America, the film is currently available for streaming in its entirety on PBS.org until January 5.

Washington Post: How it feels when white people shame your [Asian] culture’s food, then make it trendy

Washington Post (by Ruth Tam):

When I’m craving comfort food, I’ll take my father’s ngau lam over mac and cheese any day. Although it takes the better part of a day to prepare, his Cantonese braised brisket stew always soothes my stomach and my soul.

I love the cooking process almost more than the flavor. My father cuts a square of cheesecloth and adds cinnamon, star anise, cloves, peppercorn, ginger, orange peel and a sweet root with no English name to its center. He ties it into a neat bundle and lets me hold it to my nose before dropping it into a rich broth in which brisket, tripe and tendon simmer for hours until tender.

Before all the ngau lam ingredients converge in a giant pot, the brisket, tripe and tendon must be blanched. It gives off a hot, heavy stench that permeates every room of the house and adheres to every fiber.

My childhood home in suburban Chicago always smelled like whatever we were cooking. Visiting us meant cloaking yourself in the scent of haam daan ju yoke beng, a dish of steamed pork and salted egg, or the perfume of mapodoufu, tofu and minced pork with a spicy chili and fermented black bean sauce.

I didn’t mind the smells growing up because I wasn’t aware of them. That is, until a high school friend declared my house smelled of “Chinese grossness.”

The comment clung to me like the smell in my home. My embarrassment hit a peak when my father installed a 5-foot-long fish tank in our family room so he could steam fish at home — extra fresh. I tried to pretend the blue fish swimming around in the murky green water were pets, but the lack of tank accessories gave away our true intentions, stunning my white friends.

My hunger for my family’s food was overpowered by my desire to fit in, so I minimized Chinese food’s role in my life and learned to make pasta instead. Little did I know that Americans would come to embrace the dishes and cooking styles that once mortified me. The Cantonese foods of my childhood have reappeared in trendy restaurants that fill their menus with perfectly plated fine-dining versions of our traditional cuisine. In some cases, this shift has been heartening. But in too many others, the trend has reduced staples of our culture to fleeting fetishes.

The shame associated with immigrant foods (until they become foodies’ favorites) isn’t unique to me or Chinese dishes. In her new book, “Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking,” Korean cook and YouTube star Maangchi writes fondly of Korean soup soy sauce. In South Korea, all of her neighbors would boil their own. In the United States, though, the soup was received differently:

“I remember boiling my Korean soup soy sauce when I lived in Missouri, and my apartment manager knocked on my door. ‘What’s that smell? I got a complaint from your neighbor.’ I was so embarrassed that I didn’t make soup soy sauce again for a long time, even after I moved back to Korea.”

Even now, as an accomplished cook in New York City, Maangchi doesn’t boil soup soy sauce in her home. Instead, she takes it to a creek at the base of the Henry Hudson Bridge and boils it in a portable gas burner “where no one will complain.”

This experience is so universal that it recently became canonized in pop culture. New York chef Eddie Huang retold the story of his daily lunchroom shaming in a scene from “Fresh Off the Boat,” an ABC sitcom based on his memoir. When young Eddie takes a carton of noodles out of his lunchbox, his white classmates react with disgust: “Ying Ming’s eating worms! Dude, that smells nasty!” Back at home, Eddie demands his parents start packing him “white people lunch.”

The lengths to which immigrant families have gone to hide the way we feed ourselves break my heart. But something has changed. In cities big and small, Asian dishes and flavors have become popular among foodies at chic eateries. Foods that were once considered too strong, too spicy, too smelly or too obviously-from-an-animal for my white friends are now on Restaurant Week menus nationwide.

A month ago, I saw a kimchi burger on the menu at Macintyre’s, a new bar in Washington’s upscale Woodley Park neighborhood. It’s just two miles north of Drafting Table, which sells a duck-and-hoisin-sauce grilled cheese. And a few blocks from there is Masa 14, which features crispy chicken wings and meatballs on its “Dim Sum” menu. Downtown, Wolfgang Puck’s The Source offers lobster bao buns and “Chinoise-style” chicken salad.

In one way, this is a positive change. Now that I’ve gotten over my fear of stinking up my kitchen, the growing number of Asian grocery stores means I don’t have to visit home to get ingredients for homemade Chinese food. Greater acceptance of international eateries allows immigrants, professional chefs and otherwise to explore their culture and dual identity proudly, instead of behind closed doors or at the edge of the Henry Hudson Bridge.

Gravitating toward “new” cuisines is understandable, and when done well, immigrant food can provoke discussions about personal history and shared diasporas. I’ve seen this happen at restaurants such as China Chilcano, which describes the history of Chinese and Peruvian fusion that influences its menu, a bare minimum that many restaurants ignore.

But while some eateries get it right, the United States’s take on “ethnic” food often leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Recently, I discovered I can order bone broth, like my grandmother used to make, in New York City — the same way I would order a cold-pressed juice.

“2015 is the year of bone broth!”  the “Today” show declared in January. “These days, the hottest food trend is a steaming cup of soup.” The morning show touted bone broth as a newly discovered wonder food of “Paleo dieters and wellness enthusiasts,” making no mention of its grounding in Chinese culture.

In the United States, immigrant food is often treated like discount tourism — a cheap means for foodies to feel worldly without leaving the comfort of their neighborhood — or high-minded fusion — a stylish way for American chefs to use other cultures’ cuisines to reap profit. The dishes of America’s recent immigrants have become check marks on a cultural scavenger hunt for society’s elite. One conspicuous example is an upcoming eatery in Washington’s Petworth neighborhood that packages discount tourism and high-minded fusion into one menu. The as-yet-unnamed restaurant seeks to re-create Southeast Asia’s “expat experience” — not for Asian residents in D.C. but for D.C. residents who crave the feeling of visiting Asia with other foreigners.

“When you travel in Southeast Asia, you have two experiences: the cultural experiences with the temples, food, and people, and then a phenomenal traveler’s culture, too,” chef Alex McCoy told Washingtonian. “That’s the inspiration for this place. We want to introduce people to Thai cuisine, but frame it in the eye of a traveler.”

This cultural appropriation stings because the same dishes hyped as “authentic” on trendy menus were scorned when cooked in the homes of the immigrants who brought them here. Fashionable food from foreign cultures may satisfy a temporary hunger, but if you’re trying it for shallow reasons, you’ll be culturally unfulfilled in the long run.

Instead of attempting to expand our palates with best-restaurant lists and foodie fads, we should find deeper ways to explore the diversity of dishes that have come to the United States.

We need food writers like Monica Bhide, who appreciate not only diverse tastes, but also the cultures that produced them. We need more cookbook authors like Maangchi, who documents traditional recipes so fans of Korean food can participate in culinary rituals. We need more publications like Lucky Peach, which treats immigrant food with the same complexity that is bestowed on the all-American burger. And we need more films like “The Search for General Tso” that examine our relationship with “ethnic” food.

Americans are increasingly interested in where food is sourced. Surely, that interest should extend to a meal’s cultural roots as well as its biological origins.

My dad’s ngau lam is not gross, but I never want it to be given the “fad” treatment. You should try it the way he likes to prepare it — after he blanches the cow stomach, adds the bag of spices and lets it cook for hours.

The best meals are more than the sum of their ingredients; their flavors tell the stories of the rich cultures that created them. When the same respect is afforded to immigrant food as traditional “American” food, eating it will sate us in more ways than one.

Foodbeast: Watch this fhef’s intense method for seasoning a carbon steel wok

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FoodBeast (by Peter Pham):

There have been many suggested ways to season cooking equipment. In order to create a non-stick surface, a proper combination of heat and oil must be incorporated to correctly season a pan, skillet, or even a wok.

Watch this chef’s intense technique when it comes to seasoning a new carbon steel wok. Definitely not something we can do at home, but still fascinating to watch.

HYPEBEAST Eats: Boomshack (Hong Kong)

A University of Sri Lanka professor and student devise simple method to cut the calories in rice by 50%

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Next Shark/Food Beast:

Rice, an important staple food in many countries, is valuable because, one, it is cheap, and two, it’s high in calories because it’s a starch. So why would we ever need a way to cook low-calorie rice?

The method in question stems from an article by the Washington Post. The story presents a method of cooking rice which addresses the problem of white rice consumption being linked to a higher risk of diabetes. A University of Sri Lanka professor and an undergraduate student devised an “ingenious method” to cut the calories in rice (200 calories per cup, cooked) by 50% as well as add a few “health benefits” — it’s also very easy to do. The student, Sudhair James, explained his preliminary research at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on Monday:

What we did is cook the rice as you normally do, but when the water is boiling, before adding the raw rice, we added coconut oil—about 3 percent of the weight of the rice you’re going to cook … after it was ready, we let it cool in the refrigerator for about 12 hours. That’s it.

“The oil interacts with the starch in rice and changes its architecture … Chilling the rice then helps foster the conversion of starches. The result is a healthier serving, even when you heat it back up.”

Why do you need low-cal rice? Because people in developing countries, e.g. China and India, are suffering from obesity. It’s not just rice that causes the obesity, but people do rely more heavily on cheaper foods.

Pushparajah Thavarajva, the professor who led the research, explained that obesity, while also a problem in the U.S., is becoming a problem in Asia because people are eating larger portions of rice. The calorie-cutting research is still ongoing with several methods yet to be tested, but rice is also just the first of many foods Thavarajva hopes to make healthier.

It’s about more than rice … I mean, can we do the same thing for bread? That’s the real question here.”

On Reddit, some believe the concept of low-calorie rice is useless. Smarter people think it’s very necessary, it’s very simple and it may become the new way of cooking rice.