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How to Eat Like an Asian

By Mark Liao

So I was sitting back home in California having dinner with a close friend and my mother. For those of you who’ve been to a Sam Woo, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say there’s nothing in Boston that even comes close. In any case, we get our appetizer, we order some fried noodles and whatnot, and then I start noticing something strange about my friend.

Josh is a pretty average guy, 6’1”, lanky, girls say he’s cute, but I guess what I’d never noticed about him before was that, well, he’s white.

And that’s when it hit me. All of my life I’ve been the white-washed twinkie who’s pee-colored Volvo was a stark contrast against the black Civics. My cell phone never played “Big Pimpin’,” nor did it have dangling penguins hanging from its antennae. The only time I had bleached tips was when I played too much water polo in the sun. However, the most fundamental part of my body stayed true to form, my taste buds.

As the meal continued, the more and more I noticed how inherently different I was from the white boy sitting across the table. He shirked at the thought of fried squid tentacles, was shocked that you had to peel your own shrimp (and the fact that they had heads with eyes and everything still attached), and took all the meat in the kung pao chicken leaving nothing but a few peanuts and dried chilies (which I later was able to convince him were fine to eat).

Everything else about us was pretty much the same. We both watched Ed on NBC religiously. We love a double-double from In-N-Out animal style with no tomatoes or dill pickles. Hell we even bought the same $3.99 polka dot boxers from the Gap (independently of one another). But now I felt as if I was sitting at dinner with some hitchhiker I picked up from Shreveport, Louisiana.

And that’s when I came to the conclusions that something had to be done. It’s pretty obvious that there are a lot of Asians at MIT. But even though we have a student population comprised roughly of 30 percent Asians, it’s quite shocking that we have a shortage of people who are knowledgeable about Asian food.

Just yesterday I was sitting with a freshman who asked me if I liked eating “sa-shoe-mee.” After staring blankly at her for three minutes I realized what she meant to say was sashimi (sa-she-mee). I have another half-Taiwanese half-Chinese friend who doesn’t like to eat porridge. And if you’ve read this far in this article and have no clue why that’s such a big deal, you’re also part of the problem.

I guess what I’m picturing with this article is a series of informative exposÉs diving into the depths of gourmet Pan-Asian cuisine complete with ingredient synopsizes, word origins, and complete a complete chef genealogy.

Or, you can expect the basics like, what’s really good, what to look for, how much to pay, and whatnot. However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t dream of one day publishing these articles in a book and selling it at Urban Outfitters for $16.95 tucked between “Everybody Poops” and “Boys are Stupid ... Throw Rocks at Them.”

I’m not trying to claim that I have the same level of authority as Ming Tsai (you know ... the guy from “East Meets West” ... yes I am a Food Network whore) or that guy on “Yan Can Cook” (with the annoying infomercials ... grrrr being alone on Saturday nights in high school). I am certainly not as knowledgeable as your Nai Nai or Po Po. Some of the things I say may be completely wrong or quite frankly, might offend many people. But that’s not the point of these articles.

I’m writing these for that Asian kid, who, like me, was born outside of the United States (FOB mark and all) but can’t order like their parents and instead is stuck eating beef with broccoli for the umph-teenth time. I’m writing these for that white dude who’s going out with an Asian girl and has to eat dinner with her parents and doesn’t want to appear like a dingus. And yes, I’m writing for all the ABCs out there, who worry that someday, their kids will think they can handle hardcore Asian cuisine because they can order hot-and-sour soup and know not to put soy sauce on white rice. Good people I give you ... my column.