Dear Jan and Michael Stern,
I love you guys. I love your Roadfood column in Food and Wine and I love your contributions to the Splendid Table. I love your abundant affection for food of all kinds and your complete lack of pretension for food.
So this past June when J and I were driving from Washington, DC to Oakland, CA we decided to get the latest edition of the RoadFood book. Color me surprised to find that there were no entries for Asian or Pacific Islander restaurants in the entire book. Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I look on your website and find only 2 listings (out of 65) for any restaurant serving Asian or Pacific Islander food. A plate lunch place in San Diego and a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco.
Is there a reason why there’s such a huge underrepresentation of Asian eateries? I can understand that for many states with populations of Asian Pacific Americans in the single digit percentage-wise you might not be able to find the good, cheap, Asian greasy spoons, but California? Asians are 13% of California’s population. We are an even higher percentage of the population of California’s largest cities.
Your definition of “road food” is – Great regional meals along highways, in small towns and in city neighborhoods. It is sleeves-up food made by cooks, bakers, pitmasters, and sandwich-makers who are America’s culinary folk artists. Roadfood is almost always informal and inexpensive; and the best Roadfood restaurants are colorful places enjoyed by locals (and savvy travelers) for their character as well as their menu.
There are tons of place that fit this bill. In our multicultural America, these place ARE reflective of their neighbhood and regions. In Houston, there is a Boba tea place that also serves fried food that you eat with toothpicks – chicken nuggets, mushrooms, shrimp. In Orange County there is a banh cuon place in a cheesy strip mall next to a doughnut shop making their banh cuon fresh for every customer. In Oakland, Shan Dong serves strictly locals and makes some of the best handmade noodles around. In Claremont, CA, there was a Thai restaurant open 24 hours that the college students would go to for a post drinking pad thai. There are pho joints, Vietnamese delis serving banh mi, Chinese pastry shops, and curry palaces. All are cheap, informal (including family style seating) and reflective of their multicultural neighborhoods.
I know there are only so many hours in the day but give the Asians and Pacific Islanders a little love. That is unless you want to hire J and I as your official Asian food reviewers!