You are here

Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America

The Museum of Chinese in America presents a multi-media exhibition exploring Chinese identity through the personal stories of over 30 Chinese and Asian-American chefs.

October 6, 2016 10:00am to March 26, 2017 6:00pm

Join us for conversations around a dinner table with 30 Chinese and Asian-American chefs. Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy will weave together a grand, complex story of Chinese food in America through the oral histories of home cooks; pioneering chefs such as Martin Yan, Ken Hom and Cecilia Chiang; and new restauranteurs like Peter and Lisa Chang, Jason Wang, Vivian Ku, and Danny Bowien.

In Chinese the saying Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy refers not only to the delicate balance of flavors that defines Chinese cooking but also the ups and downs of life. Set in an immersive video installation, the tapestry of tales that emerges will be rich with immigration experiences, food memories, favorite dishes and cooking inspirations that define the culinary—and personal—identities of these chefs, drawing visitors into the middle of a conversation about how food defines Chinese in America. In the center of the gallery will be a monumental dinner table, with each chef represented by personally selected artifacts from their kitchens and place settings featuring unique ceramic vessels that will link cooking styles to regional culinary traditions.

Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy is an imaginary banquet in which featured guests represent diverse histories, cuisines, and geographic regions. By understanding these elements, we can start to identify what Annie Hauck-Lawson and Jonathan Deutsch might call a “food voice” for Chinese in America. They write: “The concept of the food voice means that what people choose to procure, prepare, and eat—and what they do not eat—can reveal much about their identity and culture. Often, the food voice expresses what the spoken voice struggles to articulate.”

What does Chinese food in America, in its dizzying variety, say about who we are—or are not— today?

Featured Chefs:
Danny Bowien, New York
Anito Lo, New York
Jason Wang, New York
Peter and Lisa Chang, Rockville MD
Leonard Liao, Jackson Heights NY
Deron Wong, New York
Chris Cheung, Brooklyn
Ni Biying, New York
Tommy Wong, Mandeville LA
Phillip Chiang, Los Angeles
Cara Stadler, Portland
Jonathan Wu, New York
Susanna Foo, Radnor PA
Wilson Tang, New York
Cori Xiong and Heng Chen, Houston
Jeff "Tao" Gao, Boulder CO
Mike and Yvonne Thompson, Pounding Mill VA
Martin Yan, San Mateo CA
Ken Hom OBE, Bangkok, Paris, Rio de Janeiro
Kimmie Lee Tie, Raleigh NC
Ho-Chin and Ellen Yang, Everson WA
Eddie Huang, New York
Michael Tong, New York
Chris Yeo, San Jose CA
Vivian Ku, Los Angeles
Ming Tsai, Wellesley MA
Grace Young, New York

Featuring Ceramics by Heidi Lau and Lu Zhang.

Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America is curated by Audra Ang, Kian Lam Kho, and Herb Tam.

Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America and related programs are made possible from public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature. Additional support for the exhibition is provided by The Starr Foundation.