Asian Theme?

On the 2nd floor of the MU there is a casual sit down restaurant called engrained, which is a bit more upscale than the normal fast food joints located in the MU. For the second year Engrained has been hosting a biweekly event called Alive @5 on the Starlight Terrace where you can pay $8 to pay to try an assortment of tapas and desserts. This year they have begun doing theme nights such as Southern Delight and Mardi Gras. I got and email that this week their theme for Alive@5 is Asian Theme.  What I find interesting is that their theme is just Asian Theme, what does that even mean? For other events they come up with titles that actually describe the event or what they are celebrating while this theme seems so broad and thoughtless.

The food choices for that night are what really surprised me. On the menu will be orange chicken, sweet chili tofu, veggie fried rice and more. When my boyfriend and I first saw advertising for this event a few months ago we were initially interested in going and wanted to see what kinds of food they would offer. I was very disappointed because I thought they were going to do modern versions of traditional food only to find out they will be serving the most stereotypical “Asian Foods”.  These items are not real representations of “Asian foods” but what American culture believes “Asian food” is.  Americanized “Asian food” reminds me of the situation in which the Native Americans tribes who had casinos used the white man’s Indian identity in marketing in order to attract more non-Indians and make more profit. A majority of Asian restaurants will use the Americanized Asian food frame for their menu offering the normal orange chicken, sweet and sour pork, eggrolls, etc in order to attract customers. Even traditional Asian style restaurants will offer these Americanized dishes along with their traditional items because they know for many customers those options are more appealing and will sell to those who are not familiar with traditional foods. The people in power drive the market and in this case the consumers are the ones with the power.

Another aspect of the event I found interesting was that they are marketing the night as Asian theme but the food falls into mostly the Chinese category. This is an example of the failure to show the diversity within the Asian category.  Instead of using the opportunity to educate their guests on traditional foods from different Asian countries Engrained has chosen to go the stereotypical route and chosen dishes that are most commonly thought of to be “Asian food”. Image

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One thought on “Asian Theme?

  1. I like how you approached this issue by considering the “Asian theme” from a number of different perspectives, including the perspective of whether all countries in Asia are the same. Although food tends to be overlooked with respect to how it may perpetuate wider stereotypes, you make an interesting case for how engrained might have done a better job to challenge stereotypes.

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