You’ve probably heard by now of the hubbub caused by Bon Appétit magazine that ticked off Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans, as well as other Asians.
Its video, originally titled “PSA: This Is How You Should Be Eating Pho” (it has since been changed to “We’re in Love With This Pho”), featured chef Tyler Akin of a restaurant called Stock in Philadelphia. Akin, who is white, is seen in the video saying that adding Sriracha or hoisin sauce to the broth means you are disrespecting the broth and the chef.
He also shows a chopstick technique — where he twirls the noodles like you would see people do with a fork while eating spaghetti.
The video also claimed, “Pho is the new ramen.”
The backlash on social media came at a rapid-fire pace.
Phil Yu of the Angry Asian Man blog called it, “Columbusing at its finest.”
One Facebook user said, “Using Tyler Akin and his pretentious restaurant … to try and appropriate how you (we) should be eating pho, is a slap across the face to the Asian American community.”
A few days later, Bon Appétit ran an apology from editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport, who wrote that the magazine had “misrepresented the chef” and that he was not the party at fault. “When it came to this pho video, our words and ideas caused unnecessary pain and anger. As editors, we failed. And for that, we are truly sorry (something we should have said in our first statement).”
Stand-up comedian Jenny Yang breathed new life into the controversy by releasing a video parodying Bon Appétit’s original, titled, “How to Eat PB&J,” by a fictional “Bad Appetite Magazine.”
Yang appears as Sammy Chu, a restaurateur at “Sandwich” in Los Angeles’ Chinatown.
She declares herself an expert of PB&J, and then prepares a stomach churning sandwich with peanut butter, mayonnaise, and salt. She proclaimed PB&J as the new grilled cheese (a “Pho is the new ramen” jab) and how cutting the crust off the bread offends the chef (like adding hoisin sauce to pho).
Yang explained to KPCC radio why she did it. “When I saw [the original video], I just cringed. Food is so personal for Asian Americans and us immigrants. … And for this guy to be having some kind of authoritative stance on how to eat Pho … ugh … it just triggered something.”
Immigrant foods that were once considered too strong, too spicy, or too smelly by white people are now foodies’ favorites.
To quote Tiffany Ran, a professional cook who has worked in the kitchen of a number of Seattle restaurants, and a regular contributor to Northwest Asian Weekly, “Don’t make my heritage a fad … it has been around longer than you and me. It tells the stories of our past, not the whims of the present.”
And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell us how we should eat our food! It leaves a bad taste in our mouths.