Quoted–Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown: Koreatown Los Angeles

I am shy about exploration.  I’m perfectly comfortable asking a million questions at a Taco Stand, Ethiopian restaurant, or Russian Deli.  But when I’m sitting down to a bowl of Ramen, Pho, or Naengmyeon, I point and slurp quietly.

Maybe this has to do with the fact that I can “pass” and don’t want to make a spectacle of myself by asking too many questions.

This area is the subject of Anthony Bourdain’s latest episode of his new CNN show, Parts Unknown.  I was pleased to see my favorite chef, Roy Choi, as one of his Ambassadors.

Artist David Choe also played tour guide – when they stopped at Sizzler, I felt an immediate connection.  I, too, grew up going to these and related to his memories of feeling a “need” to get your money’s worth from the buffet.

“Parts Unknown,” by Lynn Chen of ThickDumplingSkin.com

 

I’ve already heard some people criticizing the episode for being inauthentic, ignorant, and even culinarily offensive (‘Jollybee in an episode about Koreatown?!’ said one friend of a friend), but I thought it was pretty interesting for how it was so adamantly Korean American, regardless of whatever essentializing of Korean culture and history the two native informants accomplish. Their Ktown is, for this current boom in K-cuisine (yes, I think the aggressive marketing, experimentation, and exoticized domestication of Korean cuisine warrants it becoming a K-product), such a defining site for the history of Koreans in America. But they do identify in different moments as Korean (un-hyphenated), like when Choe’s father connects the conversation about the impact of the L.A. riots and the rise of Ktown to Korea’s current global cultural presence: ”now Korean culture, K-pop, Psy, it’s all over the world, [the] influence.” The somewhat random assemblage of cultural practices and food as what defines Ktown and Koreanness is what’s interesting about the story, because it says more about how cultures are personally codified (through food, location, interactions with different communities, parents, punishment…) and created emotionally and physically through consumption (mostly food, in this case).

“LA Kalbi is as Korean as Ktown,” by Jenny Wang Medina of subject object verb

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  • zdrav

    K-Town looks kind of depressing compared to Seoul, as if it’s still stuck in the late 1980s or something.