China, Japan, Korea: What's the difference? Do they all look the same, or are they very distinct? Is there any truth to the stereotype, or is it ignorance? Well, enter the exam room here and find out for yourself. We have eight tests in different categories such as face, art, architecture, and food. Remember: We are not here to make a statement; it's a question. Good luck and enjoy.

Asian Glow

posted by Dyske

I recently came across this expression, “Asian glow” or “Asian blush”, and a new supplement called “NoGlo” that prevents it. And, last night, I went to see the opening of the show at Guggenheim Museum featuring a Japanese art collective called Gutai (which, by the way, was quite interesting, but that’s another story), and they had a full bar open to all the guests which naturally included a lot of Asian people. Sure enough, I saw some of their faces glowing red.

We want to believe that race is just a superficial difference but there are certain characteristics that are clearly different by race. Asians are less tolerant of alcohol, and I have been wondering why. I figure evolution must have something to do with it.

I also came cross this article about alcohol reducing the risk of food poisoning, which I had assumed was an urban myth, but it is apparently true; drinking alcohol can kill bacteria in our stomach. This made me ask: Would it be possible that we evolved to like drinking alcohol because those who liked it had a higher rate of survival? That is, the fact that it can kill bacteria is not a fringe benefit, but is the main reason why we developed a taste for it. In other words, those who happen to think alcohol tastes good had a higher rate of survival, so they were more likely to pass on their genes, and their offsprings would share the same taste for alcohol. Perhaps at the beginning of human history, not many people liked alcohol but they were eliminated through food poisoning, and the rest of us survived because we like the taste of alcohol. I contacted Dr. Hanson who wrote the article referrenced above and asked about this, and he agreed that alcohol does provide a benefit for natural selection.

Now back to Asian glow: Why would Asians fall behind in this department? Is it possible that Asians had more advanced knowledge in preventing food contamination? Or, were they generally cleaner? Or, did they have better techniques for preserving food? If you have any theories, please share with me.

Famous Asians: Chinese, Japanese or Korean?

posted by Dyske

When I first created, I thought about using famous people in the quiz but I figured it would be too easy. This video proves me wrong. I’m shocked that some people think Kim Jong-il is Japanese. That could be a serious PR/diplomatic problem if some people think all those threats of nuclear testing are coming from Japan!

Mooncakes Found in NYC

posted by Dyske


Yesterday, on my way home, I saw a Chinese lady carrying four bags of mooncakes and realized that it is now the season for them; Mid-Autumn Festival, which is apparently today (September 30) according to Wikipedia. From what I read on the Web, mooncakes are so labor-intensive that most people do not bother making them at home. I asked several of my Chinese friends and they told me to get the ones sold in a box at Chinese supermarkets. Last night, I went back out to Chinatown to look for them. A teacher at my daughter’s school told me that Fuxiangyuan is a good brand to get, so I went to about a dozen different bakeries and supermarkets to find it. I finally found it at New York Mart at 128 Mott Street. I was so excited to find it that I didn’t pay attention to the flavor indicated on the side of the box, and I ended up getting a mixed nuts version (Photo B: $20 per box of 4), which is not the traditional kind. On the way back home, I also bought one from Natalie Bakery on Grand Street at Forsyth (Photo A: $5 each). They make their own.

This morning, another friend told me to go to Golden Fung Wong Bakery Shop on Mott Street at Pell Street. They too make their own mooncakes and they have many different kinds. I got the traditional one with lotus seed paste and egg yolks (photo C: $4 each). I went back to New York Mart to get the traditional kind but it was already sold out. In fact, I noticed that everyone sold out of all the imported mooncakes with lotus seed paste and egg yolks. The only ones I could find were ones with untraditional flavors, ones made elsewhere like Malaysia, or ones made by local bakeries. The expensive ones sold out first.

My family happened to go near Flushing, Queens today, so we went to Hong Kong Supermarket on Main Street. When we got there, there were still about a dozen boxes available (Photo D: $11 per box of 4). As I was inspecting it, they were flying off the shelf, and by the time we left, they were all gone.

Since I’m not familiar with the flavors of lotus seed paste and salted duck eggs, I can’t judge which one was the best, but I personally preferred the one from Golden Fung Wong (Photo C). I liked the saltiness of the egg yolk combined with the sweetness of the lotus seed paste. These should be eaten with a cup of tea. It’s essentially a way to sweeten the tea without actually putting sugar in the tea. As you can see from the photos, the imported ones look the best. I saw many other house-made ones, and none of them looked as good as the imported ones.

On the Web, I found mooncakes made by Starbucks. They look/sound great. I’d love to try them. And, apparently Häagen-Dazs makes mooncake ice cream.

Asian American Man Who Armed the Panthers

posted by Dyske

I’ve never heard of him before but this is an interesting story. By the way, the pronunciation of Aoki is wrong in this video. The “A” should not be “ei”, just “a”. (But maybe Richard Aoki himself pronounced it that way.)

Beef Tripe Noodle Soup

posted by Dyske

This is beef tripe noodle soup from Tanxia Wang Fuzhou Cuisine at 13 Eldridge Street, New York. Only $3. I liked it. The place was packed at 5pm. Their dumplings looked good; I’ll try them next time.

Fish Balls from Yi Zhang Fishball

posted by Dyske

This is from Yi Zhang Fishball at 9 Eldridge Street. It’s really tasty. I wasn’t expecting to see anything inside, but this is fish and some sort of meat (probably pork). It’s only $3

Why Do Americans Still Think MSG Is Bad for You?

posted by Dyske

MSG Crystals

MSG Crystals

Why do so many Americans, even very well-educated ones, still believe that MSG is bad for our health? It is an urban myth that it causes allergic reactions. Many studies from around the world have proven that MSG is no more harmful to our health than plain salt, yet the urban myth in the US continues. (Read Wikipedia entry on MSG ») In fact, in large quantities, salt is more harmful to our health than MSG is. When restaurants don’t use MSG, they just put more salt which is worse. I think it’s just because the name “monosodium glutamate” sounds too scary. If we called salt by its chemical name, I think the same thing would happen: “Would you like some sodium chloride on your French fries?”

Some people feel lethargic after eating Chinese food which lead to this myth called “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”. I believe this has to do with the heaviness of the food. I feel the same way whenever I eat rich, heavy, greasy food. Cheap food in general tends to be so, specially cheap Chinese, Indian, and deep-fried food. If you were to stuff yourself with rich French food loaded with butter, cream, and cheese, the same would probably happen but because French food is generally expensive, we don’t stuff ourselves with it. And, that leads to another argument that enhancing the flavors with MSG would be good for us because we would feel more satisfied with less calories.

The main reason why the urban myth of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” spread so fast and wide, I believe, is xenophobia. Chinese food was a perfect candidate for it. MSG is strongly associated with Chinese food but it was actually invented in Japan, and the Japanese people probably consume more MSG than the Chinese.

MSG first went into production in 1909 in Japan, and since then, the Japanese people have been using it in just about everything. It’s nearly impossible to avoid MSG in Japan, or even in Japanese grocery stores in the US. You pick up any food product randomly and look at the list of ingredients, you will find MSG. For over a century, the entire nation of Japan has been consuming MSG every day. But, as it is commonly known, the Japanese are significantly healthier and live longer than Americans. So, what is there to be concerned about? More than one generation of people have already consumed it all their lives. Cutting down on sodium consumption is a common health concern even in Japan, but I’ve never heard anyone talking about cutting down on MSG.

It is true that using MSG in everything you cook is a form of cheating, but the same is true for salt and sugar. When you eat fruit, say strawberries or a grapefruit, you would want it to be naturally sweet, and not have to add sugar to it artificially. The same is true for savory food. You want to enjoy the natural amount of salt that’s in the ingredients, and if you get high-quality ingredients full of natural flavors, you wouldn’t need to add salt. We tend to add salt to food when flavor is lacking. High-end restaurants don’t usually have salt on the table, and asking for more salt is considered an insult. In that sense, yes, adding MSG is a form of cheating; we should enjoy the naturally occurring MSG if possible. But why single out MSG as a form of cheating? If MSG is cheating, then chefs should not add any salt or sugar in any of their food either, but they all habitually do. So, it’s hypocritical to single out use of MSG as cheating.