Asian American Food Culture
by Alice L. McLean
April 2015, 211pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-34144-1
$61, £47, 54€, A84
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-56720-690-6
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What sparked the nationwide enthusiasm for Vietnamese pho noodle soup in America?

Covering topics ranging from the establishment of the Gulf Coast shrimping industry in 1800s to the Korean taco truck craze in the present day, this book explores the widespread contributions of Asian Americans to U.S. food culture.

Since the late 18th century, Asian immigrants to the United States have brought their influences to bear on American culture, yielding a rich, varied, and nuanced culinary landscape. The past 50 years have seen these contributions significantly amplified, with the rise of globalization considerably blurring the boundaries between East and West, giving rise to fusion foods and transnational ingredients and cooking techniques. The Asian American population grew from under 1 million in 1960 to an estimated 19.4 million in 2013. Three-quarters of the Asian American population in 2012 was foreign-born, a trend that ensures that Asian cuisines will continue to invigorate and enrich the United States food culture.

This work focuses on the historical trajectory that led to this remarkable point in Asian American food culture. In particular, it charts the rise of Asian American food culture in the United States, beginning with the nation’s first Chinese “chow chows” and ending with the successful campaign of Indochina war refugees to overturn the Texas legislation that banned the cultivation of water spinach—a staple vegetable in their traditional diet. The book focuses in particular on the five largest immigrant groups from East and Southeast Asia—those of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Vietnamese descent.

Students and food enthusiasts alike now have a substantial resource to turn to besides ethnic cookbooks to learn how the cooking and food culture of these groups have altered and been integrated into the United States foodscape. The work begins with a chronology that highlights Asian immigration patterns and government legislation as well as major culinary developments. The book’s seven chapters provide an historical overview of Asian immigration and the development of Asian American food culture; detail the major ingredients of the traditional Asian diet that are now found in the United States; introduce Asian cooking philosophies, techniques, and equipment as well as trace the history of Asian American cookbooks; and outline the basic structure and content of traditional Asian American meals. Author Alice L. McLean’s book also details the rise of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Vietnamese restaurants in the United States and discusses the contemporary dining options found in ethnic enclaves; introduces celebratory dining, providing an overview of typical festive foods eaten on key occasions; and explores the use of food as medicine among Asian Americans.


  • Describes Chinese American, Japanese American, Korean American, Filipino American, and Vietnamese American food cultures
  • Introduces many of the major contributions Asian Americans have made to the American culinary landscape through a historical overview of Asian immigration to the United States and an examination of the rise of Asian-owned restaurants, markets, groceries, and packaged food companies
  • Details the cooking techniques, ingredients, dishes, and styles of dining that Asian Americans have introduced to the United States
  • Supplies a chronology, resource guide, selected bibliography, and illustrations to complement the text
Alice L. McLean, PhD, is a lecturer in food studies at the University of the Pacific, San Francisco. A specialist in gastronomic literature and feminist food studies, she is author of Greenwood's Cooking in America, 1840–1945 as well as Aesthetic Pleasure in Twentieth-Century Women's Food Writing: The Innovative Appetites of M.F.K. Fisher, Alice B. Toklas, and Elizabeth David. In addition to researching and writing books and essays on food culture and culinary literature, McLean served as the Honors Teaching Fellow at Sweet Briar College (2005–2009), where she created and taught a range of food studies courses, including Culinary Voyages; Food, Language, and the Imagination; Revolutionary Movements in the Edible Arts; Food, Sex, Pleasure in Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Film; and Hunger Artists.
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