Assimilation in Authenticity

Representation of authentic cultural cuisine holds strife in society with debate on what exactly can be defined as the ‘authentic’ experience one searches for in that cultures consumables. As seen in Los Angeles, ‘Loncheras are one of the most prominent examples of ‘authentic’ street cuisine’ (Oliver Wang, 2013, 79) or so it can be argued in comparison to chain branches that offer ‘street food’. As much as it comes down to personal opinion, there are key characteristics of such cultural food that people as an individual unit look out for when in search of a specific cultural food place, and in my case to find an Asian restaurant, I passed by many with all appearing, from an onlookers perspective, to fit the description of being an Asian-themed restaurant. In discussion with a friend I was recommended Ten Ren’s for its appeal to authenticity, yet I found that this establishment gave off aromas of a melting pot rather than a distinct Asian-experience.

I was informed of the location by a friend of mine who pinpointed it as being ‘good Asian food’ and as seen in the photograph below, the establishment does give off a strong vibe of being able to provide an Asian-American experience with the lettering of the restaurant being both identifiable to English speakers, and equally alienating with Asian symbols. This simultaneously however attracts those looking for an ‘authentic’ Asian food experience as the symbols themselves are recognisably of Asian-origin, and thus provide connotations the establishment is ‘authentic’. But through studies, this ‘authenticity’ of Asian is mythos; the expectations of a society to deeming what is Asian is a construct of the society itself. This restaurant demonstrated a stronger form of assimilated culture as opposed to being a whole Asian tone both culinary and decoratively.

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Through culinary experience, assimilation of both Asian and American culture is very evident. From the image above, one notices a fusion of both expected Asian dishes, but mixed within such meals are items of typical American food, or broadening further, food items available on a global scale which have no connotations to being Asian-stereotyped items. This is somewhat of an economic move in order to appeal to those not seeking typical Asian cuisine and have the establishment able to provide for a larger audience, but culturally speaking, shows a level of assimilation within the establishment, capturing both American ideals of authentic Asian food with equally constructed expectations of American food.

Of course the fundamental motivation behind the restaurant is money; the food and experience is economically driven to satisfy a customer in their expectations aesthetically and pleasurably in order to retain their return for profitable gain. Politically, the establishment works towards utilising societies expectations of Asian food and an ‘authentic’ experience in order to achieve economic pursuits. However, in somewhat of a twist, this restaurant challenges generic ideologies of an Asian experience by indulging a customer in opportunities for assimilated items. This is both voluntary by food choice as mentioned in the latter paragraph in relation to offering both ‘Asian’ and ‘non-Asian’ food items, or involuntarily through the access to three television screens of which Asian, Spanish and English languages are used. Not only this, but the music flashes back and forth after each song between the expected Asian themed sounds to modern pop songs played on the radio which adds to this modern twist that the restaurant gives a customer a feel for an Asian-American experience in the literal sense of bringing the two hyphenated terms together under one roof. Not only this, but it seemed the only attempt to reinstate Asian themes were within the walls themselves, bringing about lettering and images to suit an image of eastern tones from a westerners perspective.

The work force that are visible to the public eye are all of Asian descent which further adds to give off a reflection the restaurant can provide an expectation of what real Asian cuisine is, cooked by and ran by Asian people, yet there was a complete lack of stereotype; under no circumstances was any form of fixed stereotype imposed on the staff.  They were employees above anything else, the drive behind the entire complex was of economic value and while the food was satisfying to taste, I found this more an Asian-American blend of cultures under a fixation of capitalistic desires and a contender to revise the archetype of Asian food establishments.

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