Category Archives: Noodle Interview

Noodle Interview Sukyung Kim

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1. Please tell me your name, age, city, and occupation.
2. When did you come to the U.S.?
3. What was the hardest struggle you have gone through adjusting to a new culture?
4. What food do you usually eat? Do you cook or buy food?
5. Do you eat a lot of noodles? Do you cook or buy them?
6. Do noodles play a significant role in your culture (both back in Korea and now)?
7. Briefly explain your thoughts in your own country’s food culture and that of your own family.
8. What’s your perspective of cooking culture of the U.S.? Why?
9. Do you think your cooking style now is different from your mom’s?

Domain Entry 7: Transcript of Noodle Narrative Interview – Dania Quezada

Transcript of Noodle Narrative Interview: Rosalba Torres and Brenda Mata

Dania: I just started recording.

Rosalba: Baby, you are so pretty!

*Laughter in background.

Dania: Mom! My professors are going to hear all of this!

Rosalba: Oh my gosh!

Dania: We’re going to be speaking in Spanish so that Mom can understand everything. I will be adding, uh, captions? No, subtitles! Yes, subtitles, later on. But we’ll be speaking in Spanish, okay?

Rosalba: Yes!

Dania: Alright. The reason why I’m speaking with you two today is because I’m analyzing the—

Rosalba: *interrupting Gorgeous!

*More laughter.

Brenda: You know Joseline was going to do this?!

Dania: I’m analyzing the ways in which our eating habits have changed since immigrating here to the United States, especially how the Vietnamese culture present in the cities of Garden Grove, Westminster, and Santa Ana have influenced us. Mom, I chose you because you’ve spent the most time in Mexico. You grew up there, you are the one who cooks for us, and thus you are the one who has the most familiarity with Mexican cultural food traditions. Brenda, I chose you because, of all of three of us, you are the one who spent the most time in Mexico. You spent your childhood there. Also, of all three of us, I consider that you are the one who most exercises American cultural values. So, I would like to know your perception of Mexican, American, and Vietnamese food. But we’re going to begin now, okay?! All right, number one, did you guys know that, first I’ll say it in English. We’re you aware that the cities in which you used to live have the second largest Vietnamese population in the United States.

Rosalba: No, I didn’t know that.

Brenda: I imaged that it was so.

Rosalba: Well, me too, ‘cause, well, you know—

*Nervous laughter.

Dania: Alright, so you guys didn’t know the logistics, the numbers, but you did have some idea.

Rosalba: Yes!

Brenda: Yes.

Dania: Why?

Rosalba: Because, for the most part, we were surrounded by those people, by the Vietnamese.

Dania: Okay.

Rosalba: Because the neighbors were Vietnamese, the medics were Vietnamese, I thought to myself that the majority of our community must be Vietnamese.

Dania: Okay, so we spent much time, you spent much time living amongst Vietnamese people, being exposed to their culture. How, uh, what do you guys think, what do you guys know about Vietnamese culture?

Brenda: Some of their foods, some of their traditions, and that’s it.

Dania: Which of those foods? Which of those traditions?

Rosalba: Well, I really like Chinese food.

Brenda: I really like the coffee.

Rosalba: The coffee, yes.

Brenda: Coffee, uh, the pho.

Rosalba: I like Kung Pao chicken, Chow Mein, uh, GEN!

Brenda: GEN isn’t Vietnamese, it’s Korean.

Rosalba: Yes, Korean, but the majority of Chinese foods are really good.

Dania: I like that you mentioned Chinese food, mom, because I asked you specifically about the Vietnamese culture, so uh, in your words, what is the difference between Chinese and Vietnamese food.


Dania: Because Chinese food comes from China, and Vietnamese food, well—

Rosalba: is from Vietnam. It’s not the same?

Dania: It belongs to Vietnamese culture.

Rosalba: No, right? No. I think that Chinese food is more strongly spiced. They use more garlic, more onion.

Dania: Okay—

Rosalba: and these chilli peppers. They use these strange peppers. But it’s more strongly spiced.

Dania: Brenda mentioned specific Vietnamese dishes. She mentioned Vietnamese coffee, pho, which is a Vietnamese dish. Can you mention any specific Vietnamese dishes?


Dania: It’s okay if you can’t.

Rosalba: The thing is, I can’t discern between Chinese and Vietnamese food. For example, I can’t tell if Kung Pao chicken is Vietnamese or Chinese. I don’t know whether Chow Mein is Vietnamese or Chinese.

Dania: And why is that? Why do you think you can’t discern between these dishes?

Rosalba: Because, for example, in Mexico we’re all Mexicans, right? But we don’t all speak the same, uh, over there in a corner, the Yucatanes speak in dialect, the Tarahumaras speak in dialect, and yet they’re all Mexican. So I imagine that it’s the same thing here. I see them all with the same physiognomy and assume they’re all from the same race, but it’s not really like that. The Chinese are not Vietnamese.

Brenda: Just like people say all Latinos are Mexican.

Rosalba: Yes, all Mexicans are Latinos.

Dania: Okay, does it make you uncomfortable when someone says that all Latinos are Mexican?

Rosalba: No.

Dania: No, it doesn’t make you uncomfortable?

Rosalba: No, not me.

Dania: Brenda, does it make you uncomfortable?

Brenda: No.

Joseline: It doesn’t? What if you were Salvadorian and someone were to say, “Mexican! Hey, come here Mexican!” Wouldn’t that bother you, cause’ you’re not Mexican, you’re Salvadorian? It would make you uncomfortable.

Rosalba: No, but she’s asking about Latinos and I don’t feel uncomfortable with people, uh—

Dania: With people gene-gene-uh

Rosalba: Generalizing.

Dania: Yes, thank you. It doesn’t make you uncomfortable?

Rosalba: Erm, nope.

Dania: Okay, well, we’re going to move on. How do you perceive Vietnamese food.

*thoughtful silence

Brenda: She’s making this so hard for us. She should have asked us a question about mac n’ cheese.

Rosalba: Perceive? How do I perceive Vietnamese food? Well, this goes back to what I was saying about my being unable to distinguish between Vietnamese and Chinese food. Thus, to me, Vietnamese and Chinese foods are the same and I perceive them as delicious. I love it.

Brenda: I like, well, I’ve eaten more Chinese food than I have Vietnamese, but I like Vietnamese more because the one I’ve had has been healthier.

Joseline: More authentic, too.

Brenda: More authentic, yes, than the Chinese food [I’ve had].

Dania: And why do you believe it has been more authentic. Before you answer this question, how do you chara-chara

Rosalba: Characterize?

Dania: Yes, thank you, how do you characterize authentic food? Let’s begin with Vietnamese food. How would you characterize authentic Vietnamese food?

Brenda: I think that when you go to a place where the culture is concentrated, [the food] tends to be more authentic than if you go to a location where, uh, well, if there isn’t much culture there. Also, when I go to places that I consider more authentic, it’s because friends have taken me to these places because they consider it to be authentic, they know it well, they consider it to be more original when compared to what they’ve had in their home countries and what they’ve had here.

Dania: Okay, so you guys take into account the opinion of the people of that particular culture?

Brenda: Yes.

Dania: Because, if you guys go to a place where many Vietnamese people are eating, then the natural conclusion that will follow from that is that there is something tasty there and naturally Vietnamese folks are there because they like it, perhaps it reminds them a bit of home?

Brenda: Yes, that’s 7 Leaves.

Rosalba: Exactly.

Dania: Yes, like 7 Leaves, okay. What about Mexican food? How do you characterize authentic Mexican food?

Rosalba: Oh, well that’s easily known. It’s all in the flavor. The flavor is very different. When it’s original, you loose yourself in the flavor. It isn’t the same in the condiments. They may call it Mexican food, but its really authentic Mexican. Even though Mexican people may make it. I think that the ingredients have much to do with it.

Brenda: I think that, for example, if I go to a restaurant and the food there looks like or smells like or tastes like what I have at home then I think it’s authentic. If it looks different, I’ve gone to Mexican restaurants where [the food] looks very different and just because it has that aspect of looking different I no longer consider it authentic.

Dania: So Brenda, what most influences how you define authentic is what you eat at home?

Brenda: Yes.

Dania: Because you are Mexican, and my mom here who prepares your food is Mexican, then for you—

Rosalba: and also prepares yours!

Dania: yes, and also prepares mine. It sounds as if for you Brenda, what is authentic is if a person from a certain culture cooks his or her food, then its authentic.

Brenda: Yes

Dania: So, this is very interesting. In class we’re studying how, for example, the very famous American chef Martha Stewart sometimes cooks cultural foods such as Mexican food or Chinese food and then many of the names of her recipes will be “authentic Mexican,” such as “authentic Mexican tamales”. So, she’s not Mexican. Would her food then, by your own definition, would it be authentic?

Rosalba: I don’t think so.

Brenda: Oh really?

Rosalba: I don’t think so! I think that authentic is hecho en.

Brenda: I think it has more to do with the ingredients. No?

Rosalba: *unintelligible grumbling

Brenda: Because what if the ingredients came from Mexico itself? The ingredients were hechos en Mexico.

Rosalba: Yes, well, it goes back to the same point of hecho en. But how am I, for example, who am Mexican, going to say that I authentically cook Vietnamese or Chinese? That’s illogical, even if the ingredients were from, uh, were Vietnamese.

Brenda: But what if you follow [Vietnamese] recipes?

Rosalba: Well, it may come out the same, but it’s still not the same. So it may result very similarly, but it’s just not original because I am not Vietnamese. I don’t know the Vietnamese kitchen or the culinary techniques they use there. I know the ingredients from Mexico, but not those of Vietnam.

Dania: I like your response a lot mom because I feel as if what you’re mentioning is not only, uh, something we’re studying in class is how food traditions aren’t only the finished dish but also the preparation. So also the ingredients and the ways in which people prepare them. So you, a Mexican woman, can follow a Vietnamese recipe, you can even go to Vietnam and grab all the ingredients from Vietnam that you need, but when you return home, it won’t be the same because, perhaps while you’re preparing that food, you’re going to prepare that food utilizing Mexican culinary methods because they are all you learned

Rosalba: Exactly.

Dania: So, something is lost there. While you’re cooking, and it sounds to me that what you’re trying to say is that those culinary methods are not the same.

Rosalba: Well no, they’re not.

Dania: Okay, well, what if you knew exactly how a Vietnamese person prepares her food? Even then would it not be authentic food? Or must it be, uh, something is lost. And what it—

Rosalba: I think definitely, you may present it to me any way you like, even if the ingredients are original and even if I’m there helping to cook, or if a Vietnamese woman is standing behind me telling me how to do things, it is not original because the person cooking isn’t one who is original. There are many people who have tried imitating Mexican food, and it isn’t the same. It must be someone who has used that method, who knows the exact quantities and, I don’t know, everything has its essence, its seasoning.

Dania: Its essence, its seasoning, how nice.

Rosalba: There we go.

Dania: Brenda, do you agree with this?

Brenda: What do you think?

Rosalba: *whispers Lie!

Dania: Do you think that—

Brenda: She’s subordinating me! She’s subordinating me into agreeing with her

Rosalba: *laughs

Brenda: But its not going happen! My answer is no. If you know how to prepare the food, if you have the ingredients, every person is going to do things differently. You make your tamales one way, and Sister Martha makes her tamales another way. Both are authentic, both are Mexican.

Rosalba: Yes yes, and they’re both good, but if a Chinese woman—

Brenda: They’re both good!

Rosalba: but if a Chinese woman, if a Vietnamese woman goes and makes tamales, they’re not going to come out good!

Brenda: But why? What if she grew up in Mexico?

Rosalba: Well, all right. If she grew up there, then it’s fine. But if not, then no.

Dania: Okay.

Rosalba: If she hasn’t experienced that stage of getting into the kitchen and getting to know the Mexican kitchen, then it’s just no.

Brenda: No, but we’re talking about something else. The kitchen is something that is learned. It isn’t something with which people are born so that you can say “Ah, I was born a cook!”

Rosalba: But Brenda—

Brenda: No, you make yourself a cook, you’re not born a cook.

Rosalba: Brenda, every person has her seasoning. For example, everyone loves my rice and I have my own method of making my rice.

Brenda: And you’re right—

Rosalba: My tamales!

Brenda: You make very tasty rice, but another person who is Mexican, Chinese, the Chinese also cook rice and they make it tasty. Sister Martha, who is also Mexican, makes it very good. Kevin’s mom, who was, uh,

Dania: Nicaraguan.

Brenda: Yes, Nicaraguan, she too, made very good rice. They’re all different rice dishes, and they’re all very good. Now, if each woman learned how to make the other woman’s rice, obviously it wouldn’t turn out the same, never! Even if you all had the same ingredients.

Rosalba: Exactly! Because each woman has her own seasoning. Her own essence.

Brenda: Yes, so if you say that that is what makes Mexican food authentic, then you’re saying that all Mexican women have the same seasoning.

Rosalba: Nope! Nu-uh.

Dania: No?

Rosalba: Not all Mexican women have the same seasoning.

Brenda: But if that what, you’re saying if that’s what makes authentic Mexican, then all Mexican woman have the same seasoning, then they don’t all have the same seasoning, but they all have the ingredients,

Rosalba: No Brenda!

Brenda: and they all have different methods of cooking.

Rosalba: No Brenda, I’m going to explain it to you. What makes it different is that manner in which you, in your own country, learn the method of cooking it.

Brenda: But I, who has born in own country and raised in another, even then is going to learn your method of tamale-making.

Rosalba: Yes, you’re learning my method because I’m teaching you the Mexican method

Brenda: But you didn’t learn how to make tamales in Mexico.

Rosalba: Yes I did!

Brenda: You learned how to make them here!

Rosalba: No, no, no. I learned how to do it in Mexico.

Dania: Alright, alright, alright, let’s bring it in. Brenda, what I find very fascinating is that my mom, because this is something I notice much in other interviews I’ve watched and readings I’ve done, for you, the definition of authentic food is much looser, is much less strict than my mom’s, who grew up in Mexico.

Brenda: Perhaps.

Dania: You think that, perhaps, your definition of authenticity is a bit more open than my mom’s because you had influences from other cultures and other foods while you were growing up? So you didn’t grow up with this idea of what it means to be authentic?

Brenda: Correct because saying that we’re going to make authentic Mexican food at home with ingredients that we bought in an American market, its kind of like, even though a Mexican is making it, even though she’s making it her own seasoning, then it loses its authenticity because the ingredients are not the correct ingredients. Thus, by the definition that my mom uses, that everything has to be authentic Mexican and made in Mexico, then all food that is made in the USA of other cultures in not authentic, regardless of who makes it. But I, having grown up here eating the food, don’t feel as if that is something that is going to invalidate the food’s authenticity.

Dania: Okay, very interesting.

Rosalba: Yes, but here in the markets, the majority of them already sell authentic ingredients brought from Mexico. So that’s not a problem. You may be buying it in an American market, but it is 100% Mexican product.

Brenda: Then why is it that people fight so much about Mexican coke tasting so much better than American coke?

Dania: Which it is.

Brenda: Which is the same.

Rosalba: No because there is a Coke production plant here, too.

Brenda: And you don’t think that Mexico’s production plant brings Coke here, too?

Rosalba: Well, that I don’t know. But, you know, we’re not talking about Coca-Cola, we’re talking about something else.

Brenda: Well, that’s like saying that it’s like an ingredient, a food that is brought here.

Dania: We’re going to talk about, we’re going to try and make ourselves Americans for a moment. How do you guys think that American people perceive Mexican food?

Rosalba: They do like it.

Dania: They like it, okay, why do you say that?

Rosalba: Because the restaurants are filled to the brim with American people, the Mexican restaurants.

Dania: Brenda?

Brenda: I think that they perceive it as very spicy.

Rosalba: Yes, because they’re not used to that, but here we make them get used to it.

Dania: Let’s talk about; we’re mentioning Mexican restaurants. What about Chipotle? Would you guys say that that’s a Mexican restaurant?

Brenda: No

Rosalba: No.

Dania: Why not?

Joseline: Because they’re whitewashed.

Rosalba: Because they’re more Americanized.

Brenda: The manner in which they prepare the food, even though the beans are Mexican, even though the meat or the way they prepare is it Mexican, the manner in which they present it—

Rosalba: Is not Mexican.

Brenda: They present it for a different public—

Dania: And why do you guys think that?

Rosalba: I think its marketing

Brenda: Marketing? Well yes, to obtain more clients. Because I think if you make it authentically, authentically Mexican, whose definition I’m not certain of because everyone has a different one, then you’ll only attract a certain kind of people while if you say Mexican food but present it in a way in which everyone can look at it and crave it, then it’s a different presentation, because much of what you eat is based on how the food appears. For example, Ryan at times thinks that our dishes look kind of strange, but then he tries them and it tastes good. So I think that restaurants like Chipotle do this sort of thing. Perhaps the beans served on their own don’t look so appetizing, but if you add them to the salad, on the one hand, they look more appetizing now–

Rosalba: It’s all about the presentation.

Brenda: They look healthier, yes, the presentation.

Dania: So what you guys think about these restaurants, let’s stay with Chipotle, because for me personally its represents a restaurant that is American but serves food that is, uh, Americanized, Westernized Mexican food, Mexican food that has been Americanized. So in reality it’s not Mexican but rather the American representation of Mexican food. So what you guys think is that restaurants like Chipotle that serve this type of food serve food that contains Mexican elements but in reality is not for the Mexican people but rather for the American people.

Rosalba: It may be so.

Dania: It may be so or no?

Brenda: I don’t think it’s just for Americans but rather also for a more general public. Because it’s not just, for example, I go to Chipotle and I’m not American. So its not just for Americans but also for he public that perceives that as—

Dania: And what do you like about Chipotle, Brenda?

Brenda: Uh—

Dania: Why do you go to Chipotle if you can eat authentic Mexican food here at home?

Brenda: No, because its fast. If I wanted to have authentic Mexican food, I’d go somewhere else. I’d go to Santa Ana or Los Angeles.

Dania: So only because it’s fast?

Rosalba: Because it has a close resemblance and it’s fast.

Brenda: Yes, it’s similar in appearance and its fast.

Joseline: It’s good.

Brenda: Sometimes it’s good.

Dania: Sometimes, it’s good. Okay. Let’s perhaps, this may be too much of a stretch but, this business of it being the fastest and tastiest, do you think that perhaps you’re accustomed to eating this way because of your experiences as an immigrant? Do you see the connection that I’m making, trying to make?

Brenda: No.

Dania: Some people have time and have money. When they have a craving for tacos, they go all the way to LA just to have tacos. They can spend that money and that time because, let’s say, they don’t have to work or go to school. They have money saved up. They have the luxury to go all the way to LA. For the majority of our lives, we have not had that luxury, do you guys think that your experiences and your state as an immigrant have influenced certain sacrifices that you have had to make when it comes to, in relation to food. Have you had to sacrifice eating, let’s say, truly Mexican to eat as close as you can get.

Brenda: I don’t think so—

Dania: No?

Brenda: Because, no, I don’t think it to do with my state as an immigrant but rather my state of, my state as—

Rosalba: Status.

Brenda: My status as a person living the life I’m leaving.

Dania: Status.

Brenda: I don’t know, my mom said status.

Dania: Status yes, its status. I don’t know how to speak Spanish.

Brenda: I think that, for example, being a student, having to work, having to study, having to complete homework, so for me everything has to be fast. You get me? So it takes more time to go to the market to buy food, prepare it, than to go and buy something that has already been prepared. And if you’re thinking, alright well I want Mexican food, you don’t have to go all the way up to LA. There are places around here in which you can find something you like. But the reason for why I do everything so quickly is because of the life that I lead. Everything is always happening quickly.

Dania: And that doesn’t have anything to do with you being an immigrant.

Brenda: I don’t feel that it has something to do with my being an immigrant. I think it has more to do with this life that I chose to lead or the rhythm of life that I follow, its fast. I prefer to save time by not cooking so that I can have time to finish my homework or study, or I prefer eat something that has already been prepared so that I can go out and have fun or watch a movie.

Dania: Okay, I mentioned this about how our experiences as immigrants have influenced the ways in which we eat because, uh, I have many more questions specifically about that. Like I mentioned when we began, I’m interested in analyzing how our experiences as immigrants and our status as immigrants have influenced that ways in which we eat. So, let’s see. Since arriving here from Mexico, how, Brenda, Mom, I know its been a long time, but try to remember, how the ways in which you eat have changed.

Brenda: Well, in Mexico we rarely went out to eat—

Rosalba: Fast food.

Brenda: yes, fast food.

Rosalba: It was prepared it home.

Brenda: It was always prepared at home while here—

Dania: Why was it such a rare thing?

Brenda: Uh, perhaps because we didn’t have, uh—

Rosalba: We didn’t have the means.

Brenda: We didn’t have the means; you get what I’m saying? In addition, we were very small and perhaps that’s something you don’t want to give to such small children. Taking them out to eat every day fast food.

Dania: Is that something that is done a lot in Mexico?

Rosalba: Yes. Well, for me as a mother, I’ve always been interested in the good nutrition for you guys when you were small. I always tried to provide you with the best nutrition, the best, the healthiest within what was available to us. Here, we can afford a few more luxuries to go out and eat fast food. But even so, when we first arrived here, I think you guys still remember that I have always cooked for you. I’ve always liked for you to eat at home.

*Brenda makes dubious face at camera.

Rosalba: I’ve always liked that you eat at home. One or two days is fine to go out, but mostly we ate at home.

Dania: *mimicking Mom’s voice Kitten, let’s go get Chinese food! Let’s go to Wok!

Rosalba: That matters very little!

Dania: Sure mom. Okay, from what I remember in Mexico, we only went out to have pizza, I remember a green dinosaur. Am I imagining it?

Rosalba: No, he’s real. What was his name?

Brenda: Uh, Peter Pieper’s Pizza?

Dania: Peter Pepper Pizza?

Rosalba: No, where you had your piñata. Don’t you remember?

Brenda: It was there, wasn’t it?

Rosalba: No.

Dania: Okay, well I remember that in Mexico, even though I was really young I remember that we only went out to eat fast food in special events. So birthdays, graduations, I remember when I graduated from kindergarten, you guys took me to the cafeteria.

Rosalba: To the Liberty!

Brenda: Yep.

Rosalba: Yeah, it’s true. Those were special occasions while today, well, you guys have grown up, I think we—

Brenda: There are more special occasions, let’s put it that way.

Rosalba: There are more special occasions.

Brenda: Well, that’s what we tell ourselves anyway so we can go out and eat.

Dania: Okay, I like that you mention that. So how is it that you celebrate special occasions in Mexico and here?

Brenda: Huh, I don’t know. In Mexico celebrations occur within the family.

Rosalba: Yes, in Mexico, you’ll have a party—

Brenda: And food is cooked at home.

Rosalba: Yes, and food is cooked at home.

Brenda: While here we celebrate by going out to eat. We’ll go out to a restaurant.

Dania: Okay and what are these restaurants that you visit?

Rosalba: GEN.

Brenda: Italian food, Mexican food—

Dania: Italian food? Where do you have Italian food?

Brenda: Olive Garden.

Rosalba: Olive Garden.

*Dania giggles and shakes her head.

Rosalba: It’s not Italian?

Dania: No.

Rosalba: Pasta then!

Dania: What I’ve learned in class is—

Brenda: It’s the equivalent of Chipotle to a Mexican person.

Dania: Yes, its like saying, uh, when a person says, I’m going to go to Olive Garden to have Italian food, it’s the equivalent of an American saying I’m going to go to Chipotle to have Mexican food.

Brenda: Correct. Okay, well there’s another restaurant named Carolina’s, its more authentic, again, I can’t really say but the owners are more—

Dania: Italian?

Brenda: from Italy. Uh-uh.

Dania: And where else do you go?

Rosalba: Korean BBQ.

Brenda: Korean BBQ.

Rosalba: Wings.

Dania: Buffalo Wild Wings?

Rosalba: Chinese food. Wok.

Brenda: My mom won’t leave that place. We go to In-N-Out.

Dania: Yum!

Rosalba: International Buffet.

Dania: Okay, since you arrived here in the US, I know I’ve already asked this but I feel as if we went of on a tangent, can we talk a bit more bout how your ways of eating have changed, your uh, your food traditions. So its not just how you eat from day to day but also how you celebrate special events, how you prepare the food, when you invite people over, is that something that you do much of, you get what I’m saying?

Rosalba: *mumbles Looking up recipes on YouTube.

Brenda: Looking up recipes on, yes, Pinterest.

Dania: Pinterest, okay.

Brenda: Well, since, I think, well, no, in Mexico I did cook.

Dania: What did you cook?

Brenda: I cooked recipes out of cookbooks.

Dania: Out of cookbooks.

Rosalba: The cookbook is still around somewhere.

Brenda: They were Mexican recipes. Authentic or not, I cooked them. I was Mexican and I was in Mexico, thus they truly were authentic. When I came here, I lost my liking for cooking. Perhaps because it was no longer part of that necessity for me to cook—

Rosalba: It was rather that you no longer had any time.

Brenda: And now that I’ve started cooking again, the food that I cook is very different to the food that I cooked before. Perhaps now I used different ingredients—

Rosalba: It’s more American food.

Brenda: More American food.

Dania: That’s what I’ve noticed just by glancing at the stuff you pin.

Brenda: Healthier food, too, perhaps, food with more vegetables, but all of that has been as a result of the influence of the culture here because in Mexico, we don’t have that—people going around asking, oh, is this healthy? Or, are these vegetables all different colors? I don’t feel that way, anyway, but who know, perhaps the culture over there has changed. When we were over there, that was not part of the culture.

Dania: Okay, I’ve mentioned this in class and I don’t think anyone believes me. Uh, okay, for you mom, we’ve established that for you this question is going to be about Chinese food and how it has changed you r food traditions, and you Brenda can be more specific, but if not, that’s okay. How has Chinese food or specifically Vietnamese food influenced your food traditions?

Rosalba: It has changed me in that, well, its not so much now, it was more often before, but I used to include it more in my eating. Now, it has gotten too greasy so I don’t include it as often, but even so I still enjoy it.

Dania: Drink tea.

Brenda: I like to drink to tea.

Dania: You like to drink tea?

Brenda: Yes, but all the same, its not like I go to the store to buy tea but rather I drink the one you can find in a market.

Dania: Huh?

Brenda: The little tea bags.

Dania: Ah, okay.

Brenda: So I don’t think that its something that other people might consider to be original, but that’s what I like.

Dania: Why? Why are you drinking more tea now?

Brenda: Because now I’m more conscious of, uh, like I said, its something that’s changed. Now I’m more conscious of, perhaps, uh, for example, I drink teach because I don’t want to drink coffee. So I’ve substituted coffee for tea for the same reason, because I’m more conscious of the health benefits.

Dania: Okay, Ma, I know that when we first started talking so mentioned that Vietnamese food is healthier.

Rosalba: Vietnamese food is what?

Dania: More healthy because it has more vegetables.

Rosalba: Well, yes, they cook with more vegetables and use more vegetables in their food.

Dania: Does Mexican food include many vegetables?

Rosalba: No, not so much, its mostly chilli. It the chilli peppers that make us strong.

Dania: What about the food in our home? As the years have passed—

Rosalba: Yes, now I try and include more vegetables, to eat healthier, definitely.

Dania: Brenda, I really like that you mentioned drinking tea because in class we discussed how the philosophy of Chinese food is balance. Since much of Chinese food is greasy, well, not greasy, oily, it’s cooked in many oils, they drink tea, green tea or jasmine tea because tea dries the mouth.

Rosalba: Oh!

Dania: So, when you drink tea while eating food that is oily, it creates a balance, literally a balance in your mouth and in your stomach. Its so much more than that, that’s a while other conversation. I just thought it was very interesting that theme of balance of food. So yeah, that’s something that we’ve been studying, how much Chinese food and I’m sure much of Vietnamese food includes vegetables. It’s a vital part of the food, just like chilli is a vital part of Mexican food.

Rosalba: Yes.

Dania: So now that we’re trying to include more vegetables in our food, do you guys think that that has something to do with our living for so many years in a food, pardon me, in a Vietnamese community? Or is it something more general, that we’ve been living so many years in the American culture.

Rosalba: I think that if you live amongst many people like that, those people will influence you much. Their way of living influences you so much that you begin to adopt their lifestyle, the way they eat, they way they act. So I think that it is very influencing to be surrounded people like that, even when it comes to eating.

Dania: Brenda, what about you?

Rosalba: *To Brenda What’s your opinion about this? Do you think that the Asian folks influence us?

Brenda: Well, yes, everything influences. When I was growing up in Mexico, I had a way of acting; I viewed things differently, of eating, of dressing. Now, there is so much influence where we live, not only just from the Vietnamese but also, I think, Southern California is one of the places where you’ll find the most cultures in comparison to the places, and they influence you and they ways you eat, so yes, definitely.

Dania: Okay, so its not so much the culture and the foods of the Vietnamese but rather the simple fact that we’re surrounded by many different cultures and many different food traditions that have caused our adopting certain aspects of each culture?

Rosalba: Yes.

Brenda: Yes.

Rosalba: Yes, definitely yes, because they show you, they allow you to taste—

Dania: you like it.

Rosalba: You try something now, you like it so you get involved in it too.

Dania: Okay, mom, I know that you don’t have the opportunity visit home often, but Brenda, I know that you have visited Mexico, how do you eat when you’re there in Mexico, and how does that food compare to the food you eat here?

Brenda: Its different, because even the food you think is Mexican tastes different.

Rosalba: the flavors.

Brenda: Yes, the flavors are different, eh, I don’t know, it’s good, but it’s different. If you ask for some enchiladas here, they’re very different than enchiladas over there.

Dania: How are they different? The flavor, is it just the flavor?

Brenda: Yes, it’s the flavor, more than anything because they may look the same—

Dania: An enchilada is an enchilada, yes?

Brenda: Yes.

Dania: A tortilla with cheese.

Brenda: Yes, but it tastes differently. I eat the foods that I eat because I like how they taste. I like trying new foods, but I don’t usually go for something I don’t think I’d like to taste.

Dania: Okay, the word is, uh, well, before we get to that, we’re almost done,, I promise, but before we get to that, what are some cultural Mexican food traditions? What I mean by that is, okay, I can say something here, tamales at Christmas.

Rosalba: Okay, tamales at Christmas, turkey at Christmas—

Dania: Turkey at Christmas? The Mexicans eat turkey at Christmas?

Rosalba: Yes! Or in New Year’s. Also, during Easter week we have the chacales, lentils—

Dania: What are chacales?

Rosalba: It’s ground maize—

Brenda: Oh, I like those!

Rosalba: You make them as if you were cooking beans or lentils, with tomato, onion, and topped with cheese. They’re so good!

Dania: Are they like grits?

Brenda: Kind of like grits but they’re not that grainy. They’re left more whole.

Rosalba: In Easter Week we also have capirotada.

Dania: Mom, talk about that!

Brenda: The rosca de reyes.

Dania: Oh yes! I wrote a story about that and shared it in class. No one had heard about that before, they thought it was interesting. I’m the only Mexican there so I talk about mu culture sometimes. Okay, what else?

Rosalba: The capirotada.

Dania: What is that?

Rosalba: It’s a bread pastry soaked in a type of syrup that is eaten with cheese, sweetened milk frosting—

Brenda: Don’t ask her how to make it because she doesn’t know how.

Rosalba: It’s a dessert food, but it’s only meant for Easter week.

Dania: Okay, what else, is that all you guys can think of?

Rosalba: Let’s see, what else.

Brenda: Menudo! Menudo on Sundays!

Rosalba: Menudo, yes.

Dania: Why on Sundays? Would the church have something to do with that?

Rosalba: No, it’s more that, uh, I think that when you make it fresh and its nice and hot, it’s good because Sundays are the days you get to be at home relaxing, savoring it, something like that.

Brenda: That’s not true. It’s to cure a hangover.

Rosalba: Yes, well, there are others who use it for other purposes.

Brenda: Saturdays are party days, so its obvious that Sundays are meant for you to treat your hangover with some menudo.

Rosalba: For the drunks, that may be so, but not for us.

*Brenda giggles

Dania: I love this because, on the one hand you have the young woman that grew up in the United States being exposed to all these different influences and on the other you have, uh, well, the older woman—

Brenda: *mumbles the old lady

Dania: Let’s move on! Alright, what is the significance, the importance, this questions has no right or wrong answer. I want to know that importance that you assign to these Mexican food traditions. What is their importance? What happens if you don’t follow them and what happens if you do?

Rosalba: Well, nothing is going to happen to you if you don’t follow them, but if you do follow them, then you’re inheriting the pattern that your ancestors have left for you and that’s always nice. For example, for the Day of the Dead, that particular tradition of building an altar and buying pan de muerto, I just don’t know what that means.

Brenda: You just say that ‘cause you don’t like that tradition.

Dania: We’re going to start doing that, you hear! We’re going to start this year, it’s already been established.

Rosalba: Well, as I was saying, they’re cultural traditions, but if you don’t put them into practice, then nothing is going to happen to you.

Dania: You don’t think that it makes any difference, mom?

Rosalba: I don’t think so.

Dania: You don’t think that, well, for me, if we don’t follow these traditions; I feel that something gets lost from our identity as Mexicans. No? But I don’t mean, uh, by saying that a part of our identity gets lost when we don’t practice cultural traditions, I guess I’m also saying that the people who don’t follow Mexican cultural traditions are less Mexican than those who do, and that’s just not true.

Rosalba: I don’t think that you loose anything. Personally, I think that way. There are some people who give this stuff so much more importance, but I don’t give it too much importance. To me, there’s no requirement to practice anything—

Dania: Ma, let me ask you something. If you still lived in Mexico, f you had never immigrated into the US, do you still think you would think this way?

Rosalba: I don’t know because, well, it goes back to the same thing we were talking about. The environment in which you grow greatly influences your development. If its not practiced here, then you begin to lose that desire to follow these traditions, but in turn, if you’re over there, you participate and you have little choice in the matter. You’re in that environment and you can’t escape from it. The people with which you live and the environment in which you develop have much to do with your practices.

Brenda: I like to follow traditions.

Dania: Me too.

Brenda: I even like implementing new ones because everyone knows that I’m the one who urges us to buy the rosca de reyes and other stuff like that. I like following traditions because I feel as if we are learning more about our culture, and for me, it is very important that that culture isn’t lost, but I also think its important to learn about other people’s cultures. For example, if I were to be invited to be a part of another’s cultural tradition, I would be very happy about it. I like that, and I like when people tell me about it, and I even think that I can incorporate a tradition that doesn’t come from my own culture because I think that’s very nice.

Dania: And Brenda, this sort of attitude in which you choose to adopt not only your own cultural traditions but also the cultural traditions of others, do you think that coincides with this American notion of a melting pot of cultures, especially as can be seen in Southern California.

Brenda: Yes, I think so.




Interview with the head chef of Manchunhong


I did my interview with the head chef at Manchunhong, a Chinese restaurant. This interview focused on how the third generation of immigrant brought new cultures (Chinese food) and how he changed into his own ways to fit into American society.

Interview questions:

  1. In what country did you spend the most of your life and for how long? Where were you born?
  2.  Which country do you call home? (China, Korea,  America)
  3. Is this restaurant a Chinese restaurant?
  4. Did your identity, being an American, affect the cuisine? Did it change the original dishes from your home country?
  5. Did the dishes change to the local people’s taste and preferences?
  6. How did you get to start cooking? How did you end up opening a restaurant here in America?
  7. Did your father open a ‘authentic’ Chinese restaurant? Did you have similar menus to your father’s restaurant?
  8. Which menu do you think represents your culture the most? Is it noodles?
  9. Being raised in America, do you know about noodle’s cultural significance in China?
  10. Do you cook noodles with the same cultural significance as you would do in your home country?
  11.  Where do you see your career in ten years? Would this restaurant be the ‘authentic’ Chinese restaurant or Americanized-Chinese restaurant?
  12. How do you want your restaurant to be described to other people?

video project interview


What is it like experiencing american food here?

What is typical food in Karachi like?

How does religion play a influence on food?

What is it like being exposed to American cuisine all the time now?

Tell me about the influence of China and how it has brought about the rise of the noodle in Pakistan.

Do you often see traditional Chinese or Italian cuisine in Karachi?

Can you describe this fusion?

Are there other cultural influences that come with that diffusion?

In what ways do you think your traditional food affects your culture in general?

What ways does food influence your cultural identity?

Since religion affects your food, how does religion affect your culture?

What is it like coming to the US where religion doesn’t have such a tight bond with food? (meaning you can find everything here without restriction)

How does this religious perception of alcohol effect your perception of it when it is heavily marketed here in the US.


Koby’s noodles interview with Mrs Julie Park

Due to technical difficulties, voice was not recorded during the interview (My fault for not double-checking the pre-setup). Still, I had a pleasure of interviewing with my roommate Eddie Park’s mother, Mrs Julie Park, who is a Korean and has been living in USA for more than 10 years.


My research focused on understanding how integrated Korean and American cuisine culture are within her family and what role does Korean food, especially noodles, play for her family. Below are the interview questions:

  • How often do you cook American and Korean food at home?

    – Breakfast is always American. But my husband likes to eat Korean food, so dinner is always Korean. If my husband is not around, I cook American for my 2 kids.


    What are the difficulties in cooking Korean cuisine here?

    – Ingredients. I have to go to Koren supermarket to get ingredients for Korean food, and American supermarket to get ingredients for American food. The thing is I cook both of them in my house in similiar frequency, so I have to spend a lot of time shopping

  • What does Korean cuisine mean to you?

    – After all we are still ethnically Korean. The church I go to have various ethnicities: Vietnamese, Jewish, Chinese and so on. Whenever there is a church event, I am able to bring Korean food for people to enjoy. Moreover, I host tea time with many mothers in church and all of them enjoy trying Korean food. I feel proud doing that.

  • What about noodles then? Tell me about significance of noodles in your culture and family.



    – Instant noodles? Noodles were not really considered as staple food for me. Perhaps a quickbite like hamburger? These days, American food companies focus a lot of making noodles for the Asian population and they are pretty good. Previously I had to go to Korean supermarket to get decent instant noodles, but now I can do that in American supermarket too.

  • How different is Korean and American dining cultures in your experience?

    – Big difference is refusal. It is rude to refuse to try certain dish when offered in Korean house, while it is not in American. Also when Koreans invite you over for a meal, they will not tell you what food will be offered and want you to be surprised. Meanwhile, American families always tell you beforehand what kind of food will be served and they never get offended if you refuse to try certain food due to personal preference or allergies.

  • Do you modify Korean food to cater to your American friends?

    – Sometimes. I make spicy Korean food much milder for my American friends to enjoy. Just like my youngest sons, my American friends cannot handle spicy food well.

  • Do you make exotic or authentic Korean dish here too? Besides the popular Korean food like Bulgogi and bibimbap?

    – Not so often but yes. I cook jjigye, seafood soup, beef soup that are not really sold in Korean restaurants here in Georgia for my family. I cook lots of soups during winter especially.

  • Are you better at cooking American or Korean dish?

    – That I cannot answer. I can cook many complicated Korean dishes but only a few of complicated American dishes. Still they all taste good.

  • What do you think about Korean restaurants in Georgia? Are they pretty authentic or americanized?

    – More and more restaurants are serving authentic. Long ago, they only sold popular Korean dishes like K-barbaque and kimbap for American customers. But more authentic ones came to market to cater to Korean customers. There are lots of Koreans in Georgia.

  • How different, in your opinion, is the food you cook and traditional food in Korea?

    — I cannot get fresh Korean ingredients here in Georgia. Supermarkets in Korea sell numerous fresh seasonal vegetables or other ingredients. But the ingredients here are mostly frozen; not so fresh. More importantly, I buy basic ingredients like onions, carrots and cucumber in American supermarket. So there is a mixture of ingredients which make my dishes a little or maybe very different from those in Korea. At first I could tell the difference and was frustrated at myself but now I am used to it.

Interview video -Andrew Phee

1. what is your relationship between you and me?

2. What kind of environment did you live in? what kind of environment do you live in now?

3. How often do you cook traditional Korean cuisine at home?

4. What is your favorite noodle dish to make?

5. When you are making food at home do you follow the food tradition?

6. Where is your favorite noodle restaurant in new jersey?

7. How of ten do you eat noodle?

8. Your son Brandon must have his favorite dish right? When you make him the food what does he say about it?

9. Since you have lived in America for longer than 5years now, I expect your taste has changed a bit. did it change?

10. Do you think because your taste kind of changed your cuisine has changed a bit?

11. In your hometown do you think the noodle is important?

12. Do you think the noodle have symbolic meaning?

Interview Project by Jonathan Brown

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My Interview video is apparently too big to post on this site. However here are the main questions I wanted answered (there are a lot of follow ups in the video. I may have to post the video on youtube.

  1. Do you enjoy eating Chinese food?
  2. Does Chinese food have any cultural significance to you?
  3. Do noodles have any cultural significance to you and your family?
  4. How often do you eat Chinese food or noodles?
  5. How does the Chinese food here in America compare to the kind back home?
  6. Do you ever have any difficulties finding certain ingredients (or entrees) here in the states that are in China
  7. Do you sense a difference in attitudes towards food here?
  8. Do you enjoy the Chinese food here?
  9. Do you find the Chinese food here to be authentic?
  10. Are there any inauthentic dishes that you have grown to love?
  11. Do you find the fusion section of the DUC to be somewhat authentic?
  12. What do you feel is necessary for a dish to truly be authentic?
  13. In what ways do you think Chinese food in America most similar to Chinese food back home?
  14. Due to growth in factories and mass production of food, do you sense a change in the authenticity of the food in China Itself?
  15. How big of a difference is there in the attitudes towards food between older Chinese and the younger generations?

Individual Interview and Questions – Rhea Nair ITAL190

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Although I had questions planned in a specific order before the interview, during the conversation, I asked questions that I believe helped tell a story and built off the responses I received. They are as follows:

  1. Can you tell me a little bit about your families’ moves to America?
  2. Are there and foods or traditions that your parents used to eat back home that they don’t have here, or that you’ve had/experienced that you don’t find here?
  3. In addition to the food, do your families have any traditions or practices?
  4. Can you tell me about your families’ attitudes when it comes to food, and noodles specifically? Does it involve coming together or just as a means of sustenance?
  5. How often do your families make noodles or traditional food?
  6. Do you have a favorite noodle?
  7. Do you think your parents view noodles and food differently than you do or do you think it’s the same?
  8. Are there any traditions that you’ve heard of or know but don’t follow yourself?
  9. In a broader context, are you aware of any assumptions that people make about noodles and food that aren’t true?
  10. Are noodles a big part of your lives Emory as a college student?


Interviews with two polar Italian restaurants by Cecillia Bae (CHN/ITAL190)

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  1. Where were you born? Where did you grow up during your childhood and adolescence?
  2. Did you eat pasta frequently during the earlier parts of your life? What were your favorite dishes and what were some significances and fondest memories of said dishes?
  3. What would you say are some of the most unique and fundamental traits of traditional Italian pasta?
  4. Have your favorite pasta dishes changed since you started preparing them in America?
  5. What are some of the most popular dishes in your restaurant?
  6. Would you say your customers prefer having American influences in your traditional Italian dishes?
  7. Are there any ways you or the cooks in this restaurant have had to adapt while preparing dishes in order to accommodate to a more American taste?
  8. What would you say the most prominent influences of working in an Italian restaurant in America has been on your culinary values/preferences/traditions?
  9. What would you say have been the most surprising transitions/differences you’ve seen between Italian food in Italy and America?
  10. Overall, how would you say Americanized Italian food reflects American culture? Are there any personal stories you can tell that demonstrates this?

Questions answered by Christian Favalli, the owner of La Grotta Ristorante in Buckhead (a much more traditional Italian restaurant). Christian’s father started La Grotta: 

1.      Where were you born? Where did you grow up during your childhood and adolescence?
I was born in Hamilton, Bermuda (island off coast of USA), but we moved to Atlanta when I was 5 years of age.   Spent most of my adolescence in East Cobb
2.      Did you eat pasta frequently during the earlier parts of your life?   Yes, quite a lot! Often times homemade by our parents.
What were your favorite dishes and what were some significances and fondest memories of said dishes? I still remember the first pasta dish my father taught me to make: penne al pomordoro crudo con basilica (penne pasta with “raw” tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and olive oil.  I still make it to this day, so simple and easy and incredibly flavorful.
Another dish was ravioli di zucca—this is a traditional dish made during the holidays (around Christmas in Italy) that coincides with the pumpkin harvesting.  It is basically a pumpkin stuffed ravioli with browned butter and sage—again, simple but incredible when made right.
3.      What would you say are some of the most unique and fundamental traits of traditional Italian pasta?You’ll hear this from me again and it is mentioned above—most of Italian food is expressed in its simplicity.  Not too many ingredients, but FRESH ingredients are what’s key to flavorful cuisine.  A lot of chefs are these days touting farm to table cuisine, meaning getting your produce from local farms and preparing it locally.  This has been the cornerstone of Italian cuisine since its early inceptions.  This trait is the same with pasta, keep it simple, fewer ingredients but local and fresh.
4.      Have your favorite pasta dishes changed since you started preparing them in America?  There are always new and exciting ways to develop and experiment with traditional dishes.  Some I keep traditional, but I love to see what’s going on in this country with regards to the juxtaposition of different cultures and cuisines. Isn’t that what makes America so special?  great parts of all of our various cultures that we have brought with us and then somehow mixing them in with those that join in on the experiment. 
5.      What are some of the most popular dishes in your restaurant?
As far as pastas are concerned, these dishes are the most popular:
Sacchetti di Formaggio e Tartufi Neri
Sacchetti (little “beggar’s purses) filled with Fontina Cheese & Black Truffles
with a Creamy Marsala Wine Sauce, White Truffle Essence, Toasted Walnuts
Ravioloni con Caprino
Ravioli Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Apple & Celery
with a Light
Butter, Sun dried Tomato Sauce 
Penne con Verdure, Salsicce e Salsa al Gorgonzola
Penne with Italian Sausage, Peas, Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Peppers
& Gorgonzola Cream Sauce 
Pappardelle Con Astice
Pappardelle Ribbons with Lobster, Shallots, Rosemary
& White Wine Cream Sauce
6.      Would you say your customers prefer having American influences in your traditional Italian dishes?
It varies—we have a lot of Italian expats that visit with us who invariably are “traditionalists,” so they will order items prepared sometimes differently than how they are on our menu.   Those born and raised here often seem to think that spaghetti and meatballs are the norm, or plates piled to the moon are the way all Italians dine.  In reality, Italians do not eat pasta as a main course—typically, it is consumed as a small course before a meat or fish entrée.  Italians think Americans are “crazy” for eating such “piles” of pasta on a plate.  Additionally, pasta in Italy usually doesn’t have too many ingredients.  Pastas are usually made with just a few fresh additions to keep it simple, which could be argued as the basis of Itan fare—simple, local and fresh.
7.      Are there any ways you or the cooks in this restaurant have had to adapt while preparing dishes in order to accommodate to a more American taste?   Absolutely—our portion size has grown over the years as people ask for bigger plates of pasta (Maggiano’s has not helped us!).  I would also say that Americans like to see more ingredients put in to their dishes than those in Italy.  We also serve our entrees with a variety of vegetables to accomadate the American way of dining.  In Italy, proteins are usually served on their own.  Sometimes “sides” of vegetables accompany these proteins, but you wouldn’t see this at restaurants in Italy.
8.      What would you say the most prominent influences of working in an Italian restaurant in America has been on your culinary values/preferences/traditions?
I would say that the entire “local” fare movement that has propagated itself here in the US has its origins in the way Italian fare has always identified itself (see slow food movement ( .  I would definitely say that I have been influenced by the importance of supporting local produce for economic and environmental factors based on this reemerging tradition.
9.      What would you say have been the most surprising transitions/differences you’ve seen between Italian food in Italy and America?  I believe that some previous answers may cover this question, but portion size and ingredient levels are the two differences that blaringly stand out the most.
10.  Overall, how would you say Americanized Italian food reflects American culture? Are there any personal stories you can tell that demonstrates this?
I believe that Americanized Italian food reflects in our culture here that “bigger is better.”  When I have family from Italy come and visit with us, they always remark on how much “bigger” everything appears to be, from the cars to how wide the traffic lanes (and how many of them!) are to the size of grocery stores and malls—even the “people” are bigger over here!

Claire’s Noodle Narrative

Interview Questions with Felecia Tan
1. How long have you lived outside of Malaysia?
2. What differences have you noticed between American and Malaysian cultural perspectives on cooking, food, and eating rituals?
3. What percentage of the time do you cook Malaysian food? Classic American food? Other ethnic cuisines?
4. What have been some of the difficulties you face trying to create Malaysian food here in Atlanta (access to ingredients, seasonality, time and resources)?
5. What are some classic Malaysian noodle dishes?
6. Are there any times where you would eat one over the other?
7. Have you adapted these Malaysian dishes to fit American life (using some pre-made components to save time, using American vegetables in place of Malaysian ones)?
8. What kind of food do you eat on American and Christian holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter?
9. What other food cultures influence Malaysian food in Malaysia?
10. What kinds of food do your daughters request?