Ali Wong’s obsession with food is unfeigned within the Netflix rom-com “Always Be My Maybe.” Her Instagram consists of pics of her family, her task, and lots and masses of food. And in an interview with IndieWire wherein she starts offevolved discussing couture dressmaker Thai Nguyen dressing her for the red carpet, the verbal exchange by hook or crook switches to Vietnamese meals.
“When Thai first got here over to my residence to drop off the get dressed, he brought over all this banh from his boyfriend’s mother’s keep,” stated Wong, who’s Vietnamese on her mom’s side. “It changed into nm Chua that changed into outstanding bitter, first-rate highly spiced. Pig Ears. Cha Lua. It changed into wonderful. The entire revel in of running with him become so easy and exceptional.”
Clearly, the manner to Wong’s coronary heart is thru her palate, and this is contemplated within the love tale critical to “Always Be My Maybe,” which she co-wrote and stars in with Randall Park. In the film, she plays celebrity chef Sasha Tran, who makes a specialty of fancy, extended Asian delicacies in Los Angeles.
When she reconnects with her formative year’s pal Marcus (Park) in San Francisco, sparks fly, but they have to navigate every other’s life choices earlier than becoming a pair. This consists of Sasha’s approach to cooking and reflecting on her emotions, approximately identification, and love.
In a scene early of their reunion, Marcus overhears Sasha at the telephone discussing her new eating place in San Francisco and claims she’s the usage of her “phone voice.” The message is obvious; she’s faux by code-switching her intonation and language.
This theme returns later inside the film. During an issue with Sasha, Marcus takes issue with the time period “celebrity chef,” after which provides, “You know what term I also hate? ‘Elevated Asian cuisine.’ Asian food isn’t alleged to be improved. It’s presupposed to be genuine. That’s what you used to do with my mother.
“I don’t know why you’re doing this sort of stuff now,” he continues. “It’s now not true. Asian food shouldn’t be served in a shot glass. It has to be served in a big-ass bowl. You’re just catering to wealthy white people.”
In quick, he’s accusing her of culinary code-switching. She’s still cooking Asian food, even her local style of delicacies, but her approach conforms to high society requirements for elaborate, fussy, and illogical presentation in his eyes. He desires his meals simple, tasty, and filling. All the rest is simply code-switching noise.
In the end, Sasha and Marcus turn out to be a pair because the rom-com gods dictate. But due to the fact the meal’s journey has to observe fit additionally, Sasha’s approach to cuisine also returns to what made her happy in childhood. In the film’s penultimate scene, she reveals the restaurant idea for her New York eatery: homey Korean dishes from Marcus’ past due to mom’s recipes. The featured dish is a big, bubbling vat of fiery red kimchi jigae, which is served in a massive-ass bowl.
Wong said, “[Director Nahnatchka Khan] has stated that meals are reminiscences. And for her individual, it’s a way that Sasha connects to Marcus, his mother, and their family because they fed her. It just made sense tale-wise for her to end up cooking that form of food because’s what she primarily grew up with.”
This isn’t a really new storytelling idea. A home may be wherein the heart is. However, it’s also in which the belly has been raised. That’s why youth feel reminiscences regularly determine what one considers comfort food. It’s why the snooty food critic in “Ratatouille” is so moved by using Remy’s spin on the conventional French vegetable dish.
What is new is how “Always Be My Maybe” provides so many traditional Asian meals as normal American fare without rationalization. More importantly, it’s presented as suited and delicious, no longer Othered as pungent, gross, weird, or inferior.
Many Asian-Americans have experienced meal-shaming one way or another, and that’s often amplified within the media, which includes how “Gilmore Girls” mocks Indian meals’ stinky fragrance. Even “Fresh Off the Boat” addresses this trouble in its pilot episode whilst young Eddie (Hudson Yang) is kept away from bringing noodles to high school.