Hawaii to Atlantic
Hawaii: once called the Sandwich Islands, located in the center of the Pacific Ocean, like croutons floating in the vast ocean soup rather than sandwiches. Due to its specific location, Hawaii plays a key role in the transpacific oceangoing for trade, fishing, military and migration. As a result, all kinds of people come and go: The Polynesian, Portuguese, Spanish, Asian, European and American stopped for supplies or rest and some settled down. They keep their own food cultures, though with local resources, as much as possible, but eventually and inevitably blended with each other. Then pineapple and sugar plantations drew more people from Asia, further integrating people and food cultures. Today tourists flood all parts of the islands to enjoy its Pacific cultures, natural beauties and ethnic-fused foods. As a matter of course, you can enjoy all kinds of good surf and turf foods in the mainstream as well. Soy sauce is locally made for flavoring Asian foods or BBQ sauces and also poke—chunks of tuna marinated in soy sauce and other ingredients. You may see it in J-grocery stores in the southern California today. Poke sushi rice bowls are good.
West Coast: Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego are places where people disembarked from or embarked to the Pacific Ocean and beyond for migratory works, immigrations or military missions. Asian people went inland or settled down there, so as did their food cultures. As a matter of fact, chopsticks, two pieces of sticks to eat, appeared to Americans’ eyes giving a culture shock for the first time. Also another thing, soy sauce for anything to eat, was called by Americans as bug juice for the color when crushing a bug between fingers. Chinese food gradually went to Gold Rush people who hired Chinese as cooks. Japanese food became visible after WWII, mostly sukiyaki, which is less seen nowadays. Korean food is emerging into the mainstream with Kimchee and electronics. The West Coast was an epicenter of spreading the Asian food culture.
Midwest & Central: Wherever I go for business or vacation, a Chinese restaurant is an option to eat moderately. In addition to Chinatowns in big cities, they are at college towns and tourist locations. Even in a remote, unthinkable place, there is always one like North Vernon, ID or Hot Springs, SD in my memory. Thus, Chinese restaurants are all over the country or even the world for cozy, not-much-expensive but exotic family eating places. Thai restaurants follow likely with more southern Asian flavors or less oily, clear appearance trying to upgrade Chinese foods with a white tablecloth, some say. Today new settlements of diverse Asian populations are visible in traditional locations of the central regions but unlikely much integrated into the mainstream eating yet like the one on the way from New Orleans, LA to Biloxi, MS.
East Coast & Atlantic: Today sushi and other Asian foods are well mingled at the eastern seaboard from New England to Florida. Despite its distant location from Asia, this area had a tie with Asia around the middle of the 19th century. Whale oil, though for a brief duration, was our energy source, particularly for lighting. Whale ships went to the Pacific from RI or southern MA like Fairhaven or New Bedford, and brought back something from Hawaii or Asia including Japanese shipwrecks. A rescued Japanese youth became the first naturalized US citizen and met three presidents. Today Boston, NYC and D.C. are blending places of politics, money and food. Particularly NYC appears to be the one to draw new rich or stable Asians from their home countries. It seems to be a new epicenter to spread an authentic Asian food culture and also it’s fusing versions throughout the country.