Museum of Chinese in America Opens Exhibition on Chinese Cuisine

moca exhibition

There’s a new exhibition opening today at the Museum of Chinese in America. It’s Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America.

The heart of the show is a video installation that tells the stories of more than 30 Asian-American chefs and food entrepreneurs. The curators have set up several large video monitors around a huge table adorned with custom ceramic sculptures.

There was a press preview yesterday morning. The museum explains:

Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy invites the audience into a conversation about the meaning of Chinese food as a platform for experimentation, a test of authenticity, a means of immigrant survival, and a microcosm of Chinese culture. Following on the success of MOCA’s 2004 exhibit Have You Eaten Yet?, this new exhibit Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy dives deep into individual journeys, exploring how food represents a cultural form of expression and identity heavily influenced by life experiences and geographical landscapes. The exhibit weaves together the complex stories through a dynamic video installation featuring pioneering chefs such as Cecilia Chiang, Ken Hom, Anita Lo, Ming Tsai, and Martin Yan; new restaurateurs like Peter Chang, Vivian Ku, and Danny Bowien; and persevering home cooks like Biying Ni, Yvette Lee and Ho-chin Yang.

Chefs and museum staff posed for photos yesterday.

Chefs and museum staff posed for photos yesterday.

MOCA, located at 215 Centre St., is offering free admission today (you can stop by any time before 9 p.m.) The exhibition runs through March of next year.

In conjunction with the show, there will be a number of public programs, walking tours and gallery tours. You can learn more about what’s scheduled on the museum’s website. See below for a video preview of the exhibition.

Sour Sweet Bitter Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America Preview from Museum of Chinese in America on Vimeo.

Museum of Chinese in America partners with 35th Asian American International Film Festival

Neighboring Chinatown is not just for food and tourism. There is a thriving art scene there as well. HT Chen has been running his acclaimed modern dance company and school out of the Chen Dance Center in the heart of Chinatown on Mulberry Street for over 30 years. The Museum of Chinese in America, on Centre Street, has been the national home for the diverse Chinese American communities since 1988, and strives to be a model among interactive museums. Its innovative exhibitions, educational and cultural programs continually bring 160 years of Chinese American history to life.

Helen Koh Appointed New Executive Director of Museum of Chinese in America

This week the Museum of Chinese in America named a new executive director.  She is Helen Koh, who previously served as an events curator for the Asia Society.  She also has been in charge of the Asian American International Film Festival. Koh is a former professor at Columbia University and led corporate relations at the Rhode Island School of Design.

The museum has been located in a beautiful new facility at 215 Centre Street since 2009.  A national search was conducted to find a new leader.  In a press release, Koh said, “I look forward to working with the trustees, staff, and founders to create an exciting new chapter in MOCA’s development.”

Members of the public will have a chance to meet Koh next Wednesday at the opening of MOCA’s new exhibition, “America Through a Chinese Lens.”  It will be held from 6-8 p.m.


A Guide to Welcoming in the Year of the Dragon

The annual parade returns Sunday, Jan. 29; there are lots of other interesting events to celebrate the Year of the Dragon between now and then. 2011 file photo by Stephen Spera

The Year of the Dragon officially begins on Monday, Jan. 23, and the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration begins this weekend around Chinatown and the Lower East Side. We’ve collected a list of local events below; if we missed any, send us a heads-up at In the meantime, Christina of Chinatown has a to-do list of preparations; they include “get a haircut.”

Thursday Night: A Tiger in the Kitchen

On Thursday evening, the Museum of Chinese in America will be celebrating the Chinese New Year with author Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, who will be debuting her memoir, “A Tiger in the Kitchen.”  In researching the book, Tan went home to Singapore, learning to make many of the dishes she recalled from her childhood.

Recently she chatted with Publisher’s Weekly about the experience — over lunch at Nyonya, the popular Malaysian restaurant on Grand Street (Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine are similar). The book, she said, is about her search for “a deeper, richer sense of self and family.”  Tan’s grandmother provided all of the inspiration she needed: