Ali Wong’s obsession with food is unfeigned within the Netflix rom-com “Always Be My Maybe.” Her Instagram consists of photographs of her family, her task, and masses and plenty of meals. And in an interview with IndieWire where she starts discussing couture fashion designer Thai Nguyen dressing her for the pink carpet, the communique by some means switches to Vietnamese food.
“When Thai first came over to my residence to drop off the get dressed, he added over all this banh from his boyfriend’s mother’s save,” stated Wong, who’s Vietnamese on her mom’s aspect. “It was near Chua that turned into first-rate sour, outstanding spicy. Pig Ears. Cha Lua. It was superb. The whole revel in of working with him turned into so clean and remarkable.”
Clearly, the way to Wong’s coronary heart is thru her palate, and this is pondered in the love story principal to “Always Be My Maybe,” which she co-wrote and stars in with Randall Park. In the movie, she plays celebrity chef Sasha Tran, who specializes in fancy, accelerated Asian cuisine in Los Angeles. When she reconnects along with her childhood pal Marcus (Park) in San Francisco, sparks fly, however they must navigate every other’s lifestyles picks earlier than becoming a pair. This includes Sasha’s technique of cooking and the way it reflects her feelings about identity and love.
In a scene early of their reunion, Marcus overhears Sasha at the smartphone discussing her new restaurant in San Francisco and claims she’s using her “smartphone voice.” The message is clear; she’s being faux by means of code-switching her intonation and language.
This topic returns later within the film. During an argument with Sasha, Marcus takes issue with the term “superstar chef” and then provides, “You realize what time period I also hate? ‘Elevated Asian delicacies.’ Asian food isn’t imagined to be expanded. It’s supposed to be authentic. That’s what you used to make with my mother.
“I don’t understand why you’re doing this form of stuff now,” he keeps. “It’s now not true. Asian meals 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 humans.”
In short, he’s accusing her of culinary code-switching. She’s still cooking Asian meals, even her local fashion of delicacies, but her technique conforms to high society standards for elaborate, fussy, and illogical presentation in his eyes. He needs his food easy, tasty, and filling. All the relaxation is just code-switching noise.
In the give up, Sasha and Marcus end up a pair, because the rom-com gods dictate. But because the meals adventure has to additionally observe fit, Sasha’s technique to cuisine also returns to what made her glad in childhood. In the movie’s penultimate scene, she well-known shows the restaurant concept for her New York eatery: homey Korean dishes from Marcus’ late mother’s recipes. The featured dish is a big, bubbling vat of fiery purple kimchi jigae, which of direction is served in a huge-ass bowl.
Wong stated, “[Director Nahnatchka Khan] has said that meals are reminiscences. And for her character, it’s a way that Sasha connects to Marcus, his mom, and their circle of relatives because they fed her. It simply made feel tale-clever for her to turn out to be cooking that sort of meals because that’s what she usually grew up with.”
This isn’t a terribly new storytelling idea. The home may be in which the heart is, however it’s additionally wherein the belly has been raised. That’s why early life sense recollections frequently decide what one considers consolation food. It’s why the snooty meals critic in “Ratatouille” is so moved by means of Remy’s spin on the traditional French vegetable dish.
What is new, but, is how “Always Be My Maybe” affords so many traditional Asian foods as ordinary American fare without clarification. More importantly, it’s supplied as appropriate and delicious — now not Othered as smelly, gross, weird, or inferior. Many Asian-Americans have skilled meals-shaming one way or any other, and that’s regularly amplified in the media, together with how “Gilmore Girls” mocks Indian food’s stinky scent. Even “Fresh Off the Boat” addresses this trouble in its pilot episode when younger Eddie (Hudson Yang) is avoided for bringing noodles to school.