When you walk into Yamini Joshi’s apartment in Kew Garden, Queens, you’ll immediately notice the dining table filled with a variety of tempting appetizers waiting to be tasted. This is how she starts all her immersion cooking class – with a treat of South Asian flavors before her students all dive in and start cooking.
Joshi is one of several immigrant chefs who teach immersion cooking workshops for the New York-based organization, the League of Kitchens. Instead of going to a cooking school, students take a road trip to the chef’s homes and spend anywhere from 2 and half to 5 hours learning to make a complete ethnic meal.
Lisa Gross, whose mom is Korean-American, came up with the idea when she was living on her own after graduating from college. She realized she had never learned to cook the meals from her childhood. She tried to learn from books, but she said there was always something missing. She decided to find someone, just like her grandmother, who had since passed away, to teach her authentic Korean cooking.
“That became the fantasy of wouldn’t it be great to have grandmothers from all over the world and go into their kitchens, learn from them and learn their family recipes,” said Gross.
New York City is the perfect place to find these immigrant chefs. According to a recent report from the New York Mayor’s office, close to 40% of city’s population is foreign born. It didn’t take long for Gross to find immigrant chefs from India, Korea, Bangladesh, Greece and Lebanon willing to open up their home and share their family recipes. The workshops have become quite popular. Many of the workshops fill up in advance and you’ll find everyone from newbies to professional cooks attending.
“Normally, you don’t have this opportunity to go into someone’s home, be a guest in someone’s home, eat with them and learn from them and learn their family recipes,” said Gross. “[The immigrant chefs] are instructors, they’re host and they’re cultural ambassadors.
Gross calls it an immersive culinary experience. Conde Nast Traveler called it, “Quite possibly the coolest foodie thing to do in New York”.
For more on The League of Kitchens, watch this month’s episode of “Asian American Life”:
(Ernabel Demillo is host of Asian American Life)
This month’s episode is devoted to Asian food:
Reporter Minnie Roh visits a street festival that celebrates Vietnamese culture and heritage with traditional family activities. She also explores Vietnam’s French and Chinese inspired cuisine, including Banh Mi sandwiches, becoming popular nationwide, and Pho.
Reporter Kyung Yoon reports on the growing popularity and fine art of Bento boxes. They originated in 16th-century Japan, served during cherry blossom parties and special ceremonies. John Lin, father of a preschooler with another child on the way, demonstrates that Bento boxes are not just for adults anymore; kids love them too, especially with the creativity seen today. Now a parent can get any picky eater to enjoy a healthy meal.
And finally, street food has come a long way since the hot dog vendor: today you can find gourmet Asian food trucks all over Manhattan serving up hot, fresh meals in just seconds, from more than 10,000 street vendors in New York City. Reporter Paul Lin samples some of the best Asian cuisine food trucks New York has to offer.