HomeBlogsTo Cheese or Not to Cheese. What is Cultural Appropriation?

To Cheese or Not to Cheese. What is Cultural Appropriation?

Cheese Ramen
Cheese Ramen
By Zanpei via Flickr Creative Commons

By Selena Razo
AsAmNews Intern

Cultural appropriation is always a serious issue.

What counts as cultural appropriation?  Wearing a geisha “costume” for Halloween? Yes.  Fashion designers stealing and commodifying the designs of cultural wear in order to make a profit? Yes.  Putting American Cheese on ramen?  Mmm…maybe not.

The New York Times is under fire for a recent tweet describing a recipe for ramen that included adding slices of American cheese.


The Daily Mail reports that Twitter users were quick to critique the recipe, claiming the cheese would ruin the ramen.

This is not the first time the New York Times has been under fire for spreading a recipe with an ingredient that seems unnecessary.

Once the New York Times released a recipe for guacamole that included peas.

While it may seem like the well-known newspaper is spreading a white-washed version of ramen, it’s actually very  Korean and Korean American.  The specific recipe that the New York Times shared is from famous Korean American chef, Roy Choi, as BuzzFeed News reports.

Choi, a well-known fusion food chef, is known for his gourmet Korean taco truck, Kogi.

He originally released the recipe featured in the New York Times in his 2014 cookbook, LA Son.

Insider reports that during the Korean War, American soldiers were sent multiple packages of American cheese..  When the war ended and the American soldiers left, Korea was left with a lot of cheese.

This led to the addition of cheese in multiple Korean dishes, such as cheese jjimdak, cheese ddukbokki, cheese soondae.

Ever wondered why so many Korean barbeque restaurants sell corn cheese?

This lack of knowledge of this aspect of Korean food calls into question the idea of what American society believes qualifies as “Asian” food.  People were angry at the New York Times tweet because it did not fit their own personal idea of what ramen is and immediately assumed it was an appropriation of Korean culture.

Not all Asian culture add cheese to their ramen, but it is important to realize that one’s idea of Asian food may need to be expanded.

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