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Pursuits
Critic

Asian-American Food Gets the Prestige Streaming Series It Deserves

HBO Max’s new show Take Out With Lisa Ling tells stories more people should hear. 

Lisa Ling in the landmark Locke Historic District in California, built by Chinese people for Chinese people.

Lisa Ling in the landmark Locke Historic District in California, built by Chinese people for Chinese people.

Photographer: Carmen Chan/HBO Max

Lisa Ling is sitting at a table loaded with Cantonese and Taiwanese delicacies, platters of glazed char siu  (roast pork), succulent spare ribs, a medley of seafood, a bowl of pigs feet. The feast is set in Locke, Calif., outside Sacramento, although it could be just about anywhere in the United States. 

That’s the point of Ling’s new show Take Out With Lisa Ling on HBO Max (streaming as of Jan. 27). Asian food is an intrinsic part of the American experience. In cities big and small, in every corner of the country, locals can eat steaming bowls of Vietnamese pho and line up at a Taiwanese  bubble tea shop and eat Korean barbecue off the tabletop grill. It’s hard to fathom how different the landscape was 20 years ago, when Yesoon Lee—who, as co-owner of the acclaimed Washington, D.C., restaurant Mandu, has been called the godmother of Korean food—had to work in a Chinese airport restaurant, because there was no other outlet for her cooking.