Podcast recording now available!:

In the News:

Chefs grapple with 'authentic' Asian vs. California Cuisine  (ZenKimchi Korean Food Journal)

Is “authentic” just another synonym for “traditional” and how does that color restaurant patrons impression of an Asian-American restaurant's menu offerings? This was one of several topics up for discussion during Monday night's Asian Culinary Forum on "Talking 'bout My Generation: Asian Chefs Reinventing Asian Cuisine.”

Dennis Lee, Richie Nakano and others discuss the redefinition of Asian Cuisine (Inside Scoop SF) 



Talkin ’Bout My Generation:

Chefs Re-Inventing Asian Cuisine

Monday, August 22, 2011, 6:00 – 9:00 pm

San Francisco Ferry Building, 2nd Floor

1 Ferry Building, San Francisco

Join us for an exciting evening with Chefs/Restaurateurs and culinary innovators who are challenging our ideas of "inheriting" cuisines and culture, and pushing the concept of Asian restaurants to new horizons.


Sarah Dey, Chef and Manager, New Delhi 

Taking cues from her father, chef/owner of New Delhi, Sarah is the second generation of the 23-year-old restaurant, a San Francisco culinary institution that has helped shape Indian cuisine in the Bay Area. Offering a fresh perspective on traditional Indian food, Sarah is learning from the best, her own father, Ranjan Dey, host of the PBS special, My India.

For more information: www.newdelhirestaurant.com

Dennis Lee, Chef, Namu

Chef and co-owner Dennis Lee runs Namu (“tree” in Korean) with his close-knit family. Trained by his mother, Dennis is pioneering new cuisine that draws from the local bounty and talent of the Bay area. Heralded as a notable addition to California Cuisine, Namu features an eclectic menu ranging from raw items such as crudo of both local fish and wild fish flown from the Tsukiji market in Japan, crispy items like sea urchin wrapped in shiso, braised meats and vegetables, and a binchotan-fired grill that produces sake-marinated organic pork ribs, Kobe-style skirt steak and pristine, local, line-caught fish.

For more information: www.namusf.com

Richie Nakano, Chef, Hapa Ramen 

Coupling ingredients from the best farms with modern techniques like sous vide and low-temperature stock-making, Richie Nakano is helping evolve the traditional ramen recipe. The goal? To feed guests with an outstanding new ramen bowl: one that represents the distinctive bounty of the Bay Area and the tastiness that every season has to offer. Nakano uses great ingredients and pays detailed attention to the craft with a dash of imagination. Prior to launching Hapa Ramen, now at the Thursday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Richie was sous chef at Nopa.  

For more information:

haparamen.tumblr.com and linecook415.blogspot.com

Wilfred Pacio, Founder, Spice Kit

Wilfred Pacio is the founder of Spice Kit, an Asian fast casual restaurant concept serving Asian street food in San Francisco's Financial District. A fine dining chef by training, Wilfred has worked among some of the best chefs in the world including Thomas Keller. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute and Stanford University, Wilfred worked as part of the opening team at the Michelin 3-Star, Per Se, in New York City before moving to Yountville, CA to take on various initiatives for the French Laundry and heading the Information Technology department for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. 

For more information: www.spicekit.com 

Thy Tran, Founder and Director, Asian Culinary Forum 

Professionally trained as a chef, Thy found her true calling in writing about the history and culture of food, teaching creative nonfiction, and specializing in educational programming within the culinary arts. She is currently teaching Food as Art & Activism in the Geneva Car Barn & Powerhouse’s community arts program for youth.


6pm - 7pm Food & Drink tasting

Featuring tastes from Namu, New Delhi, Spice Kit, Hapa Ramen, Hodo Soy Beanery, Bex Winery, and Momokawa Oregon Craft Saké

7pm - 9pm Panel Discussion 

The panel of notable chefs include:

  1. Dennis Lee, Chef & Co-owner, Namu

  2. Richie Nakano, Chef and Founder, Hapa Ramen

  3. Sarah Dey, Chef & Manager, New Delhi

  4. Wilfred Pacio, Founder, Spice Kit


  1. Thy Tran, Founder & Director, Asian Culinary Forum


Tickets are $35 each

As our events usually sell out, purchase your ticket today!



We couldn’t do it all without our partners and contributors and now, friends. A big THANK YOU to the following brands for their generous support and donations to our upcoming event. 

Bex Wines

Hodo Soy

Momokawa Sake


Some quick Q&A before our panel:

PROMO #1 - Hey, Richie!

We asked Richie Nakano of Hapa Ramen to take a few moments out of his busy day to share some thoughts. If you have other questions for Richie, post them on our Facebook forum (or better yet, join us on August 22)! Stay tuned for our next newsletters as we bring you insights from our other chef panelists.

Hey Richie, thanks for taking some time to chat. A couple of quick questions, starting with what did you have for breakfast today?

Today was pretty boring, but on Friday I ate 2 pieces of wheat toast, 2 poached eggs, a bowl of granola with fruit and yogurt, a raisin bun, half a croissant, and 2 cups of coffee. It was f* mayhem.

Coffee, tea or Red Bull? How many a day?

Coffee, usually just in the morning, but a lot. We trade with Blue Bottle, ramen for beans and drip coffees. On market days it’s a Gibraltar, 2 drips, then an iced coffee mid-service. Never red bull. That stuff will kill you. Its on wikipedia.

LOL. So after a long day, what do you eat?


It sounds dumb, but cereal. I eat a ton of cereal. I’ll eat a bowl when I get home from work, then again after my run, then again before I go to bed. Not even awesome sugary cereal...just boring ass un-frosted shredded wheat.

Ah. Gotcha. What’s your favorite ingredient right now (besides shredded wheat) j/k?

Its summer, so everything produce wise is going off, but I’m really inspired by these pigs we're getting from Riverdog Farm. They’re part boar, and the meat is so marbled and fatty. People keep mistaking the shoulder pieces for belly.

OMG. Marbled pork. Yum! What's in your freezer/fridge right now?

In the freezer there’s lot of chicken bones, chicken stock, a bottle of Fernet, and as much pesto as I can stockpile before summer ends. In the fridge there’s an absurd amount of fruit and produce, and all of my son’s snacks. He has so much stuff in there we had to take all of the beer out.

Sorry to hear (about the beer.) Ok, so if you had a dinner of your dreams, who would be sitting at the table and what’s on the menu?

I’d like to eat with the Wu-Tang and Slayer, just so I could say "I had dinner with the Wu and Slayer." We would just get Ryan Farr to cook and let him make something really slutty. And wine. You gotta have wine.

Nice. How do we snag an invite? LOL. We’re loving what you’re doing. What are people going to find when they visit Hapa Ramen?

Hopefully a different style bowl of ramen that leaves you feeling good when you finish it with beautiful ingredients in it.

How would you describe your concept?

That’s always a funny question, because I cant really. The only rule I give my cooks is that we shouldn’t be confined by doing what’s authentic, or Asian for that matter. We just try to make food that tastes good, and that does justice to the ingredients we work with.

What makes your concept different from your predecessors?

I think just by virtue of not adhering to genre or a specific style we differentiate ourselves. Cooks typically make a conscious decision to cook casual or fine dining, Italian, French, whatever. I just want to cook good food. And hopefully people respond to that.

What’s on your blog roll or reading list right now?

All of the old standards are still great--Eggbeater, Cooking Issues, etc. But the best stuff is on Twitter and Instagram. Following Rene Redzepi, or getting to see what Matthew Jennings is doing back east is so much more interesting and immediate than what usually winds up being the same old blog post.

Ok, shameless Asian Culinary Forum plug: How excited are you about being on the upcoming chef panel? 

It’s funny, my old chef Kelly Degala was on an Asian Culinary Forum panel before. It’s pretty cool to be invited, so I’m going to do my best to keep my cussing to a minimum.

Ha ha. THANKS Richie! We can’t wait. See you on August 22nd.

Promo #2 - Email Q & A with Wilfred Pacio

In preparation for our upcoming chef panel, Talkin Bout My Generation: Chefs Re-inventing Asian Cuisine, we asked Wilfred Pacio of Spice Kit to share some thoughts with us. Below is the Q&A and stay tuned for our next newsletters as we bring you insights from our other chef panelists.

What's in your freezer/fridge right now?

Leftovers in the fridge. Chicken stock, duck fat, and Haagen-Daaz strawberry ice cream in the freezer.

Favorite farmer's market?

Marin for its wide selection and easy parking.

What do you eat after a long, hard day?

Anything that's easy. But a lot of times lately, it's been won-ton soup from the Tea Garden, a literal hole-in-the-wall next to a parking garage on Mission Street.

Coffee, tea or Red Bull? How many a day?

2 coffees, but trying desperately to cut back.

Handiest tool in the kitchen?

Black and Decker cordless drill. At first, I didn't like the idea of plunking down $80 for it. But now, I don't think our kitchen would be standing without it.

Favorite ingredient right now?


If your restaurant were a car, what would it be?

Toyota Prius — Asian engineered, smart, and simple. Plus, that's what I drive.

Guests at your dream dinner? What's on the menu?

Just my wife and I at El Bulli — since we never got to check it out.

Shameless plug: What will people find at Spice Kit?

I think people will find Simple Asian food served with a lot of care. And for those who've never had this kind of food before, I think they'll find it approachable and accessible.

How would you describe your concept?

Spice Kit is just a restaurant that wants to introduce people to authentic Asian flavors.

Surprise star on your menu?

Meatballs on Monday.

What makes your concept different from your predecessors?

We're more fun and accessible, I think. We really try our hardest to educate people — and to make people realize that Asian food is more than just orange chicken, chow mein, and sushi.

What's on your blog roll or reading list right now?

Foodgal (Carolyn Jung's blog), SF Eater, and lots of emails.

How excited are you about being on the upcoming chef panel? (shameless Asian Culinary Forum plug)

I'm very excited to hear the viewpoints and ideas of a lot of great Asian chefs. Thanks for putting it together!


A quick chat with Dennis Lee at Namu


Hi Dennis, thanks for  “chatting” with us.  Inquiring minds want to know…what's in your freezer/fridge right now?


Lots of fruit (my girlfriend loves making smoothies),  a bit of chicken stock and a couple of different artisan and non-artisan ice creams, but that's about it. Oh yeah and lemongrass. I always keep lemongrass, galanga, Makrut lime leaves and Thai chiles. I get serious cravings for homemade tom yum.


Mmmm, tomyum - a favorite! Were there any surprise stars on your menu?


No real surprises. I guess the sisig has done a lot better than we expected. It’s made up of snout, ears, tongue and belly. Didn't think it would be so well received, but we love it and that’s why we put it on.


So what’s fueling you right now? What did you have for breakfast?


Chicken soup, roasted kale and sunflower "panzanella" made with left over biscuits and English muffins from brunch, and some hard boiled eggs. (I eat well when my daughters are over for breakfast.) Normally I'm just slamming water for breakfast.


Coffee, tea or Red Bull? How many a day?


Sometimes coffee, maybe once or twice a week. I'm pretty turned off by the whole coffee industry.  Red Bull is the devil.  I mostly drink pu-ehr or dragonwell tea, probably about 3 times a week. I think caffeine is over-rated.


Which is your favorite farmers’ market and where might we run into you?


They all have pros and cons, but I love to go to any of them if it’s early ‘cause the crowds aren't always so fun. Alemany has a special place in my heart because that’s where I shopped the most prior to opening a restaurant, and they have awesome things like chili and sweet potato leaves, calamansi, etc.


If your restaurant were a car, what would it be?


I hate cars, but Namu on Balboa would be a tricked out pick-up truck. Because it’s custom. A lot of love went into it, but it’s very utilitarian and accessible.


Nice. That’s a great visual of it.  Guests at your dream dinner?


I enjoy a dream dinner every holiday. Friends and family.


Shameless plug - what will people find when visiting Namu? 


Personal and innovative cuisine in a warm and unpretentious environment.


And how would you describe your concept?


Namu's concept is constantly evolving. "If your best friends were 2nd generation Asian-Americans, and they were all cooks and decided to open a restaurant to cook for you." It’s very much an experimental Asian-American restaurant.


So what makes your concept different from your predecessors?


Mostly the personal aspect. The dynamic that three brothers create.  And the strong relationship to traditional flavors and techniques.


We love that Namu is family-run and that all three brothers have the initials DL!  Back to inquiring minds….what’s on your blog roll or reading list right now?


I read blogs in spurts, and it ranges from ET disclosure, traditional martial arts to modern knife fighting and bicycles. I've been reading a lot of books on edible wild plants and homesteading/wilderness survival lately.


So here’s the  “Asian Culinary Forum, August 22nd, Chef Panel, buy your tickets on our website asianculinaryforum.org” marketing part
….how excited are you about being on the upcoming chef panel “Talking Bout My Generation”?


As they say where I'm from, "wicked" excited.


We are, too. 
  Thanks, Dennis!