Don’t look for pad Thai. There’s none here. And forget spring rolls. The world of LuckyRice is for fearless food lovers of an adventurous stripe.
The culinary food festival, which spotlights Asian cuisine, had a sold-out event at this past Friday’s New York Feast at the Mandarin Oriental.
There were pork and cricket flour dumplings, with a moist filling of langoustine, mushroom, and sea cucumber, served with chili oil. These were the creations of chef Doron Wong, of Yunnan Kitchen and the recently opened Northern Tiger.
Even the universe of meatballs was far from banal: African spiced meatballs with red curry sauce from Macao Trading Company, and Banh Mi Chicken Meatballs from Seoul Kitchen, with an exquisitely aimed chili-lime spicy kick.
Even restaurants that normally don’t serve Asian fare put on a creative show for the attendees, such as The Black Ant’s Grasshoppers Sugar Cotton—take a savory-spicy-crunchy grasshopper, skewer it on a stick, and spin a pink cloud of cotton candy around it.
As for the real sweets (not the ones concealing an exoskeleton), chef Pichet Ong whipped up a superb contrast of textures and flavors with a Crunchy Milk Chocolate Mochi Bar with black sesame ice cream.
It was the 6th-year anniversary for LuckyRice, whose celebrated food festivals have now found their way into four cities besides New York City: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Las Vegas.
In its early iteration, the focus was on fine dining, and festival organizers worked with celebrity chefs such as Susur Lee and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
“Now finally we’re able to work with emerging stars—emerging chefs who are helping define what Asian food is all about today,” LuckyRice founder Danielle Chang said. Think, she added, of kimchi tacos. “It’s a dish that is really defining the dining vernacular.”
Chang is collaborating with food stylist Eugene Jho and photographer Christina Holmes on a cookbook (“Lucky Feasts,” Clarkson Potter), in which Asian food will be elevated stylistically. “We’re shattering stereotypes,” she said.
“Asian food has been around for forever obviously,” Jho added, “but I think we’re really getting to the roots of it where we’re not afraid of funk and fish sauce and fermented things.”
Chang also sees food as a window into society. “Food is pop culture,” Chang said. Where fashion, music, or the arts have usually been cultural barometers, now food is a lens to “see what’s going on with popular culture.”