Lucky Chow

Lucky Chow Season 2 coming soon to PBS! Stay tuned for details.



In Season 2 of Lucky Chow, we wander up, down and across America to discover how deeply Asian culture and cuisine are rooted in our everyday lives. Our appetite for everything Asian leads us to bowls of noodles and skewers of barbecued meats, to heaping Japanese okonomiyaki and velvety Indian duck curry. And along the way we were lucky enough to step into the lives of sumo wrestlers, Buddhist monks, seriously hip Korean American farmers and a pair of Chinese newlyweds raucously merging old and new world traditions. Now we’re hungrier than ever.



Japan has mesmerized American foodies for generations, from supermarket sushi rolls to Instagram-worthy bowls of chef-driven ramen. Today a new wave of Japanese cuisine continues to intoxicate us. In this episode, we explore American manifestations of “otaku,” the Japanese phenomenon that mixes cutting-edge pop culture and fetishistic obsession. At a “cat café,” sake and delicate Japanese desserts are served with a side of feline companionship. Kawaii, the Japanese cult of cuteness, finds an American outlet among suburban moms who painstakingly assemble – and blog about – elaborate bento boxes. And an American’s obsession with sumo wrestling brings to our shores some very large Japanese men and their recipe for chanko nabe,the stew that fuels their thunderous collisions.


Who are the new rock stars of the food world? Here’s a hint: food doesn’t get from the farm to your table without a farmer. We walk the dusty fields of California’s Central Valley with a laconic third-generation Japanese-American rice grower who hopes his daughters will carry on the family business, and we harvest vegetables in an idyllic Bay Area farm plot where a Korean-American adoptee grows heirloom cabbages and herbs for the Lee brothers, the hoodie-wearing hipsters who run Namu, one of San Francisco’s hottest restaurants. And finally, on the beautiful Half Moon Bay coast, we tour the greenhouses where an idea hatched over beers by a pair of non-Asian electricians has turned into America’s only commercial wasabi farm, supplying the pungent fresh root to top chefs like Michael Mina and Iron Chef Morimoto.


At Asian places of worship across America, visitors are welcomed in the same way: through the simple, generous gesture of offering food. At the Hsi Lai temple in southern California, a visual marvel and one of the largest Buddhist temples in America, saffron-robed nuns are our hosts at a restaurant serving Chinese-style vegetarian cuisine, including dishes shaped and flavored to resemble meat. In Hollywood, the Sikh temple welcomes everyone – from its own members to the local homeless population to visiting film crews – for a rich buffet of lentil curries, hot chai tea and parathas made on the spot by the congregation. And at New York’s first Indonesian mosque, a bustling food fair offers halal dishes deeply saturated with the spices and flavors of a vast, melting-pot archipelago that’s home to the world’s largest Muslim population.


From neighborhood restaurants to global powerhouses, the hunt is always on for the next big trend in the food world. With ethnic cuisine driving the industry’s growth, and Vietnamese businesspeople increasingly at the forefront, we visit three entrepreneurs who are bringing rice noodles, fish sauce and fiery curries into the mainstream. In the strip malls of Orange County’s Little Saigon, a glamorous songstress parlays her image as the Vietnamese Madonna into a thriving trade in banh mi and pho, while a young veteran of the fast-casual giant Chipotle leads the company into a new,  nationwide venture based on spicy Southeast Asian grub.  And the godfather of Vietnamese cooking in America, Charles Phan, raises the cuisine to James Beard Award-winning heights.


China’s rise is not just washing billions of renminbi onto our shores. It’s also introducing us to the vast diversity of Chinese food and the powerful hold of Chinese traditions that have nothing to do with fortune cookies and take-out chow mein. On San Francisco’s storied Grant Avenue, we drop in on a wedding where a second-generation American and his fresh-off-the-boat northern Chinese bride offer a festive fusion: lion dancers gyrating to traditional music and dyed-blonde guests gyrating to a hip-hop D.J., in between the highly symbolic lucky-eight courses of a Chinatown banquet. Then we visit the kitchen of a young entrepreneur who prepares and delivers “confinement” meals, a strict diet based on ancient principles of “heating” and “cooling” to promote healing after childbirth, to both new immigrants and Chinese-American women reclaiming the heritage of their great-grandmothers. Our chaser: a nocturnal visit to a cocktail den in Manhattan’s Soho that specializes in drinks made with baijiu, the fiery Chinese brew that is the world’s most heavily consumed spirit.


Every year trend watchers predict that Indian cooking will finally take off in America the way that Chinese and Japanese did long ago. And every year Americans don’t venture beyond chicken tikka masala and a chai latte at Starbucks. But thanks to a new generation of chefs and entrepreneurs finding inventive ways to present pungent Indian flavors to American palates, the time may have finally arrived. A former private-equity banker shoots for the big time with a fast-casual concept that channels Chipotle in a zen-like space more like a gallery than a quick-service restaurant. On the streets of San Francisco, a Silicon Valley refugee tackles Starbucks head-on, selling chai made the way she remembers it from her childhood in India. And at one of New York’s hottest new restaurants, a husband-and-wife team from Australia present fresh interpretations of their grandmothers’ dishes in a bright room with a Bollywood vibe.


When I tell people I was born in Taiwan, they no longer innocently regale me with stories of their vacations in Thailand. But Taiwanese food, a distinctive blend of rustic aboriginal fare and the refined cooking of the Chinese master chefs who arrived with Chiang Kai-shek in the 1940s, continues to live in the shadow of better-known regional cuisines like Cantonese, Shanghainese and Fujianese. After a shopping trip to a Chinatown market with Cathy Erway, author of “Foods of Taiwan,” we make what is perhaps the most famous Taiwanese dish, beef noodle soup, the ultimate late-night craving in a late-night food culture. At Taiwan Bear House, started by young, homesick expats, we sample a New York take on the Taiwanese bento boxes known as biandang. In Orange County, we visit the closest American version of the signature Taiwanese night market, where Hugo, a proud son of Taiwan, hawks his wares like a carnival barker and feeds me oyster pancakes and fish balls stuffed with cod roe. Finally we drop in on the Boba Guys, who serve an all-natural iteration of Taiwan’s most ubiquitous export, bubble tea, at hipsterized cafes across America.




Lucky Chow is a new national public television series co-produced with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and Bruce Seidel / Hot Lemon Productions. The 6-episode series follows LUCKYRICE culinary festival founder Danielle Chang as she travels across America exploring the Asian food landscape. The series features many of the country’s most renowned chefs and culinary personalities, such as Top Chef winner Kristen Kish, YouTube sensation Maangchi, and ramen renegade chef Ivan Orkin. Check local stations for exact dates and times. Lucky Chow is a co-production of LUCKYRICE and Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).

“So much has changed since we launched LUCKYRICE 6 years ago, and today Asian food is not only everywhere, it’s also innovating as a cuisine. Through Lucky Chow, we travel across the country to meet the chefs and personalities behind this movement.“ said LUCKYRICE Founder Danielle Chang.


Japan’s famous noodle dish has swept America by storm, with diners waiting hours to slurp a bowl of noodles, and we travel across the country to reveal this mania. The episode kicks off with a ramen tutorial from Sun Noodles, who custom makes noodles for most of America’s ramen chefs, including Ivan Orkin, the renegade New Yorker-turned-Japanese ramen chef who we visit later in the episode. Next, we visit seafood purveyor-turned-ramen chef Yuji Haraguchi as he creates a “New York” version of his broth-less ramen dish mazemen (with interpretations of classic NY deli food such as “bacon and eggs” or “bagels with lox”) using sustainable and typically discarded seafood from the nearby Whole Foods Market. Tummies full, we check out as the new Ivan Ramen restaurant to discusses ramen culture in NY vs Tokyo. The episode then travels to Berkeley, CA, as we tour the local greenmarket with 3 former Chez Panisse chefs who traveled to Japan to learn about its ramen culture and have returned to the US to create The Ramen Shop which serves a locally sourced, seasonal, and sustainable Meyer Lemon Shoyu Ramen that takes from Japan’s infamous ramen culture but creates something wholly local and personal.

The two largest Korean populations in the US are in New York and Los Angeles, and we visit both to check out what distinguishes each. Whereas NY’s Koreatown butts against the Empire State Building, and is essential one-block long, LA’s Koreatown merges with the city’s Latino community and is practically a city on to itself. Both are 24-hour hubs of food and drinking culture. At dinner with Lisa Ling and her husband Paul Song, the chef /owner of Parks BBQ breaks down the basics of Korean cooking. Back in NY, we tour Manhattan’s K-town with author of Koreatown USA, Matt Rodbard, and stop in at Pocha 32, for some watermelon soju and budaejjigae. Later in the episode, at Saveur Magazine’s test kitchen (which happens to be located in K-town), Top Chef Winner Kristen Kish, a Seoul-born Korean adoptee, is receiving her first-ever Korean cooking lesson with us. Her teacher is Maangchi, the Korean housewife who is now a Youtube sensation and one of the web’s most beloved cooking instructors, and together we learn how to make kimchi.

Perhaps more than any other Asian cuisine, Chinese food in America has evolved over the generations. We visit— and challenge— the borders of Manhattan’s Chinatown, through the lens of two third-generation young Chinese American restaurateurs who have changed how Americans define Chinese cuisine. Wilson Tang, of Nom Wah Tea Parlor, has inherited his family’s dim sum parlor (America’s oldest) to preserve its legacy while opening up a fine-dining Chinese restaurant with Chef Jonathan Wu on Chinatown’s expanding Lower East Side Jewish immigrant neighborhood. Speaking of cultural collisions, we also get a Peking Duck tutorial from Ed Schoenfeld, a self-proclaimed Chinese food expert who grew up Jewish in Brooklyn, yet has opened one of the most critically acclaimed Chinese restaurants today in New York alongside chef Joe Ng. The episode closes at Hakkasan, a mega-brand for Chinese food which was birthed in London by Alan Yau and now spawns nightclubs in Las Vegas as well as restaurants from Beverly Hills to Dubai to Shanghai. They’ve created a “global” brand for “Chinatown” that transcends boundaries.

A food trend that epitomizes America’s insatiable palate for Asian food is grounded in its obsession with Northern Thai cuisine. Remarkably, the most well-known face of this trend is that of Andy Ricker, a Portland, OR-carpenter-turned chef, who has brought “authentic”, archival Thai food to America. In this episode, we travel to Las Vegas, where Andy Ricker prepares a welcome dinner for participating LUCKYRICE Festival chefs at the much-loved Lotus of Siam, off the strip in Las Vegas, with chef/owner Saipin Chutima at the helm. The duo work together to create their collective version of a Northern Laab, a typical Issan dish that is spicy, tasty drinking food in Chiang Mai. Jet Tila, who is at the table, rhapsodizes about the days when his family opened America’s first Thai grocery store in Hollywood, CA, and brought ingredients like lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves to the American palate. Later, we check out this legendary market, and pay a tribute at a local LA Thai temple, to usher us luck as Jet Tila travels to NYC to participate in LUCKYRICE’s annual James Beard House dinner, which this year focuses on Thai New Year (Songkram) prepared by Chef Jet along with a bevy of other Thai chefs including Pichet Ong and Hong Thaimee.

THE BAY AREA’S PACIFIC RIM CUISINE, as personified by Google
The Bay Area is perhaps the most Asian of any population outside of Asia. We visit the world headquarters for Google, which was founded in Silicon Valley in the South Bay city of Mountain View. Where “peach” orchards ran abundant just a generation ago, “Apple” (Computers) are now dominating and disrupting how the world functions. We meet with Olivia Wu, who designed the original Asian restaurant concepts “on campus”, including the home-style “Jia”, which remains one of the most popular restaurants on campus. We go behind the scenes with Baadal, Google’s first “sit-down” restaurant, which happens to be Indian, as we participate in the assembly line process that churns out 2,000 servings of the Indian fried rice dish, “Biryani” on “Biryani Fridays”. Driving away from Google, we visit some of their purveyors, who epitomize the ethos of the Bay Area food culture – which is local, seasonal and sustainable. We visit two retired Japanese semiconductor executives, who have constructed an indoor, vertical farm called Ecopia – which not only services some of the top restaurants in the Bay Area, but also uses a mere 3% of water vs traditional farming techniques, as they seek to redefine farming culture in the midst of global warming. After a career in Silicon Valley running Fortune 500 companies, they are returning to their original immigrant roots as farmers, right here before Silicon Valley was birthed. We end the episode at Hodo Soy Beanery, which started out making artisanal tofu products for a handful and has now proliferated into the mainstream just as Asian food products and palates have gone mainstream.

Filipinos comprise the second largest Asian American population nationwide (and the largest in California), but whose cuisine is relatively unknown. We explore this phenomenon with PJ Quesada, whose grew up working in his grandparents’ Filipino food factory and is now founder of the Filipino Food Movement, as we feast at his buddy Tim Luym’s global-Filipino restaurant, Attic. In Los Angeles, we visit Kristine de la Cruz, who is introducing Filipino flavors like ube with her unusual bakery, Crème Caramel. Back in NY, we meet Nicole Ponseca, an advertising executive who left her Madison Ave life, and her husband Chef Miguel Trinadad, to give voice to Filipino culture through food; their restaurants, Maharlika and Jeepney, are now on every foodies’ “must-try” lists and we sit down to “Kamayan” with Chef Susur Lee. Food is a powerful way for Asian cultures to give voice to tradition, and we see a new generation that is embracing this loud and clear.

From our home base in downtown Manhattan, the LUCKYRICE Festival spotlights Asian culture through annual food festivals that take place annually in 6 cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas and Chicago. We work with a hundreds of chefs across the country, and the LUCKYRICE Culinary Council, which includes José Andrés, Daniel Boulud, Floyd Cardoz, David Chang, Susur Lee, Anita Lo, Masaharu Morimoto, Pichet Ong, Zakary Pelaccio, Charles Phan, Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, Angelo Sosa, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Sang Yoon. Please visit for more information.

The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. CAAM does this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media. For more information on CAAM, please visit

Lucky Chow is a co-production of LUCKYRICE and Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).