MOCA ANNOUNCES FALL 2016 EXHIBIT: Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America

A PDF version of the press release is available for download [English][Chinese 中文]


[New York, NY] August, 2016 — The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)’s Fall 2016 exhibition, Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America, on view from October 6, 2016 through March 26, 2017, challenges how Chinese food is defined and interpreted through the personal stories of more than 30 revered Chinese and Asian American chefs—from Michelin ranked to generational home cooks.

“Chinese food is a cornerstone of American culture, and it has brought so many different generations and ethnicities together. Since the beginning of Chinese immigration to the U.S., Chinese eateries have served as the foundation of a new life in a new place. By opening the door to their kitchens, Chinese people became integral parts of their communities. This groundbreaking exhibit presents all the complexity of Chinese cuisines and Chinese life in America,” shared MOCA President, Nancy Yao Maasbach.


Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy invites the audience into a conversation about the meaning of Chinese food as a platform for experimentation, a test of authenticity, a means of immigrant survival, and a microcosm of Chinese culture. Following on the success of MOCA's 2004 exhibit Have You Eaten Yet?, this new exhibit Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy dives deep into individual journeys, exploring how food represents a cultural form of expression and identity heavily influenced by life experiences and geographical landscapes.


The exhibit weaves together the complex stories through a dynamic video installation featuring pioneering chefs such as Cecilia Chiang, Ken Hom, Anita Lo, Ming Tsai, and Martin Yan; new restaurateurs like Peter Chang, Vivian Ku, and Danny Bowien; and persevering home cooks like Biying Ni, Yvette Lee and Ho-chin Yang.


Each chef and 18 different regional cooking styles are represented through unique ceramic sculptures presented on a monumental dining room table. Through these interpretative pieces, the visitor absorbs each chef’s cooking style and experience through their narratives, inspirations, and memories.


In Chinese, the saying Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy (酸甜苦辣) refers simultaneously to the delicate balance of flavors that define Chinese cooking and the vicissitudes of life. The tapestry of tales that emerge is rich with immigration experiences, food memories, favorite dishes, and cooking inspirations that define the culinary—and personal—identities of these chefs, drawing visitors into a conversation about how food defines Chinese in America and themselves individually.


“Food is at the heart of Chinese culture, and in America the very definition of Chinese food is constantly contested in home and restaurant kitchens across the country,” said Herb Tam, Curator and Director of Exhibitions at MOCA. “This exhibition is really an elaborate dinner table conversation with some of our most exciting chefs about how we define Chinese food and how Chinese food defines us.”


Featured Chefs:

Danny Bowien
(New York, NY)
Vivian Ku
(Los Angeles, CA)
Ming Tsai
(Wellesley, MA)

Peter Chang
(Rockville, MD)


Yvette Lee
(Honolulu, HI)
Jason Wang
(New York, NY)
Nancy Chen
(Naperville, IL)
Leonard Liao
(Jackson Heights, NY)
Doron Wong
(New York, NY)
Chris Cheung
(Brooklyn, NY)
Anita Lo
(New York, NY)
Frank and Tommy Wong
(Mandeville, LA)
George Chew
(New York, NY)
Biying Ni
(New York, NY)
Jonathan Wu
(New York, NY)
Cecilia Chiang
(Los Angeles, CA)
Doniyar Sobitov
(Brooklyn, NY)
Cori Xiong and Heng Chen
(Houston, TX)
Philip Chiang
(Los Angeles, CA)
Cara Stadler
(Portland, ME)
Martin Yan
(San Mateo, CA)


Sally and Gilroy Chow
(Clarksdale, MS)
Wilson Tang
(New York, NY)

Ho-chin Yang
(Alhambra, CA)

Susanna Foo
(Radnor, PA)
Yvonne and Mike Thompson
(Pounding Mill, VA)
Chris Yeo
(San Jose, CA)
Jeff Gao
(Boulder, CO)
Kimmie Lee Tie
(Raleigh, NC)
Grace Young
(New York, NY)
Ken Hom, OBE
(Bangkok, Paris, Rio de Janeiro)
Michael Tong
(New York, NY)
Wenbin Yuan
(Brookfield, WI)

Featuring Ceramics by Heidi Lau and Lu Zhang.


About the Curators


AUDRA ANG is the author of To the People, Food is Heaven, a memoir about her seven years as a Beijing-based correspondent for The Associated Press. In between meals of "mouthwatering chicken" and "red cooked pork," Ang covered disasters, disease and dissent while chronicling the breakneck changes convulsing China. She was Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a fellow at UC Berkeley’s Center for Chinese Studies. Ang, who grew up in Singapore, regularly eats unseemly amounts of food at one sitting.


KIAN LAM KHO is a food writer, consultant, and founder of the Chinese cooking blog Red Cook. Red Cook was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award in 2011. Kho teaches Chinese cooking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education, Brooklyn Kitchen, and Haven’s Kitchen. His cookbook, Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking is the culmination of years of research on Chinese cooking techniques and their implementing in the home kitchen.


ANDREW REBATTA is the Assistant Curator at MOCA. He has worked on exhibitions at community-based museums in New York, Chicago and Washington, DC. In 2011, he was Curator-in-Residence at the Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City, and has most recently organized exhibitions and performances for the New Forms Media Society in Vancouver, BC. Andrew is currently developing an exhibition of paper sculptures created by the Golden Venture refugees scheduled to open in Spring 2017.

HERB TAM is the Curator and Director of Exhibitions at MOCA. He recently co-curated “Waves of Identity: 35 Years of Archiving,” an exhibition that explored the construction of Chinese American identity through MOCA’s archival materials. In 2012, he curated “America through a Chinese Lens,” which surveyed photographs of America by contemporary artists and non-professional photographers of Chinese descent. Tam was previously the Associate Curator at Exit Art and the Acting Associate Curator at the Queens Museum of Art.


Additional Programs


During the run of the exhibitions, MOCA will offer a series of related events, public programs, family programs, walking tours, and gallery tours. A schedule of guided tours of Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America will be available on the museum website. Visitors can join MOCACREATE drop-in art workshops every first and third Saturday of the month, from 1 – 4 p.m.


Please check the museum's website at for updates and information on upcoming programs. For press requests and images and to RSVP for the press preview on October 5, 2016 at 10 a.m., please email


Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America is made possible with the generous support of the S. H. Ho Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The opening reception is sponsored by Resorts World Casino New York City.