It’s an unfortunate reality that Asian-Americans are sometimes seen as a monolith, a complete disregard to the fact that the population of nearly 20 million in the United States trace their ancestries to more than 20 countries. In her new show “Take Out,” award-winning journalist Lisa Ling shines the spotlight on the contours and contributions made by Asian-Americans, and parts of history that have not yet been told—through the lens of food. “Take Out with Lisa Ling” debuts on HBO Max on January 27.
“I spent the first 17 years of my life ashamed of my ethnicity—I just didn’t want to be different from everyone else and that applied to the food I brought to school,” Ling shared on her Instagram page. “Today, I packed noodles, soy sauce fried egg, seaweed packets and French/Chinese cookies for my girls’ lunch—I would have never brought those things to school when I was a kid!”
In the six-part docu-series, Ling travels through the United States to examine the rich and diverse Asian-American culinary traditions, painting the trials and triumphs of a community through one of the most immediate cultural intersections— restaurants, and those who run it.
She explores the deep and long-standing roots of Filipino culture and cuisine in New Orleans and Louisiana. She meets with Chinese-American families who have greatly contributed to California’s agriculture, and along the way, revisits her own roots through her family’s restaurant, Hop Sing. In New York, home to the largest community of Bangladeshis living in the US, Ling meets with restaurateurs, artists and chefs to find out why their cuisine is often masked as Indian. Together with her husband, Paul Song, she travels to Virginia’s Fairfax County, home to the third largest population of Korean-Americans in the US— and where Song used to reside.
“Although my own family’s journey in America began in a Chinese restaurant, I would have never imagined that one day I would front a show that highlights Asian food and Asian American history, and work with an almost entirely Asian American crew—led by the amazing Helen Cho,” Ling continues on her Instagram.
Through the series, Ling helps these Asian-American restaurateurs (re)tell their stories—but in their own way. “It is time that we learn about a community that has been integral to America’s development but has largely been ignored by American history.”
“Take Out with Lisa Ling” debuts on HBO Maxon January 27. The docuseries produced by Part 2 Pictures and executive produced by Lisa Ling, Helen Cho and David Shadrack Smith. View the official trailer here.