If you are a food fanatic, history enthusiast or just looking for an interesting experience, CHOW the newest exhibit at the Museum of Food and Drink Lab (MOFAD Lab) is a great place to start. The exhibit focuses on the creation and development of Chinese-American fare and will run through March 2019. General Admission costs $14 for adults and $10 for students. This fee includes access to the exhibit, an unlimited amount of complimentary fortune cookies and a small tasting (which changes monthly) at the on-site Chow Culinary Studio. If you want a little something extra that promises a larger meal at the Chow Culinary Studio with dim sum, try the featured tasting and dessert; the Chow Down ticket is $25 for adults and $20 for students.
I decided to give CHOW a try and was pleasantly surprised with the quality of my visit. Having never been to a museum focused solely on food, I was unsure of what to expect, but I decided to splurge on a Chow Down ticket to get the full effect of the exhibit. The first thing that caught my eye was a floor-to-ceiling wall of Chinese take-out boxes spanning the length of the room that was actually a scaled-down visual representation of the number of Chinese-American restaurants in the United States. As I continued through the exhibit, I saw many informational posters which helped to describe how the evolution of Chinese-American cuisine was influenced by significant U.S. events. Featured artifacts included Chinese-American restaurant menus from various states and decades, place settings, recipe books and a fortune cookie machine.
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CHOW took the time to explain how fortune cookies became an industry staple through influences from Japanese-American cooking. The fortune cookie machine was not functioning, but MOFAD provided a large container from which guests could take an unlimited supply (I took one at first, but grabbed another two to-go on my way out).
The last part of the museum was dedicated to the Chow Culinary Studio and featured a small kitchen with a bar where visitors could sit as they did their tastings. Going in to it, I was a little nervous since my chopstick skills are subpar, but thankfully I was able to get through the meal without dropping anything. The dim sum was mushroom dumplings with spicy chili paste, followed by the monthly tasting of Ja Ja Noodles by Chef Lucas Sin of Junzi Kitchen and finally dessert: rice pudding with apricot jam (a homage to duck sauce). Though the portions were small, everything was absolutely delicious and I found myself enchanted with the cooking.
MOFAD Lab’s unique take on culinary history does not disappoint! Tickets are available for purchase at www.mofad.org.