The Making of a Good Meal: How Asian Diets Reflect Shifting Political and Commercial Priorities

A/Prof. John Wong1, A/Prof. Hallam Stevens2, Dr. Tatsuya  Mitsuda3, A/Prof. Michael Ng1

1The University of Hong Kong, , Hong Kong, 2Nanyang Technological University , , Singapore, 3Keio University, Tokyo, Japan

Overview:

As transnational flows intensified in the twentieth century, Asian diets received drastic makeovers.  Shifting geopolitics and local conditions redirected foodways and food ingredients changed with state directives and commercial considerations.  Taking a multi-site approach, this panel covers the diets of Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong upon which international forces from within and beyond the region exerted tremendous influence.  Focusing on the foreign supplies of beef, Mitsuda takes a social and cultural historical approach and examines how Japanese consumers developed a taste for the meat.  Through his study of the Vegetable Marketing Organization, Ng reveals how the colonial government of Hong Kong strategically conjured up a famine scenario and monopolized the distribution of vegetables for the urban population.  Adding a taste enhancer to the mix, Stevens investigates how soy sauce businesses in Singapore reflect the changing priorities around food, industrial production, and tradition in the city state.  A meal is not complete with a beverage.  Wong turns to the production and marketing in Hong Kong of a milk beverage reconstituted from milk powder and show how a business enterprise created a reasonably priced product billed for health benefits for an upwardly mobile population in a city experiencing economic takeoff.

ABOUT THE ASSOCIATION

The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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