By Pamela Hung, 2014 NATWA II Convention scholarship recipient
Wouldn’t someone dressed up in a giant bah-tzang costume be funny??
This simple image was the inspiration for Karen Lin’s “Hungry Monster,” a web series that gives viewers a creative way to learn about ethnic foods (such as bah-tzangs), their origins, and how they are prepared.
Named after the Taiwanese saying yao gui, “Hungry Monster” was created for people of all ages to learn about unfamiliar foods, including Taiwanese foods. Each episode features a different food and a “Hungry Monster of the Day,” a kid with the lucky opportunity to explore the spotlight dish. So far, bah-tzang, stinky tofu, and boba tea have been featured, while oyster pancake (oah-zen) and Taiwanese burger (gua bao) are currently in the works.
With the 2nd and 3rd+ generations of Taiwanese Americans quickly growing and inspired by her own two young nephews, Lin saw the importance of Taiwanese foods as a way to bridge generations and embody culture.
“Being Taiwanese, food is always about family. We get together and eat together and it’s during that time that we share stories or catch up with each other. I wanted to share that feeling with everyone that watches it.” Lin made it a point to feature families in each episode, and to make learning about Taiwanese foods fun for people young and old, Taiwanese or not.
Lin also approached this project as a way to exercise her own creativity. Because the props didn’t exist – giant forks, giant plates, and of course, a giant bah-tzang – Lin’s production team built everything from scratch. Doing the background research and writing the scripts as well, she took on the challenge and made it her own: “it could be anything I wanted it to be.”
However, she knows that “Hungry Monster” wouldn’t have been possible without the support of ZuZu Films, Cherry Sky Productions, individual donors (including Ginru Lee from NATWA), and groups such as the Taiwanese United Fund, TaiwaneseAmerican.org, and the Taiwanese Heritage Society of Houston. And “Hungry Monster” is just getting started: she’s always looking for support to spread the word and for sponsors of future episodes.
With support from the Taiwanese American community, Lin saw her dream of a giant bah-tzang costume come true. Now, she dreams of a day when people understand the Taiwanese American identity and its food (and stop confusing it with Thailand!).