Snackboxe Bistro in Atlanta, was a child in a small town in east-central Alabama, where her family settled after fleeing Laos as refugees. They fermented their own fish sauce, and her father made a weekly trek to Atlanta to pick up lemongrass and galangal at the international farmers’ market.

The essayist Jay Caspian Kang has described Americans of Asian descent as “the loneliest Americans.” Even after the government eased restrictions on immigration from Asia in 1965, being an Asian-American outside major cities often meant living in isolation — the only Asian family in town, the only Asian child at school. A grocery store could be a lifeline.

When the writer Jenny Han, 40, was growing up in Richmond, Va., in the ’90s, her family shopped at the hole-in-the-wall Oriental Market, run by a woman at their church. It was the one place where they could load up on toasted sesame oil and rent VHS tapes of Korean dramas, waiting to pounce when someone returned a missing episode.

A few states away, the future YouTube cooking star Emily Kim — better known as Maangchi — was newly arrived in Columbia, Mo., with a stash of meju, bricks of dried soybean paste, hidden at the bottom of her bag. She was worried that in her new American home she wouldn’t be able to find such essentials.

Then she stumbled on a tiny shop, also called Oriental Market. One day the Korean woman at the counter invited her to stay for a bowl of soup her husband had just made.

“She was my friend,” Maangchi recalled.

Kim’s Convenience” might say, a sneak attack. Once Brian Kwon entered the office, he never left. “My father called it his ‘golden plan,’ after the fact,” he said ruefully. He is now a co-president, alongside his mother and his sister, Stacey, 33. (His father is the chief executive.)

For many non-Asian customers, H Mart is itself a sneak attack. On their first visit, they’re not actually looking for Asian ingredients; customer data shows that they’re drawn instead to the variety and freshness of more familiar produce, seafood and meat. Only later do they start examining bags of Jolly Pong, a sweet puffed-wheat snack, and red-foil-capped bottles of Yakult — a fermented milk drink that sold out after it appeared in Ms. Han’s best-selling novel-turned-movie “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.”

To be welcoming to non-Koreans, H Mart puts up signs in English. At the same time, the younger Mr. Kwon said, “We don’t want to be the gentrified store.” So while some non-Asians recoil from the tanks of lobsters, the Kwons are committed to offering live seafood.

Sunday Family Hospitality Group, in San Francisco, remembers the H Mart of his youth in New Jersey as “just the Korean store” — a sanctuary for his parents, recent immigrants still not at ease in English. Everyone spoke Korean, and all that banchan was a relief: His mother would pack them in her cart for dinner, then pretend she’d made them herself.

Later, as a teenager, he started seeing his Chinese- and Filipino-American friends there, too, and then his non-Asian friends. Spurred by postings on social media, young patrons would line up to buy the latest snack sensation — “the snack aisle is notorious,” Mr. Hong said — like Haitai honey butter chips and Xiao Mei boba ice cream bars. (The current craze: Orion chocolate-churro-flavored snacks that look like baby turtles.)

In “Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown,” a new cookbook by the chef Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho, Mr. Jew, 41, recalls Sunday mornings in San Francisco with his ying ying (paternal grandmother in Cantonese), taking three bus transfers to traverse the city, on a mission for fresh chicken — sometimes slaughtered on the spot — and ingredients like pea shoots and lotus leaves.

He still prefers “that Old World kind of shopping,” he said, from independent vendors, each with his own specialties and occasional grouchiness and eccentricities. But he knows that the proliferation of supermarkets like H Mart and 99 Ranch makes it easier for newcomers to Asian food to recreate his recipes.

“Access to those ingredients leads to a deeper understanding of the cuisine,” he said. “And that in turn can become a deeper understanding of a community and a culture.”

Chai Pani in Asheville, N.C., and Atlanta, feels that something is lost when you buy paneer and grass-fed ghee at a Whole Foods Market. You miss the cultural immersion, he says, “getting a dunk and having horizons broadened.”

“An Indian grocery is not just a convenience — it’s a temple,” he said. “You’re feeding the soul. Come in and pick up on the energy.”

In the TV special “Luda Can’t Cook,” which premiered in February, Mr. Irani takes the rapper Ludacris to Cherians, an Indian supermarket in Atlanta. Once Mr. Irani had to scrounge for spices like cumin and turmeric at health food stores; now, surrounded by burlap sacks stuffed with cardamom pods and dried green mango, he tells Ludacris, “This is my house.”

Min Jin Lee, 52, remembers how important H Mart was to people working in Manhattan’s Koreatown in the ’80s, when it was still called Han Ah Reum and “tiny, with almost no place to negotiate yourself through the aisles,” she said. (It has since moved across West 32nd Street to a larger space.) Her parents ran a jewelry wholesale business around the corner, and relied on the store for a cheap but substantial dosirak (lunch box) that came with cups of soup and rice.

She sees the modern incarnation of the store as a boon for second- and third-generation Korean Americans, including thousands of Korean-born adoptees raised by white American parents, who “want to find some sort of connection to the food of their families,” she said. “There aren’t gatekeepers to say who’s in or who’s out.”

BTS — anti-Asian sentiment is growing. With visibility comes risk.

For Ms. Lee, this makes H Mart a comfort. “I like going there because I feel good there,” she said. “In the context of hatred against my community, to see part of my culture being valued — it’s exceptional.”

View Source

Phuket Was Poised for Tourism Comeback. A Covid Surge Dashed Those Hopes.

PHUKET, Thailand — Around the corner from the teeth-whitening clinic and the tattoo parlor with offerings in Russian, Hebrew and Chinese, near the outdoor eatery with indifferent fried rice meant to fuel sunburned tourists or tired go-go dancers, the Hooters sign has lost its H.

The sign, in that unmistakable orange cartoon font, now simply reads, “ooters.”

Like so much at Patong Beach, the sleazy epicenter of sybaritic Thailand, Hooters is “temporarily closed.” Other establishments around the beach, on Phuket Island, are more firmly shuttered, their metal grills and padlocks rusted or their contents ripped out, down to the fixtures, leaving only the carcasses of a tourism industry ravaged by the coronavirus epidemic.

The sun, which usually draws 15 million people to Phuket each year, stays unforgiving in a downturn. The rays bleach “For Rent” signs on secluded villas and scorch greens on untended golf courses. They lay bare the emptiness of Patong streets where tuk-tuk drivers once prowled, doubling as touts for snorkeling trips or peep shows or Thai massages.

kept the virus at bay, although the economy suffered. But even as the last couple of weeks have brought repeated daily caseload highs, the Thai government is reacting slowly.

In early April, as cases began to mount, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha reacted with a verbal shrug.

voted to recommend lifting a pause on the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine and adding a label about an exceedingly uncommon but potentially dangerous blood clotting disorder.

  • Federal health officials are expected to formally recommend that states lift the pause.
  • Administration of the vaccine ground to a halt recently after reports emerged of a rare blood clotting disorder in six women who had received the vaccine.
  • The overall risk of developing the disorder is extremely low. Women between 30 and 39 appear to be at greatest risk, with 11.8 cases per million doses given. There have been seven cases per million doses among women between 18 and 49.
  • Nearly eight million doses of the vaccine have now been administered. Among men and women who are 50 or over, there has been less than one case per million doses.
  • Johnson & Johnson had also decided to delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe amid similar concerns, but it later decided to resume its campaign after the European Union’s drug regulator said a warning label should be added. South Africa, devastated by a more contagious virus variant that emerged there, also suspended use of the vaccine but later moved forward with it.
  • On April 18, Thailand’s tourism minister acknowledged that a July 1 opening for Phuket looked unlikely given that the plan depended on Covid being squelched in Thailand.

    To prepare for Phuket Sandbox, the Thai government funneled many of its limited number of vaccines to the island, in hopes of achieving herd immunity by the summer. As of mid-April, more than 20 percent of Phuket’s residents had been vaccinated. Nationwide, only about 1 percent of the population has received the needed doses.

    “I am very relieved,” said Suttirak Chaisawat, a grocery store worker who received his Sinovac vaccine this month at a resort repurposed for mass inoculations. “We all need some hope for Phuket.”

    While the vaccinations may have given Mr. Suttirak some optimism, the present picture remains grim.

    Normally at this time of year, Patong Beach’s golden sands would be heaving with foreign holidaymakers.

    But the beach is now almost deserted, save for a clutch of residents lining up for Covid tests at a mobile medical unit. Up the road, a monitor lizard, a creature more crocodile than newt, lumbered across the tarmac, with little traffic to impede its crossing.

    Phuket’s half-built condominium complexes are being reclaimed by nature, always a battle in the tropics but a lost cause when developer money dries up. Billboards for “Exclusive Dream Holiday Home” are stained by mildew and monsoon mud.

    The Thai New Year period this month was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for Phuket’s revival. Rather than foreign backpackers or business conference attendees, hotels tried to lure high-end Thai tourists who, were it not for the pandemic, might have decamped overseas for skiing in Hokkaido, Japan, or shopping in Paris.

    But instead of prepping the island for its return as a global tourist haven, the Thai New Year may have wrecked the island’s chances for a July reopening.

    At festivals in Patong and at other beaches this month, thousands of affluent Thais partied, fewer masks in evidence than bikini tops. For some in Thailand’s high society, Covid was seen as something that might infect vegetable sellers or shrimp peelers, not the jet set.

    But then these beach revelers started testing positive, the virus spreading from luxe Bangkok nightclubs to Phuket.

    The virus’s resurgence after so many months of economic hardship is shattering for the majority of Phuket’s residents, who depend on foreign tourists for their livelihoods.

    As a 3-year-old elephant munched on sugar cane nearby, Jaturaphit Jandarot swung slowly in his hammock. There was little else to do.

    Before the pandemic, he and the other elephant handlers on the outskirts of Patong used to lead more than 100 tourists a day, mostly from China, on 30-minute rides. Now there are no visitors.

    “I was super excited to hear they are going to open Phuket for foreign tourists,” Mr. Jaturaphit said. “Thai people don’t ride elephants.”

    Whatever the state of international travel, the elephants still need to be fed. Each month, a dozen beasts consume at least $2,000 worth of sugar cane, pineapples and bananas. The 3-year-old, little more than a toddler in elephant years, eats as much as the adults.

    After Phuket’s tin and rubber industries declined, tourism grew from a few bungalows on Patong Beach in the 1970s to a global phenomenon, attracting golfers, clubbers, yachters, sex tourists and Scandinavian snow birds.

    Much of Phuket’s high-end accommodation is clustered near the beach town of Bang Tao, a placid Muslim-majority community where placards for upscale wine bars mix with Arabic signs for Islamic schools.

    Phuket’s largest mosque is in Bang Tao, and this year the first day of Ramadan coincided with the beginning of the Thai New Year festivities, an auspicious augur after a year of economic hardship. The night before fasting was to begin, worshipers streamed to the mosque. Women chopped shrimp, banana flowers and armfuls of herbs for the feasting to come.

    But at the last minute, the Phuket authorities called off mass prayers for fear of the virus’s spread. Iftar, the breaking of the fast, is taking place in homes, not at the mosque.

    As the local authorities traced Covid-19 cases on the island to the upscale beach parties, residents of Bang Tao grew frustrated.

    “We want to welcome people to Phuket, of course, but when they don’t protect themselves and they bring Covid here, I’m a little bit angry,” said Huda Panan, a primary schoolteacher who lives behind the mosque.

    Ms. Huda’s husband is a taxi driver, but he hasn’t worked for more than a year. Most of the mosque’s community depended on tourism, working as concierges, cleaners, landscapers and water-sports guides. Now, some locals sell dried fish and scavenge the hills for a fruit used to add pucker to a local curry — whatever they can do to survive.

    On occasion, Buddhist temples, churches and mosques in Phuket distribute meals to the hungry. Lines are long. The food runs out.

    “We can wait a little longer for Phuket to get better,” Ms. Huda said in the heat of the day as the daily fast grew long. “But not much more.”

    Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting from Bangkok.

    View Source

    The Pandemic Work Diary of Margo Price, Nashville Rebel

    Though Margo Price has long seen herself as a counterculturalist — especially within Nashville’s country scene — she has been spending the pandemic like many people: stuck at home and patiently waiting for it to be over.

    “It’s kind of like the rug’s been pulled out from under me,” Ms. Price, 37, said in a recent phone interview. “I felt like this third album was going to be so fun to tour and play at festivals, and I had just taken so much time off after having a baby, too. I was really ready to get back to work.”

    Her third studio album, “That’s How Rumors Get Started,” was released in July, but on May 28 she’ll get to perform it live for the first time, at an outdoor concert in Nashville.

    Ms. Price is among many hopeful musicians who are collaborating with venues that allow space for social distancing.

    Cash Cabin in Hendersonville. I’ve been working on two albums;being in the studio has given me a sense of purpose while I’m unable to play live shows.

    11 a.m. Jeremy and I tune our guitars and do some vocal warm-ups. We play through a song a couple times to get a tempo and begin tracking it. We can overdub the rest of the band later.

    1:15 p.m. We stop for lunch around the fire pit that’s burning here 24/7.

    2 p.m. We track two more songs.

    3 p.m. Jeremy leaves to pick up Judah. I stay to lay down guitar and vocals for another song.

    5 p.m. I get home and take both children on a walk to the local church while my husband cooks dinner. (He does most of the cooking and is a phenomenal chef.)

    5:30 p.m. We play hide-and-seek in an abandoned church. They don’t have services in here anymore, but our neighborhood pod is using it as a space to teach our children in.

    6:30 p.m. We sit down to a home-cooked dinner. For the last five days, Jeremy was off recording his next album, so we’re celebrating him being home.

    Frothy Monkey to grab some breakfast outside on the patio. I’m editing my memoir for the next few hours — I’m on the second draft and have to turn it in at the end of the month. (I’m on Page 30 of some 500.)

    1 p.m. I take a Zoom interview with the “Poptarts” podcast for Bust Magazine.

    2 p.m. I start editing the book again. Currently drinking my fourth cup of coffee.

    Golden Hour Salon for my first haircut since the pandemic started.

    Noon Back home drinking more coffee. I’ve been editing my book in a large walk-in closet that we converted to be a part-time office.

    1:30 p.m. Jeremy took Ramona to the pediatrician to get immunizations.

    2 p.m. I took advantage of the empty house and worked on a song. It’s so nice today, so I took a guitar outside to the swing and practiced finger picking while listening to the birds.

    4 p.m. Everyone’s home, and we’re hanging out on the couch reading. Judah is whittling and sanding a stick he found — he wants to make a sword.

    5 p.m. Jeremy and I pick up some suits from a place on Music Row called Any Old Iron. It’s owned by a local designer, Andrew Clancey, whose designs and beading are so psychedelic and artistic. I adore him. (He also makes great sequin and rhinestone masks.)

    6:15 p.m. We pick up dinner from Superica, a great Tex-Mex restaurant, where I always order the shrimp tacos. They’re sinfully good.

    7 p.m. My mom already put Ramona to bed since she missed her nap, so Jeremy and I are reading to Judah. It’s nice to give him extra attention when we can because the toddler demands so much.

    8:30 p.m. I pour a tea and draw a bath.

    9:30 p.m. Turned on the new “Unsolved Mysteries,” and I’m doing a little stretching and a free-weight workout. I used to go to the gym all the time, but since the pandemic, I’ve been forcing myself to work out at home.

    Northern Americana. I made a playlist for International Women’s Day.

    2:30 p.m. Ramona woke up from her nap, so we’re jumping on the trampoline.

    6 p.m. My mom took the children on a long walk, but everyone’s back for dinner.

    6:05 p.m. My daughter throws a huge tantrum (terrible twos are coming early here) so I spend some time calming her down. We take some deep breaths and sit in a quiet room.

    6:20 p.m. I finally get her calmed and sit down to a cold plate of delicious food.

    7 p.m. I give Ramona a bath and distract her with some washable bath crayons to paint on the bathtub while I sing and play guitar. Jeremy and Judah play Zelda in his bedroom.

    7:30 p.m. The toilet overflows, Jeremy fixes it with a few choice four-letter words, I laugh.

    8 p.m. We’re all reading books, kissing foreheads and saying good night.

    10 p.m. We turn on “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The house is trashed, but I don’t care — I’ve cleaned all week, and I’m tired. We can worry about that tomorrow.

    View Source

    Man Says He Found Shrimp Tails in Cinnamon Toast Crunch

    Cereal is a staple of the American breakfast table, consumed by millions of people every day and tied, for many, with memories of childhood. So when a story began circulating this week about a disturbing discovery in a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, consumers were horrified.

    None more so than Jensen Karp.

    On Monday morning, he ate a bowl of his favorite cinnamon sugar-striped cereal. As he began filling a second bowl, “something plopped out of the box,” he said in an interview. “I picked it up, and I was like, ‘This is clearly a shrimp tail.’”

    He looked in the bag and saw what appeared to be another tail. Both were encrusted with sugar. “I get really grossed out, and I’m medicated for O.C.D., so this is a total nightmare for me,” he said.

    Mr. Karp, a 41-year-old comedian and writer in Los Angeles, took a picture of the contents and sent it to his wife, Danielle Fishel Karp, who played Topanga Lawrence-Matthews on “Boy Meets World.”

    began selling Cinnamon Toast Crunch in 1984, documenting what he’d found. Soon after, he posted a picture of the items on Twitter. Eventually, Cinnamon Toast Crunch reached out to Mr. Karp through its brand Twitter account.

    “Privately, they were still being very nice,” he said, offering to send a replacement box, which he politely declined. Then the brand issued a public statement on Twitter.

    “After further investigation with our team that closely examined the image, it appears to be an accumulation of the cinnamon sugar that sometimes can occur when ingredients aren’t thoroughly blended,” the statement from Cinnamon Toast Crunch read. “We assure you that there’s no possibility of cross contamination with shrimp.”

    That didn’t sit well with Mr. Karp, and he responded with frustration.

    subsequent email, a General Mills representative advised Mr. Karp to send the items to his “local law enforcement” if he would not send them to the company.)

    A friend connected him with a third testing company, which he is hoping to have test one of the tails to confirm that it is, in fact, shrimp. For now, he said, “I’m not considering legal action. Obviously, if I ate rat poop, we’re gonna have to readdress that.”

    Mr. Karp is frustrated with how General Mills handled the situation. “All you have to do is say, ‘This is such a bummer, we’re going to look into it. We’re going to recall the ones from your Costco.’ Like, it’s such an easy PR thing to do,” he said. “But instead, they wanted to basically gaslight me.”

    found to be contaminated with pieces of shrimp.

    “Upon further inspection of the remaining cases of Lot #210082 Adkin blueberries, GMI discovered one shrimp and a shrimp tail on the outside of the cases,” the suit read. “The tainted blueberries were unsuitable for use in any GMI product, much less the intended product.”

    Kyrie Irving Cinnamon Toast Crunch Nikes.”

    Furthermore, staging the scenario would require craft skills he does not possess, he said. “There’s clearly things that wouldn’t be a prank,” he said. “I couldn’t do those things.”

    For now, Mr. Karp said, his main concern is consumer safety.

    “I just want you to fix it, you know, for other people,” he said, citing the possibility that shrimp could contaminate the cereal of people with shellfish allergies, or who keep kosher. “I’m not even like trying to say like, ‘Be better,’ or whatever. I’m literally just saying, ‘Go investigate it.’”

    View Source