POMONA - Crowds and culture combined Sunday as the 32nd annual Asian American Expo concluded at Fairplex.
"What we really like to do overall is get the feel of that Asian night market - that crowd - in America," said Gorden Kao, coordinator of the Asian American Expo.
A visitor on the expo's second day could visit hundreds of vendors dealing in anything from dried mushrooms to koi fish to legal services - as long as he or she could make one's way through or around the thousands of others who packed themselves into the exhibit halls.
Finding one's self up close and face to face with hundreds of strangers is only part of an experience that could also include the sights of dancing girls in Thai costume, banging drums or the breezy, flute-like tones of the hulusi, a Chinese reed instrument comprised of bamboo pipes passing through a gourd.
"We're just like sensory overload. The moment you walk in you're getting noise left and right," Kao said.
The expo's opportunities for sensory overload included many a chance to indulge the senses of taste and smell. Vendors scattered throughout Fairplex's halls offered samples of a wide array of food and drink such as potent Vietnamese coffee or tom yum soup, a popular Thai dish.
Food wholesalers with N.A. Trading Co. passed out samples of tom yum soup, a hot and sour dish prepared with imported tom yum paste, mushrooms, corn, fish sauce and tomato.
Tong Saetia of N.A. Trading said the company does not typically sell to retail customers outside of an event like the Asian American Expo, but Saetia said the necessary products can be found at a grocer specializing in Asian cuisine.
"If you can get the ingredients, you can make a perfect tom yum," he said.
Show visitors who did not want to wait until they could return home to cook a meal could fund several food vendors selling hot dishes that included Korean-style chicken wings, chicken and rice in curry sauce, lamb skewers or a Japanese-American style beef bun.
Fred Wu of El Monte helped friends and family prepare lamb skewers at the Chinese Xinjiang Barbecue booth outside the exhibit halls. He and others placed the skewers on top of long rectangular boxes that encased an open flame and spiced the meat with generous sprinklings of cumin.
Xinjiang, in western China, borders several counties, including Russia, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and India.
"The food is very close to Turkish, Middle Eastern kind of food," Wu said. "They came to the east coast of China and they're addicted to it."
Vendors at another food booth, Minyaki, also prepared items that blended cultures - Japanese and American. Minyaki's cooks beef buns with a teriyaki flavor and mayonnaise topping or Japanese hot dogs.
"You have Japanese sauce and American hot dogs," David Ng at Minyaki said between customers.
Of course, there was plenty to see at the expo besides food. Barstow Koi Farm made a repeat appearance to sell the colorful fish.
Barstow Koi Farm owner Ken Liu came to the United States from Taiwan in 1997 with his father.
"The all called him Master Liu, because he was a master of koi," Liu said.
Even so, Liu acknowledged that there was some doubt at the time that a koi farm could succeed in the Mojave Desert. Liu had visited the United States during his service in the Taiwanese army, and was well aware that the dry environs around Barstow are nothing like Taiwan's landscape.
"We all thought it was crazy, but it worked out somehow."
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