Food and good times with Knoxville’s Asian community this May

Just a taste, or two... | Photo courtesy of Knox Asian Festival

Knoxville has a lot of culture to be proud of, and this May is the perfect time to celebrate one facet of that culture – East Tennessee’s Asian-American community.

Many will be familiar with the local Knox Asian Festival, which first began in 2014 and has grown to host well over 60,000 attendees annually. In celebration of its 10th year, the people behind the festival are organizing a Taste of Asia gala.

On May 13, community sponsors and local Asian food aficionados will be making their way to the Emporium for food and performances from local businesses and artists. Ticket sales are helping fund this year’s festival, and organizer Arpakorn “Tom” Walker says it’s also a chance to show people a new side to Asian cuisine and culture. “We have four different regions of Thailand and we eat different things.” Tom explains. “We do not always eat spicy food and that probably applies to all Asian countries.”

Jessica Carr with a plate of favorites. | Photo courtesy of Girls Gotta Eat Good

If you aren’t able to catch one of Taste of Asia’s tickets, there are still great opportunities to snag some tasty food. A brand-new organization of local Asian-American/Pacific Islander businesses, founded by Jessica Carr and Vic Scott (owner of Seoul Brothers), is organizing a night market at Hi-Wire Brewing on May 19 as its inaugural event. Carr, who owns Girls Gotta Eat Good (Knoxville’s first Asian bakery), says she hopes to connect not only the community to good food, but new business owners to each other and to resources that would help them thrive in East Tennessee.

“I like to pay it forward,” Carr says, reflecting on her own difficult start to her business in the aftermath of the pandemic.

If visitors can only try one thing at the market, she suggests they give the siopao (a traditional Filipino steamed bun) a try, or perhaps Seoul Brothers’ signature Korean corndogs. But it’s probably best to come with an empty stomach and an adventurous spirit to give it all a taste.

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