Space Dishes Enhanced By Cultural Fusions — Like AAPI Dishes

Space food has expanded in taste and diversity over the years, including a healthy share of meals and designs inspired by Asian American and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander cultures.

Just in time for AAPI Month, which honors the roughly 20 million Americans of such descent, NASA released a video starring agency astronaut Suni Williams and food scientist Xulei Wu talking about the importance of food and culture in space.

“Food in Indian culture is super important,” Williams, the second woman of Indian descent to fly to space, said in the video. “Everybody gathers, but it means so much to have somebody prepare food for somebody else and give it to them and again.”

The video shows Williams giving a brief tour of space station facilities that offer up food for the astronauts. A rehydration station, ample storage and regular resupplies of fresh fruits and vegetables allow astronauts to experience all sorts of food in orbit. NASA says current crews can choose among 200 items and include personal preferences, which is where Wu’s work comes in.

Roughly 10 percent of dishes sent to space are by default, inspired by “Asian culture,” according to Wu. “They bring a unique flavor profile and allow ways to compensate for the low sodium requirements we have to meet. This adds to the variety for the food system.”

Wu noted there is a popular proverb in Chinese culture indicating that food is most important to the people. “Food is always present in our traditions in any forms of rituals, ceremonies and celebrations.”

For those of AAPI descent who have flown to space, Williams said the diversity of food items feels like a taste of home. “When I realized that there was Indian dishes on the standard menu, I was pretty excited because this is something that I’ve eaten for my whole life … in particular, it reminded me of when I was a kid, and at home with my family.”

You can learn more about AAPI Month on the official website.

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