A Glimpse Into The President’s Culinary Adventures in Eastern Asia

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Nick Antonaccio
Nick Antonaccio

In past columns I’ve enjoyed reporting on state dinners hosted by American presidents. The long-standing tradition of entertaining world leaders at the White House typically provides a valuable insight into the current state of affairs between nations and their representatives. I especially enjoy the choice of dinner courses presented and the pairing of wines with each course.

I also enjoy following the reciprocity of those world leaders as our presidents travel on official state tours to engage in high-level meetings.

It is with this perspective that I am following President Trump’s whirlwind 12-day tour of five Eastern Asia nations and an equal number of state dinners. One notable exception to the usual international dinner protocol – wine. As the world has come to know, President Trump abstains from all alcoholic beverages. There is another dietary preference of the president that is in stark contrast to the traditional Asian cuisine. He prefers well-done steak and ketchup rather than raw fish and exotic ingredients.

I thought it would be interesting to report on these state dinners.

First stop: Japan.

At the state dinner, the menu could have been from a high-end, multi-hundred dollar tasting menu at a top New York City restaurant. The appetizer course was a mélange of grilled fish marinated with miso paste, rolled omelet, duck and onion on skewer and burdock rolled in Wagyu beef slices. Following this exotic offering were a Matsutake mushroom in steamed egg custard, Ise lobster salad, Japanese beef steak, steamed rice with mushrooms and miso soup with vegetables.

There is no report of how gracious the President was in indulging in this local Japanese fare. And with no wines to complement these flavors and textures, I imagine it may have been rather difficult.

Next stop: South Korea.

Here, the traditional menu had a distinctly American-fusion focus. The courses included corn porridge, local grilled sole with brown bean sauce consommé, grilled prawn and pine mushroom rice in a stone pot accompanied by grilled Korean beef ribs, seasoned with a special sauce made with a 360-year-old soy sauce.

Cooked fish and ribs – sounds enticing to the Presidential palate. And who can turn down a soy sauce older than the United States? What to wash it down with? I guess a glass of clear, crisp water might provide a perfect pairing for a teetotaler.

Third stop: Beijing.

In the spirit of Mr. Trump’s self-proclaimed “state plus plus” tour afforded by the Chinese, the state dinner was more in line with his dietary preferences. The menu was the most Western on his tour: coconut flavored chicken soup, seafood chowder, Kung Pao chicken, stewed beef steak in tomato sauce, braised vegetables in premium broth and grouper fillets in hot chili oil.

While not a traditional Chinese menu, it seems to cater to the President’s taste. The beef dish shouts steak and ketchup, and what red-blooded American doesn’t enjoy chicken soup or Kung Pao chicken? A photo of the dinner shows the President with a glass of wine-like beverage in his raised hand. Although Chinese wines were served at the gala – a Great Wall brand of 2009 red wine and 2011 white wine – the mystery liquid in Mr. Trump’s glass was not identified.

Fourth stop: Vietnam.

It’s not clear to me how the President handled this meal, with no beef dish to satisfy his appetite. The Vietnamese chefs seemed to use this world stage to feature traditional dishes. The menu: vegetable salad with bacon, steamed rice powder roll with fluffy pemmican, fried scallop, shrimp rolled in fried egg, seafood soup, sauté cod in lemon sauce and Dong Tao chicken.

With the First Lady still in China, the President dined alone, which provided the opportunity to spend more time extolling the country as “one of the miracles of the world.” It’s not certain what he ate – or drank.

The final leg, to the Philippines, occurred after the submission of this column.

All in all, it seems the President’s culinary experience on his tour was (politically) uneventful. I wonder what he’ll be dining on when he boards Air Force One for his trip home. A Big Mac anyone?

Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 20 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.



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