Trump's Asian menu: What he ate and what it meant

By Tessa Wong
BBC News

image copyrightEPA
image captionMr Trump raising one of the many toasts he's had in Asia

When the US president is served up soy sauce older than America itself, it makes you wonder what diplomatic messages Asian leaders were hiding in the stock when they fed Donald Trump.


Tokyo Buddy burgers: Japan's PM Shinzo Abe has made no bones about becoming Mr Trump's best friend and when the pair shared an all-American hamburger lunch made with imported US beef, and accompanied by Heinz ketchup and mustard, the messaging was clear.

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Traditional steak and ice-cream sundae: The US leader reportedly loves well-done steak and hates raw fish, so steak and a chocolate ice-cream sundae at a Tokyo teppanyaki restaurant was one of Mr Trump's first meals.

Foodies groaned at the menu, with some comparing it to the 2014 trip to the famous Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi restaurant by Trump's predecessor Barack Obama.

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image captionMr Obama ate at the restaurant with Mr Abe as part of his visit to Japan

Teriyaki chicken and steamed egg: But "Japanese style steak" was reportedly on the menu at the state dinner, as well as chawanmushi (steamed egg) with matsutake mushrooms, and he got a taste of local culture when he ate teriyaki chicken at a traditional Japanese restaurant.

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image captionMr Trump dined in a Japanese restaurant with tatami mats

Despite a few jibes about trade, Mr Abe and Mr Trump parted ways on the same plate.


A political prawn in South Korea: In Seoul, politics was definitely on the table. A cooked prawn that was caught near the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima islands claimed by both South Korea and Japan was served up.

It's unclear whether Mr Trump took a bite, but Japan was not pleased - a government spokesman later raised concerns about the significance of the prawn at a time when South Korea should unite with Japan to tackle North Korean issues, reported AFP news agency.

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image captionThe menu also included beef seasoned with a 360-year-old soy sauce

And among the guests for the state dinner was Lee Yong-soo, a former "comfort woman" or wartime sex slave for Japanese soldiers - a contentious issue between South Korea and Japan.

image copyrightAFP
image captionMr Trump was photographed giving her a warm hug

Centuries-old soy sauce: The South Korean banquet featured soy sauce that, at 360 years of age, was older than the US itself. Was it a reminder of South Korea's much longer history and traditions?

It might just be worth noting that Mr Trump is not believed to share the same rapport with South Korean President Moon Jae-in as with Mr Abe.

Tex-Mex tacos with the boys: But Mr Trump also used his dining choices to play politics with a calculated decision to eat with US and South Korean troops at Camp Humphreys, the largest overseas US military base, for "Taco Tuesday".

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Over tacos, burritos and curly fries, which he praised as "good food", he told soldiers that he eschewed a "beautiful" lunch so he could dine with them, according to reporters at the scene.

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Kung pao chicken and chilli oil fish: Beijing may have given Mr Trump a lavish welcome, but dialled down the extravagance when it came to the state banquet, choosing instead to ease Mr Trump into local cuisine with a classic Chinese dish familiar to many Americans - kung pao chicken.

The dish of chicken pieces stir fried with chillies originates from Sichuan province, as does another item on the menu, fish cooked in chilli oil.

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It led some Chinese netizens to wonder if the menu was a subtle nod to "chuanpu", one of Mr Trump's nicknames which shares a Chinese character with Sichuan and is the source of one very odd conspiracy theory about Mr Trump's supposed Chinese origins. "Chuanpu's here, so time to serve Sichuan dishes?" asked one Weibo user.

Opinion was split on the menu: some saw it as a gentle introduction to Chinese cuisine, but others were unhappy it was not fancy enough.


Arabella Kushner after dinner entertainment : It was then Mr Trump's turn to butter up his hosts by screening a video of his granddaughter Arabella singing in Mandarin during the banquet. The five-year-old is a social media sensation in China for her videos singing and reciting Chinese poetry.

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Hello to halo-halo?: Mr Trump is now in Vietnam for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, then jetting off to the Philippines where he will meet Rodrigo Duterte, another outspoken leader, in the land which prizes its desserts like halo-halo, a local treat made of shaved ice.

image captionThe sweetness of halo-halo

Taco bowl to go: And if Mr Trump has had his fill of exotic food by the end of his trip, there's always a familiar taste of home on his plane as he heads back to the US as the much-mocked dish is apparently on the Air Force One menu.

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