Sesame Street Is Celebrating Korean Food With Asian-American Muppet

If it's been a while since you've watched an episode of "Sesame Street," you may be surprised to see a myriad of new Muppet faces. Yes, Cookie Monster, Bert & Ernie, Grover, and Big Bird have broadened their circle of friends to embrace diversity. This move has made the show much more inclusive and as Deseret News shares it has better enabled it to mirror the population in large American cities. 

One timely addition to the show's puppet ensemble is Ji-Young, a seven-year-old guitar-playing, skateboarding girl who also happens to be the first Asian Muppet. The New York Times shares that she was introduced in 2021 to help address the increase in anti-Asian sentiment in the country and to support the Sesame Workshop's "racial justice initiative, Coming Together." Ji-Young captured public attention right away, earning a mention on Stephen Colbert's late night show. Mashable notes that while Colbert admitted that this is a noble initiative, he questioned the disparity of responsibility between the Muppets, saying," Okay folks, bring it in here, I got your assignments. You be grumpy in a trash can, you count everything you see, and you solve systemic racism." Perhaps, Mr. Colbert is missing the whole point. Kathleen Kim, Ji-Young's puppeteer, told 9News that she hopes this puppet will "normalize seeing different kinds of ... kids on TV," including Asian Americans. 

One way to teach children (and grown-ups) about different people is to introduce them to their cultures, which includes sharing their foods. 

This Muppet's lunch box contains kimbap

When Ji-Young and Kathleen Kim sat down with Today, they said they love to honor their culture by sharing traditional Korean dishes with friends. Ji-Young enthusiastically shared her favorite Korean foods, including her penchant for bringing a kimbap to school for lunch. According to Food Republic, this is Korea's food similar to a sushi roll that's popular with school children. Ji-Young says her family dinners usually revolve around rice, banchan, and a stew called jjigae. What is banchan? Thrillist explains that these are side dishes that are designed to accentuate different elements of the meal and that there are 250 million varieties. While the rock music enthusiast confesses she has a penchant for all things spicy, she is most impressed by her halmoni's (grandmother's) ability to peel a pear or apple by keeping the peel completely intact in one giant piece. 

It would appear that viewers can learn a great deal about a person based on what they eat. Kim explains to Today, "Food is inextricably tied to who we are and where we come from." Perhaps, Ji-Young will be able to help create a spirit of acceptance and "Coming Together" in the next generation. In the meantime, she has likely given you a hankering for some kimbap. If so, here's an easy kimbap recipe for you to master.