AAPI Heritage Month Food Guide

Zara Thornton,  Lindsay Jablonski,  Beverly Khoo,  Megan Lehrer,  Anja Asato

“To break bread together” captures the significance of sharing a meal, where throughout history, food has become an integral part of celebrations. A meal together brings the power to strengthen relationships, process emotions, and bring laughter. Culinary traditions have been deeply ingrained and passed down for generations and has become an easy way to connect different cultures. As we become vaccinated and come out of isolation, we encourage you to grab a meal with your loved ones and experience some of our favorite Asian tastes throughout the country and across the pond.

New York

Bilao (Upper East Side)

Bilao, which means basket in Tagalog, opened in 2020 by a trio of Filipino frontline workers at Mt. Sinai hospital, who would end their night shifts and felt frustrated by the lack of breakfast options nearby. Bilao not only serves Filipino breakfast combos (also known as silog, which contains garlic rice, fried egg and a usually sweet meat) all day but also provides a good overview of the national cuisine, with over 60 dishes to cover breakfast, lunch and dinner. I recommend the lumpia, sizzling pork sisig and longsilog as favorites.

Mei Lai Wah (Chinatown)

Mei Lai Wah has the best pork buns in the city. They have other items, but are best known for their BBQ roast pork buns and BBQ roast pork and pineapple buns. This is a classic Chinatown spot that has become increasingly popular over the years thanks to popular food blogs and social media.

Soothr (Union Square)

Soothr is properly pronounced “Sood” in the Thai word meaning “Recipe”. Soothr was founded by close friends who grew up in different regions of Thailand who have focused on generational family recipes that have shaped their childhood and time growing up in Thailand. Chef Nate Limwong’s specialty is in family noodle recipes. With each founder raised in distinctive regional cities, each individual brings their unique relationship with Thai cuisine to a culinary experience geared towards the comfort and warmth of dining at home.

Tasty Dumpling (Chinatown)

The best place for high quality dumplings for very low prices (think: $1.50 for 5 dumplings last February). They have other items, including scallion pancakes, sesame noodles and wonton soup, all also under $10. The dumplings are all very large and thick, so don’t let the low prices fool you on quality. The spot itself is very no frills with very minimal seating, so be prepared to eat your dumplings on the go!

MáLà Project (East Village & Midtown)

MáLà Project’s mission is to bring unaltered, original Chinese dishes to New York in a 90s China-inspired ambiance. The restaurant is best known for its dry pot dishes (which is exactly what it sounds like – hot pot but cooked dry with spices rather than in a pot). MáLà is the vision of two young entrepreneurs, Tangshan native Amelie Kang and Meng Ai, and Chef Qilong Zhao, a Chengdu native.

NY Dosas (Washington Square Park)

NY Dosas may be one of the best street vendors in New York City. Located in Washington Square Park, this truck serves dosas, which are lentil-and-rice crepes griddled and stuffed with spice potatoes and vegetables and served with traditional sides of lentil soup and coconut chutney. The cart is run by Thiru Kumar, who is from Jaffna, Sri Lanka. NY Dosas is also a great vegan option. Worth noting that they take Venmo!

Her Name Is Han (NoMad)

This restaurant specializes in homestyle Korean food that is fresh and light. Consistently excellent, this NYC apartment inspired décor Korean spot offers a variety of dishes including seafood stews, dumplings, rice cakes, and pork belly. All menu items are incredibly fresh and light, which is a rare combination for spicy and fermented foods.

 

Boston

Chalawan (Cambridge)

Chef Palm Amatawate grew up in southern Thailand and has cooked in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Palm serves a sharing-style menu inspired by authentic home recipes representing the many Southeast Asian regions. Some interesting dishes include Borneo tamarind prawn, Singapore chili beef, Sri Lankan beetroot curry, Javanese lamb and Malaysian crispy calamari. Check out the full menu here with details of where each dish is from.

Gene’s Chinese Flatbread (Downtown Boston)

This is Boston’s answer to Xi’an Famous Foods in New York. Chef Gene Wu came to the United States from Xi’an, to study chemistry but decided that hand pulling noodles was what he wanted to do at age 40. At his small store, he hand-pulls some of the best noodles in Boston every morning and serves meat stuffed flatbread sandwiches and freshly prepared noodles served in broth or sauce that he derived from his grandfather’s recipes. Highly recommend the classic cumin lamb hand-pulled noodles!

Tanam (Somerville)

Tanam will be offering small group dining at their Bow Market location starting this weekend (reservations required for Bow Market). The location will serve Filipinix American dishes like sinigang and jackfruit adobo. Tanam will also be offering an interesting narrative cuisine which features a coursed storytelling dinner later this year. It will offer a space of staff and guests to hear POC stories and engage in dialogue at a single 10-seat table as well as featuring the work of other POC chefs through seasonal chef residencies. Learn more by signing up for their newsletter.

London

Etles (Walthamstow)

The Uyghurs (pronounced ‘wee-guhs’) are a Muslim ethnic group found in westernmost China and Central Asia. Their cuisine is a curious blend of influences – Chinese, Middle Eastern, Persian – all facilitated by the historical to-ing and fro-ing along the Silk Road. Four thousand-odd miles to the west, on a quietish stretch of Walthamstow’s Hoe Street, is Etles: a small, family-run restaurant specialising in Uyghur dishes.

A.Wong (Victoria)

Andrew Wong once said that, as a child, he “couldn’t wait to get out” of the kitchen at his parents’ Victoria restaurant – but he stuck with it and now that very same kitchen holds a Michelin star. A Wong’s innovative Chinese cuisine includes dumplings in disguise: the wild mushroom and truffle bun is indistinguishable from a plump chestnut mushroom, and the sweet duck egg custard bun arrives dressed up as a white peach.

Pleasant Lady (Spitalfields Market)

Alex Peffly and Z He, co-founders of popular Asian eateries Bun House and Tea Room, have opened Pleasant Lady Jian Bing Trading Stall on Greek Street serving China’s most loved street food – jian bing. Jian bing is sort of like a super-stuffed crepe, that’s wrapped and folded right in front of you.

Kanishka (Maddox Street)

Atul Kochhar is the first Indian chef in the world to receive a Michelin star. His new restaurant, Kanishka, on Maddox Street, explores lesser known regions of Indian food. Cooking methods include salting, smoking and fermenting, made necessary by the remoteness of the regions. He has also been inspired by the influence of bordering countries such as Nepal, China, and Bangladesh – expect soya and dumplings, as well as locally sourced British produce where possible.

MẮM (Notting Hill)

The little sister of cult North London noodle purveyors Salvation in Noodles, MẮM (pronounced like mum) aims to show a whole new side of Vietnamese cuisine. You can still find their killer pho noodle dishes on the menu, but founder Colin Tu has also decided to showcase traditional dishes usually found in country on Vietnamese barbecue stalls.

Los Angeles

B Sweet Dessert Bar (Sawtelle)

B Sweet offers Filipino twist on American classics, like ube bread pudding and ube cheesecake.  Their more traditional Filipino offerings, like Halo Halo (which literally translates to “mix mix” and consists of tropical fruits, jelly cubes, ube ice cream, condensed milk, shaved ice, and literal magic) and pandesal are amazing too—although pandesal isn’t always on the menu, so you have to catch it when it’s available.  I am also obsessed with their ube lattes, which I’m 99% sure is just melted ube ice cream. 

Bahay Kubo (Filipinotown)

For a no-frills, authentic experience, Bahay Kubo is it.  Once my grandma got older and started cooking less for holidays, my aunts started ordering family-sized portions from this restaurant—and while nothing can replace my grandma’s cooking (and her heavy hand when it came to garlic and vinegar), this has come close.  While I can’t speak to the many beef, pork and chicken offerings (Filipinos largely follow a carnivorous diet, so my options are limited), I will say that the daing (milkfish, pronounced “dah-ing”) here is excellent.  For something a little sweeter, I recommend the turon (like sugary eggrolls filled with fried banana and jackfruit).  A less limited foodie would probably recommend the lumpia, adobo, and lechon. 

Ocean Seafood (Chinatown)  

I believe this place is still closed for COVID-19 precautions, but here’s hoping they reopen soon.  Sunday dim sum lunch gets crowded here and may require a wait, but it is so worth it.  The sesame balls here are my favorite—I would be happy to be served from the dessert carts alone. 

Chosun Galbee (Koreatown)

Korean barbecue is meant to be a collective experience – getting a group together for endless waves of grilled meat and endless dishes of banchan (side dishes). Check out Chosun Galbee for a big indoor and outdoor garden restaurant with barbecue tables for a high quality experience

Connecticut

Ginkgo Sichuan Cuisine (Fairfield)

Sichuan cuisine, originating from the Southwestern region of China, is known for bringing together unique and fragrant flavors, often described as being hot, spicy, sour and pungent. Owner Yingying Yan opened Ginkgo Sichuan Cuisine after realizing there were only two Sichuan restaurants in CT to share authentic Asian cuisine with the area. The restaurant is known for peking duck, which they serve in the traditional, three-course way.

Taj Indian Cuisine (Fairfield)

Owner Finto Antony decided to open an Indian establishment in Connecticut after having noticed there weren’t many Indian food options around. The restaurant has a strong South Indian menu but they’ve also included dishes from northern India, including some meals inspired by Chinese and Bangladeshi cuisine. Some of their most popular dishes are the Taj snapper, which is cooked in a clay oven and topped with curried shrimp, and the fish pollichathu, a marinated fish wrapped in banana leaf.

Mecha Noodle Bar (locations across CT)

Mecha combines Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Chinese and American styles and takes inspiration from internationally acclaimed ramen restaurants Ippudo and Mokofuku to bring a unique ramen experience to the CT area. Mecha’s ramen options include classic tonkotsu, with hakata-style pork broth cooked for 24 hours and slabs of chashu (roasted pork belly), shoyu (soy sauce) ramen and spicy miso ramen. When dining at ramen restaurants, you can ask for “kae-dama” when you’re almost finished and they’ll bring you an extra serving of fresh noodles so be sure to save some broth if you’re still hungry!

Pho Vietnam (Danbury)

If you’re not familiar with it already, Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, noodles, meat, and fresh herbs. It’s unique flavor is made by simmering beef and chicken bones, along with various spices, for hours and hours until the taste is just right. Try a delicious bowl at family-owned Pho Vietnam where you can also taste classic spring rolls. Vegetarian options are available too!

RaonJean Coffee and Dessert (Glastonbury)

Run by wife team of Do Kim and Hanna Park, RaonJena Coffee and Dessert was named after their twin daughters and the unique café combines European and Asian styles together. The menu offers items including matcha teas, taro iced lattes, brown sugar bubble teas and bulgogi (Korean beef) paninis.

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