May marks Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month, so whether you’re an AAPI (Asian American/Pacific Islander) family or hearing about this celebration for the first time, the following options are a few ways to honor and learn about Asian American culture. With racist attacks towards Asian Americans markedly on the rise due to the pandemic, it is more crucial than ever to teach children diversity and inclusion, and separate facts and science from xenophobia.
One of my favorite creative families to follow in Portland are the ever talented Chiu’s. Alex Chiu is one the city’s most prolific muralists, having painted murals for Tri-Met and Portland International Airport that often feature his family and friends. As the state’s fastest growing demographic, it is important for Asian kids to see themselves reflected in the community. Representation matters.
Discover our stories. Alex’s partner A’misa is a librarian and one of the organizers of the Portland Zine Symposium. Here are some of her picks for picture books by Asian American/Asian authors or featuring Asian characters as protagonists:
- All About Scabs by Genichiro Yagyu (1998)
- Bee-big Bop! by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee (2005)
- Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Kathryn Mitter (2009)
- In the Garden by Hunter Reid, illustrated by Alex Chiu (2018)
- One by Kathryn Otoshi (2008)
The elder of the Chiu’s two daughters Mazzy had the most delightful YouTube series called Cooking With Mazzy which was last active a couple of years ago but great to watch with younger kids who may be curious about getting in the kitchen to make simple recipes. This boba milk tea tutorial is one of the channel’s highlights, but they also make other Asian favorites such as Hurricane popcorn, Azuki (red bean) popsicles, green onion pancakes, spam musubi, egg tarts, and gyoza.
Enjoy some Asian food! Food is one of the best entry points into appreciating and learning about another culture, and sitting down to dinner together is a great time for some good ol’ fashioned family bonding. Whether you choose to try making a new dish or treat yourselves to takeout, please consider supporting a local POC owned business.
I’ve been seeing folks’ Instagram stories that Uwajimaya often has a long entry line snaking through the parking lot, so check out one of these other Asian grocers in the Portland area:
- Boo Han Oriental Market—SE/Montavilla. Specializes in Korean items.
- Lily Market—NE/Parkrose. Thai grocer with hot deli favorites.
- Asian Food Center—Beaverton. Multi-ethnic offerings, but emphasis on Chinese foods. One Yelper reports that they have a “no mask, no entry” rule in place.
- Cedar Halal Market—Beaverton. A small market stocked with Middle Eastern and halal products. Don’t miss their pastry case and freshly baked samoon (Iraqi flatbread).
Open for takeout:
- Chungdam Korean Fusion—SE/Jade District. One of a few Korean restaurant options on the Eastside, Chungdam serves sizable portions accompanied by banchan (traditional side dishes).
- Master Kong—SE/Jade District. Menu consists of Chinese staples such as dumplings, congee, wonton noodles, and jianbing. My favorite dish here is the crispy Chinese potstickers.
- 85C Bakery Café—Washington Square. Enter from the east side of the mall, which remains closed, to access the bakery. 85C specializes in freshly baked goods like egg tarts, potato croquettes, and taro puffs as well as cakes and bubble tea. They’re currently offering a re-opening special through the 18th; show this post to the cashier and receive 15% off your purchase.
Learn about AAPI history and culture. If you’re homeschooling your kids in quarantine, check out these resources from the U.S. Department of Education and Scholastic. Portland Japanese Garden is offering virtual tours of the grounds and a cancelled art exhibition as well as videos highlighting different facets of Japanese culture.
Janey Wong is an East Portland native and a freelance writer/social media manager. Her work ranges from copywriting to essays on food, culture, and identity. In her free time, she runs a food Instagram—@foodbbpdx, is an avid traveler, and a doting godmother to the best two year old ever.