May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This time is dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the influence of AAPI people who have contributed to the U.S. There are many ways to take the time to acknowledge the struggles and hardships, as well as the accomplishments, that those in the AAPI community have faced and endured. Speaking with your AAPI friends, listening to their stories and learning about the many cultures of AAPI people are just a few ideas.
However, another big part of Asian and Pacific Islander cultures is the food. Food is the key to the soul and is a vital part of many AAPI experiences. While some Asian dishes may be well-known and common in America like sushi, bubble tea and pho, here are eight underrated Asian dishes for you to try next:
This is the perfect dish for the warm weather and summertime. Halo-halo is a cold dessert from the Philippines. It consists of thinly shaved ice, sweetened condensed milk and a variety of toppings like tapioca pearls, red bean and fruit. The name is Tagalog for “mix-mix,” and the dessert is considered to be the unofficial dish of the Philippines.
Gimbap, also known as kimbap, is a Korean dish with vegetables and meat surrounded and rolled up with white rice and seaweed. Similar in appearance to sushi, gimbap’s rice is sweeter and seasoned with sesame oil instead of vinegar. Typical ingredients for the roll include carrots, egg, steak, spinach and pickled radish.
Katsudon is a dish that’ll have your mouth watering. It is a breaded and panko-fried pork chop over white rice with egg and green onion. ‘Katsu’ means cutlet in Japanese and ‘Don’ refers to “donburi,” which is a rice-bowl dish. The dish can be made in a variety of ways, such as the katsu being wrapped up in egg, or the egg added to a sweet and salty broth on top of the rice.
Spice up your sandwich game with this simple Vietnamese cuisine. The name means “bread,” as the sandwich uses a baguette, pork, cilantro, cucumber, pickled carrots and a sauce mix of red chili and buttery mayonnaise. The baguette was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the mid-19th century, and banh mi was invented in the 1950s.
Also known as “battered ice cream,” dondurma is Turkish ice cream. Dondurma has a hard texture, doesn’t melt easily and is stretchy, which allows people to eat it with a fork and knife. If you’ve seen any viral Turkish ice cream videos of vendors flipping cones upside down and playing with customers, dondurma is the sticky dessert that they use.
Roti canai is a flatbread originally from Southern India but can be found in various Southeast Asian countries like Brunei, Singapore and Malaysia. The consistency is crispy and flaky with a buttery taste to it. It is sometimes served with curry, sugar to make it sweet or meat, egg and cheese to make the dish savory.
Another dairy dessert is kulfi, which is a traditional Indian ice cream that’s denser and sweeter than regular ice cream. It usually comes in flavors such as rose, mango, cardamom, saffron and pistachio. Kulfi could be compared to custard due to its solid and thicker consistency since it’s not whipped and doesn’t melt easily.
A great option for those that may prefer more simple and mild food is congee. It is a rice porridge with ties back to India but is eaten in many Eastern Asian countries. Chinese congee is the most common, with it being a staple dish. Congee varies by region but usually is thick with an oatmeal consistency and can be made with different ingredients like ginger, bamboo shoots, meat and duck eggs.