May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and there are so many ways to celebrate these diverse and beautiful cultures. This month is a dedication to those who come from Pacific islands and Asia, bringing with them a unique history full of tradition. Some of the ways everyone can celebrate a little bit of AAPI heritage are by going to museums to learn about the history of these countries and their people, reading AAPI authors, watching documentaries or AAPI-inspired shows and movies, or Asian and Pacific Island music.
Perhaps one of the most interactive ways to immerse oneself in the culture of another is through food. Taste is one of the most powerful senses we have as humans and this is a great way to relate through the flavors of another country. There are so many traditional dishes that come from Asia and the Pacific Islands (more than we could possibly fit here!) but there are some that are so iconic, they absolutely must be tried at least once. Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
The Philippines: Pancit
The recipes used for pancit are usually unique to each family which is also what makes this dish so wonderful. With so many ways to make it and such a long list of ingredient combinations, it could taste different from one household to another.
Typically, most recipes call for chicken but shrimp, pork, and Chinese sausage can also be used. The noodle dish incorporates cabbage and other thinly sliced vegetables to create crunchy textures as well as layers of flavor, and it's a very comforting dish that can be eaten any time of the day.
Vietnam: Bun Cha
One of the most common dishes you'll find for lunch when visiting Vietnam is bun cha. While pho is a top contender when it comes to savory dishes, bun cha is a must-try for anyone who's new to the cuisine.
Bun cha is a Hanoi specialty and it starts with ground pork that's seasoned well and cooked. These meatballs - or pork patties - are then added to a delicious broth with noodles and vegetables, with the intention being to eat a bite of each.
Fiji: Fish Curry
It's true - there are many curries around the world and it can get confusing when so many countries have their own twists on the dish. However, Fiji is known for its fish curry and this will likely become a favorite.
Cinnamon and turmeric are added to this curry to give it brightness and warmth, which both serve as the perfect balance to tender, flaky fish pieces.
China: Scallion Pancakes
Scallion pancakes have caught on in many places and it's due to one simple reason: they're delicious! They're also super simple to make and are essentially a one-bowl recipe with the exception of the pan used to fry them.
Scallion pancakes are the perfect balance for a savory pancake, and with a simple dipping sauce, their flavor is over the top. Fresh, herby, and perfectly filling, they're great for any meal and make for a great snack.
Poke is another dish that's catching on in popularity over the last few years outside of Hawaii. These unbelievably fresh fish dishes are super healthy and light, and always exude flavor that you wouldn't expect.
They can even be made with tofu and other meat-free alternatives now, making them a great option for everyone - including those who don't like fish!
Samoan cuisine is not one that's as well known as many others, which makes oka a great dish to try. There's nothing like having it in the Samoan islands, though, because its flavors come from local ingredients.
Traditionally, Samoan fish is used and gets marinated in citruses such as lemon or lime juice, fresh coconut cream, salt, and onions, resulting in a ceviche-style dish that's bursting with freshness.
Malaysia: Sweet Potato Doughnuts
In Malaysia, sweet potato doughnuts are usually eaten during tea time or for breakfast. They're a great sweet treat to start the day out with and in contrast to the doughnuts most people are familiar with, these are not overwhelming in their sugar content.
They're made without yeast and are deep-fried before being dusted with sugar and served warm.
Tahiti: Poisson Cru
Poisson cru is all over Tahiti and when translated, it means 'raw fish.' With so many fresh fish available in the Pacific, it's easy to see why so many of these dishes keep the fish in its most natural form, adding things to enhance its flavors.
This tropical dish is a signature on the islands and is one of the freshest dishes you can try when visiting this beautiful destination.