The month of May is recognized as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. While the word in itself seems almost too big an umbrella to cover such diverse and interesting people, we can try. As Chinese philosopher Laozi said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So, this May, take a few bold steps with us to learn, appreciate, and celebrate these cultures and their contributions to America by visiting these important locations in some major US cities…and taste some great food along the way.

Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles

The City of Angels’ vibrant Chinese community has contributed so much to the diverse microcosm that’s LA, that it’s only appropriate you stop by the Chinese American Museum. Learn all about the history of Chinese immigration to the US and the early struggles and discrimination experienced by these communities, and read some amazing stories about survival and success. Permanent exhibits include “Origins: The Birth and Rise of Chinese American Communities in Los Angeles” and “Journeys” (focusing on community settlement in LA in the early years).

While you’re in LA, don’t forget to stop by Chinatown’s Yang Chow, who’ve been serving up American-Chinese classics in an old school setting. Don’t forget to dig into their signature slippery shrimp! Koreatown is home to another famous Chinese food outlet – Sea Dragon, where you have to try their famous orange peel chicken.

Museum of Chinese in America, New York

If you’re ever in the Big Apple, there’s certainly no shortage of great museums that are must-sees. But this museum that highlights the experiences of the Chinese community in New York City definitely stakes its claim as an important place to visit too. The first Thursday of every month gains you free admission, and you can take advantage of this to check out current exhibits like “Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity” and “With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America,” which presents the museum’s content in a way that utilizes the through the design of the museum.

Did you know? The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first significant law restricting immigration into the US, and specifically targeted Chinese workers from entering the country.

No trip to NYC can be complete without a quick trek to Chinatown to sample Joes’ Shanghai and to enjoy their delicious Xiao Long Bao. If you’re near the Lower East Side, then make your way to Wah Fung No 1, a small hole in the wall, food-to-go joint that prides itself on its Char Sui and generous value-for-money portions.

Filipino American Museum, New York

New York is also home to this amazing museum that acts as a platform for young, up-and-coming Filipino American artists to showcase their works. The museum also regularly holds exhibits that focus on Filipino literature and music, and there’s always something to grab your attention.

Bicol Express

Bicol Express

Craving some Filipino comfort food when in town? You’ll love the new twist on authentic dishes at the East Village’s Jeepney gastropub. In addition to their adventurous menu that includes Bicol Express and Dinuguan At Puto (pork stew with a thick gravy that uses beef blood as a base), you can also partake in an authentic dining experience at its twice-a-week “kamayan” nights – eating a massive buffet spread with your hands without silverware or plates.

Viet Museum, San Jose CA

San Jose-based nonprofit organization IRCC (Immigrant Resettlement & Cultural Center, Inc.) first started planning the museum in 1976 (dedicated to the thousands of Vietnamese who fled the war), but it took several years to come to life, finally opening its doors in 2007. The museum looks at the period of the Vietnam War, and the aftermath in which many “boat people” fled the country and found themselves hopping from one country to the next before they were finally allowed to settle in the US.

Did you know? Second to the United States, the largest Vietnamese diaspora can be found in Cambodia. 

Get your fix of traditional Vietnamese dishes like Banh Khot (savory mini pancakes) and Canh Chua Ca Bong Lau (catfish soup) when you visit Vung Tau restaurant in Downtown San Jose, commonly regarded as one of the finest Vietnamese culinary institutions in the state of California.

Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles

Formed to preserve and share the Japanese American experience with the world, the Japanese American National Museum holds some informative and entertaining events that are sure to be interesting no matter where you’re from. Ongoing exhibits showcase the discrimination and internment faced by Japanese Americans during WWII, the after-effects of the atomic bomb on Japan, and even a special feature on actor, social activist, and social media celeb George Takei.

If you’re craving some great Japanese dishes that come with a gentle Californian twist, then head to Yuko Kitchen on Wilshire Boulevard. This cozy cafe is famous for its laid-back vibe and exciting fusion flavors, including dishes like their spicy salmon rice bowl.

Korean Cultural Center, New York

New York has the second-largest concentration of Korean Americans (the first being in Los Angeles), so it’s no surprise that this cultural center showcases some of the best art, music, and film that reflects the Korean experience in the US. While offering artists of various backgrounds the space to exhibit their works, it also holds frequent Korean movie nights and organizes dance, live music, and theater productions. NOTE: The official Korean American National Museum is set to open up in the heart of LA’s Koreatown in 2018.

Did you know? The first wave of Korean immigrants to the US were strikebreakers brought to work in Hawaii’s sugarcane plantations in 1903.

If you need to get a quick-fix of some awesome Korean food in NYC, there’s no better place than Woorijip Authentic Korean Food in Midtown Manhattan. Staples like kimchi fried rice and kimbap are dished out generously for affordable prices, and you’ll also find to-go packaged meals that will have you out the door in a New York minute!

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About The Author

Dhinesh Manuel

Socialite, philanthropist, costumed crime fighter by night...no wait...that's Batman...my bad ... Musician, writer, travel junkie, dog lover, and database of useless information. I love to learn about new cultures, experience new cuisines, meet new people, and have a few laughs along the way!