Editor’s Note: May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This is one of a series of KOIN 6 News reports to celebrate the month.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Over lunch of xiao (soup dumplings), eggplant in hot garlic sauce, sauteed snow pea leaves, a beef roll and salt-and-pepper squid at the Duck House Chinese restaurant Portland, KOIN 6 News anchor Elizabeth Dinh and KOIN 6 Meteorologist Kelley Bayern shared stories about their heritage.
Below is an edited version of what they talked about during lunch, a cuisine bridge to different cultures.
“I was born in Seattle and my mom actually immigrated from Taiwan in her 20s and met my dad. I think what’s interesting about my background is that people can’t really tell that I look or that I am Chinese. I think a lot of folks look at me and say, maybe there is something there, but it’s never Chinese as the first guess.
“Teachers even have said that I lied throughout school. So that was just kind of strange because there’s nothing to lie about, you know? I have a Chinese mom. I’m half-Chinese. I’m very proud of it. And that was something that was strange to me growing up.
“I’m a very white-passing Asian person, so I also never had too many struggles with racism in that sense. And I know that’s a huge issue still in this day and age. And stuff that my mom has faced, too, going out to stores and being harassed by people. So, I got that end of the stick and didn’t deal with that. But folks like my brother and some of my half-Asian friends who did turn out to look more Asian than I did dealt with those issues.”
“Whether you go out to eat here, you’re with your friends, or you’re at home in your kitchen, I think it goes over the boundaries of language. Food connects us.
“I make steamed baos. And I think that is what connects me mostly to my mom, just using the steamer, having to pleat the dough. And I make them quite often too. So my baos, I usually fill them with some kind of meat filling, like a ground pork or sometimes, more of like a sweet, sticky style of pork. I learned through watching my mom and then also a lot of stuff online. Comfort food is what brings you back to a great place and a dish that reminds you of that.
“I have been to Taiwan and China. I have relatives in Beijing… It was really cool to go there. I was a senior in college, so when I was older and enough to, kind of, understand the culture and have more in depth conversations with my relatives who were all English-speaking.
“To see all of the buildings, see Tiananmen Square, see the Great Wall and just do all of these things and really immerse myself in the culture and really the food. Was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.”
“My boyfriend is half-Korean, so I’ve been able to learn about his culture. He also has a white father and a Korean mother. So I’ve learned a lot of cooking technique from her. And it’s just because I’m interested in this, it’s brought our relationship closer.
I think food is so great because it really opens the door and allows you to see other people’s perspectives on things on life, their opinions and food is just the gateway to that.”