By Meryl Pearlstein
This month honors the achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States and recognizes the struggles from the pandemic and the overt demonstrations of hatred and anti-Asian sentiment that have plagued the AAPI community.
You can start by showing your support by frequenting the Asian and Pacific communities in New York City and helping their businesses stay alive: Chinatown in Manhattan, Chinatown in Sunset Park in Brooklyn, Chinatown in Flushing in Queens, and Koreatown in Manhattan, for example. That’s a very good beginning – these neighborhoods have a high concentration of AAPI businesses with a myriad of restaurants, shops and more, all ready to give you an immersive Asian experience with authenticity.
Outside of these areas, there are many options in other parts of the city where you can also partake in the AAPI experience. Show your support of NYC’s rich “melting pot” by patronizing local businesses and cultural events and volunteering to help those in need.
Let’s recognize the history, culture and achievements of this community and make a statement that shows our unity.
Support the Arts
The New York Public Library is celebrating the month with storytelling, movies, origami classes, online book discussions and age-appropriate curated reading lists.
The 92nd Street Y shares a selection of archived free talks and new online and in-person events featuring luminaries from the worlds of culture, politics, activism and literature. Notable on the schedule are online programs from Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt, authors of Jewasian about America’s newest Jews; and a both online and in-person conversation with Eric Kim about what it means to be Korean-American.
Blending Chinese traditional and American modern dance, New Jersey-based Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company was founded by late Taiwanese choreographer Nai-Ni. Tickets for the May 21 performance celebrating the legacy of Nai-Ni Chen and “The Year of the Water Tiger” at New Jersey Performing Arts Center are available at Ticketmaster for the Victoria Theater Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Stage.
Currently completing performances of “Citizen Wong,” a new play inspired by the life and times of U.S. Gilded Age social rights activities Wong Chin Foo, the 45-year-old Pan Asian Repertory Theatre is a member of the National Asian Artists Project which promotes access for Asian American artists. Starting in June, the company’s “NuWorks” is an experimental series of self-created works from innovative artists, exploring an eclectic range of genres and techniques using poetry, text, dance and music.
Support the Businesses that Reflect and Help the Communities
Part museum, part shop and part café, the newly opened Ginseng Museum Café in Koreatown introduces guests to the thousand-year history and efficacy of South Korean ginseng through immersive digital animations. For refreshment, the café menu includes Korean red ginseng products by CheongKwanJang with reenergizing draft 24-hour fresh-brewed pure ginseng extract, honey ginseng tea, pure extract latte and ginseng ginger tea.
Think! Chinatown, a community-based organization that supports and amplifies the voices of Asians in New York City, provides information about events like the Chinatown Night Market on May 20 and more.
The only Japanese-owned boutique hotel in NYC, Hotel Kitano is a beautiful if understated example of Asian style.
Mansa Tea, offering brews from both China and South Korea, has increased awareness of tea culture at many of the city’s fine dining establishments including Per Se and the Baccarat Hotel and now through virtual tea workshops and tea sales.
Eat Out for a Good Cause
Support the restaurants and food providers that contribute so much to the fabric of NYC’s culinary landscape. From Chinatown to Uptown, small to large, casual to fine dining, every meal that you buy is a sign of support.
Make your Sunday night Chinese dinner a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday event as well, dining outdoors or indoors at Chinatown’s 102-year-old Nom Wah Tea Parlor; or enjoy dinner with a group or in a private dining room at Michelin-starred Jungsik (modern Korean) in Tribeca and Mifune (Japanese Washoku cuisine) in Midtown.
Not-so-hidden Upper East Side speakeasy-restaurant, NR (‘N Roll), is the brainchild of owner and bar director Shigefumi Kabashima from Kyushu, Japan. NR offers a contemporary twist on the restaurants found in traditional Japanese port towns during the Meiji Period, serving ramen, oysters and light bites with fantastical cocktails. For an uptown Asian experience, Shige also runs ROKC (Ramen Oysters Kitchen and Cocktails) in Hamilton Heights.
After years of having their mochi ice cream creations displayed on dessert menus at Tao, Nobu and other top Asian restaurants, Mochidoki now has two brick-and-mortar locations, one in SoHo and a second on the Upper East Side. Also in SoHo with a second location in Chelsea, Japanese-owned Harbs mesmerizes with tea, coffee, and original cakes that qualify as works of art.
Opened during the pandemic in September 2021, Chai serves authentic Beijing cuisine, inheriting cooking techniques of the court cuisine of the Qing Dynasty including Peking roast duck, Zha Jiang noodles, Aiwowo and more.
Taiwanese specialist Four Four South Village added a fourth location in Manhattan during the pandemic as well, with original sites in Flushing, Queens and the East Village. Four Four is named after Taiwan’s first military dependent’s village and serves signature Taiwanese beef noodles, a delicacy that originated from these villages, along with a full menu.
Woman-owned, popular Times Square Natsumi features a Japanese-Italian fusion menu with sushi, infused sakes and modern Japanese fare in a sleek venue well-located for pre-theater dining.
Kenta Goto invites you to two casual bar-restaurants that bear his name, Bar Goto on the Lower East Side and Bar Goto Niban in Brooklyn. Born and raised in Tokyo, Goto is an acclaimed cocktail master, showcasing his talent for creating unusual drinks in these two izakayas. Bar Goto is one of the first Japanese-American crossover bars – melding precise Japanese execution and Asian ingredients with American bartending techniques.
Shop and Support
You can support the AAPI community and at-risk workers by patronizing their various businesses that add to the cultural fabric of the city.
Two notable markets in New York and New Jersey will improve your awareness of the Asian community. Sunrise Mart sells all things Asian from skincare to fruit and seafood at Japan Village in Industry City, Brooklyn, and in various locations in Manhattan. The enormous Mitsuwa Marketplace market in Edgewater, NJ is a mix of Japanese grocery store, food court and pharmacy.
Uniqlo, the go-to for reasonably priced outerwear, has its roots in Japan and a flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. If you’d prefer something more bespoke, Emmelle Boutique on Madison Avenue has been a standout among women’s shops since 1982. Founded by Korean-American fashion designer Mi Jong Lee, the store features the Emmelle and Mi Jong Lee collections as well as select lines from both established and emerging designers. Designing out of a tiny studio in New York, Japanese-American Trisha Okubo creates the popular selection of earrings known as the Ear Bar for Maison Miru. Beautiful eveningwear from fashion designer Tadashi Shoji from Sendai, Japan is available online and at Anthropologie.
Learning Is Understanding
Even more important today, AAPI organizations offer online and in-person learning that fosters cooperation and understanding among countries.
Robust scheduling from Asia Society includes discussions, performances and family programming with a multi-cultural emphasis. Japan Society offers year-round events dedicated to Japanese art, theater, film, language and culture. Zoom classes in Mandarin language and Chinese culture are offered by China Institute.
Volunteer to Make a Difference
In additional to national organizations like Stop AAPI Hate, there are numerous NYC-centric ones with a mission of supporting AAPI-owned businesses and protecting Asian Americans.
Sign up for the newsletter from Welcome to Chinatown for news and a resource guide to help preserve NYC’s Chinatowns. Think! Chinatown welcomes all volunteers to assist with projects helping the Asian community. Show your conviction at Protect Chinatown where you can volunteer to help those suffering from both the pandemic and hatred against the community. Through Heart of Dinner, you can deliver care packages or meals to Asian elders in need, while also supporting local food providers.
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