Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities consist of approximately 50 ethnic groups speaking over 100 languages, with connections to Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Hawaiian, and other Asian and Pacific Islander ancestries. AAPI month in the US is a time to celebrate the rich cultural tapestry, diverse traditions, and significant contributions of AAPI individuals to society. Among the many ways to honor these unique heritages, one of the most delicious and heartfelt is through flavors passed down through generations. From the spicy flavors of Southeast Asia to the delicate nuances of Japanese cuisine, AAPI food traditions offer a glimpse into these communities’ vibrant histories and identities and a fun way to invite others to learn about AAPI cultures.

During AAPI month at Taboola, our AAPI community organized delicious local lunches for Taboolars to enjoy. From the savory Indian flavors of butter chicken, masala, and naan to flaky spring rolls and delicious Vietnamese pho, there was no leftover food in sight! Besides the joy of sharing these cultural specialties across Taboola, the joy of AAPI food is its ability to tell a sentimental story. Each dish carries with it a piece of history or a reflection of a cultural exchange that has taken place over generations, and our Taboolars have offered us a peek inside their cultures and how food has played a role in their lifestyles, traditions, and experiences today.

Traditions Old & New

Angela Salazar, Philippines – “Every New Year’s Eve, my family buys several round-shaped fruits. By eating money-shaped food, it’s thought you’re setting yourself up for a prosperous new year.”

Jun Xu, China – “There are many food traditions from my hometown that bring back sweet memories even after living in the States for so many years, but the one I participated in the most is the sticky rice dumpling, called Zongzi in Chinese pronunciation. Although it’s well known that Chinese people traditionally eat Zongzi during the Duanwu Festival, in my hometown, we make Zongzi before the Chinese New Year. Though I don’t typically cook, I learned how to wrap Zongzi from my mom many years ago. My favorites are always the homemade ones, filled with either soy sauce marinated pork or red bean paste.”

Allen Wu, Taiwan – “Every Lunar New Year, my relatives come home for a reunion dinner. Over ten dishes are on the table, including fish, braised pork, mustard greens, and hot pot. Each dish has its meaning; fish symbolizes abundance year after year because the word for “fish” sounds like “abundance” in Chinese. Mustard greens are a standard vegetable used in Chinese New Year celebrations. People always have them on Lunar New Year’s Eve because they are considered Chang Nian Cai, an ideal symbol of long life. The hot pot symbolizes people gathering around the stove together, representing reunion and the hope of continuing to see each other year after year.”

Allen Wu with his family during Lunar New Year

Connor Borden, Japan – “My family’s origins in America start in Hawaii, so it makes sense that Spam Musubi holds a certain amount of significance in my life. I first had it at my grandparents’ house during Thanksgiving, and it quickly became one of my favorites. I bring it to almost every event I can, and I think it’s a nice bit of symbolism in that it’s essentially fusion food, and I am a fusion lad.”

Kalon Cheung, Taiwan, China – “Our Thanksgiving meals at my cousin’s house have always had a mix of Chinese and American food. There would always be traditional dishes like corn casserole and baked yams on the table, with Chinese dishes like sticky rice with sausage. It’s a mix of cultures just like we are.”

Kelly Yang, China – “My mother makes dumplings for Chinese New Year for good luck every year. Traditionally, the dumplings are shaped like ancient Chinese gold, so it’s good luck and good fortune to eat some to welcome the new year. I have fond memories of her teaching me to make them with her and of the slightly misshapen ones I made when I was first learning. My dumpling wrapping skills still aren’t as good as hers, but I love sitting by the table with my mom and chatting while we fold dumplings to eat with our family.”

Childhood Memories

Kristine Gaviola, Philippines – “When my grandpa lived with us in the 90s (we used to call him “Tatay” which means father in Tagalog because that’s what our mom called him), he used to make arroz caldo in the winter. It’s this delicious rice chicken broth that is SO GOOD, and I miss his cooking very much.”

Kristine Gaviola’s “Taytay”

Andy Lee, Cambodia – “As a child, I loved helping my mom and grandma prep Cambodian beef skewers for parties or park trips. It showed me how much work goes into preparing the food, and they are a staple in our culture.”

Bruce Yun, Korea – “One of my most cherished childhood memories is watching my mom hand-make kimchi in the kitchen; it always tasted better than anyone else’s. Pro tip: Kimchi and Spaghetti…so good!”

Owen Hsieh, China – “As a kid, my favorite dish was tomato and egg. I would always ask my mom to make it for dinner. Even when I visited China as a child, I would still ask my mom to order it in the restaurants. To this day, I will make it myself as well. It’s such a simple yet delicious dish.”


Sahib Singh, India – “Butter Chicken originated from Northern India, where I was born, and every time my mom makes it, it brings me to a special place.”

Kezhia Sharieff, India – “I began cooking when I moved to the US three years ago, a journey that deepened my appreciation for my homeland and its cuisine. With the help of technology, I’ve managed to stay connected with my family and learn all the secret traditional recipes while also adapting them based on the ingredients available here. It was through cooking Indian food in the US that I found a way to feel closer to home.”

Kezhia Sharieff’s favorite is Onam Sadhya, a lavish vegetarian meal consisting of 26 to 28 dishes traditionally served on a banana leaf and shared with a large gathering of relatives.

Leon Huang, China – “My favorite food memory growing up was wrapping dumplings with my parents. This created a space for quality time while preparing one of my favorite snacks/meals.”

Elyzia Zhang, China, Malta – “Growing up, I usually made breakfast for myself in the mornings before school. But in high school, my dad noticed I was working especially hard with tests and college applications, so he woke up an hour earlier than I did every weekday to prepare a full-course breakfast with egg drop soup, congee, and other yummy classic dishes. He also made 八宝饭 (eight treasure rice) to celebrate something together. It meant a lot that he wanted to support me, and I miss his cooking very much.”

Elyzia Zhang’s dad at breakfast

Christine Tayaba, Philippines – “Pancit holds profound significance for me within my AAPI identity, serving as a cherished link to my cultural heritage and family traditions. This noodle dish, adorned with an array of vegetables and meats, transcends its culinary role to embody the spirit of celebration and unity. Pancit is traditionally shared in family gatherings and festive occasions, symbolizing wishes for longevity and prosperity. Having pancit at the dining table evokes memories of lively gatherings with loved ones, where laughter flowed freely, karaoke was sung, and stories were shared.”

As AAPI Month comes to a close, may we continue to honor these rich cultures, culinary traditions, and memories throughout all days of the year. A huge thank you to all the AAPI Taboolars who opened up about their cultures, traditions, and stories and to those who continuously create space for our AAPI Taboolars to share their experiences and welcome us into their vibrant cultures.

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