According to Pew Research, the Asian population in the United States nearly doubled in the last two decades and is now forecasted to surpass 46 million by 2060. From ethnic Asian groups such as the Hmong in Wisconsin to Toronto’s Chinese-Jamaican population, Asian populations form a wide range of cultures that foster the celebration of authentic experiences that North American travelers and residents can enjoy.
Here are a few ways to engage with some of the best Asian communities in North America in alignment with May’s Asian American, Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
In a little-known stat outside of the state, Hmong Americans are Wisconsin’s largest Asian ethnic group. The Hmong originally came from China and dispersed over Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Burma beginning in the early 1800s because of Chinese land expansion. After the U.S. pulled out of South Vietnam in 1975, thousands of Hmong left Laos to seek asylum throughout Australia, Europe, and North America.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were about 260,000 Hmong Americans living in the United States, with the majority living in California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In the mid-Wisconsin town of Wausau, you can check out the Hmong culture at the From Laos to America museum. Debuting at its new location in November 2021, this museum features artifacts from Hmong and Lao life, culture, and history with displays that show hand tools used for subsistence farming, cooking utensils, and musical instruments.
People can engage with the Hmong community throughout the state at cultural events like the Hmong National Memorial Day Festival, learning about and celebrating the Hmong’s diverse and vibrant community.
Travel down to Milwaukee to find the 5XEN Marketplace featuring an international grocery store, authentic Asian and world cuisine restaurants, a conference center, and a banquet hall that holds events, big and small.
Houston’s immense immigrant population conglomerates into an incredible diversity. One in four Houstonians is from another county, and the sprawling city is home to almost every Asian culture, including Indian people, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and the third-highest Vietnamese population in the nation.
You can find much of this concentration of cultures in Houston’s Asiatown neighborhood. Visitors can immerse themselves in Asian heritage tours, serene Buddhist temples, adventures in traditional art, shopping, and more.
Maybe the most acclaimed part of this cultural fusion is Houston’s culinary scene fueled by authentic restaurants, bakeries, and specialty grocery stores. This has given rise to famous local dishes such as Viet-Cajun (Viejun), a spin on traditional southern crawfish boils elevated by Vietnamese flavors. There’s also the James Beard Award semifinalist Crawfish & Noodles and Kau Ba Kitchen (with Ugly Delicious star Nikki Tran at the helm), which have raised this cuisine from a local favorite to a nationally recognized, sought after scene.
With over 200 languages spoken, and over half of its population born in another country, Toronto has long been home to a massive cultural variety. This authentic multiculturalism is apparent as soon as travelers touch down in Toronto.
There are multiple Chinatowns, a museum dedicated to Islamic culture, the Caribbean festival of Caribana, and much more. This diversity has inspired generations of diverse Torontonians to establish their ethnic mark in the city and share their unique perspective with travelers.
Among influential locals creating the future of Toronto’s diversity is the MJ Jeong restaurant which fuses Korean and French cuisine. Jeong and his fiancée Jennifer Yeo Jeong began this restaurant from the ground up after MJ finished South Korean mandatory military service, migrating to Queen City to start a new life in Toronto.
Craig Wong Sheds Light on Jamaican-Chinese Cuisine at Patois. Wong’s family lived in Jamaica for more than three generations before immigrating to Canada in the early 1970s. His cuisine incorporates this Jamaican-Chinese heritage in concert with world-class, Michelin-starred cooking techniques acquired from years working in restaurants like Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée in Paris and Heston Blumental’s Fat Duck in England.
This is just a taste of what awaits adventurous urban travelers. From Seattle down through San Diego on the West Coast and scattered across the U.S., travelers of all walks of life can experience Asian art, dance, eats, experiences, and much more.
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