Six Asian American and Pacific Islander businesses that have flourished despite the odds
Photographed For The Washington Post
Photo Editor: Monique Woo
These days, it’s common to see a sushi joint on the same street as a McDonald’s. In the past century, Asian American and Pacific Islanders have transformed the American palate. Yet many of these businesses face steeper financial hardships because of the pandemic, economic uncertainty and rising anti-Asian hate.
“They suffered tremendously,” said Min Zhou, director of the Asia Pacific Center at UCLA.
Traditionally, many Asian American and Pacific Islanders found work in restaurants because they faced discrimination in other fields. “That was the only thing that they could do,” said Justin T. Huang, a University of Michigan professor of marketing whose research on anti-Asian racism in the pandemic found that Asian restaurants’ revenue declined more than others. While just 7 percent of Americans identify as Asian, the Pew Research Center recently reported that 12 percent of the country’s restaurants serve Asian food.
A new generation is looking to do more than just survive, said Huang, who added that his grandfather’s work in a restaurant enabled his dad to be a physicist and him to become a professor. “They have a message” to offer, “and they want to now express themselves through food.”
From the oldest tofu enterprise in the nation, to a Filipino fusion food cart that just opened in March, The Washington Post focused during this Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month on six businesses defying the odds, passing down tradition and so much more.