What It’s Like Being Biracial

dancing kites

Delaware, 1996

I accompanied my mother to pick up my little brother at a kindergarten classmate’s birthday party. When the birthday boy saw my mom, his eyes widen. With a gasp, he cried to my brother, “I didn’t know you were ADOPTED!”

I was bewildered. Why would he say my brother was adopted when he wasn’t? Why could’t he see that she was our mom?

This was the first time it dawned on me that being biracial was something that could be seen as out of the ordinary.

Disney World, 1998

It was summer and my extended family and I were at Disney World. One of my cousins and I were playing pinball, speaking only in Cantonese.

A Caucasian boy who looked to be about the same age as us (eight) walked over. “Ching chong chang,” he said, pulling at corners of his eyes.

My cousin was visiting the States for the first time and wasn’t confident in his English. He had never experienced anything like this before and had no idea what to make of it, although he sensed it wasn’t good. I, however, was no stranger to racial taunts and slurs, having experienced similar things on the school playground.

“STOP IT,” I shouted.

“Not you,” the boy snapped. He jerked his head in my cousin’s direction. “Him.”

“HE’S MY FAMILY.”

“How can he even see you out of those eyes to know you’re family?” he snickered as he walked away.

Perth, 2003

“You’re half Asian? No way.”

“Why the skepticism?”

“Well… actually, I guess I can believe that. You’re not that good at math.”

Chicago, 2006

“Sir? Sir, I don’t know how to fill out this section.”

“It’s the demographics section of a PSAT. I’m pretty sure you’ve filled it out before.”

“No, you don’t understand,” I insisted. “In the box for race, it says to check one. But there’s no biracial option. Does that mean I just check ‘other’?”

The proctor shrugged. “Sure,” he said. “Or just check one of whatever race you are.”

“But then I’d be lying.”

“Oh, then just check ‘other.’ It’s not a big deal.”

The year 2006 and there was still no “biracial” or “two or more races” option on a standardized test high schoolers took nationwide and it wasn’t a big deal? I, and every other single biracial or multiracial child, begged to differ.

Hong Kong, 2008

“She’s a 鬼妮.”

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t born overseas. It didn’t matter that I spent part of my childhood in Hong Kong and spoke Cantonese and would go on to spend a year in Beijing to study Mandarin. It didn’t matter that I could more easily relate to Chinese culture and heritage than many first generation Americanss (American-born Chinese). To many Chinese, I’d always be a Western girl.

The irony was that to many Westerners, I’d always be a Chinese girl for those very same reasons.

Beijing, 2010

“Do you have a picture of your parents you could show me?”

“Why?”

“I want to see what they looked like to make you. You’re so beautiful — I want to know what type of white man your mom married, so I know to look for. I want my children to be as beautiful as you.”

Washington, DC, 2014

“That dumbass was a woman AND Asian, so yeah, she was a terrible driver.”

A quick, and slightly guilty, glance in my direction.

“Sorry.”

Sorry for what? I wanted to ask. For the hurt behind your racist and sexist inclinations that you utter so blithely and carelessly from your cocoon of white privilege? Or for seeing me as Asian some days and American others, depending on what’s convenient for you, and never realizing that I am always, eternally, perpetually both?

Everywhere, Always

“What are you?”

DC’s Best Ramen

ramen

Many months ago, one of my friends and I decided to eat at DC’s best ramen. (Sadly, the last one I had on a draft of this list has closed, leaving only three. RIP Taan Noodles in Adams Morgan.) We only went to locations that serve primarily ramen noodles. I know there are a few spots in DC that have a wide range of menu offerings and offer a ramen option. However, I didn’t count those on this list, as I’m usually interested in nothing but noodles! So, in order, here are DC’s best ramen.

Toki Underground

The undisputed ruling elite of DC’s ramen scene, Toki Underground has some of the best ramen I’ve ever eaten outside of Asia. Perfectly cooked noodles, a savory broth that’s to die for, and an eclectic mix of ramen offerings make Toki Underground my favorite place to get my ramen fix in DC. Toki doesn’t offer reservations, so get there early because there WILL be a wait, but patrons can grab a drink or two at The Pug downstairs. (My first time at Toki involved a two hour wait. It was worth it.) I also quite like the drinks offered at Toki Underground as well as the appetizers; the dumplings are very tasty. And while definitely not a typical ramen restaurant offering, the chocolate chip cookies with miso buttercream and milk that can be ordered for dessert is quite delicious, too.
1234 H St NE, Washington DC 20002; (202) 388-3086 | Toki Underground website

Daikaya

Located on the ground floor of the amazing Izakaya Restaurant, Daikaya is a little ramen shop that feels, I imagine, how a similar establishment would in Tokyo. Sadly, Daikaya detracts ever-so-slightly in my eyes because they don’t offer hot tea, or even hot water. I can’t quite get over this for an Asian establishment. However, their noodles are otherworldly and can’t be beat. Unlike the other ramen restaurants in DC, the ramen noodles are served with a mix of sprouts and onions in the broth, and I really like the flavors that brings to the overall dish. The gyoza here are very good, too.
705 6th St NW, Washington DC 20001; (202) 589-1600 | Daikaya website

Sakuramen

I frequent Sakuramen whenever I want to get my spicy ramen on. The “fireball” addition they offer to any ramen bowl is awesome, although my dish of choice at Sakuramen is the spicy miso, which automatically includes it. I’m a little skeptical of the ramen bowls they offer that include cream cheese as I’m a bit of a ramen traditionalist/purist, but hey, whatever works. (You won’t catch me ordering that, though.) The buns they offer as appetizers are as good, if not better, than the ramen, and that is something I’d highly recommend ordering when eating at Sakuramen. I also like their noodles differ between thin and wavy or thick and curly; I think it’s a nice way to mix it up a bit.
2441 18th St NW, Washington DC 20009; (202) 656-5285 | Sakuramen website

Link Love, Vol. 67

link love

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been slowly making some aesthetic changes around here. I now have my categories listed on the sidebar, a rewritten About page (with lots of pictures!) and a brand new Best Posts page. I’m super happy with how this gradual blog makeover is working out. I have a few more things I’d like to spruce up, but all in due time :)

This weekend I’m a little scarce around these parts as Ashley is in town! We are busy hitting up everything listed in how to spend 48 hours in Washington, DC. (Not listed in my 48 hour guide is brunch at Founding Farmers, which we did yesterday thanks to a reservation made on OpenTable. LOVE.) I’m vlogging some of our weekend, so hopefully a video recap will come… soon-ish.

Life
The Florkens have a great post about the struggle for originality.

Travel
Jenn talks about why she believes in travel.

Relationships
I found myself nodding in agreement to every word in NZ Muse’s thoughts on communicating in relationships.

In light of the developments with the Ray Rice story and the #WhyIStayed conversation on Twitter, this post on The Frisky on “Why I Married My Abuser” is a must read.

I love this idea of a penny date!

Sarah shared a video about if Disney princes were real and I found myself literally LOL-ing.

My Favorite Things: The Dumpling Sisters

dumpling sisters

I’ve been a fan of cooking shows since I was a little girl. However, since I haven’t had cable in over a year, I haven’t the faintest idea what’s going on in the realm of cooking shows on TV. Instead I’ve turned to YouTube and have fallen in love with several cooking channels. While browsing around Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube channel, I stumbled across The Dumpling Sisters, who are rapidly becoming one of my new favorite YouTube cooking channels.

The Dumpling Sisters comprise of Amy and Julie, two “Chiwi” girls (Chinese Kiwi) living in London. In their words, The Dumpling Sisters “aim is to champion the great Chinese food that we know and love – to demystify what it is, to explain why it’s at the very centre of our lives, and to encourage you to create your own versions of it too.”

Now, I’m not particularly mystified by Chinese food. I mean, I grew up eating it, much like Amy and Julie! However, I didn’t grow up as immersed in the cooking of Chinese food as The Dumpling Sisters did; their parents ran a Chinese takeaway in New Zealand so the cooking of Chinese food is ingrained into who they are.

What I like about their videos is that their recipes are fun to watch. Simple, straightforward and easy to understand even for those who aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of Chinese cooking, watching their videos has given me tons of inspiration for favorite dishes from my childhood that I can recreate in my own kitchen. They’re also releasing a cookbook in May 2015, which I am SUPER STOKED about because you bet I’ll be pre-ordering it when it’s available!

I’ve included some of my favorite recipes of theirs below, but definitely check out their YouTube channel for a full selection of their videos and recipes.

Do you watch cooking shows on YouTube? What are some of your favorites?

How to Spend 48 Hours in Washington, DC

US Capitol Building

My friend Ashley is coming to visit me this weekend, so I’ve got hometown tourist fever as I piece together some semblance of an itinerary for us to follow when she’s in town. As I brainstormed what were the very best things Ashley and I could see/eat/do for her 48 hours in my city, I realized that there are TONS of options. I did my best to narrow it down to the best of the best that could realistically be tackled in a weekend and this is what I came up with!

How to Spend 48 Hours in Washington, DC

See the monuments at night.

Most everyone that went to junior high in the States did a trip to DC in eighth grade and saw the monuments then. But seeing the monuments beautifully lit up at night is a whole new experience, and one that really can’t be missed. One of my favorite spots in the whole city at the Lincoln Memorial, sitting on the steps and basking in the glow of Honest Abe. I’ll sit and stare into the distance at the Reflecting Pool, occasionally looking up at the sky and admiring the moon. In the hustle and bustle of city life, sometimes it’s good to unplug, and what better way to unplug in the nation’s capital than among the monuments for those who served the nation and the founding fathers?

Washington Monument

Eat at Ben’s Chili Bowl.

My list of restaurant recommendations for DC are a mile long and can’t be covered in 48 hours, but I couldn’t NOT include Ben’s Chili Bowl as part of this 48 hour “guide” because Ben’s is home to the famous half-smoke, the iconic DC dish. A “local sausage delicacy,” it’s similar to a hot dog but, well, better. It’s usually bigger and spicier than a hot dog and made with pork and beef. Half-smokes are one of the signature dishes at Ben’s Chili Bowl, although personally I’m partial to the chili cheese fries. Unless you’re Barack Obama or Bill Crosby (who eat at Ben’s for free), be prepared with cash or have a debit card ready to use at the ATM inside the restaurant as it’s cash only.

See the White House and U.S. Capitol Building.

One does not go to DC and not see the White House. And the Capitol Building. It just doesn’t happen. Still, I’ve long considered the Capitol Building to be a more impressive sight than the White House, but one must go to both. Must, I say!!

national mall

Visit the Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian museums are some of the absolute best in the country and it would be a shame to pass them up. AND THEY’RE FREE! I absolutely adore the American History Museum and the Natural History Museum, which has an IMAX theater. Air and Space is a solid one too, and I’ve recently been quite taken with some of the exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery. In a 48 hour timeframe it’s impossible to see it all, so just pick one or two and stick with those. With a few exceptions, the majority of them are located along the National Mall, so they’re fairly close together.

Explore Georgetown.

While Georgetown can be a little hard to get to since it isn’t accessible on the Metrorail, there are plenty of buses that can get there. The Georgetown waterfront is absolutely beautiful; one can see the high rise buildings across the Potomac River in Rosslyn along the water. Georgetown itself is also a great place to spend an afternoon exploring, as it’s a shopper’s paradise and has restaurants of pretty much any cuisine. And, of course, Georgetown is home to The Exorcist stairs — yes, the very ones used in the movie!

library of congress

Go to Eastern Market.

I always enjoy going to markets and Eastern Market is one of my favorites. Eastern Market has a great mix of arts and crafts vendors as well as farmer and food vendors, so there’s a little bit of something for everyone. I’m always so impressed by what I see when I wander through the different stalls, and wish I had half the talent of some of the vendors that sell their crafts there! I also really like picking up some fresh produce at Eastern Market or nice cuts of meat, fish or even fancy cheeses. (I got my basil plant at Eastern Market last summer.) Eastern Market is also home to some really good brunch places, so many grab brunch and then wander around the market afterwards.

Visit the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress is so breathtakingly beautiful inside that I think it just might be my favorite interior in all of DC. There’s always a rather large range of exhibits that can be viewed at the library which, like most exhibits in DC, are free. I’m a total bookworm, so I can never get enough of seeing literary treasures or gems from other nation’s collections. If books don’t seem alluring, then the beautiful design of the building will.

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