Few dishes speak to Houston's fantastic Asian food culture quite like xiao long bao.

Houston does Asian cuisine really well. Whether we're talking numbingly satisfying Sichuan heat; creamy, comforting Indian curries; or familiar and fun Vietnamese street eats, it's all awesome. 

One problem that we may have, however, is that we don't amplify that assertion enough.

Sure, we have cover features on Asia Town, and we do our lists, but we (and I'm speaking about me specifically) don't do enough of the day-to-day work informing people about the treasures found at restaurants that identify as Asian. It's easy to say that Asian restaurants don't pay for the kind of PR that higher-profile restaurants get, and thus they're not on our radar as often. But it's more about general unfamiliarity with regionality, nuance, and context. It's about the idea that writers tend to write about what they know. 

In short, I can do better talking about all kinds of food, and certainly about what we think of as Asian food. 

One way to help all of us better understand and also just eat better is Asian Restaurant Month, which launches today and runs through July 4. This first event of its kind, produced by the Asian Chamber of Commerce, was created so people can learn more about Asian restaurants across the city. After a turbulent year of changes, which included a business-damaging pandemic—plus fear of the Asian restaurant community partly because of ill-informed, pandemic-related lies and partly because of past trauma—and a recent spike in incidents of hate against Asians across the U.S., this kind of event can act as a necessary balm.

"For those who don't particularly know our community, this is one way for them to get to know the food," says Paul Gor, community development director of the Asian Chamber of Commerce "It's one way to get together and support, and it's another way to support the Stop Asian Hate movement."

Gor says that because many smaller restaurants especially have trouble adding special menus or offering discounts, Asian Restaurant Month is more a promotional tool so establishments can get some foot traffic. The chamber has published a self-guided tour map so people can find member restaurants, and it offers a list of participants.

Restaurants that don't offer Asian dishes can also get in on the act by creating one menu item that showcases Asian flavors or ingredients. 

"This is an ongoing thing that we need to do," says Gor. "We're not going to set the bar that high, but we want people to start knowing about these restaurants."

So consider checking out the website and making plans for the next month. We'll do the same.

"We've dealt with the pandemic and those fears, and then this recent Asian hate, so let's change it with the aspect of love," says Gor. "Let's show each other the love of food by coming together at a table and eating."

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