Subtle Asian Traits isn’t just a Facebook group– it’s a growing community where Asians from around the world feel like there’s a place for them. Whether you’re Simu Liu, Hasan Minhaj or any other of the group’s nearly 2 million members, here, you'll discover the most niche memes about the little aspects of Asian culture – and the Asian diaspora in particular – that are often overlooked. Like the tradition of removing shoes when entering a house or the experience of always having your name mispronounced at Starbucks. And the reason why the group is so successful? Humor. Lighthearted and fun, the space binds thousands of people together through what is common and funny to them. But that doesn’t come without its challenges. When moderating such a large group, the group’s nine founders – Chinese-Australian students from Melbourne – have run into a few problems. “Why are you only representing Chinese culture?” “You need to speak out about more issues.” “Asians are not a monolith.” Despite issues of representation, co-founders Kathleen and Tony are trying their best to honor all identities. They strive to make sure the members have a good relationship with the group, that it’s a welcoming space for all and somewhere people are not afraid to be who they really are.
Indo-Chinese is one of India’s most popular foods, though most people haven’t heard of it–including Chinese people. Why did Chinese food become so popular in India and what does it tell us about the history of these two regions? Today, this collaborative cuisine is taking over the world. Did you know that Chicken Manchurian isn’t Chinese? Nelson Wang, a third-generation Chinese immigrant in India, created the dish in 1975 while working at Mumbai’s Cricket Club. But Chinese food in India dates way further back than the 70’s. The oldest restaurant opened in 1925, and was frequented by many Bollywood stars. Chinese immigration to India dates way back to the 18th century, when many Chinese workers filled industries from sugar-mills to leather and carpentry. To cater to them, eateries began opening that would replace native Asian ingredients with Indian cooking staples. Further, Chinese men began marrying Indian women, making the union of these two cuisines even more tangible. Now found around the world, here’s the history of Indo-Chinese cuisine.
Biryani, one of the most beloved dishes in India and Pakistan, is iconic, regal, and dates back 3,000 years. Today, it has become a street food that is affordable and accessible to all–and it’s thanks to a brand that was launched in Karachi in the 1980’s: Shan Masalas. Usually made with meat and cooked in layers of spicy, tangy, and sweet flavors, Biryani is an elaborate rice dish. In the 1980’s, Shan Masala, packaged spice mixes, were launched–modernizing desi cuisine and freeing up many South Asian women’s time. In 2020 alone, Shan Masala made around $85 million USD in revenue. Mentions of Biryani have been found in Tamil poems that date as far back as 200 CE, to 17th century cookbooks from a royal Mughal kitchen. Biryani today represents several millennia of the subcontinent's unique mix of different flavors, techniques and cooking cultures. Though there’s a lot of hype around who invented biryani and who has the best biryani, every region has delicious biryani–and comes with its own story.
12Pell says they’re the Madison Square Garden of barber shops. What they mean is when certain folk come through New York City, they don’t leave without visiting. The barbershop is always packed, and there’s a few reasons why barbers combine Japanese style precise scissor work with the sharp shaves of Dominican barbershop, layered on top of K hair techniques. They are one of a kind, and their audience of nearly 2 million followers on TikTok and 300,000+ on Instagram has made them some of the most sought after barbers of our generation. Customers book months in advance for a slot, with prices starting at $150+ for a trim. But 12Pell is important not just because of the popularity. . During the COVID-19 pandemic when Chinatown became a 'ghost town', the store rarely got any customers. 12Pell translated this downtime into community-driven initiatives, offering free haircuts when customers spent $45 dollars at any Chinatown store, and investing in their TikTok community. Soon, 12Pell had things up and running again for the entire neighborhood, including themselves. The barbershop cares beyond just the business of hair – they show up for the Asian American community by creating a space for young Asian men to feel a sense of belonging.
Ryūhō Ōkawa, leader of the Japanese Happy Science religion, was the self-proclaimed reincarnation of Jesus Christ, Elohim and…Yoda. He died earlier this year, leaving behind a complex legacy. From Wall-Street trader to founder of the controversial religion, Okawa was a savvy businessman who is said to have used this know-how to create a money-making machine disguised as spirituality. While Happy Science boasts over 12 million followers worldwide,the real number is likely much lower. Perhaps that’s because members had to give donations of up to $400 at a time for ‘blessings’. The cult is known for bizarre anime, a political party calling for the remilitarization of Japan and celebrity seances with figures like Margaret Thatcher. In 2020, the cult minimized the dangers of COVID and said it was caused by UFOs. But what will the cult do now without its supreme leader?
Which country actually invented dumplings? You’d probably think it’s China but historians have traced dumplings to Central Asia and the migration of Turkic people. It’s said that Turkic and Mongol tradesmen and horsemen traveled across Asia in cold winters carrying ‘mantu’, which we now call dumplings. That’s because 1600’s England called this delicious dough pocket ‘dumpling’, a sophisticated derivative of ‘lump’. In fact, when it comes to the origins of mantu, historians encourage us to look at language. Most Asian cultures call the dumpling how the Turks originally did–Koreans call it mandu, Greek people call it manti, Afghans call it mantu, and Chinese people call it mantou too. But the origins aren’t the only debatable part of the convo–who has the best dumplings?