Love Through Food: Part 2 — Creating community through Subtle Asian Traits

Photo credit: Elle Hughes

“Love Through Food” and the community surrounding it

The “Love Through Food” Reels series celebrates the rich medley of cultures and experiences reflected in recipes, as well as the community that blossomed from the shared love for food.

A featured baker and previous MasterChef contestant, Fred Chang, expresses his appreciation for the love and support he has received from the Subtle Asian Baking (SAB) online group. Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, SAB  — a sub-group of Subtle Asian Traits — has connected over 148,000 home cooks of all levels and backgrounds across the world. 

“Being AAPI, LGBTQ, and an immigrant, it’s more often than not that you feel left out,” said Chang. “But SAB has been a great community that has been nothing but kind and receptive to bakers from all walks of life.”

In this second part, five home cooks share how they found community through Subtle Asian Traits, and what this space means to them.

Read part one here for more recipes.

Soondubu Jjigae — Korea

About the creator:

Daniel Lee started his food career as a server, eventually evolving into a craft bartender and chef apprentice in the kitchen. Even though he was a self-trained chef without prior professional experience, his passion for cooking took him coast to coast, working at high-end restaurants in California and New York City. His culinary journey was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when he pivoted into his current role as Marketing Manager at Imperia Caviar.

Tell us about your recipe:

Aside from Korean BBQ, soondubu is one of the “most popular and well known Korean dishes in America.”

“You can find yourself in Korea or in America indulging in some soondubu jjigae after long nights of drinking as a good hangover fix,” Lee said.  “[Historically] this dish became popular in the Joseon Dynasty, but we can attribute its popularity in America to Beverly Hills Tofu and BCD Tofu House in Los Angeles, CA.”

soondubu jjigae love through food daniel lee
Soondubu jjigae. Photo credit: Daniel Lee
Tell us what being a part of the Subtle Asian Traits Community means to you:

According to Lee, Subtle Asian Cooking serves as a resource to anyone interested in learning about Asian cuisine. 

“Especially at this time where Asian hate is prevalent, we are able to surpass the indifferences through our love of the cuisine,” Lee said

As one of the earlier members, Lee joined the group out of curiosity and his love of food. Being able to see the community grow has been the best part of the experience.

Vietnamese Honeycomb Cake (bánh bò nướng) — Vietnam

About the creator:

Described as “the doyenne of Asian-style home baking” by RADII China Magazine, Kat Lieu is the founder of Subtle Asian Baking (SAB). 

Formerly a doctor of physical therapy and certified lymphedema therapist, she fell in love with baking and became a full-time cookbook author, food writer, and recipe developer at modernasianbaking.com. 

Mostly self-taught, her earliest memory of baking was during her summers spent with her Vietnamese Chinese grandmother in Montreal, Canada.

Tell us about your recipe:

“I first had bánh bò nướng when I was about six years old and living with my Vietnamese  Chinese grandmother,” Lieu said. “She introduced me to many Vietnamese desserts and foods.”

Bánh bò nướng originated in the 1800s, coming from the term bánh bò (also known as “cow cake” or cake that resembles cow udders). Street vendors in Vietnam would steam cakes and make them colourful, such as green with pandan extract, to attract buyers. While this recipe is not passed down from her grandmother, it is a recipe Lieu has perfected and published in her cookbook, Modern Asian Baking at Home, after multiple recipe testings with other SAB members. 

honeycomb cake love through food kat lieu
Bánh bò nướng, or honeycomb cake. Photo credit: Kat Lieu
Tell us what being a part of the Subtle Asian Traits Community means to you:

“Since [founding Subtle Asian Baking in] 2020, I’ve made so many friends online and networked with so many people,” said Lieu.”This group is a huge part of my life now.”

From rallying hundreds of bakers to donate bake sale proceeds to #StopAsianHate, promoting fundraising events, and facilitating baking activations, Lieu has made an incredible impact on the community. To her, being part of the Subtle Asian Traits community means being part of a family and waking up with purpose every day. 

“I shine the brightest when I can build and grow something on my own, and I’m at the very right place now,” said Lieu. “Building and growing Subtle Asian Baking, and promoting the culinary innovation that is Asian baking to the world.”

Kimbap — Korea

About the creator:

Melody Kim is a Korean American born and raised in Michigan. As a mom of a five-year old son, she enjoys recreating Korean home-made meals that her mom used to make. Growing up in Korean culture where food is eaten communally, Kim believes that when you eat with other people, you get both physical and emotional nourishment.

Previously a community manager and editorial director for an Asian pop culture website, she now lives in San Jose working as a content designer. As a committed volunteer of Subtle Asian Traits, her goal is to ensure that everyone feels included.

Tell us about your recipe:

Kimbap is a Korean dish that consists of rice, veggies and meat rolled up in dried seaweed. Every household, however, has their own recipe. 

“Because the preparation is a bit labor-intensive, my mom usually only made kimbap on special trips, so I associate kimbap with good memories of enjoying the outdoors,” said Kim. It is portable and convenient, so Koreans usually bring this on picnics and hikes. 

“[These memories are] what I’m now passing onto my five-year-old son, who now expects me to prepare a kimbap for him if we are going hiking!”

kimbap love through food Melody Kim
Kimbap. Photo credit: Melody Kim
Tell us what being a part of the Subtle Asian Traits Community means to you:

“Growing up in Michigan in the 1980s and ’90s, I was always one of the only Asian students in the entire school,” said Kim. “I always felt like I had to downplay the things that set me apart from my classmates, like the fact that my parents ate kimchi and my knowledge of the Korean language.”

Online communities were where Kim felt she fit in. She discovered that other Asian Americans were going through the same things as she was, and that she wasn’t alone. 

“It’s not quite the same [now] as it was in my day,” she said. “The younger generation is so much more open about the struggles they’ve faced, and so much more willing to embrace their vulnerability. [This community] is a positive reminder that the Asian American community is growing and learning and thriving.”

Mango sticky rice macaron — Thailand

About the creator:

A self-taught baker from Thailand, Tanantha Couilliard brings Asian-inspired components to her baking. Cooking is her therapy, and when she’s not cooking, she likes to explore different cuisines. 

Tell us about your recipe:

Also known as Kao Niew Mamuong, Kao-rice, Niew-sticky or Mamuang-mango, mango sticky rice is a summer dessert dish when mangoes are at their best. This dessert has been with the Thai people for a very long time, but has since evolved into a traditional dessert throughout Southeast Asia and South Asia.  

“I’m a macaron maker/lover, born and raised in Thailand,” Couilliard said. “I feel that there are endless ways to create these cookies [and] flavors. I’d like my macarons to reflect who I am and my roots.”

As a result, she transformed this all-time favorite dessert into a macaron to connect people to Thai sweet delicacies.

“Hopefully this mango sticky rice macaron will virtually transport you to the warm climate of Thailand, and as a special bonus it can be enjoyed all year round,” said Couilliard.

mango sticky rice macaron love through food tanantha couilliard
Mango sticky rice macaron. Photo credit: Tanantha Couilliard
Tell us what being a part of the Subtle Asian Traits Community means to you:

“I joined the Subtle Asian Baking group because my friend kept sending me all these cute bakes,” Couilliard said. “Everyone is so talented and kind to share their creativity and recipes.”

However, to her, this community was more than just sharing recipes. “[This is] a community that represents your voice and makes a difference in this chaotic world. I’m just proud to be a part of it,” she said.

Egg dumplings — China

About the creator:

Born and raised in a melting pot of cultures in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jonathan Kong developed a diverse palette and respect for what each culture brought to the table. 

His fascination in food started in a loud and crowded kitchen with his aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Family get-togethers were a regular occurrence and often resembled their own version of Chopped or Hell’s Kitchen as the members shared their newest creations. During the pandemic, he started a foodie account on instagram to help promote small businesses that were impacted by the pandemic. He continues to be on the hunt for the next tasty spots around the SF Bay area with his wife and Covid corgi, Tato.

Tell us about your recipe:

Egg dumplings (or dan jiao) are a “must-have” dish during Chinese New Year festivities because their shape and color resemble traditional gold nuggets. Eating them at the start of the New Year symbolizes good fortune for the coming year. 

This dish is an example of how patience and hard work can turn the simplest ingredients into a flavourful creation.

“This is one of the first dishes that [my grandmother] taught me because she said if I could fry an egg, I could make an egg dumpling,” Kong said. “Now that she’s gotten older and doesn’t cook as much, my sisters, cousins, and I [are continuing] the tradition… and to see who’s got the egg folding technique down!”

egg dumplings loove through food jonathan kong
Egg dumplings. Photo credit: Jonathan Kong
Tell us what being a part of the Subtle Asian Traits Community means to you:

“I grew up without the confidence to share or be proud of my culture in public as much as I would have wished,” Kong said. “At times I felt embarrassed because the lunch my mom gave me wasn’t your standard PB&J and chips.” After stumbling upon Subtle Asian Traits, he found a safe space where he was able to share the experiences of growing up in an Asian household without judgment. 

“Being part of the Subtle Asian Traits Facebook community has shown me that I’m not alone,” he said. “I can even laugh at some of the ways in which I was raised in a second generation Asian American household. It’s still the internet of course, so you take it with a grain of heavy salt sometimes, but these groups [allow] you to embrace the unique traits and differences within.”


For these recipe innovators and members, the Subtle Asian Traits community has become a place of pride, solace and joy. Watching the community come together through their culinary passions is a testament to the power of storytelling through food and how it can truly bring individuals closer together within and beyond the Asian community.  

And check out part one of “Love Through Food” for more recipes and stories.


ABOUT SUBTLE ASIAN GROUPS: Founded as a safe space for shared experiences among Asians growing up in Western culture, the Subtle Asian Traits Facebook group has spawned a global movement uniting over 2 million members and counting since its inception in 2018. The movement has gone on to inspire an ecosystem of “Subtle Asian” online communities, including Subtle Curry Traits, Subtle Asian Baking and Subtle Asian Cooking.

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