May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island). The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
This month we will love to highlight our Florida member, Doretta Leung, MS, RD, LD/N, CLC, who is from Chinese cultural background. Her Chinese name is Lai Ying. Doretta has been an RD for almost 15 years and has been employed at Nemours as a Pediatric Clinical Dietitian for the past 5 years.
Enjoy knowing Doretta and her favorite cultural recipe.
1. Why did you pursue the dietetics profession and how did your ethnicity play into that decision?
I had an interest in nutrition since my early childhood. While I was walking down the street in Hong Kong, China, I see cases of fresh fruits and vegetables on one side of the street and live stocks on the other. I enjoy the taste of freshness since I was young. As I grew up and got my degree in nutrition, I realized that many things will impact the freshness of food. This is the reason why I became a Registered Dietitian and why I love working in the community to bring awareness of the importance of good nutrition.
2. What are some of the challenges and/or triumphs you have faced as an RDN?
I would say one of the challenges that I faced as a pediatric RDN is the ability to separate my cultural belief and nutritional recommendations at times. For example, in my culture, fish is the first thing that we introduce to an infant around 6 months of age, however, American Pediatrics Association’s recommendation had changed over the years relating to this topic. I had to be cautious and use up-to-date recommendations when counseling family. Even though this is a challenge, it also provides some triumphs as well, I can introduce my culture’s food and the way we prepare certain food such as congee, tofu, steamed yolk, etc. to the family.
3. What are some of your favorite ethnic/traditional foods and why is it your favorite?
I love the way that we prepare our food with steaming. In the Chinese culture, we steam our food a lot such as steamed fish, steamed bun, steamed chicken, steamed eggs, steamed shrimp, etc. Not only would this provide a healthier way, but it is also very delicious. One of my favorite dishes is the steamed chicken – where there is a green onion and ginger sauce that goes along with it. Yum yum!
4. Can you share with us any cultural customs related to food and/or health?
We have to sit down as a family to eat, as dishes are prepared on plates. For example, main dishes are placed in the middle of the table for everyone to grab. Each family member will get a rice bowl and we would share the food that is in the middle. This way we are sitting down and having a conversation as a family, we also can try different dishes at the same time (I feel kids are less picky because of this).
5. What steps do you take to counsel a patient from a different culture or racial group?
I would first be an active listener and will ask questions if it is a food that I am not familiar with. Then, I would review the food through an online search and review the nutritional contents of the food. At last, I would provide my professional recommendations based on the information gathered.
6. What advice do you have for dietitians, DTRs and dietetic students/interns about diversity, equity and inclusivity in the dietetics profession?
I would advise one not to be afraid to ask questions and not to be afraid if it is a food that you don’t know. I would recommend approaching the situation with curiosity and with the approach of willingness to learn. At last, after gathering information, you would provide your professional guidance accordingly.
Asian Stuffed Jalapeno (made with ground chicken and shrimp)
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time10 mins
• 15-20 Jalapeno cut in halves and take out seeds
• ½ tablespoon corn starch sprinkle on jalapeno
• ¼ cup corn oil to fry
• 2-3 tablespoons of water
• ½ pound ground chicken
• 10-14 large shrimp deveined and peeled then mince
• ½ tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 tablespoon corn starch
1. Cut off the stems of the jalapeno. Cut jalapeno in half and take out the seeds. Make sure you wear gloves to do this so your hands don’t burn later.
2. Mince the shrimp until it forms a paste.
3. To make the filling, mix ground chicken, minced shrimp, soy sauce, salt, olive oil, and corn starch. Mix in one direction for five minutes until the filling is gelatinous and sticks together.
4. Sprinkle some corn starch on the inside of the jalapeno to ensure that the filling sticks to the jalapeno during frying. If you skip this step, the filling and the jalapeno might fall apart during cooking.
5. Place the filling in the jalapeno and press down to ensure it sticks to the jalapeno.
6. Heat pan to medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add 2-3 tbs oil. You may need to fry the stuffed jalapenos in a few batches. Overcrowding them will make them not as crispy.
7. Fry jalapenos for 3 minutes with a cover. Then, add 2 tbs of water to the pan and cover for 2 minutes.
8. Flip the jalapeno over. Fry for one more minute. Enjoy with some hot rice!
** You can replace Jalapeno with yellow or orange peppers using the same ingredients.
Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. The day is also known as Battle of Puebla Day. While it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, a popular misconception. Instead, it commemorates a single battle.
We will like to highlight another FAND member Dr. Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FAND is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Instagram expert, writer, and spokesperson for over 12 years. Su-Nui is a former Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson and has previously worked as the national spokeswoman for national brands for the Hispanic Market. She lives in Miami, FL runs half-marathons, and is mom to Luke.
Please tell us about your area of expertise in the field of Nutrition?
Education is my passion and through the years, I had the opportunity to educate nutrition professionals and the general public in different ways. As a media dietitian, dietetic internship director, blogger, and book author, I had the opportunity to transform complex evidence-based information into information applicable to their personal lives or practice. I also love cooking and helping people enjoy their traditional foods in a healthier way.
What are some of your health-related values, beliefs, and practices?
I believe you have to treat yourself well, and that starts with eating healthy, exercising, and being kind to yourself. Once you take care of yourself, it is easiest to take care of others.
Do you avoid eating any foods for your cultural or religious reasons? Which ones and why?
Not really, my culture does not limit foods. I add more foods to my family meals because of my culture but do not really subtract any.
What steps do you take to counsel a patient from a different culture and racial group?
First, I have a conversation to understand they food habits and ask about their cultural preferences. I believe that while culture impacts how we eat, it is not our whole story.
For example, you can be counseling to a black male patient but when talk to him you find out that the patient is Caribean Black, thus his culture will be very different to an African American. There are too many variables in the way people eat so it is important to individualize our nutrition counseling.
How do you celebrate the Mexican New Year and what traditions do you follow?
Could you please clarify your question? For what I am aware, we celebrate New Year in a similar way to Americans. However, Mexico is large and there are traditions that I might not be familiar with.
What is your message to our fellow dietitians?
Our culture makes us unique and can give us incredible opportunities to serve the public and our patients better.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar Blog: Menopausebetter.com