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Volume 101: April 26, 2019

Dancers in traditional Mexican and Punjabi dress in a 2015 performance of Half and Halves, a dance celebrating the Punjabi-Mexican community and its history. Photo credit: Paul Benjamin

News from the front

Updates on stories we've reported on previously
  • Last year, then-California Governor Jerry Brown pardoned a number of Cambodian Americans who were slated to be deported back to their country of birth. However, wiping their slate clean didn’t necessarily stop their deportation orders, thanks to some draconian immigration laws. One year later, Cambodian refugees are still wary.

Punjabi food + Mexican food = !!!

Remember the ramen burger? How about the cruffin or mochi donut? In 2019 A.D. (After Duffin), these fusion dishes keep poppin’ up one after the other, thanks to a monkey’s paw that just keeps curling every time Roy Choi has another wild idea.

But between the late 1800s and 1917, Punjabi men came to the United States seeking new lives, settling as farmers or tamale sellers on the West Coast, before the Immigration Act of 1917 stopped more Asians from immigrating to the U.S.

With few other Indian women in the U.S., many Punjabi men married Hispanic women—partially due to cultural similarities, and partially because when they’d show up at the county office, they could both check “brown.”

By 1940, those biracial families were going strong … with fusion Hispanic and Punjabi food to show for it.

Two words: roti quesadilla

Families quickly learned to adapt their cuisines to suit both Punjabi and Hispanic tastes. Traditional Punjabi chicken recipes would be adapted with Mexican tomato sauce. And customers of Punjabi-Mexican restaurants would order chili and beans with parathas, making their own fusion dishes.

And of course, there was the roti quesadilla: a dish with “melted cheese, onions, and shredded beef sandwiched inside a paratha [...] served with a curry chicken dipping sauce.” Which—we’re going to need to take a breather after that one.

Fusion families

In 1974, after years of discrimination from both non-Punjabi-Hispanic Punjabi and Mexican families, Punjabi Mexicans started the annual Mexican-Hindu Christmas dance, celebrating their unique heritage.

But now, the community has largely assimilated into either Indian or Mexican communities. Marriages between Punjabis and Mexicans have dwindled. And both Mexican and Indian restaurateurs have their own cultural concepts to mine.

As for that roti quesadilla? The restaurant closed a long time ago. But in 2019 After Duffin, anything’s still possible.

— Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, cronut connoisseur
Don’t forget about Indian pizza

NOW PLAYING: The Asian Prisoner Support Committee, based in Oakland, CA, provides support and advocacy for Asian and Pacific Islander prisoners who are currently incarcerated, recently released, and/or facing the threat of deportation. Their recent short documentary, THE AMBASSADORS, features Zitsue Lee, who served twenty-three years in various California prisons. After struggling with housing and employment upon release, he found work as a Chinatown Ambassador through a joint program with APSC and Asian Health Services. The documentary highlights how community revitalization and an unshakable belief in interpersonal connections are at the core of prisoner re-entry advocacy, not simply handing out second chances.

Andrew Cheng, editor, who is proud to rep the nickel-dime (wait do people still call it that?)

Journalling for a public audience

On the day I turned fourteen, I wrote a rambling mess of an entry in my LiveJournal that included this gem: “if you mix ‘terrific’ and ‘horrible’ together, you get ‘horrific’. or, you can get ‘terrible’. XD either way, it comes out bad... coincidence?” And yes, I used that emoticon. Profusely.

Claire Tran is fourteen years old and wrote an essay called “A Disney Princess in Áo Dài: Learning to Love Being Vietnamese in White America” that was chosen as a finalist for NextShark’s personal essay contest. Suffice it to say that she is going places with her writing that I can only aspire to.

We at The Slant read several moving pieces this week that left a deep impression, and we would like to share them with you all.

Here's what that means

In “Grieving the Future I Imagined for My Daughter”, Julie Kim describes with delicate tension and candor how she dealt with the news that her second child had been diagnosed with “the most common of rare syndromes” and reckons with a lifetime of the kind of parenting no one ever expects to have to do.

There is a grim hope woven through her words that will wrap around you and stay for quite a while.

What other indigenous folx are doing

While Kim’s piece dwells on the loss of an unspoken future, Matthew Salesses ponders the very nature of past, present, and future in “To Grieve Is to Carry Another Time”.

It opens with a gut punch and then wanders gently around discussions of bilingualism, the second law of thermodynamics, transnational and transracial adoption, and the psychology of memory reconstruction, like so many trees in a quiet wood.

I am going to come back to this piece and re-read it in due time, but by then, I wonder, will I still think of time in the same way I do now?

— Andrew Cheng, editor, who might one day write a personal essay about his obsession with personal essays
And here's a photo essay of kids in Chinese restaurants

On the shore, the ruined temple's 
Silent bell is cracked,
Thickened ashes falling dead,
There are no bells
Left for mourning.

— Jean Arasanayagam, Sri Lankan poet who wrote mostly about the Civil War, from "The Ruined Gopuram"

This Weekend ... 📅

  • READ AND RECOGNIZE the Chinese railroad workers of the 19th century. After 150 years, descendants of those workers are remembering their ancestors' contributions to the Transcontinental Railway. Recover the erased history of Chinese laborers in the first of five series.

  • GET ARTSY. Compared to Avengers (let’s be real, we all just want to find out how it ends), Long Day’s Journey into Night isn’t tied to a linear narrative: it's definitely an art house flick. Rolling out in U.S. theaters this weekend, forget about following the plot and indulge in this movie’s puzzling but aesthetically pleasing scenes.

  • ROOT FOR Asian American NFL prospect Taylor Rapp, and hear two time Super Bowl champion Hines Ward share his experiences in the NFL as a fellow Asian American. See how Rapp plans to change the perception of Asian Americans in the NFL and “turn that hate into wins.”

  • LEARN HOW ELECTIONS ARE WON. Supporters of India's current prime minister, Narendra Modi, can't vote in the upcoming election if they're NRIs (Non-Resident Indians). But that won’t stop them from doing what they can. Learn how Angeleno NRIs are leveraging their success (and WhatsApp groups) to influence their contacts in India to vote for Modi.

  • JUST ADD WATER or rather, remove it. Sarah Paiji, founder of Blueland, developed a cleaning spray in the form of a tablet that will not only be more sustainable, but also reduce the amount of disposable plastic. Maybe I'll start cleaning the bathroom more often too.

This week's stories are curated by Andrew Cheng, editor, and Marina Cheung, contributor, who says “happy birthday Andrew!” Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at

The Slant is brought to you by:


Brian Hsieh • Marina Cheung • Billy Huang • Kevin Lin • Paulina Dao


AJ Grey • Delwin Lau • Mandy Diec • Carl Shan


Patrick Trinh • Lloyd Lee • Emily Chi • Naomi Iwata • Kyla Hsia


Gloria Lin • Yi Cao • Cat Xia • Curtis Leung


Crystal Shei • Jerome Finuliar • Ryan Ikeda • Meher Kohli • Matt Young • Sooyun Choi • Abby Wang • Tracey Baumann • Mika Kennedy • James Boo • Chris Moe • Alexander Quion • Jeffrey Wang • Vivi Nguyen


Angela Yang • Diane Lee • Katherine Chin • Paul Kerr • Talisa Chang • Claire Tran • Sara Mitchell • Teresa Nguyen

our constellations that we'll always find on our first try.

See ya next time.
Copyright © 2019 The Slant, All rights reserved.

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