Three Asian-American Women Explore Culture and Identity Chinese New Year Pop-Up in San Antonio

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Anne Ng (far left), Jennifer Ling Datchuk (center), Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin (right), the women behind Best Quality Daughter - JESSICA ELIZARRARAS
  • Jessica Elizarraras
  • Anne Ng (far left), Jennifer Ling Datchuk (center), Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin (right), the women behind Best Quality Daughter

Chinese New Year is upon us and it's the Year of the Dog. Or because it's 2018, it's the year of the doggo. And celebrations across San Antonio are as varied as the city itself, ranging from intimate feasts to raucous ragers, and for three San Antonio women, it's a bit of both. Check out our list of how you can celebrate the Lunar New Year across SA. 

Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin, realtor and co-owner of Tenko Ramen, has been meeting with artist Jennifer Ling Datchuk every Friday for the past several weeks. The impromptu Joy Luck Club, turned into sessions where the friends would chat about what it was like growing up as Chinese Americans, having Chinese mothers and white fathers and all that comes with it.

The two met after Dobbertin returned from teaching English in Thailand for six years.

"The trip was very influential on how I consider my ethnicity as an Asian person," Dobbertin said. "In the states I was never fully American, I was the half-Asian girl that couldn't speak Chinese, and couldn't fit in any specific box, but in Thailand I was the American and that left me with a weird kind of identity crisis that I didn't realize at the time when I was there."

"We immediately connected when [Jennifer Ling Datchuk] and I first met," she went on. "We're both half Chinese, half white; we use our mothers maiden names as our middle names and Germanic father's names as our last names."

The similarities of being a Third Culture kid, a term used to refer to children raised in a culture other than their parents', only grew for the two women. Both had complicated relationships with their mothers, always dealing with a push toward docile while wanting to resist being put in a box.

"As a young girl, I was taught to be a dutiful daughter and young woman. This meant I was to be seen and not heard," Ling Datchuk said on an Instagram post.
As the lunar new year approached on February 16, the pair decided to celebrate it their own unique way that focuses on that tension felt from withholding "tiger moms," a fraught identity as the antithesis to quiet, submissive women and food they grew up with, and so Best Quality Daughter, a pop-up dinner series was born. The first dinner will take place February 24 at 7 p.m. inside Ivy Hall.

"We're also in this moment that's very particular to women," Dobbertin said. "The climate in our country right now, voting in a man like Donald Trump, the me too movement. It just makes you want to be loud and claim our voices back."
The menu for the family-style Chinese New Year celebration will feature dishes the women remember from their childhoods. They invited Anne Ng of Bakery Lorraine, who's family also fled Communist China like Ling Datchuk's mother, who came to the U.S. as a refugee after finding British controlled Hong Kong still too close to the turmoil of the '70s.

For Ng, being part of the pop-up meant learning traditional Chinese pastries, which she never attempted before.

"They were always available, and I never thought to learn how to make them," Ng said.

Careful not to heavy-handedly "reinvent" or "elevate" the food , the menu is comprised of Chinese charcuterie (Hainese chicken, Sichuan beef tendon, tea-smoked salmon, sesame marinated jellyfish, century duck eggs, soy-braised peanuts, assorted pickles; mains (xiao long bao or soup dumplings, fish fragrant sticky eggplant, Taiwanese pork noodles, gai-lan with oyster sauce and crispy garlic, and teochew-braised duck with garlic chili vin and jasmine rice; and dessert (silken ginger curd with kumquat preserve and black tea pearls, snow skin moon cakes with green tea and red bean ganache fillings, and black sesame nougat). Cocktails will be provided by Cinco and Seersucker Gin; beer from K√ľnstler Brewing.

"The one thing that moms always knew how to express their love for us was through cooking and nourishing," Dobbertin said.

"We celebrate Year of the Dog as Year of the Bitch because we have powerful voices and intentions. Like dogs, best quality daughters are loyal, honest, stubborn and respect other perspectives. We believe as long as we work hard, we'll make it," Ling Datchuk's post continued.

Ling Datchuk's solo October exhibit, "Girl You Can" utilized that conflict between cultural appreciation, appropriation and reappropriation, and used "porcelain, blue-and-white patterns, stereotypically Asian motifs, textiles, video and photography" and guests at the dinner will explore that further with centerpieces of Mao and commemorative ceramic plates by the artist to take home.

Tickets, $108 per person, can be purchased through bestqualitydaughter.com.

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