UCSF Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month With Food

The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage month in a unique way–with food.

UCSF is already known for serving excellent food as its hospitals at Mount Parnassus, Mission Bay and Mount Zion. It’s a point of pride for the hospital system, which ranks in the top 10 hospitals nationwide. Food is treated as part of the healing journey at UCSF, and it’s also a way to connect with the Bay Area’s unique cultures.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have had a huge impact on the Bay Area for more than a century, and UCSF’s nutrition services department is celebrating that heritage with unique menu items that incorporate traditional flavors reflecting AAPI heritage.

UCSF is celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

For UCSF, this doesn’t just mean throwing some sushi into the display case in their cafeterias or offering a teriyaki chicken breast. UCSF has already taken those basics steps, and Asian-inspired dishes already appear on their regular menus. For AAPI heritage month, they’ve taken things further, highlighting classic dishes (many of them comfort food) that many people won’t have tried before.

A Taste of Hawaii

Earlier this week, for example, UCSF offered a Huli Huli bowl in its cafeterias. Huli Huli chicken has been part of Polynesian culture since the 1950s. UCSF’s bowl featured grilled marinated chicken breast or mushrooms with the traditional Huli Huli sauce (it tastes much like teriyaki), as well as coconut rice, macaroni salad and pineapple mango salsa, all served over a bed of lettuce.

Huli Huli bowl

I tried the bowl on Monday. The Huli Huli chicken had a tasty, sweet, grilled flavor, almost like a bourbon chicken with a bit more sweetness. The coconut rice and pineapple mango salsa added a nice fruity undertone, and the macaroni salad added an unexpected bit of homestyle comfort. It felt like a light and healthy meal, especially with all the lettuce and greens.

Other meals during the month will feature West African ingredients, and other combinations that will feel exotic and new to many Americans. It’s a nice way to experience elements of a new culture, while also eating in a way that would make UCSF’s many nutritionists proud.

Unfortunately you can’t try UCSF’s AAPI Heritage Month dishes unless you work at UCSF or are a patient. Still, it’s great to see a local institution taking a creative approach to celebrating the month.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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