Place an order with The Wonton Project, and you can chow down on steamed or crispy fried wontons in support of organizations fighting anti-Asian racism. The ghost kitchen is the newest concept from restaurateur Ellen Yin (Fork, High Street Hospitality Group), who’s turning to her mother’s dumpling recipe to raise money for Asian Americans United and Advancing Justice. All proceeds go to the two nonprofits.
Soft launched in mid-April, the project was inspired by #doughsomething, a national, chef-driven campaign created in response to the nationwide spike in anti-Asian harassment and discrimination, and the March 16 shooting in Atlanta that killed eight people, including six Asian women.
“No race or culture or religion should have to suffer discrimination or racism. I think that should be obvious to everyone, but food is something that can connect people,” says Yin. “I’ve always thought one day I’d like to open a restaurant that celebrates my mother’s food, but everyone knows what a dumpling is and everyone loves dumplings.”
Yin’s dumplings are Shanghai-style, made with a thin skin, and filled to the brim with locally farmed pork, shrimp, and scallions, seasoned with white pepper, soy sauce, and sesame oil. About eight ounces of meat is stuffed into every order of 12.
“My mother is from Shanghai and my father from Hunan, but since my mother’s the chef, she won, and we have shrimp in our recipe,” says Yin. “I’ve run a Eurocentric restaurant for 24 years, but my mother taught me how to make wontons when I was growing up, and we’d sit around the table making them with my siblings and grandmother. It’s comfort food.”
The Wonton Project is open for delivery or pickup Wednesday through Sunday (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Choose between fried dumplings paired with a mustard dipping sauce, or steamed and served with a side of sesame-seasoned chicken broth. There’s a vegetable add-on, too, “beautiful blanched brassicas that taste like Chinese broccoli,” says Yin.
The project raised $2,000 in its first two weeks. The goal is to raise at least $10,000 by the end of May. After, Yin is contemplating turning it into a bigger initiative.
She’s also focused on The Wonton Project Instagram account, using it to highlight the stories of local Asian Americans, like Councilmember At-Large Helen Gym and University of Pennsylvania professor Angela Duckworth, in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
“Asians are doing so much — there are so many Asian leaders and people who are instrumental to their field right here in our own community. I’m just trying to help get their stories shared,” says Yin.
Where to donate to support Philly’s AAPI communities
Since the pandemic began, hate speech and violence against the AAPI community has spiked nationwide. If you want to show support on a local level, there are plenty of AAPI organizations that you can donate to directly, through May and beyond.
One of those is Asian Americans United, which focuses on fighting anti-Asian violence and building up Philly’s Asian communities (and is receiving 50% of The Wonton Project proceeds). (The other 50% will go to the national nonprofit Advancing Justice, a group that advocates for civil and human rights for Asian Americans).
Here are other Philly-area organizations to check out.
Founded in 2015 by a group of classical Khmer dancers, CAGE creates a safe space to explore Khmer American arts, culture, and identities. The organization offers a variety of programming, including workshops, dance classes, and Khmer classical and folk dance performances. Learn more/donate here.
Started in 2017, KITHS is a community-based nonprofit that helps immigrants and refugees with limited English skills navigate essential social services, including medical care, social security, and immigration services. KITHS primarily serves the Cambodian community in Logan and Olney, and recently has been focused on educating people about COVID-19 vaccines, facilitating registration, and translating at vaccine clinics. Learn more/donate here.
Founded by the owners of Hardena, Kampoeng’s mission is to preserve and promote traditional Indonesian culture in Philadelphia through community service and events. During the pandemic, this included distributing monthly care packages (food, masks, and hand sanitizer) to the South Philly Indonesian community, as well as hosting a festival with food, dance, and more, to support community businesses. Learn more/donate here.
VietLead has served the Vietnamese and Southeast Asian communities in Philadelphia and South Jersey since 2015, offering community programs focused on everything from intergenerational farming to civic empowerment to health education to legal assistance and support during ICE check-ins. Learn more/donate here.
Philly Asian Queer (PAQ)
PAQ is a volunteer, social organization that strives to engage the area’s queer Asian and Pacific Islander communities through advocacy, social, and supportive programming. Learn more here. To donate, visit William Way Center’s donate page. Fill out the “dedicate” section with “Philly Asian & Queer” as the name and email@example.com as the email.
For more than 50 years, PCDC has worked to preserve, protect, and promote Chinatown and prevent outside forces from displacing the community. The nonprofit offers an array of services to support Chinatown’s low-income immigrant community, including homeownership and financial literacy programs; assistance navigating health insurance, unemployment, and other social services; and educational opportunities for youth, such as SAT prep. Learn more/donate here.
Asian Mosaic Fund (AMF)
AMF helps support AAPI organizations by organizing donors and awarding grants that provide financial support to Asian-led and Asian-serving nonprofits across the region. Learn more/donate here.
Asian Arts Initiative is a multidisciplinary arts center offering exhibitions, performances, artist residencies, youth workshops, and a community gathering space. Since 1993, the organization has used art to explore history, culture, and present-day conversations of Asian Americans. Learn more/donate here.
Based in West Philadelphia, Moder Patshala provides after-school programming, ESL classes, technology literacy classes, and other educational programming for Bangladeshi Americans and other immigrant students. Learn more/donate here.
The Woori Center organizes Korean and Asian Americans towards social, racial, and economic justice. Located in Landsdale, the center provides immigration services, organizes immigrant rights advocacy and civic engagement campaigns, develops youth leadership, and provides arts and culture programming. Learn more/donate here.
For more than 30 years, CAGP has provided bilingual social, health, and education programs for Cambodian refugees and their families, many of whom are survivors of the Cambodian genocide or descendants of survivors. Learn more/donate here.
Asian Americans United (AAU)
AAU builds leadership and fights oppression within Philadelphia’s Asian communities through youth empowerment and arts and culture programming. Learn more/donate here.
AACCGP is a membership nonprofit that supports and promotes Asian American businesses and leaders. Its initiatives include connecting Asian businesses to non-Asian businesses and serving as the liaison for corporations seeking relationships with the Asian community. Learn more/donate here.
Laos in the House promotes the cultural legacy of the Lao American refugee community through storytelling and the arts. Learn more/donate here.
Based in West Philadelphia, Al-Bustan serves to educate those of all ages on Arab heritage, and offers an array of programming designed to celebrate diversity and enrich cross-cultural understanding. Learn more/donate here.
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