Fighting Adult Acne

DEPT Mind and Body
Issue Fall 2013
Author Anna M. Park

HED: Fight the Blight

Acne affects 40 to 50 million Americans; nearly 85 percent of all people have acne at some point in their lives.  And while acne medications abound to treat this most common skin disorder in the U.S., more and more experts are recommending lifestyle and diet changes to fight adult acne.

The best explanation I have ever found on adult acne is in celebrity dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu’s book, Feed Your Face (  Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Wu espouses that what you eat does affect your complexion.  According to Dr. Wu, “Women with adult acne also tend to have higher levels of insulin in their blood, elevated androgens (the male sex hormone), and higher rates of insulin resistance than those without.”  Androgens naturally spike around ovulation, which can lead to hormonal acne, usually showing up on the chin, neck, and jawline.  While there’s not much you can do about PMS (the hormone associated with increased oil production and clogged pores), there  are things you can do to minimize the hormonal effects on your complexion.


Avoid high glycemic index foods.

High-sugar and refined carbs cause your blood sugar to spike, which stimulates your body to pump out insulin.  This in turn increases androgen levels, excess oil, and skin cell production, all of which lead to clogged pores and breakouts.  In other words, no white rice or bread, and limit sugars, including processed luncheon meats, ketchup and pasta sauces.

Cut out full-fat milk and dairy.

Even organic cow’s milk contains hormones, which have been shown to elevate insulin production the way white bread does.

Avoid foods high in iodine like eggs, seaweed, sushi rolls, and salty food.

Eat more zinc-rich foods like lean red meat, lentils, and raw oysters, which fight inflammation and acne- causing bacteria.

Eat more Omega-3s found in almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, and cold- water fish like salmon or tuna, which fight inflammation and decreases the hormone associated with increased oil production and clogged pores.

Diana Seo also believes that what goes into our body is reflected on the outside.  As founder and president of B Spa Bar Salon in New York, Seo incorporates both Eastern and Western techniques to maintain balance and a healthy life.  By using a system similar to the way ancient Chinese herbalists map the face, Seo can often tell the cause of the acne.  If the breakout occurs near the jawline, it is usually hormonal; cheek acne may be lung-related; stomach issues often lead to breakouts on the mouth or chin; acne on the nose relates to the heart.

To treat adult acne, Seo will put her clients on a detox program using GliSODin Skin Nutrients powder for 15 days.  She encourages clients to drink a lot of water and eat lots of colorful veggies and fruit, and to consume less sugar, salty foods, and processed foods. She also likes LED light to treat blemishes.  At B Spa Bar, she utilizes the ANSR: BEAM, a two-in-one device that utilizes blue LED light to treat blemishes followed by red LED light to increase collagen production and reduce redness.

Finally, says Seo, change your nighttime routine.  Shower and cleanse at night before going to bed — your skin heals itself during sleep.  Sleep on your back, not on your side or face down, to avoid clogging pores. And change your pillow covers often to avoid getting the dirt on your pillow onto your face.

This was originally featured in Audrey Magazine’s Fall 2013 issue, but has been edited to be posted.




Thanksgiving Aftermath Stress and Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast

HED: Blast Off

DEPT Mind and Body
Issue Fall 2012
Author Hilal Nakiboglu

Thanksgiving is over and now it’s time to physically and mentally rid ourselves of the Thanksgiving stress.  That includes food preparation, the black Friday shopping, and getting rid of the “side effects” of our indulgences.  When we saw Ani Phyo’s book, Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast, we knew we had to try it to test its results.  Here we question the Korean American organic chef and self proclaimed ‘eco-stylist’ about her incredible 15 day claim.

Audrey Magazine: What was your relationship with food like growing up?

Ani Phyo:  Well, my dad had a terminal illness. He was raised in North Korea and there was tuberculosis in the water supply. The antibiotics they distributed were too strong and Dad had kidney failure as a result. He ended up having to get a kidney transplant and then he extended his life 10 or 12 years beyond what was expected because we moved out of the city and into the Catskills, this mountain town literally in the middle of nowhere. There was one main street, one block of stores and that’s it. We had five acres of land and my parents grew their own food.

AM: Organic?

AP: It was more than organic. Totally natural. No chemicals. Every morning my mother would go out and see whatever was ripe and from that she’d make vegetable juice. A lot of that was because my dad was sick. So I ended up being raised on a heavily raw diet.

AM: What do you mean by “raw?”

AP: Whole food. Unprocessed. That’s how traditional Korean food is, too, actually. It comes from the earth. It’s food that’s not manufactured. That’s a raw food diet and that’s pretty much how we ate. Growing up, I saw firsthand how food is really medicine and how you can use food to create health and increase longevity and boost your immune system.

AM: And then you left home for college.

AP: (Laughs) Right. When I went to college it was, oh my gosh, like a smorgasbord of all this food I never got to have. All the deep-fried cheese, the pizzas and pastas, the white flour, cakes and cookies. I gained a lot of weight.

AM: How much weight?

AP: About 20 pounds. And my cholesterol skyrocketed to almost 300. I went back home for Thanksgiving and my mother was shocked. I never had a weight issue growing up, so she knew how to get me back. She said, “There’s a reason we brought you up on those foods.”

AM: So what’s your advice for the college-bound?

AP: Avoid everything white: white flour, white sugar; avoid dairy. Gravitate toward whole food as much as possible. The salad bar is a good bet.

AM: And if you stumble, there’s always the 15-Day Fat Blast to get you back on track. But why 15 days? Is there a magic to that number?

AP: In 15 days you’re eliminating common allergens, which help reduce inflammation in your body. So you will immediately notice that you feel lighter, tighter, leaner because that swelling has decreased. You also have more energy because there’s nothing challenging or draining your system. We’re eliminating the foods that bog us down and replacing them with fruits and vegetables, with all these nutrients that our bodies need. We want our bodies to hum, like a well-oiled machine. That’s why we need to give our bodies rocket fuel, not low-grade, watered-down fuel. When we switch to rocket fuel, we not only become leaner and tighter but we gain mental clarity. We can focus better. We feel better. We are better.



To test the proclaimed results of Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast, I took on the 15-day challenge.  Continue reading to see how I fared as I tried the raw food diet!


I’ve been eating like a Jersey Shore cast member. I can’t go on having sandwich meat
straight out of the refrigerator and calling it “lunch”.   Maybe that’s cute when you’re 21
and drunk and it’s 3 am, but that’s not my life. I’m a grownup. Let’s do this.

Day 1: Start morning with blueberry shake. Over the first three days, Ani promises to dissolve the “caked-on engine crud” that slows us down. Mmm, engine crud.

Day 2: Recipes include goji berries, camu camu, and chlorella. I’m thinking a trip to the
health food store is in order. I’m also thinking: new blender.

Day 3: Love in the time of chlorella! So far so good: feeling full, feeling focused.

Day 4: Realizing there are a lot of smoothies involved in this. “Liquid lunch” now has a
whole new meaning.

Day 5: Diet promises to send my energy soaring, my “health markers positively upward,” and to launch my mood, skin, body into highest stratospheres of hotness. Fully expect to become Gisele Bündchen.

Day 6: Feeling light, alert, and totally self-righteous. Like Gisele after a Master Cleanse.

Day 7: Had a dream last night about deep dish pizza shaped like the President. What could it mean? Pondering over morning shake.

Day 8: On today’s menu: cucumber soup. Must go grocery shopping again. Luckily, Ani
provides list.

Day 9: Pleasant bonus of Fat Blast Diet: fab hair! Am aglow. Channeling Princess
Kate. Not-so-pleasant bonus: frequent bathroom breaks. Channeling pregnant ladies

Day 10: Ani says: “Be honest … and get rid of the anchors that may be holding you
down from blasting off into the body and life you want.” Hmm …

Day 11: Collard rolls. Can we not and say we did?

Day 12: Ani wants me to “begin a gratitude practice.” Am grateful the collard rolls are
behind me.

Day 13: An abundance of energy today. They should call this the “roar-food diet.”

Day 14: Today’s Beauty Berry Shake was divine. Am an expert at working new
blender, and now qualified for employment at Jamba Juice.

Day 15: Starting weight: 114 lbs. End weight: 108 lbs. My skin is clear, my hair
healthier. So long engine crud!


This was originally posted in Audrey Magazine’s 2012 Fall Issue, but has been edited to be reposted.

DEPT Mind and Body
Issue Fall 2012
Author Hilal Nakiboglu






Looking For The Perfect Holiday Gift? Check Out Designer Hanh Nguyen’s Beautiful, Wearable Art

While most designers work to push out two to three seasonal collections a year, Hanh Nguyen aims for creating one solid group of work that represents a special combination of hand drawn illustrations and graphic designs with contemporary fits.  Looking through the sketches and reading what Nguyen has to say about her work reveals that time is the best factor for producing garments imbued with quality and all the things that have influenced her from her childhood through each collection she has lovingly prepared.  From washing and dying individual pieces for unique color variances on limited edition tops to handling all the silk screening of her artwork, Nguyen ensures perfection on every piece she makes available on her website.  Keep reading to for a personal look into Nguyen’s work and life!


Image Courtesy Of


Image Courtesy Of Hanh Nguyen

Audrey Magazine: Which came first, your love for fashion or your love for art?
Hanh Nguyen: Love for art came first. I probably didn’t know what fashion was when I first picked up those markers and doodled all over my house’s wall.

AM: Can you walk us through the process of first initial illustration to final garments for your current Crystallize collection, and what inspired the theme?
HN: All my collections start with an inspiration and I search for them everywhere. From what I have come across with during my personal life during my travels, the music I listen to, and other people’s artwork that makes me wander.

For Crystallize, I thought about how beautiful it is when you take chances to fulfill your dreams and things kind of blossom into place, like crystal forming.  For example, I’ve always wanted to live abroad in Italy to gain more fashion experience and then that happened in 2007. After I graduated from my fashion degree, I got this really boring job that wasn’t related to what I studied. So within a month’s plan, I decided to take off to Italy and spent a year there to study graphic design, which lead me to my signature style of combining artwork with fashion. Long story short, that year in Europe was one of the best times of my life. I spent that Summer interning in Amsterdam and met my husband in Berlin.

After I found my inspiration, I would create the initial artwork and then make different versions of it to fit it into the bodies.

AM: What do you feel is the main challenge of combining illustrations with fashion design? Each collection you create seems very well balanced in such a way that one doesn’t over power the other.
HN: I think the biggest challenge is how to create different artworks that can tie together as a story and aesthetically.

AM: We loved seeing men sporting the Winter Garden collection just as much as women, how did it feel to see your work being adored all around?
HN: It literally puts a smile on my face.  That’s why I love being out at the markets.  I get to see people trying on and buying my work.  And seeing men trying on and buying them confirms that the tomboy in me lives through my work.


The Jelena Fleece On Julien And Designer Hanh Nguyen, Image Courtesy Of

AM: How soon after releasing each collection did you start planning for your next?
HN: Pretty much right after.

AM: Finally, any hints for what next year’s collection may be about?
HN: I will be doing a part II collection of Crystallize by adding a drop of color and denim!

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Party Season is Here! Audrey Helps You Get Through the Holiday Season

’Tis the season to indulge, so go ahead — don’t let us be a wet blanket on the festivities. Just heed a bit of pre-party advice to minimize post-party fallouts.  And when you’ve binged to your heart’s content, we’ve got a few tips to help you recover.




* Two weeks before, make sure your teeth are party-ready with Glo Science’s latest G-Vial whitening gel — just apply with a brush twice a day for 30 seconds.


* Pregame like dermatologist extraordinaire Dr. Jessica Wu, who says in her book, Feed Your Face, that she like to have a snack (try almonds!) before a big dinner to avoid overeating.

* An hour out, before you slip on that special dress, maximize your hotness with a Wei Beauty Décolletage Treatment Pad, a mask with coconut water, kelp, and free radical-fighting gingko, specifically made for the delicate skin on your chest.





* In her book, Dr. Wu recommends a dry red wine like cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir for maximum antioxidants (chardonnay, if you prefer white).  If you’re more a cocktail kind of girl, she says to go for vodka with club soda or diet tonic water.

* Don’t forget to hydrate with a glass of water after every drink.  That’ll also help you moderate your drinking.

* After all that rich, scrumptious food, chew gum with xylitol, like Trident, to freshen breath.




* Whatever you do, don’t forget to take off your makeup.  Keep Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water Cloths on your nightstand to remove even waterproof makeup with mineral-rich water from Japan’s Yumura Hot Springs — no tugging and no rinsing required.


* In the morning, apply cotton balls soaked in soy milk (squeeze out the excess) for five minutes to reduce swelling, hydrate skin, and constrict veins in bloodshot eyes, says Dr. Wu.

Read more tips to get you through the holiday season in Audrey‘s Winter 2013-14 issue!





Unforgettable Gala 2015: Announcing Award Recipients

The much-anticipated 14th Annual Unforgettable Gala, hosted by Audrey Magazine and KoreAm Journal, subsidiary of London Trust Media (LTM), is rapidly drawing near!  The event, filled with glitz and glamour, is committed to celebrate and honor outstanding Asian American achievements and contributions in the field of arts and entertainment.  The evening of festivities will take place Saturday Dec.12, 2015 at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, California.


Among the honorees is Randall Park who is best known for his performances as ‘Luis Huang’ in the highly rated  ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat and as ‘Kim Jong-Un’ in Sony’sThe Interview. He will be receiving this year’s Royal Salute Mark of Respect Award. The recipient of this award is selected by an esteemed committee of Asian American leaders. Park will be recognized for his accomplishments and contributions in the Asian American community.



This year’s Journalism Achievement Award will be given to Lisa Ling for her impressive work as a host and an executive producer on CNN’s This is Life. In the show she covers controversial topics such as a notorious biker gang and the pill addictions crisis in Utah. Ling has a remarkable portfolio with past works as an Executive Producer and host of OWN’s Our America, a field correspondent for the The Oprah Winfrey Show, and on ABC News’ Nightline




Steven Yeun’s performance as Gleen Rhee on AMC’s top rated show The Walking Dead has earned him this year’s Actor of the Year Award. On the big screen, Yeun recently starred opposite Michael Pitt, Brit Marling and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey in Mike Cahill’s independent Sci-Fi Drama, I Origins, which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film festival where it earned raves and was sold in one of the biggest deals at the festival. It was also recently announced that Yeun will star in and executive produce The Aquariums of Pyongyang, the film adaptation of Kang Chol-Hwan’s autobiography. Hwan was the first survivor of one of the brutal North Korean concentration camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenting the extreme conditions in these gulags and providing a personal insight into life in North Korea.




This year’s Actress of the Year Award honoree is Chloe Bennet. The actress and singer first found her fame in China with her single “Uh Oh”, released in both English and Mandarin Chinese. She performed her single in the Zebra Music Festival to benefit victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.The three day music festival opened new doors for Bennet. She was featured in print and billboard advertisements and sponsored in China for Nike, Ports 1961 and Umbro. Bennet has co-starred in Nickelodeon’s The Nightlife and she currently stars in ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.



Eugene Lee Yang has earned this year’s Male Breakout Star Award for his exceptional work as a producer, writer, director, editor, and actor at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. His performance behind and in front of the camera has made him one of the most noticeable Asian Americans on social media. As a producer, he has earned millions of views in BuzzFeed videos, including “If Disney Princes Were Real” and “Women’s Ideal Body Types Throughout History”. Yang’s on camera work also includes The Try Guys, a BuzzFeed’s comedic documentary series.




Constance Wu will be awarded  with this year’s  Female Breakout Star Award for her portrayal as the strong willed and hilarious character ‘Jessica Huang’ in ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat. Wu’s performance has earned her nominations for this year’s Critics Choice Television Award for “Best Actress in a Comedy” and Television Critics Association Award for ‘Individual Achievement in Comedy’.

Click here for full biographies on this year’s award recipients.

Be sure to check out for more information!



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Advertorial– The Total Smile and Dark Gums

What Causes Dark Gums & How Are They Treated?

Dark or discolored gums can detract from an otherwise bright smile, but in most cases they don’t indicate underlying problems with your dental health.  So what is the reason some people have dark gums?

It’s mostly about genetics, says the website of Dr. Alex Farnoosh, a cosmetic dentist in Los Angeles and one of the leading experts on gum bleaching.  “Unusual or dark gum pigmentation occurs more frequently in people with a genetic link to the Middle East or certain areas of Southern Africa, but can affect people of all races and ethnicities,” his site says.

Smoking can also darken gums, and so can “certain medications like minocycline (commonly used for treatment of acne or periodontal infection), metal-based crowns or restorations, and some systemic diseases.”

So, in many cases, there’s nothing someone can do to prevent dark gums.  The question, then, becomes how to treat them.

As cosmetic dentistry techniques such as veneers and teeth whitening become more popular, the appearance of gums is getting more attention.  Though discolored gums may be healthy, they can make people feel self-conscious and embarrassed.  The perception that there is nothing you can do to permanently alter discolored gum tissue is changing.

Business woman tablet computer

Provided by Etna Interactive

Treatment for gum discoloration begins with finding a cosmetic dentist who is also a periodontist, which requires specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease.  There are different ways to lighten dark gums.  They include:

  • –  Gum de-pigmentation surgery:  This is an invasive procedure that uses microdermabrasion techniques to actually remove the pigmented area of the gums, revealing the pinker tissue below.  The gums are numbed prior to the procedure, which takes about an hour.
  • –  Laser treatments:   Sometimes called laser gum bleaching, this procedure works essentially the same way as microdermabrasion, but it uses focused laser energy to remove the pigmented areas of the gums.  There are different laser treatments available, but they usually require multiple treatments to get the desired results.
  • –  Gum bleaching: This technique, patented by Dr. Farnoosh, can be performed alone or combined with laser treatments to get the optimal results.  It takes about an hour, and the results last for years.  There is little discomfort during the procedure, and the recovery time is short.

Regardless of the technique used, the ideal candidate for gum treatments has healthy gums and already practices good oral hygiene, so that only cosmetic concerns need to be addressed.  Finding a specialist who can distinguish between discolored gums caused by excessive melanin and black spots that are the sign of gum disease is critical.  Gum bleaching won’t help treat gum disease.

The cost of gum de-pigmentation techniques varies, of course, depending on the extent of the discoloration.  Expect to spend at least $700 to $1,000 for your treatment.  There are some home gum bleaching products available for much less, but don’t expect the results to last long.


This post was provided by Dr. Alex Farnoosh and his practice The Total Smile in Beverly Hills, CA.




Unforgettable 2015: This Year’s Royal Salute Mark of Respect Award Recipient


We are honored to have Royal Salute, one of the most coveted and admired luxury whisky brands, back with us for Audrey Magazine & KoreAm Journal‘s Unforgettable Gala of 2015.  The Unforgettable Gala is a celebrity studded, black tie event where individuals of the Asian- American community are honored for their achievements and contributions in the field of arts and entertainment.  Taking place on Saturday, December 12, 2015, the gala will include highly anticipated performances, a gourmet three course dinner, and attendance of over 500 Asian- American professionals, celebrities, and high-profile community leaders.

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My mother, Alzheimer’s, and Vietnamese Cooking

Story by Andrew Lam.

“Why don’t you call me anymore?” she asks on the phone, her voice plaintive, barely above a whisper.  “No one remembers me, no one cares if I die.”

“Mother, I called 3 days ago.”

“Liar! That never happened.”

It happened.  She just no longer can recall.

Six years ago, my mother, who is now 82, was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and her short-term memories are almost non-existent.  Unless something very dramatic—death, divorce, an accident, or a marriage—happens to those very dear to her, she retains nothing of the immediate past.  She has, too, become paranoid and house-bound.  The once vivacious, outgoing, and beautiful woman she was has become frail and depressed. Though my two older siblings and I visit my parents in Fremont practically every week, as we all live in the Bay Area, my mother nevertheless feels isolated and confused due to her increasing dementia.

But when it comes to the distant past, and especially when it involves cooking, it is another story altogether.  “Mother,” I say her on the phone, changing the subject.  “How do you make banh tom co ngu?”  It’s a Vietnamese fried shrimp cake made with yam. “Well,” she responds with no hesitation, “you need both rice powder and starch.  You need to make sure it’s of equal parts and you need to keep the head on the shrimp, that’s the best part.  You need to have good, light oil.”  She rattles off about the recipe with increasing confidence.  “Be careful, if you use too much starch, it doesn’t get crunchy.”

I already know how to make banh tom co ngu.  In fact, I learned dozens of dishes from her by simply watching or listening and occasionally assisting her in the kitchen over the years. I asked because I simply wanted to hear her talk with confidence, to have her in her element, and not in her self-pitying voice that dominates her outlook in old age—a mother abandoned.

I want my mother, that is, at her best: cooking and providing for her family.

Ever since I could remember, there was always some sort of party or another every week in our house during the war in Vietnam.  My father, a high-ranking army officer in the ARVN (Army Republic of Vietnam), always had important guests at our house.  Since I was four, I remember Vietnamese ministers, generals, visiting dignitaries, and yes, even American stars—Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, and Jennifer Jones—had grace at our dining tables during the Vietnam War.  And Mother—with the help of servants—would always be cooking and entertaining Father’s guests.  There was a war going on, but people were caring and the kitchen was always crowded with people.

If not, it was for birthdays, death anniversaries, Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Christmas Eve, where mother’s tireless cooking made our lives luxurious, celebratory, and comfortable.  I remember often waking up with the sounds of pots and pans clanging and the chopping on the cutting board down in the kitchen, and on the weekend, the delicious aroma of mother’s pho soup or bun bo hue, a spicy pork knuckle soup in beef and lemongrass broth, would infuse the entire house.

Her dishes were also elaborate.  There’s the fish dip that she made out of sea bass, dills, celery, and homemade aioli, to be eaten with shrimp crackers or fried bread.  The steamed fish head and tail are retained, but its body is made entirely of fish dip mixed with aioli, its scales made of colorful carrots and beet.  Then there’s that special gourd and mushroom soup, which is served in an actual gourd.  There’s also the grilled crab cake that’s served in its shell.

Mother was tireless in her creation.  Later on, her repertoire expanded to include Moroccan couscous, French bouillabaisse, Spanish paella, and when she couldn’t find key ingredients, she found substitutes—turmeric for saffron, homemade sausage for Chorizo, and shitake for porcini.

In Dalat, Vietnam, a French-built hillside station full of Lycee and villas, she taught a free pastry class, showing our neighbors how to make pate chaud, choux a la creme, eclaire, and buche de noel.  My mother was mostly a self-taught chef, though due to father’s many foreign guests, she later took cooking classes with some of the best chefs in Saigon to expand her repertoire.

It is a sad thing to see her so frail, forgetful, depressed, and no longer capable of cooking. She can barely make rice and heat soup.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said one day when I came to visit and wanted to cook for my parents.  “Someone stole all my knives.”

I kept searching and finally found three knives hidden under the sofa’s cushions.  It was depressing: Her fear of robbers and thieves is overwhelming her, to the point where she feels the need to defend herself with the knives she once used to create such fabulous, sumptuous meals.

Still, for the appetizer, I made the classic Vietnamese spring roll.  I mixed pork with fish sauce, black pepper, crabmeat, green onion, and vermicelli.  I brought out rice papers and warm water.  “Let me help,” she says.  She got up from the sofa where she often lies listless, watching Korean soap operas.

Though she could never cook an entire meal again, she is her old self as she works.  Her bony fingers are guided by muscle memories.  And as she rolled her spring rolls—a scoop of mixed ground pork with crabmeat and a piece of wet rice paper—she begun to remember. “Back when we were in Hue, I remember making dinner for 25 guests,” she says. “Mrs. Ngoc, she would send her daughters.  My gosh, that woman had six of them. And they all worked so hard.”  Mother starts laughing.

She remembered the women crowding her kitchen and how they gossiped as they worked. One young woman had a great voice and often sang.  They shared recipes.

I encouraged her to continue to remember.  I gave her more rice papers and we continued to roll cha gio together.  We made more than we could possibly eat, but that doesn’t matter.  We rolled back the clock and talked about food, cooking, and the past.



Andrew Lam (left) with his mother and family celebrating his mother’s 80th birthday last year in Fremont, CA. Photo courtesy of the author.

Andrew Lam is an editor with New America Media and author of the “Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora,” and “East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.” His latest book is “Birds of Paradise Lost,” a short story collection, was published in 2013 and won a Pen/Josephine Miles Literary Award in 2014 and a finalist for the California Book Award and shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.

This story is a part of Off the Menu: Asian America, a multimedia project between the Center for Asian American Media and KQED, featuring a one-hour PBS primetime special by award-winning filmmaker, Grace Lee (American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs), original stories and web content.

Main image: Lunch at Andrew Lam’s uncle’s villa in Saigon in 1972. Lam is in his mother’s arms. Photo courtesy of the author.




10 Tasty Asian Soups to Keep You Warm Over the Holidays

By Amanda Walujono

On those blistering cold nights, a steaming hot bowl of soup is the tastiest cure to the shivers and well, almost everything else right?  Now that the chilly weather is in full steam (sorry) ahead, here are ten different Asian soups, from the popular to the underrated, that you should try eating and possibly try making this winter!


1. Kuy Teav


Image courtesy of khatiya-komer

Image courtesy of

A Cambodian delicacy, kuy teav, is a Camobidan Chinese pork noodle soup made from a clear broth and flat rice noodles.  Kuy teav is usually enjoyed as a breakfast dish from street vendors, but we feel that its comfort will last throughout the day!




2. Soba


Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Unlike the popular ramen, soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour.  Soba can be a year round dish and is typically served either hot and in a soup for winter or chilled with a dipping sauce for summer.  Soba also differs from udon in that soba noodles are thin while udon noodles are genuinely thicker.


3. Laksa



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A spicy Malayasian-Chinese fusion dish.  There are three main types of laksa: curry laksa, asam laksa, and sarawak laksa.  Curry laksa has a coconut curry base, while asam laksa has a sourfish soup base, and sarawak has a sambal belacan, a Malaysian chilli condiment, base.  No matter what type of laksa you choose, it’s sure to give you a kick!


4. Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (also known as Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian)


Image Courtesy of S.O.F.A.T BLOG

Image Courtesy of

There are many different types of beef noodle soups out there.  However, the red-braised beef noodle soup was invented by Chinese refugees in Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War.  Today, Taiwan considers this red-braised beef noodle soup a national dish. With it’s tender beef and spicy broth, it is sure to be a comfort during those chilly months.

5. Tong Sui


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Tong Sui, also known as Tim Tong, literally means “sugar water” in Cantonese and is a soup dessert that is a Cantonese delicacy.  There are a variety of Tong Sui, including Black Sesame Paste, Egg Tong Sui, and Red Bean Soup.


6. Bakmi Ayam



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Bakmi ayam, or often shortened to mei ayam, is an Indonesian noodle soup that is very simple, but delicious.  The main ingredients are wheat noodles, chinese bok choy (cabbage), and slices of chicken and mushroom.  Eaten separately or together with the broth, the soup is delicious either way!




7. Sinigang


Image courtesy of PanlasangPinoy

Image courtesy of

Sinigiang is a Filipino dish.  A tamarind-based soup, Sinigiang is usually sour because of ingredients such as guava and ripe mango.





8. Soondobu Jigae


Image courtesy of LTHforum

Image courtesy of

Soondubu jjigae is a spicy Korean tofu soup.  It’s typically served in a hot stone pot with other dishes such as rice, meat, or banchan on the side.





9. Milagu Rasam



Image courtesy of

Milagu Rasam is a pepper tamarind-based South Indian soup.  Supposedly, both the black pepper and tamarind are natural heat-inducing ingredients for the body.  Either way, milagu rasam is a tasty method to staying warm!



10. Bun Mang Vit

Image courtesy of PhamVo's Kitchen

Image courtesy of

Pho is probably the most famous Vietnamese soups, but Bun Mang Vit, a duck and noodle soup, is also another tasty option!  The main ingredients here are duck, bamboo shoots, and vermicelli noodles.  The addition of lemongrass, ginger, and chili give this soup a nice kick.



What soups will you be eating?


From Novice To Devotee, Asian Skincare For Any Age

Asians are known for their meticulous skincare regimens, requiring 10 steps, 17 steps?- I’ve lost count.  I’ll admit, it can sound a bit daunting to anyone looking to fight those first little signs of aging (a crinkle at the corner of your eyes, perhaps a sunspot or two), or even to someone looking to do a bit of early prevention.  Especially with the chilly holiday weather around the corner, we need to take extra special care of our skin.  Here is our recommended skincare routine for all women, whether you’re 20 or 40, a neophyte or a pro.


(Editor’s note: There’s a plethora of products that work well, but we’ve personally tried all the products listed below and we’ve found them to work quite well. Have questions or need recommendations? Comment below)




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Lucky you! Soap and water has been the name of the game for you, Oh Ye Blessed of Normal Skin.  But maybe now you’re hitting an age where you feel like you need just a bit more.  Don’t worry — we’re not going to make you go out and buy a spanking new arsenal of products that cost a fortune.  There are tons of great products that will work well and are quite affordable. Here’s your game plan:


  1. A facial cleanser

You want to cleanse your face, but not strip it of its natural oils to keep it healthy.  We recommend a gentle, affordable cleanser like Cetaphil.  It works on almost all skin types, it’s recommended by dermatologists everywhere, and it does its job.

  1. A moisturizer

Nighttime is when your body restores itself, including your skin, so you want to give it all the help you can.  A moisturizer boosts hydration levels and helps keep skin healthy  This allows it to function as it should, protecting itself from pollution and other external stressors.  We like Laneige Water Bank Gel Crème, a soothing gel cream hybrid, perfect for normal/combination skin.  If you have dry skin, Laneige Water Bank Moisture Cream is another good option.

  1. Sunscreen

No matter what else you do, you have to wear sunscreen.  UVA rays are the number one reason our skin ages prematurely, and those rays penetrate even on cloudy days. Fortunately, those days of sticky, tacky sunscreens are gone; there are tons of new sunscreens with super lightweight textures that are broad spectrum (they protect against UVB rays, which burn, and UVA rays, which age). My favorite right now is La Roche-Posay’s Cooling Water Lotion Sunscreen — it feels super light and turns into an almost water like consistency as you rub it in.

If you want a bit of coverage with your sun protection, I highly recommend a BB cream, which has the added benefit of antioxidants and other good-for-skin ingredients.  Just remember, with all sun protection, you need to apply at least a quarter size dollop for your face alone.  If you find it takes a while to smear all that lotion in, start tapping your face with your fingers and the lotion/cream will sink in faster.





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  1. Pre-cleanse

If you’re at this level, it probably means that you wear some form of makeup during the day, whether it’s BB cream, foundation, or powder.  In that case, one-step cleansing is no longer sufficient.  A lot of makeup have long-lasting ingredients, like silicone, that don’t wash away with just your everyday face wash.  A makeup removing towelette like Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water Cloth (my personal all-time fave) or a cleansing oil (DHC’s Deep Cleansing Oil is a best seller for a reason) is a must before you wash with your regular cleaner.

  1. Add a serum

A serum usually contains a higher concentration of active ingredients, thereby, addressing your particular skin concerns better than just a moisturizer.  For example, if you’re concerned about hyper-pigmentation, you should use a serum with kojic acid or hydroquinone after cleansing and before your moisturizer.  If clogged pores or acne is a problem, a serum with salicylic acid would help immensely.  Serums are usually more expensive than a moisturizers because they contain greater amounts of precious ingredients, but there are plenty of serums to fit any price range.  We like serums from Asian skincare brands or that have tested on Asian skin, like those from Estée Lauder.

  1. Use a mask

Think of masks like that jolt of caffeine.  It gives you just what you need and just at the right time.  A mask will have your skin extra-glowy for the following day or two, so it’s perfect for special occasions (though Korean women will incorporate it into their daily skincare regimen).  Sheet masks, usually made of cotton, have crossed over from Asia to the States, so there are plenty of options readily available here.  Sephora makes really good sheet masks that are super affordable (around $6),  When Mask brings Korea’s famed bio-cellulose sheet mask to the States, and La Mer’s The Brightening Facial is probably the most luxurious and best mask I’ve ever used (it better be — it’s about $40 a pop!).

*Tip: Start by exfoliating with a facial scrub to get rid of dead skin cells, apply a toner, then put on the sheet mask and hunker down for an episode of your favorite show.




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So you know the difference between retinoid and retinol, hydroquinone and hyaluronic acid.  Here are a couple things you can add to your regimen to get you to Asian world class.

  1. Hydrating toner

We say “toner” because that’s the term most Americans are familiar with, but really, it’s a watery “skin lotion”.  You use it right after cleansing and massage it onto your face to prep your skin for all the treatments to follow.  See our primer on watery lotions here.

  1. Add a finisher

Korean premium skincare brand, Sulwhasoo, is a frontrunner in Korean skincare.  We think their latest innovation, the Luminature Essential Finisher, will be a game changer. There’s a saying in Korean skincare — that your skin “eats” your makeup well. Basically, when your skin is at its best, foundation goes on smoothly and looks flawless.  When your skin is less than perfect, foundation looks clumpy, settles into pores and just looks obvious.  The Finisher, which contains the equivalent of five ginseng roots and 110 cups of green tea, is made to seal in the benefits of all your skincare treatments and provide a smooth base for your makeup.  

  1. Use an overnight mask

You already use a sheet mask, so why an overnight mask, you ask?  Because it’s easy and it makes a difference.  I was skeptical at first, too.  But I can’t live without an overnight mask anymore.

Unlike a sheet mask, an overnight mask is usually some sort of gel-like product that you tap onto your face right before you go to sleep — no need to wash off!  The mask quickly sinks into your skin so you won’t feel it at all.  Just proceed with your morning routine as usual.  It’s so easy to do and is also a good way to seal in the benefits of your nighttime skincare ritual.  I have my masks on my bedside table so it’s the last thing I do before turning off the lights.

Koh Gen Do has a great Night Moisture Mask that I would use on nights where I’ve had salty foods or alcohol, to give my skin a boost of hydration.  I feel like it helps alleviate the inevitable puffiness that follows the next morning.  Otherwise, I would use the Premium Firming Sleeping Mask from Korean skincare brand Dr. Jart+, the first to bring BB cream to the U.S.

Have questions or simply need more recommendations?  We would love to hear about your skincare regimen and favorite products. Comment below!