Dr. Ken’s Family Comes to ABC This October

Give a warm welcome to the second network show this year featuring an Asian American family.

Less than a year ago, it was hard to say whether Fresh Off the Boat — the first network how to star an Asian American family in over 20 years — could gain a wide enough audience to stay on the air, let alone get picked up for a second season. But this fall, there will be not one, but two Asian American families on primetime TV.

Dr. Ken is a new ABC multicamera sitcom starring Korean American actor Ken Jeong that is loosely based on the actor and comedian’s career as a physician before he found success in Hollywood playing outrageous characters in The Hangover trilogy and NBC’s cult hit Community. The show revolves around his character’s professional and personal lives, and the humor comes from his no-nonsense approach to work (he straight-up tells one of his patients that his problem is he’s too fat) as well as to family (where tough love is a bit more difficult to execute).

As Albert Tsai, who plays Jeong’s TV son, Dave, explains: “Ken is a know-it-all, which is funny at work, but apparently it doesn’t work with his kids at home.”

It also doesn’t work with his TV wife, a psychiatrist named Allison, played by Japanese American actress Suzy Nakamura. “I love that she talks to him as if she can’t hurt his feelings,” says Nakamura, who viewers may recognize from her roles in The West Wing, Go On and Modern Family. “She stands up to him in a way that is simultaneously loving and challenging. And not only do you need that as a character to play off Ken but also in relationships in general. You need people who love you to tell you the truth.”

Jeong has been developing Dr. Ken with a team of writers and producers for the last two years. “I was looking to attempt my own vehicle, which is the ultimate, the brass ring,” he says. “But I’ve learned that entertainment is not a science. It’s the opposite of medicine. It’s not exact, and in my experience, you don’t plan for anything. It just happens.”

It was only this past January that ABC approved the script for the pilot; the pilot was filmed in April, and it was picked up to series in May. The show premieres October 2.

Nakamura remembers taking part in a reading for Dr. Ken years ago, before she knew whether the pilot would be made, let alone that she would land the part of his wife. “I was really happy for Ken,” she says, when she heard ABC was interested in creating a show around Jeong. “I could totally see him leading a show.”

“It’s a dream come true,” says Jeong, who also serves as Dr. Ken’s executive producer. Though he’s had glimpses of the behind-the-scenes process of a network show, having this couple that loves each other and the children, but also has fun together.”



Jeong, Tsai and Foley shot an episode of Hot in Cleveland together last year, and Tsai, who many remember from his scene-stealing role on ABC’s Trophy Wife, was impressive enough that he didn’t even have to audition for the role. The Taiwanese American 11-year-old describes his character Dave as “a smart and energetic boy who has some interesting hobbies.” In the pilot episode, Dr. Ken tries his hardest to dissuade his son from performing mime at the school talent show, for fear that he will become the laughing stock of his class, but Dave does not listen. “When he wants something done, he won’t let anything get in the way,” says Tsai. “He’ll just go for it.”

That said, the one Dr. Ken is most worried about is his in- dependent teenage daughter Molly, played by Yu. He even goes as far as to secretly install a tracker in his daughter’s phone, to the horror of both Molly and his wife.

Yu, who was a competitive ice skater before she became an actress, enjoys playing a young woman who’s trying to figure out who she is. “Growing up, I personally wasn’t confident enough to put my foot down and assert myself to my parents, but that’s why Molly is so fun to play,” says the Chinese American actress. “I totally relate to that [father-daughter] dynamic.” She laughs. “It’s like, ‘Dad, I love you, but stop embarrassing me!’”

Though the shows are very different, Jeong considers Fresh Off the Boat a game- changer for Asian Americans. “If it weren’t for Fresh Off the Boat, there’d be no Dr. Ken,” says Jeong. “And if it weren’t for shows like All-American Girl and Sullivan & Son, there’d be no Dr. Ken.”

“I remember when All-American Girl was on TV,” says Nakamura, of Margaret Cho’s 1994 show that was met with some disappointment from the Asian American community and only lasted for one season. “I really did look forward to seeing people that looked like me and my family on TV — though they didn’t talk like me, because they commented a lot about being Asian, which I never do. But I know All-American Girl would’ve been a completely different show if Margaret Cho was given some creative input. She took a hit for everyone who followed her.

“But now, Ken is a producer on the show, so he has a voice in content,” she continues, “so I see Dr. Ken as a work and family show, through the lens of an Asian American family, as opposed to an ‘Asian American show.'”

“I don’t think any Asian American goes into entertainment wanting to be a spokesperson for the community,” says Jeong. “You go into entertainment because you want to act. But the fact that ABC will have two Asian American family sitcoms this season is amazing. What they’ve done is normalize Asian American culture.”

Because in the end, Dr. Ken taps into something that appeals to everyone. Tsai sums it up best: “Most people don’t like visiting doctor’s offices. But I can assure you that Dr. Ken is the only doctor you’ll want to visit, because laughter is the only prescription.”

This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.

Cheap Dates That Don’t Suck

Story by Jackie Lam of Cheapsters

So you’ve just updated your OkCupid or Tinder profile with fresh photos and an almost-too-clever bio, and you’re ready for exciting adventures that await you in datingland. But maybe you’re a little (or very) broke or saving your pennies to pay off debt or to go back to school. No need to despair. If you’re keeping a close eye on your budget, here are some simple ways to save on dates without skimping on the fun.

Turn a Date into a Game

If you’re really into someone, you can have a great time doing pretty much anything. After all, it’s all about chemistry and having fun being with each other, right? So put your heads together to brainstorm some silly date ideas that don’t cost much money. Maybe a clever scavenger hunt at a nearby IKEA followed by a simple dinner at the cafe, or a night cavorting around Target for a ridiculously fun game of I Spy or Spotted at Target (be nice, now). Another idea is to blindfold your date while driving around town and have them give you directives (i.e., after three stop lights, turn left; go four blocks, then make a right). After 15 minutes or so, stop the car, get out and explore your surroundings.

Use Existing Memberships

If you’re a member of an art museum or signed up for a VIP yearly pass at a local botanical garden, take full advantage of benefits and discounts that are included. Depending on the time of year, there are special events that members have exclusive access to. It’s super easy to let memberships fall to the wayside for months without using them, but using one for a date with your bae gives you a great way to make use of benefits you’ve already paid for.

Go on a Photo Exploration

Are you both shutterbugs? Venture to a place you’ve never been before for a photo exploration, and come up with funny hashtags to put up on Instagram. It doesn’t have to be something spectacular like Mount Everest; you can do a photo exploration of local dives in your ‘hood, or if you’re a foodie, go on a mission for the best taco happy hours.

Scour Daily Deal Sites

Ever want to try an escape room? Or how about indoor trampolining? Groupon has great deals for outings for two, and you can also check out offers and free events on Gilt City. Not only are daily deal sites great for saving cash but there are some outings that help you get out of your comfort zone. Just buyer beware: Heed caution when scouring deal sites to make sure you don’t go overboard. Don’t let those slashed prices lure you into spending more than you intended.

Split the Bill

Dying to dine out? Suss things out with your date beforehand to figure out what setup works best for the both of you when out on the town. Whether you decide to go Dutch for every date or take turns footing the bill, splitting the bill doesn’t have to be a spectacle. If you prefer to be discreet, you can use a digital wallet such as Venmo, Dwolla or Apple Pay to share expenses.

Opt for a Night In

By no means does spending a romantic evening in mean watching episodes of Orange Is the New Black and eating crusty leftovers. If you’ve recently taken sushi-rolling or cocktail classes, put those new skills to use during your special night in. You’ll save money and your date can serve as a guinea pig, so it’s a total win-win situation.

There’s really no reason that having a tight budget should put a damper on sizzling emotions. With a little bit of creativity and using what you already have, you won’t feel hindered while navigating the oftentimes complex project that is modern dating.


This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.

Haikus With Hotties: Yoshi and Peter Adrian Sudarso


How often is it that two brothers are so equally hot that — even though individually, they reach a heart-pumpingly dangerous temperature that threatens to scorch your eyeballs — together, they achieve a state of thermal equilibrium that magically allows you to see past the model good looks and discover the most down-to-earth, fun-loving jokesters you’ll ever meet? I don’t know, but when you find this endangered species of hotness — as we did with actor-stuntman Yoshi Sudarso, who played Koda in Power Rangers Dino Charge (above left), and actor Peter Adrian Sudarso, who together film everything from backflip tutorials to mockumentaries to comedic videos involving whipped cream on their YouTube channel, Apartment 210 — you politely ask them if they will emerge out of the ocean, Daniel Craig-style, wearing kiddie floaties. And collaborate on some haikus.


Sudarso haikus
Who counts syllables, and is
shirtlessness required?

Yoshi and Peter:
Who said anything
About counting syllables?
We’re no good at math!!

Life-saving floaties:
The new essential fashion
men’s accessory?

Yoshi and Peter:
To be dead honest
We have no real good answer
They were cute and fun!

Does good emoting
come from the heart, the soul or
those hot pink swim trunks?

Yoshi and Peter:
It comes from long hours
Spent on selfies on our phones
But the trunks did help!

SUDARSO-154950 cp
Photos courtesy of Craig Stubing, unwrittenfilms.com
This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.

The Road Untraveled: These Artists Prove That It’s Never Too Late to Chase Your Dreams


It may be cliché to say that as Asian Americans, we’re often pressured to forgo our more artistic or creative passions for a stable career path. And yet this was even more the case for generations past, who had few role models and their sights set on a better future for their children. But some are finding a newfound freedom after a lifetime of raising families and paying the bills. Here, three stories of Asian American retirees who are using their sunset years to recapture dreams once left to the wayside.

In 1969, Dick Ling, a new immigrant from Taiwan, took the subway to Chicago’s Michigan Avenue carrying two portfolios: one for architecture and one for cartooning. He had crashed on his friend’s dormitory floor the night before, and he was looking for the Playboy corporate headquarters.

Not for what you might think — though he was pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous female receptionists and the artful mosaic of nude women on the wall. He wanted to draw cartoons for the magazine. Growing up in Taiwan, Ling’s dream was to be a cartoonist. He’d get in trouble at school for drawing epic spaceship battles on top of brand-new classroom desks. And he was very inspired by Western-style cartoons, from Bugs Bunny to Disney films, so his father, knowing his son’s passion for American comics, subscribed to Mad magazine — and occasionally Playboy.

Ling imagines the staff at Playboy must have been confused when he showed up unannounced at their offices. “The receptionist looked me up and down and asked, ‘How long have you been in Chicago?’” he remembers. “I said, ‘Second day!’”

The chief editor at the time was nice enough to sit down with him and take a look at his cartoons. Though there wasn’t a position open for a cartoonist, the editor admired his gumption and gave him three people to contact who might be hiring. One actually offered Ling a job as an apprentice at a photo lab, but it only paid $70 a week. Figuring it’d be difficult to survive on that kind of salary, he politely declined.

“To this day, I still wonder what would’ve happened if I had taken that job,” he says. Ling is now 70 years young. He smiles. “Would I even still be alive?”

For the next few decades, Ling would try and forget about cartooning and concentrate on his architecture career. It was what he had studied in school and what was allowing him to stay in America on a student visa. But dreams don’t die so easily. He kept coming back to cartooning, even if he was drawing on the side.


In the 1970s, he developed a comic strip called “The Woks” (later renamed “Potstickers”), which was a Chinese American version of Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts,” about a young boy named Chung, his younger siblings, his friends, a dragon and a philosopher named Buddha. He submitted to all the major syndicates in the United States but was met with rejection, as editors politely told him that their audiences weren’t interested. He finally sold it to TransWorld News Service in Washington, D.C., in 1977, but before they could distribute the comic strip, the news agency filed for bankruptcy, and he was never able to resell it.

comic comic2

More than 30 years later, after making a living for his wife and two kids as a licensed architect, Ling has retired and returned to his true love. He is now the editorial cartoonist for Orinda News, a community newspaper in Northern California.

Looking back, does he have any regrets? “Sometimes you take a step that’s right at the time, and you don’t know what the outcome will be until 15 to 20 years later,” he says. “But I think my decision was still correct if I wanted to better myself financially and raise a family. It was the safe route. Becoming a cartoonist during that time was really unknown territory. It would have been too scary.”

If there is still some truth to the cliché that Asian American youth are often discouraged from pursuing the arts and pressured into stable careers like medicine, law or engineering, imagine what it was like 40 years ago.

“At that time, we were taught that we have to bring pride to the family, especially the elders in our home country,” Ling says. “And I think that’s a very heavy burden. If you want to excel at the arts, you have to give 100 percent and be fearless, but sometimes that means you can’t be as responsible.” He shrugs. “Some people might think it’s sad that I decided to get the steady paycheck, but that’s the choice I made.”

It wasn’t just the traditional cultural pressures that were prevalent in that generation of Asian Americans. The landscape of the time period was entirely different as well. Sure, in the early ’60s, there was the groundbreaking film Flower Drum Song, an Asian American musical starring Nancy Kwan and James Shigeta, but it was also the era where Mickey Rooney’s bucktoothed yellowface portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was seen as a laugh riot. Most Asians in the media were still depicted as villains, laundromat owners or untrustworthy foreigners. Bruce Lee wouldn’t emerge as a star until the early 1970s.

So there may have been glimpses of the American Dream, but when it came to the arts, lack of support (Ling didn’t know any other Asian American comic artists at the time) and lingering anti-immigrant sentiment suggested that your average paying American wasn’t interested in Asian American stories. And even if there were Asian American talents, it would have been extremely rare for one to be able to make a decent living at it.



The 2Woos, a.k.a. Barbara and Stephen Woo

“I was lucky if I got one acting job every six months,” Stephen Woo remembers, back in the 1970s when he was trying to make it as an actor. Woo grew up in California on movie sets, introduced to the entertainment industry by his uncle, actor Walter Soo Hoo. Stephen worked as an extra to make money through college, mostly in war movies or films with Chinatown scenes, though when he started pursuing acting more seriously, he was constantly frustrated with the limited and stereotypical roles that were available.

“My agents would send me out on these auditions for kung fu masters and Chinatown bandits,” he says, “and I’d think, ‘I’m not going to get this. Why can’t I just play a normal person?’”

While he was still struggling to make ends meet, he fell in love with his future wife, Barbara, who told him that she’d only marry him if he got a “real job.” So he gave up his SAG card, started a business in marketing and telecommunications, raised two beautiful daughters and didn’t look back — until he retired.

In 2014, he decided to give it another shot, just for fun. But this time, he’d include his wife in the process. “I started using all my marketing and sales skills to market us as a husband-wife acting team with 2Woos.com,” he says. Within a week of Barbara retiring, they had a Skype audition for the reality program Freakshow and booked the gig. Soon, the 60-something duo found themselves filming a scene in Venice as a suburban couple who is invited over to their neighbor’s house to meet a bunch of “freaks,” including the tallest man in the world, the shortest woman in the world, a red-bearded woman, a man who’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most body piercings, and a performer who can swallow 27 swords at one time.

“It’s an irresistible industry,” says Barbara, who grew up in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and loved musicals as a kid (and was even in a high school production of Flower Drum Song). But she never, ever imagined herself as an actress. Now she loves it.

“One day, I could be a nurse, the next day I could be playing Harry Shum Jr.’s mother [in the Wong Fu Productions short Single by 30]. Another day, we could be doing a Maroon 5 video [for the hit song “Sugar”] or we could be on the set of Pitch Perfect 2, the only seniors with a whole cast of youngsters dancing under a bridge.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Stephen was in the Ed Sheeran music video “Sing”; they hung out with Nicole Richie in her reality show Candidly Nicole, playing members of her homeowner’s association; they’ve been in Buzzfeed videos and Funny or Die sketches. In contrast to the old days when Stephen struggled to book one gig every six months, the couple now average a job a week and are constantly traveling from place to place for last- minute auditions.

“I see kids now, and they’re so open to trying new things,” says Stephen, of the Asian American online creators they often work with. “They can write and direct their own stories, use YouTube to reach millions of people overnight for free. In some ways, I envy them, and I wish I were 30 to 40 years younger so I could be a part of that. But I actually used to be really timid and shy for an actor. Now I have more life experience and more confidence. So we’re doing our own thing, which is pretty good, too.”


Landscape architect-turned-saxophonist Richard Liu

Landscape architect-turned-saxophonist Richard Liu

It’s natural to wonder what could have been. When people have to give up their dreams for their families, it’s often described with some cynicism — the idea that the passion of youth must eventually make way for the practicalities of adulthood and “the real world.” But for some people, this view is short-sided and overvalues the priorities of an individual pursuit versus a happy and comfortable home life.

Richard Liu, 66, was a trombone player in the Taipei Municipal Symphony Orchestra when he was a young man. “I had a lot of dreams,” Liu remembers. He grew up in a farm in a mud house and remembers not even having electricity when he was in high school. They’d use oil lamps and steal the light from their neighbors. That said, he was an extremely resourceful child and loved music.

“Because we didn’t have any money, in elementary school, I’d make my own instruments,” he says. “In the fifth grade, I made my own erhu [Chinese violin].” He created it out of bamboo from his backyard. “One day I couldn’t find it and turned out someone had used it to make a fire!” he remembers, laughing. “I cried when I found out.”

As a teenager in the military, he was in a band, and once he finished his service, he was accepted into the Taipei Municipal Symphony Orchestra, where he played trombone for 10 years. But because the job only required him to work at night, he experimented with many different things during the day to make money for his family. At first, he and his wife, Mary, ran a noodle shop. Later, they turned it into a flower shop. He was even a reporter for a couple years.

In 1980, the Lius decided to bring their young children to California. And though he would still play with a band when he first arrived in the U.S., he eventually gave up his music for over 30 years in order to concentrate on building a landscaping business.

That said, he doesn’t see his choice as a difficult sacrifice at all. “Our family is the center of our lives,” he says. “And now, our kids are like our friends. We can talk to them about anything, and we’ve already achieved everything we ever dreamed.”

Liu’s unique designs were such a success that he was featured on CTS-TV, a Chinese television station, in a story about overseas Chinese who had become successful abroad. In addition to their company, Beautiful Landscape, Liu and Mary opened up a nursery, Rosemead Gardens, to provide other professionals with the tools to create gardens for their clients.

About six years ago, Liu decided to retire and revive his passion for music, though this time, he decided to teach himself the saxophone and clarinet. He’s constantly playing music, whether it’s performing at local concerts around Southern California, weddings, cultural events or even at home, where he can jam with his friends for up to seven hours, not realizing how much time has flown by.


The great thing about returning to one’s passions after building a stable base is that artists like Ling, Liu and the 2Woos now have the freedom and flexibility to pursue their dreams on their own terms.

For Liu, his artistry extends past his music. He used his landscaping skills to turn a 350-year-old California live oak tree in their backyard into a five-story treehouse using found items.

“He turns trash into treasures,” says Mary, describing the antique headboards he bends into lounge chairs, the branches he finds on hikes that he turns into banisters, and abandoned metal furniture pieces he uses to create an overhead wine glass holder in the treehouse bar. (Yes, there’s a bar in the treehouse.) He and his wife often throw parties for friends and family — which now include three

adult children and six grandchildren — in their backyard, where he and his band plays. Even now, living out his musical dreams inherently involves his family. Forty years ago, he’d write his wife poetry every day, and she’d go to all of his shows; now he plays her the saxophone every day, and she’s still his biggest fan.

Similarly, Ling doesn’t need the approval of national syndicates anymore. He loves his gig at Orinda News because it allows him the creative freedom to cartoon about whatever he wants. Every month, he publishes a single-panel comic series called “The Wobblers,” where he makes lighthearted observations on everyday life. He doesn’t feel the pressure to represent Asian Americans (as he did when he first created “The Woks”). He’d rather make harmless puns about national holidays, make fun of Kim Jong-un’s haircut, or joke about the older generation not understanding how to text or young people and their selfies. He just wants his comics to bring a smile to people’s faces.

As for Stephen, he now often acts as his own agent. “The Internet has done for acting what it’s done for travel and real estate,” he says. “It’s good to have a travel agent or real estate agent, but you don’t need it. When I left the [acting] business, it was controlled by big studios and unions, but now, I submit ourselves for everything, not just Asian specific roles. And many times, we’ll get [cast], which is very cool.”

“And it’s different now because we don’t need it,” says Barbara.

Stephen agrees. “When I was younger and I didn’t get a job, I’d get really depressed because I had to pay the rent,” he says.

“But now,” Barbara continues, “if we don’t get a job, we’ll laugh about it. Now we watch commercials really diligently, and if we see an ad for a TempurPedic mattress that we auditioned for and lost to a younger couple, we’ll say, ‘What? They think those youngsters can bounce better than us?’”

Because at this point of their lives, the pressure’s off, and it’s all about having fun. “I’m so happy that at the last phase of our careers, we’re doing something we enjoy, and we get to do it together,” says Stephen. “I’d hate to retire and do nothing. Instead, this is all new to us; the more we do it, the better we’ll get, and we’re constantly learning, growing, meeting new people and having new experiences.”



This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.






Get to Know Actress & Musician Hayley Kiyoko

Story by Caroline A. Wong
Photo by Vijat

Hayley Kiyoko is the epitome of “multitalented.” The 24-year-old is a quick-witted conversationalist, a fierce advocate of female talent, a dedicated singer-songwriter and a fast-rising actress, as a series regular on CBS’s CSI: Cyber and with roles in two big movies this year. Add to that a recent multicity tour promoting her second EP, This Side of Paradise, and you might expect this fresh talent to be starry-eyed in the wake of her explosive career trajectory. Well, you’d be wrong.

“Hollywood [was] a very normal, organic thing,” Kiyoko says of growing up in Los Angeles’ Westlake Village. “My dad’s a comedian, and my mom’s an ice skating choreographer, so I come from an artistic family. But they never were, like, ‘You need to be in the business.’” She adds, “I like to work. That’s about it. I’m not really into” — and here, her voice takes on an affected, almost mocking tone — “the carpet and the parties at 2 a.m. The Hollywood lifestyle. I’ve never really been into that.”

She fully realizes that many aspiring actors crave the glamour she’s nonchalant about, but for Kiyoko, who’s been acting and playing music since she was a child, it truly is about the work. “Being an actress and being a musician is really freaking hard,” she says. “You’re constantly having to reinvent yourself, and you’re constantly having to create.” And yet, “I feel like my personality really works for this industry and this world of waves and twists and turns because I’m up for the challenge.” Part of that challenge has been playing a wide range of characters in her relatively young career. From rebellious teen wizard on the Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place to brainy Velma in the Scooby-Doo! television movies, from boy-crazy Gabi on The Fosters to her latest role as the reliable best friend in Insidious 3, it almost seems as though Kiyoko fought against being typecast. Yet, “I don’t think we plan it,” she says of actors falling into the same types of roles. “You take the opportunities that are given to you. From there, you can start to mold and pick and choose. I’ve been really fortunate that [I’ve] had a nice, wide range of projects.”

Kiyoko’s role in the upcoming film Jem and the Holograms, out October 23, is another departure. Chinese American director Jon M. Chu’s live-action reprisal of the animated ’80s television series follows a band made up of four foster sisters, and Kiyoko plays Aja, the blue-haired Hologram. “She’s a Sassy McSasser!” says Kiyoko of her character, who plays guitar, bass and drums. “With a lot of glitter. There’s so much glitter in the movie. I feel like there are a million glitter pieces in the film.” As a songstress herself, Kiyoko loved the musical aspect of embodying Aja. It was the wardrobe, however, that helped her tap into the nuance of herrole. “It’s a really fashion-forward thing. Aja wears leather and lots of studs. She’s very intense.”

For Kiyoko, interacting with her onscreen Holograms family was made more special by her off-set relationships with her talented co-stars. She appears alongside her Insidious 3 co-star Stefanie Scott, as well as Hollywood legends Juliette Lewis and Molly Ringwald. “They are awesome, girl-power chicks,” she says. “They’re just spectacular people you want to be best friends with.” She calls Ringwald, who plays the Holograms’ foster home caretaker, “a doll, and she’s got an amazing family, and she’s a great person.” Lewis, who plays Erica Raymond (originally villain Eric Raymond on the television series), also had an impact on Kiyoko. She gushes, “Juliette Lewis is this wild-child, free-spirit, loving gal. I feel really lucky to be able to have worked with them.” As for Scott, who plays Jem, the two are friends in real life, so working together again “was kind of a painless situation.”

Not everything about Kiyoko’s career, however, has transitioned so seamlessly. “Acting never came easy to me, and so it was something I wanted to conquer,” she admits. But it wasn’t just the acting — for the biracial Kiyoko, who is of Japanese and Scottish descent, the industry always seemed to tell her she was “not Asian enough or not white enough.” She continues, “If you talk to any mixed actress, it’s always like, ‘We loved you, but [we] decided to go Caucasian.’ That’s like the Bible 101 of mixed-race chicks. I definitely think that Hollywood has stereotypes. There are racial boundaries that [are] hard to break still, to this day.”

For Kiyoko, who as a teen was in the girl group The Stunners, music offers much more freedom. She released her latest EP, This Side of Paradise, in February, along with a video for “Girls Like Girls,” which she co-directed. (The video’s already garnered nearly 3 million views.) She describes her sound as “alternative pop. It’s got heavy bass and electronic, but it’s also still live sounding. I’m really happy sonically with This Side of Paradise. I just want to keep growing from that.

“[In music], it’s all about being an artist and being different,” she continues. “In the acting world, you’re portraying other people; you’re molding yourself. You can’t, you know, shave your head and have green dreadlocks.” Regardless, Kiyoko plans on pursuing both acting and music for as long as she can. “I’m not changing who I am as I do different ventures. I’m walking down different paths, [but] I’m still me,” she says. “I just focus on creating good content. And if you’re a fan of me, I think you’ll be a fan of me across the board.”

One of those divergent paths is her role as hacker-turned-FBI analyst, Raven Ramirez, on CSI: Cyber, the second season of which premieres October 4 on CBS. It’s a job that brings a new set of challenges for Kiyoko. “It’s more of a grown-up world. I feel like I’ve gotten my big-person job where I go to work, work with the pros and go home,” she says, laughing. But it’s also the hightech smarts of her character that keeps Kiyoko on her toes. “I’m really not technical in real life, and so I had to become this professional techie and research what every term means. It was kind of like studying for an English test.” All the studying has paid off, though — in the form of a little accessory. “They gave me this FBI badge,” Kiyoko gushes. “I was like, I am so cool! This is so awesome! Honestly, the fake FBI badge is, like, one of my favorite things in life.”

In regards to what the future holds (other than her next film, the Netflix original XOXO), Kiyoko responds like a true Hollywood insider: “I really want to continue to build my brand, whether it’s music or acting or clothing.” A fashion collection is something that Kiyoko hopes to develop. “It’s what I wanted to do since I was in second grade,” she says. “I’d be drawing my little Kiyoko empire with clothing lines and all that stuff.”

Sure, it may sound like a lot of work, but for Kiyoko, it’s just another day in Hollywood.

Catch up with Hayley Kiyoko at HayleyKiyokoOfficial.com.

This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here

What You Need to Know About Hyperpigmentation & Asian Skin


Sun spots, freckles, hyperpigmentation — whatever you call ‘em, they ain’t pretty. In fact, a recent study found that dark spots are a bigger aging concern for Asian women than wrinkles.

Hyperpigmentation occurs when the body produces too much melanin due to sun exposure, hormonal changes, injury or even heredity. According to Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at USC School of Medicine, there are several types of hyperpigmentation that affect Asian skin:

* Lentigos, otherwise known as sun spots, are light brown to dark brown spots that develop on parts of the body that are more often exposed to the sun, including the face, chest and back of the hands. Many people refer to them as “liver spots,” but they have nothing to do with the liver. Instead, UV rays stimulate the skin’s pigment-producing cells to produce more melanin pigment.

* Freckles are small brown spots that most commonly occur on the face, especially across the nose and cheeks. They typically start in childhood, fade in the winter and typically get darker in the summer. Those with fair skin and hair and light eyes are more predisposed to getting them, though they are triggered by UV rays from the sun.

* ABNOM (Acquired Bilateral Nevus of Ota-like Macules) are grayish-brown spots that most commonly appear on the cheekbones. Many people refer to them as “freckles,” but they look different under the microscope. They occur in Asian skin and may be a combination of heredity, sun exposure and hormones. They are a different color and occur in a different distribution compared to freckles, which can be found anywhere on the body that is sun exposed.

* Melasma produces dark patches on the cheeks, upper lip, forehead and/or eyebrows. It’s most common in women and can worsen during pregnancy or with birth control pills, so there is a hormonal component, although some men can get it as well. It often gets worse with sun exposure.

* Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs after the skin is injured, for example from acne, after surgery or from a scratch or bug bite. It can get worse with sun exposure.

Thankfully, doctors and scientists in Asia have been studying hyperpigmentation for years. Their research has shown that some of the mainstays of anti-aging skin care, like retinoids and vitamin C, also are effective in battling hyperpigmentation. “Prescription retinoids such as Renova and tretinoin (Retin A) are the most effective,” says Dr. Wu, “especially when combined with hydroquinone.” Retinoids work “by interfering with the enzyme tyrosinase, which produces melanin pigment. It also increases skin cell turnover, so the dark patches slough off faster.” Of course, the downside of retinoids is that they may irritate skin and cause sun sensitivity, she adds. She also warns against using this ingredient when pregnant or nursing due to a potential risk of birth defects.

Vitamin C is another hero in the fight against dark spots. Like retinoids, the antioxidant inhibits tyrosinase, which interferes with melanin production. Vitamin C is tricky, though — it’s unstable when exposed to light or air, says Dr. Wu, so look for products in opaque, airless pumps, not open jars.

Vitamin C also works best when paired with another agent such as soy, which interferes with a step in melanin production. Soy is good for those with sensitive skin, says Dr. Wu, since the ingredient is gentle and has anti-inflammatory effects. However, that makes soy less effective on stubborn spots that have been there for years.

Inhibiting tyrosinase seems to be the method of choice, as other popular ingredients, including arbutin (about as effective as soy), kojic acid (derived from mushrooms) and azelaic acid (available in prescription strength), all interfere with the enzyme in some way or another.

Thankfully, scientists continue to research other potential spot lighteners, like tranexamic acid, which Dr. Wu says has been shown in small studies to reduce pigmentation and melasma by inhibiting plasmin, a substance that stimulates melanocytes, or the cells that produce melanin. But until they find a miracle cure, do your part and use sunscreen every single day (Dr. Wu recommends SPF 30 to 50 containing zinc oxide), avoid heat (it may aggravate melasma, says Dr. Wu), and avoid irritating your skin. “Go easy on the retinoids and skin care brushes,” she adds, “since irritation can lead to post-inflammatory pigmentation.”


The good news is that many of the ingredients that fight hyperpigmentation also happen to build collagen, fight free radicals and offer other anti-aging benefits. So lighten up with these power hitters.


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Feature photo courtesy of Butter London and Joie.


Audrey Fall 2015 Cover Story: Constance Wu


Constance Wu has had one surreal year. As Jessica Huang on the hit ABC comedy Fresh Off the Boat, Wu not only jumped from a relative Hollywood unknown to a Critics’ Choice nominee for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, she took a character — who could well have been, at best, annoying and, at worst, a hideous cliché — and made her possibly the funniest, most quotable, gif-worthy part of the show. We talk to Wu about how she’s like Jessica (and how she’s not), the most difficult scene to shoot and why she’ll always speak her truth, for better or worse.

Story by Ada Tseng
Photos by Jack Blizzard



Constance Wu says she can tell if someone is lying to her. “I study behavior,” says the 33-year-old actress who shot to fame earlier this year for her role as the strong-willed Taiwanese immigrant mother Jessica Huang on ABC’s family sitcom Fresh Off the Boat.

“I don’t just listen to the person’s words,” she explains. “I watch how they act, and I have a pretty good gut feeling for when people are being authentic or if they’re trying to push forward an agenda or image. And when it doesn’t come from a sincere place of honest, humble goodness, I can tell, and it turns me off.”

She’s talking about Adnan Syed, whose 1999 murder conviction was recently re-investigated in the podcast Serial. When Fresh Off the Boat, loosely based on celebrity restaurateur Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name, was shooting its first season back in late 2014 (this was before they knew they’d inspire a fanbase passionate enough to ensure them a second season, which premieres September 22), members of the cast and crew were captivated by the other Asian American story that had taken the country by storm. Serial was a podcast that singlehandedly brought the audio storytelling medium into the mainstream, as listeners debated and obsessed over whether they thought the likeable Syed was serving a life sentence for a murder he did not commit. But Wu wasn’t buying his good-guy persona.

“Oh, he’s guilty,” she says, without a doubt in her mind. “I know he’s probably fooling a lot of people, but he’s not fooling me.”

“She’s extremely assured in her beliefs,” says Randall Park, who plays Jessica’s optimistic and good-natured husband Louis on Fresh Off the Boat. Park, who followed the podcast just as closely, is less inclined to assume Syed’s guilt, but he admires his co-star’s conviction. “There’s something really comforting about people who are so confident and so sure, and Constance is very confident in a lot of ways.”

It’s a trait she shares with her on-screen persona, who, despite initially not fitting in with her new clique-ish Caucasian neighbors in Orlando, Florida, knows who she is and is unapologetic about it. Wu remembers meeting the real Jessica Huang for the first time before they started shooting the show: “She yelled in my ear at dinner, ‘My sons tell me I need to be quieter because I’m too loud. You know what I told them? I told them they need to get used to it.’” Wu laughs. “I was like, ‘High five to that.’”


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Showrunner Nahnatchka Khan remembers when Wu first came in to audition. Khan and the other producers, Melvin Mar and Jake Kasdan, immediately thought Wu was too young to play the mother of three preteen boys. “But when she got into character, she transformed herself,” says Khan. “She was so funny, and she really elevated the mom character and made it her own.”

Park thinks Wu shares a lot of similarities with her character. “She’s a really tough, strong person, and she’s very opinionated, which is very Jessica,” he says. “But also like Jessica, deep down, she’s very warm, and she holds the people she loves really dear.”

Wu has a knack for making Jessica Huang an over-the-top, disciplinarian mother whom you actually cheer for. Despite the character’s stern exterior, Wu always invokes humor and vulnerability, whether Jessica’s micromanaging the employees at Louis’ restaurant, taking the children’s afterschool education into her own hands, chasing down hooligans who have disrespected her husband and hitting them with her car (or as Jessica says, “You hit my car with your bodies”), or pummeling her son Eddie with a stuffed bunny as a lesson against date rape. In short, Wu’s Jessica has the power to deflate Eddie’s straight-A-earning pimp walk with a single disapproving stare, and yet surprise everyone weeks later with a gif-worthy pimp walk of her own.

“In a lesser actress’ hands, the character could be very unlikeable,” says Khan. “But there’s an honesty in her performance, so you always know where Jessica is coming from, even if you don’t agree with her. Constance can also switch gears within a scene and go from being very loving and supportive to angry and sad and make it seem so effortless. So once we realized she had all these levels she could play, we started writing towards that.”

Wu didn’t always have such control over her emotions. “As a kid, I was so emotional, to the point where it was crippling,” she remembers. “When I was around 4, my family used to reward me if I went through one day without crying, because it was a huge accomplishment. I didn’t like that about myself, because it was embarrassing.”

Even now, she sees her sensitivity as a mixed blessing in terms of her work as an actor. She remembers actually breaking down in tears while filming an episode where Jessica is remembering how she never got the Sparkle Time Beauty Horse toy she wanted as a kid, despite how hard she had worked.

“I wasn’t trying to be funny,” she says. She remembers while filming the scene, she kept pressing her knees together, looking down and rubbing her hands really slowly, which is what she does in real life when she’s trying not to cry. “It was just upsetting me so much, and I was like, ‘I can’t cry! This is a comedy!’” She laughs. “Jessica’s not Constance; she’s not going to get super weepy at the steakhouse.”


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Wu grew up in Richmond, Virginia, which she describes as a genteel type of Southern city. “Historically, it was the capital of the confederacy, and it has a long tradition of debutante balls,” she says. “But even though they’re conservative, they speak from a point of education, which is really valued. And there was the Southern hospitality and manners. People there were very welcoming and polite.”

A second-generation Taiwanese American, Wu is the third of four daughters. Her father is a biology professor, though she emphasizes that he went into the sciences for passion, not for profit. (“He’s so obsessed with science that he breeds his own orchids and clones them for fun,” she says.) Her mother was a computer programmer, and her sisters are all accomplished. (“They’re all very smart,” she says. “My oldest sister has a J.D., my second oldest sister has a Ph.D. in policy analysis, and my younger sister is getting a Ph.D. in comparative literature.”) It’s no wonder that Wu, who studied at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute and graduated from State University of New York Purchase College’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts with a degree in acting, is extremely well-read. References to Franny and Zooey and Hamlet roll off her tongue. She once directed a magical realism short film with puppets called “My Mother Is Not a Fish,” the title being a play on one of the chapters in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. She even spent a summer in a Buddhist monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, because her college self wanted to “go to the woods and live deliberately” like Henry David Thoreau.


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When Wu first read the pilot script of Fresh Off the Boat, she actually related to Eddie’s 12-year-old character (played by Hudson Yang), because she remembers trying on different personalities when she was younger to see what fit best: She wanted to be an opera singer. She was a cheerleader for a year. She even went through an emo phase (still in it, she jokes). But once she started performing in plays, she gradually came to believe that acting was her calling, even though she hates it when people overly romanticize the life of a Hollywood actor. “It can be such an ego-driven industry, but in our work, you can’t be afraid to not be the hero and not be a saint,” she says. “It’s the dirty, ugly stuff that gets me going. Being glamorous or pretty or sweet or cool is not even on the table. I don’t even participate in it. It weirds me out, almost.”

In that sense, it must have been a surreal several months since Fresh Off the Boat debuted in February to both critical and ratings success, when Wu quickly went from being a relative unknown (the Logo TV web series Eastsiders may have been her most high-profile credit prior) to a nominee for both the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series and the Television Critics Association Award for Individual Achievement in Comedy. Now she’s not only having to navigate being recognized by fans but walking red carpets and posing for glamorous photo shoots (the shoot for this story included).

Wu only recently hired a publicist, who is encouraging her to step out of her fashion comfort zone in edgier looks. This past April, pre-publicist, she had gone by herself on a press tour to promote the show’s airing in Taiwan, and she remembers getting off the plane wearing pajamas and glasses, not realizing her hosts would show up wearing suits in 90-degree weather and handing her flowers. She was mortified.

Her fish-out-of-water experience continued, as she remembers feeling a little bit like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation as she did interviews in her American-accented Mandarin and navigated the slightly spastic world of Taiwanese talk shows. (“They do these sound effects live as they’re taping. It’s not done in post-production. There’s a DJ putting in laugh tracks and fart noises as you’re doing the show.”) She remembers a cheesy promo she was asked to shoot where she had to dust a house, look at the camera and say, “Do you know how to be a good mom?” One memorable moment of the tour involved her learning how to make Taiwan’s prized Din Tai Fung soup dumplings, which she realized was a big deal because there were photographs of Tom Cruise doing the same thing in 2013. (“It looked like I was holding two testicles,” she jokes, of having to hold up one soup dumpling in each hand for the cameras. “They were like, ‘Smile!’”)

Though it wasn’t necessarily her style, she went along with it. She figured she was already there, and Wu isn’t one to worry too much about her public image. “There’s this saying that you can’t cheat an honest man,” she says of her philosophy that extends to her sometimes controversial opinions. “But I stand by what I say, and if you conduct yourself to a standard of dignity that you stand behind at all times, then you can’t really slip up.”

This ability to distance herself from press hoopla and Internet chatter was helpful when Fresh Off the Boat, as the first network television show about an Asian American family in over 20 years, struck a nerve within the Asian American community, many of whom had plenty to say — good and bad — about the show almost a year before it premiered, even when all they had seen of it was a three-minute trailer of the pilot.

She found some of the early criticism constructive, but most of it irrelevant: “When I was younger, I was more insecure, but now I can say, ‘Yeah, you know what? You’re right. I could’ve done better. Next time, I’ll do better.’ But other times, I’ll read something and think, ‘This poor person. They’re just bitter and bitchy.’ And you feel sorry for them.

“I honestly think that all of that is deeply rooted in our experiences of shame,” she says, of Fresh Off the Boat’s critics. “Their fear that we were going to be exploiting the very things that other people have made us feel ashamed of and giving them a free pass to hit on these old wounds. I was the yelling [immigrant] mother, and the gut response was that I was going to be a stereotype — even though there are yelling mothers in Italy, Greece, Colombia, everywhere.”

But Wu believes in confronting these false assumptions head-on. “I was talking to a guy friend the other day, and he said when he was a kid, these bullies would make fun of him and call him gay,” she remembers. “And I was like, ‘So? Why is being gay an insult?’ It’s like if someone accuses me of being tall. It’s not true, but I’m not insulted by it. And he was like, ‘It’s different in the South. You don’t know.’ And maybe it is, but the way that we stop that is by not letting it be something that’s insulting.

“In the same way, there are going to be some people who are mad that the character has an accent because, from a Hollywood metric, a Chinese accent is something to be used as humorous fodder,” she continues. “But why are we using their metric? I don’t even dignify that metric with a response. I didn’t exploit the accent. I based my accent purely on character work and the truth of a real person.”

She says sometimes interviewers will ask her to do the accent, but she refuses. “I don’t care if it makes me seem like an asshole,” she says. “It’s not a party trick. I’m not going to do it just to make you giggle. If they want to laugh [at the accent], that’s their business, but I’m not responsible for catering my performance to other people’s idiocy. That’s like kowtowing to the Hollywood metric again, being too PC at the risk of your own authenticity. And if you have to sell out the very colors of yourself to be accepted, then I don’t want to be accepted.”


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Before Fresh Off the Boat, Wu admits she didn’t put a lot of thought into the politics of Asian America in the media. She had prided herself in making her own living and not depending on her parents financially after college, so she didn’t have the luxury of being picky about her roles. But nowadays, contributing to the goal of achieving greater representation and more nuanced roles for Asian Americans is a responsibility and opportunity she takes very seriously.

“I’m really interested in supporting talented Asian filmmakers,” she says, though she’s not shy about stating that there are some projects that speak to her and others that don’t. (“I have a very strong sense of what I think is quality, courageous work,” she says.) She recently reached out to a couple filmmakers whose projects were selected for the 2015 Sundance Directors and Screenwriters Labs, including Christopher Makoto Yogi for his feature I Was a Simple Man, and Yung Chang, the critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker (Up the Yangtze) who is working on his first narrative feature, Eggplant. She is also excited about a feature script by writer-director Jennifer Cho Suhr called You and Me Both, which was the recipient of 2015’s Tribeca All Access Grant.

“I’d rather do that kind of movie for free than do a supporting, thankless role in a big budget Hollywood movie,” she says. “So these are the choices I’m trying to make now. That doesn’t mean that I’m only going to do Asian American films, but I’m trying not to take supporting roles. Because I think we should tell Hollywood, ‘No, we’re not just going to be your checklist so you can pat yourself on the back and say you hired an Asian in the second supporting role. I’m going to make you hire me in a leading role. Because we can carry a story, even though you think we can’t. And the only way we’re going to prove that is by not legitimizing their preconceptions.

“Once you’re not trying to cater to this white Hollywood idea of cool, you accept your own level of cool,” she continues. “It’s why Empire is such a success. They’re embracing their own legacy.”

And then comes that glimmer in her eye that seems so Jessica Huang. “Asians have our own level of cool,” says Wu. “We’re good at everything.”

Cue the pimp walk.

Styling by Sarah Kinsumba 
Hair by Derek Yuen, Starworks Group 
Makeup by Tamah, The Wall Group 
Manicure by Kait Mosh 


This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here






Exclusive Video: Get to Know the Incredible Cast of Sony’s ‘Wolf Totem’


Sony Pictures and IMAX Entertainment are teaming up to bring you the film that has taken China by storm. Directed by French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud and based on the 2004 Chinese best-selling novel by Jiang Rong, Wolf Totem tells the story of a young Beijing student sent to Mongolia to teach rural shepherds. Instead, he ends up learning about the complicated relationship between the nomads and the nearby wolves, as well as the government organization who threaten the wolf population.

Wolf Totem is a powerful multi-layered autobiographical novel, where the main love story between a young man and a wolf cub is intertwined with the fascinating discovery of the Mongol nomadic culture,” Annaud told USA today. “On the top of this, the book digs into universal themes that are among the most relevant today.”


The film debuted in China earlier this year in February and was met with success. “It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of this incredibly rich and poignant film,” said Rory Bruer of Sony Pictures. “After the movie has struck a chord with Chinese audiences, we are thrilled to be presenting it to American moviegoers, and IMAX is a great way to experience it.”

The lead role is played by Feng Shaofeng, a talented actor who has been in more than fifty films and TV movies in the last 10 years. In Wolf Toten, Shaofeng’s character Chen Zhen is the young student who is sent to Mongolia and eventually adopts a wolf cub. Chen Zhen’s young and educated friend Yang Ke is played by the equally talented actor, Shawn Dou.

Get to know both of these incredible actors as well as the rest of the cast in the exclusive behind-the-scenes clip below!

“I’m very very pleased that I could have this group of actors that are true to their part. I am so thrilled,” director Annaud gushed about his cast. “I would love to make another movie with this group of actors and hope to find another film for them. It’s such a pleasure for me.


Wolf Totem will be digitally re-mastered into IMAX 3D format and released into limited IMAX theaters domestically on Sept. 11.






Make Your Own Pork Buns with Cathy Erway’s “The Food of Taiwan”


Cathy Erway, the biracial Taiwanese American, New York-based food blogger, host of the podcast “Eat Your Words,” and author of The Art of Eating In, gets even more personal with her latest cookbook, The Food of Taiwan.

Bona fides: Erway grew up eating her Taiwanese mother’s cooking, but it all came together for her, gastronomically speaking, when she spent a college semester in Taiwan, eating her way through the country.

Authenticity quotient: With a helpful summary of Taiwan’s history, culture and diverse peoples, from aboriginals to Hakka, the book focuses on everything from traditional Taiwanese dishes to night market snacks to the unique dishes arising out of the military villages (juan cun).

Fun aside: Two pages devoted to explaining “Q” texture — that bouncy, springy texture that is a must in Taiwanese cuisine.

“Whoa” factor: Though there are no stinky tofu recipes here (“No one would want to stink up their entire home for weeks or months to make it,” writes Erway), she does have a recipe for pan-fried pork liver with sweet and sour glaze (jian zhu gan), which, she writes, may change your mind about this offal cut.

Must-try: Recipes for Taiwanese beef noodle soup, arguably its national dish, homemade crushed ice milk (also known as snow ice or shaved snow), and Taiwanese pork belly buns. Try out the recipe here:


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Taiwanese Pork Belly Buns (Gua Bao)

Makes 8

Often translated as “Taiwanese hamburger,” this beloved street food has proven its international appeal. Popular variations are made by Taiwanese American restaurants like Fun Buns and BaoHaus in the States, and buns featuring its main component of red-braised pork belly (albeit with different toppings) is a specialty of the celebrated Momofuku restaurants. The classic Taiwanese version incorporates a hearty slab of pork belly along with picked mustard greens, fresh cilantro, and a dusting of crushed peanut powder. A compact bit of wildly contrasting flavors, textures, and culinary influences, it’s ultimately irresistible — and quintessentially Taiwanese.

8 sandwich-style steamed buns (found in the refrigerated section of Asian groceries)

6 to 8 tablespoons chopped picked mustard greens

8 pieces Red Braised Pork Belly (see recipe below), sliced about 1/2 inch thick

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (stems included)

1/2 cup peanut powder

Steam the buns according to the package instructions. To assemble the buns, place a spoonful of mustard greens inside each bun, followed by a piece of pork belly. Top the pork belly with cilantro, followed by a pinch of the peanut powder. Serve immediately.


Red Braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)

Makes 4 to 6 small servings

1 pound pork belly

2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil

2 whole scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, smashed

4 to 6 thick discs peeled fresh ginger

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup rice wine

2 cups water

1/2 cup light soy sauce

1/4 cup dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon five-spice powder

Remove any bone and cut the pork belly into thick pieces about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium-high heat. Arrange the pork belly pieces in a single layer in the pan so that each piece has direct contact with the bottom of the pan. Cook without turning until just lightly browned on one side, about 30 seconds. Flip the pieces over and brown on the opposite sides for just 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from the pan and set aside.

To the same pan, add the scallions, garlic and ginger and stir until just sizzling and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and cook, stirring, until bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice wine and bring just to a boil, stirring to incorporate the sugar. Add the water, light and dark soy sauces, and the five-spice powder and return to a boil. Return the pork belly pieces to the pan. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook until the pork is very tender and red stained, at least 1 hour, preferably 2 to 3 hours.


Recipes and photography from The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway. Copyright © 2015 by Cathy Erway. Photography © 2015 by Pete Lee. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Details Hardcover, $30, hmhco.com.