A Closer Look at Asian American Night Markets: Ramen Burgers & Kimchi Fries Galore

Ramen burgers, kimchi fries and pho tacos. Stinky tofu. Spiral-cut fried potato skewers sprinkled with a variety of seasonings. And balls — lots and lots of balls: curry fish balls, fried yam balls, takoyaki squid and octopus balls, kimchi fried rice balls with DMZ sauce, gourmet rice balls with honey Sriracha, crispy tofu balls covered with Vietnamese green crisped rice and spicy orange aioli. Truly, the wealth of options at an Asian American night market can be overwhelming for an attendee. After all, we only have one stomach.

Last October’s OC Night Market — the latest extension of the 626 Night Market that has since branched out from Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley (home of the 626 area code) into downtown Los Angeles and Orange County — was filled with over 200 vendors competing with each other for the attention of 60,000 potential customers. Sometimes that involved shouting Korean BBQ menu items from a loudspeaker or flashing eye- catching disco lights; sometimes it took three half-naked Asian girls encouraging onlookers to buy delicious Vietnamese coffee. But the most effective and envied form of attraction was a long line of customers, signifying the food must be worth the wait.

Though many Asian countries have their versions of outdoor food markets — from Singaporean hawker centres to Korean pojangmacha — the term “night market” was popularized in Taiwan, where these nighttime food markets still remain a key attraction for foreign tourists visiting the country, eager to experience the noisy atmosphere, crowded food stalls, mouth-watering smells and cheap eats that you consume on the spot (or while walking in search of your next snack). According to Taiwan’s government information site, food bazaars that operated at night in ancient China were originally called ghost markets, and contemporary-style night markets began to appear in Taiwanese cities during the turn of the century, when the government actively set aside blocks of streets for permanent night markets.

For Asian immigrants and their second-generation children, night markets elicit fond memories. “I always remember visiting the night markets with my family and friends to eat all different kinds of food,” says Jonny Hwang, the founder of 626 Night Market, who was born in Taiwan but immigrated to the U.S. when he was a child. So when his family relocated to Alhambra, a suburb of Los Angeles with a large Chinese and Taiwanese immigrant population, he wondered, why didn’t they have one?

“There are tons of little businesses and good restaurants, but they all have Chinese menus and signage, so it can be very foreign and intimidating to outsiders,” he says. “Because so much good food is hidden, I thought a night market would be a great showcase for the talent and entrepreneurs in the area.”

Hwang had heard of a couple successful night markets in Vancouver, as well as previous attempts to start a night market in Southern California that didn’t work out. Assuming it had to do with the challenges working with health departments and government agencies, he and his partners went straight to different cities of the San Gabriel Valley with a night market proposal, figuring that if they had the government backing them, the entire process would be a lot easier.

At first, most of the cities in the area were not interested. “The people running their events recreation departments didn’t even know what night markets were, because they weren’t Asian,” says Hwang. “Which is kind of sad, because they serve a very Asian population. They were used to doing their Lunar New Year Festivals, so they figured they already had an Asian event.”

Pasadena was the only place that was interested, because they happened to have an initiative to attract more Asian businesses to the area. So the very first 626 Night Market was scheduled for April 2012, with plans to shut down a couple streets in Old Town Pasadena for the event.

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Spiral cut potato skewers from Hotato Potato. Photo courtesy of Fritz Batiller/ 626 Night Market

Hwang’s team was optimistic that they could get 8,000 attendees, but the Pasadena special events folks, who had years of experience planning signature events like the Tournament of Roses parade, tempered their expectations. As first-time organizers, they’d be lucky to get 500 people to attend, they were told. But come event time, Hwang says the team had mobilized hundreds of thousands of people — many of whom ended up stuck in long lines, trapped in walkways like sardines or unable to even get in.

“If we had gotten 8,000 to 10,000 people throughout the day, it probably would have been OK,” says Hwang. “But people were coming from Orange County and Riverside, and all the way from San Diego and Las Vegas.” The surrounding freeways and side streets were packed. A police chopper had to monitor the traffic jams and crowds from above.

Though it seemed like a disaster to attendees (many of whom blasted the event through angry Yelp comments), business-wise, it was a huge success. Vendors were happy because they all sold out, and most importantly, it proved that there was a huge demand for a night market. The 626 team learned a lot of things, and soon, the other cities that had originally shunned their proposal came knocking.

Though 626 Night Market was not the first night market in America — Night Market Philadelphia, for example, though not focused on Asian cuisine, began in 2010 — it has made the biggest impact.

“626 are the ones that really started this night market hype,” says Jeff Shimamoto of The Original Ramen Burger, whose ramen-bun burgers have been a fan favorite since his brother Keizo debuted it in New York in the summer of 2013. “Our type of food probably wouldn’t have existed in a regular food market. It’s when the Asian night markets started popping up that we were able to participate.”

Shimamoto now has a brick-and-mortar of sorts, offering The Original Ramen Burger at a take-out window in Los Angeles’s Koreatown. Tonight, he’s hanging out at the adjacent Lock and Key bar with his fellow night market veteran friends, Phillip and Carol Kwan of Mama Musubi (who specialize in a gourmet version of onigiri rice balls, a popular Japanese snack) and Matthew Hui of Fluff Ice (a Taiwanese-inspired snowflake ice that takes flavored ice blocks and shaves them into what they call “frozen cotton candy”). They’re celebrating the end of another busy and successful night market season.

Since 626 debuted, night markets have opened up in other areas of Southern California, like Koreatown and Little Saigon in Westminster. Hwang himself was contacted for advice or collaboration requests from groups who wanted to start their own night markets in San Jose, San Diego and St. Paul. There are now night markets in Seattle, Honolulu and New York, and the list goes on. Even the team behind Studio City’s Sportsmen’s Lodge 1st Thursdays Night Market, who Hwang remembers jokingly called themselves “the white night market,” wanted in on the action. Now, you might be thinking, isn’t a Caucasian night market just … a fair? Like every single county fair in America? But this was just an indication of how the term “night market” was catching on. It had looped back into the mainstream.

Benjamin Kang, one of the organizers of the KTOWN Night Market and the MPK Night Market in Monterey Park, California (both debuted in 2014), believes it’s a good time for night markets because Asian culture is trending more than it ever has in America. “All my white friends want to come to Koreatown,” he says, laughing, citing the Koreatown episode of Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown, as well as the numerous Asian American chefs on mainstream TV cooking shows. “They’re always asking me what the best Chinese or Japanese restaurants are in L.A.”

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The Ramen Burger. Photo courtesy of Albert Chen / 626 Night Market

“I think the food industry revolves around the Asian population,” says Hui of Fluff Ice. “When all the Asian people think it’s cool, then the non-Asians flock to it. Because all the foodies on Yelp are Asian girls named Grace or Nancy.” He laughs. “The Yelp elite start reviewing all these places, and they become the definitive source.”

While 626 Night Market also had creative entertainment to go along with the food — Asian American performers, live art battles, eating competitions and the unveiling of the new Guinness World Record for the largest cup of boba milk tea — KTOWN Night Market made use of their Korean American showbiz connections, bringing together high-profile food celebrities, like the guys behind Seoul Sausage Company, who won Season 3 of the Food Net-work’s The Great Food Truck Race, as well as musicians like rappers Dumbfoundead and Shin-B. Six months later, KTOWN Night Market also hosted a Halloween Food Fest, where there were costume contests and carnival rides.

“Night markets in Asia are open all the time, so they don’t make a festival out of it,” says Shimamoto. “But here, they turn it into a big event, and that’s what makes it fun. We have concerts and beer gardens. And that’s why we get so many people concentrated at one time.”

The Kwans launched Mama Musubi at the first 626 Night Market in 2012. The brother-and-sister duo wanted to test the market and see what people thought about fresh Japanese rice balls. Would people get their gourmet version — with 24-hour braised Berkshire pork belly — or would they assume it was the same as the refrigerated kinds you can get at Mitsuwa supermarkets? Turns out, there was excitement for rice balls not only in the night markets but in non-Asian markets like the Altadena Farmer’s Market, where they are regulars. But though they work these markets and also cater, their ultimate goal is to launch their own store.

Similarly, The Original Ramen Burger started participating in night markets in Los Angeles because California foodies were asking for it. They do pretty well, but they see night markets as a transition into eventually running four to five restaurant franchises.

“There are two crowds of vendors at the night market,” says Phillip Kwan. “Vendors like us who have long-term visions of opening up brick-and-mortars. And others that make a comfortable living for themselves doing festival-type events.”

Some vendors may have a full-time job on the side. Others might be there just for fun. “On the last day of the night market, there were these 15 Vietnamese ladies from Orange County [in the booth next to us],” remembers Shimamoto. “They showed up four hours before everybody else, and they were all perky and ready to go with all their juices. And they said, ‘We all go to the same church, and we decided we were going to come out here and try and sell some lemonade!’” He laughs. “And that’s great! Maybe they’re just doing it once a month for a little money. Or maybe they could become the next Mrs. Fields Cookies. Either way, they were just so happy to be there.”

Hwang encourages it all. “In the beginning, most of our vendors had stores, but we really encourage the ones who don’t,” he says. “It’s such a good platform for people to try new ideas for cheap. Just do it for one weekend. If it’s good and you like it, then do it again. Those are the types of food you can’t eat anywhere else. You have to go to our event to find them.”

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Takoyaki, one of the many variety of balls available at 626 Night Market. Photo courtesy of Bryan Cole / 626 Night Market

“Phil and I think that the model for starting a restaurant is going to start changing,” says Shimamoto. “In Los Angeles, you see a lot of restaurants come and go. But [working the night markets] is a way you lower your overhead and costs, and it’s a great way to get some exposure while retaining flexibility to work on other things, like food trucks or developing your brick-and-mortar.”

Even Fluff Ice, which already had a store in Monterey Park when 626 first opened, found that attending night markets is just a good way to network, advertise and grow your business. “There’s just so many layers of income you can get with a business like this, whether it’s night markets, school fundraisers or Hollywood catering,” says Hui, who has catered for How I Met Your Mother, Parks & Recreation, The Office and the upcoming film Paranormal Activity 5. They now have four locations in Southern California.

But these Asian American night markets aren’t without its skeptics. In Taiwan, you go to the night market because you’re craving certain foods, whether it be oyster pancakes, ba-wan (Taiwanese meatballs wrapped in gelatinous dough) or aiyu jelly drinks. You’re also expecting a certain atmosphere — makeshift stalls where you see and smell the food being prepared right in front of you — and a certain experience, a.k.a. cheap stuff, whether it be food, shopping or games.

In the beginning, that was the source of some of the disappointment for night market goers in America. It didn’t look right — health codes in the U.S. require covered canopies so it looked like a typical fair. It’s not cheap: there’s usually a cover charge of $5 to $10 just to get in, and everything, even a tiny plate, usually costs at least $5 (which adds up!). And there was a random mix of foods, both Asian and non-Asian, that weren’t necessarily what you thought of as “street food.” (One vendor at a recent KTOWN Night Market was serving up 100 percent grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised Australian bone-in lamb.)

“But I think that’s what makes us different in a good way,” says Hwang. “If you think about the night markets in Asia, it’s all the same foods. We always get a good amount of vendors that are new or tweaking their menu, and it’s exciting to see people experimenting with new things — whether it’s fusion foods like the ramen burger, pho tacos and new types of guabao [Taiwanese pork belly buns] — or if they’re bringing in traditional stuff that we never had before, like yam balls and chicken sausages. It’s a competitive marketplace, so you have to be creative. Don’t do the usual things, or if you do, figure out how you can do it differently.”

“You can’t be stale,” agrees Carol Kwan, who recently collaborated with the Shimamoto brothers to create a one-month-only specialty mash-up: the Mama Musubi 24-hour Pork Belly Ramen Burger. “It’s the same even if you’re in a restaurant. You have to innovate and keep creating something new to keep people coming.”

That said, for every food item that’s worth waiting for in the night market lines, there are many, many more that are underwhelming and overpriced. It’s also hard to tell whether something is innovative or just gimmicky, and with so many copycat renditions of almost the same idea (there’s a reason Ramen Burger changed its name to The Original Ramen Burger), it’s tempting to assume the latter.

But one can only hope that the truly tasty, fusion or not, rises to the top — that the prevalence of night markets are giving those gems a place to grow and a community of like-minded food fans a place to gather.


“One of the major pluses [of the night markets] is how it impacts the current and hopefully the next generation of Asian Americans,” says Christine Chiao, a food writer who’s contributed to LA Weekly and Sunset. “A regular or seasonal night market can be a platform for more than just the vendors. It can become a channel, too, for young Asian American attendees to seek and express their identity.”

So did Hwang ever imagine that the 626 Night Market he created would become such a cultural touchstone?

“Not really,” he says. “At first I really did it for fun, as a side thing, because I knew it’d be something that people would enjoy. I never thought I’d end up working full time to produce night markets.” He laughs. “Who goes to college thinking that? It’s surreal.”




Feature image: 626 Night Market at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Photo courtesy of DANNY LIAO PHOTOGRAPHY. This story was originally published in our Winter 2014-15 issue. Get your copy here. 



This Cartoonist Shows the Reality of Being An Asian Daughter… And Single


If you know how it feels to be an Asian daughter (or more specifically, an Asian daughter who’s single), then Connie Sun gets you.

Taiwanese American cartoonist Connie Sun has trademarked the “single girl, Asian daughter” thing, contributes to McSweeney’s and has prints you can buy. Basically, she’s yet another person to add to the “we could be best friends if we knew each other in real life” list. Want some proof?

Here’s her take on being an introvert:



Being part of an Asian family that loves eating:



Asian parent standards on dating:



Universe tetris:





On your parents comparing you with their friends’ children:



On being blonde:



And on being broken:



Kind of awesome, no? She has mastered the kind of humor that keeps things light, while still talking about things that are relevant and dig a little deeper. Needless to say, her work certainly resonates.

You can find her on Twitter and and GoComics as well.



Moon Myung Jin and Son Seung Yeon to Perform at Pechanga Resort & Casino

There are already countless reasons to drop by Pechanga Resort & Casino. Maybe you want to check out their beautiful, multimillion dollar renovation. Or maybe you want to check out some of their incredible performers such as Kenichi Ebina who wowed Pechanga audiences back in April 2014.

Well, it looks like there will be two more big reasons to visit in February: Moon Myung-jin and Son Seung Yeon.

The “R&B master” Moon Myung-jin and the rising star Son Seung Yeon will perform live together in the upcoming “Healing Concert” at Pechanga Resort & Casino on Saturday, February 28 (8pm) and Sunday, March 1 (5pm).

Moon Myung-jin, a veteran R&B and soul singer, received plenty of attention when he appeared in Immortal Song, a popular singing competition TV show, in 2013. He sang Haebaragi’s “It’s Not Only Sorrow” and immediately topped all Internet searches in Korea. He became more popular after winning the show’s 100th episode (The Deulgukhwa Special) and Sulwondo Special.

Son Seung Yeon was the winner of The Voice Korea in 2012. Since winning, she’s been garnering much attention and popularity for her powerful voice and singing talent. She joined Immortal Song in 2014 and quickly became the queen of the show.

Tickets are priced at $70 (Silver), $90 (Golden), $110 (Orchestra), $150 (VIP) and can be purchased by visiting the Pechanga Box Office from noon to 8pm or www.pechanga.com/tickets. You can also call 714-443-3500 for more inquiries.



We Stand On Their Shoulders: Remembering Asian American Leaders Before Us


In light of Martin Luther King Day, we take the time to reflect on the efforts of not only Martin Luther King Jr., but also the others who stood at the forefront to fight for civil rights in America.

I once stood in front of San Francisco State University’s Filipino mural (pictured above). As a freshman still full of curiosity and bewilderment, I took in every detail possible. While questioning who the people in the mural were and why they were there, one detail in particular resonated with me. There was a quote in the corner painted in bold red, “We stand on their shoulders.” That brought the piece full circle for me, and suddenly I was filled with gratitude.

The Civil Rights Movement was not just of King’s doing, but a coalition of thousands of local movements, including efforts made by Asian American activists. The Civil Rights Movement brought to light the racial disparities in America and demanded equal representation. People of color were ultimately fighting against marginalization and misrepresentation in institutions, the denial of basic human rights, and were standing against a system that consistently silenced their voices.

In honor of their efforts, here are some of the Asian American leaders who were crucial during this pivotal time in America.




Richard Aoki:


Photo courtesy of apafilm.org

By the age of 3, Richard Aoki and his family were victimized by racism during WWII when they were sent to a Japanese internment camp in Utah. That early experience was key to his understanding of mistreatment made by the US government. This, lead him to join and aid the Black Panther Party (despite his conflicting work as a FBI insider). In Hyphen Magazine‘s article, Diane Fujino–author of Samurai Among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance, and a Paradoxical Life–stated that he was “one of the most important political leaders bridging the Asian American, Black Power and Third World movements.”



Yuri Kochiyama:


Photo courtesy of caamedia.org

Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese American activist, dedicated her life to serving the black, Latino and Asian American communities. According to NPR’s article, “Kochiyama couldn’t help but stick out. She lived in New York City housing projects among black and Puerto Rican neighbors. Kochiyama began participating in sit-ins and inviting Freedom Riders to speak at weekly open houses in the family’s apartment.” She was most noted for her friendship with Malcolm X,  and making him see that the Black Power movement wasn’t just an African American struggle but a multi-ethnic struggle.



Grace Lee Boggs:


Photo courtesy of eastbayexpress.com

One of Audrey’s Women of Influence, Grace Lee Boggs made strides in the Black Power Movement alongside her husband, James Boggs. She was involved in the African American Movement for more than 70 years. A Chinese American woman who pre-dated both the Asian American movement and second-wave Women’s Movement concerned with gender inequality, Boggs’ first experience with activism came when she got involved with protests in the black communities of Chicago over rat-infested housing.



Larry Itliong:


Photo courtesy of nytimes.com

The Filipino American advocate for agricultural workers’ rights, Larry Itliong was a key leader in the Delano Grape Strike together with Caesar Chavez (seen above). However, his efforts for demanding better pay and treatment for laborers are often overlooked. “In popular culture, it’s seen as a Chicano movement, not as the multi-ethnic alliance that it actually was,” says Dawn Bohulano Mabalon–a history professor at San Francisco State University and author of Little Manila is in the Heart.


Third World Liberation Front (TWLF):


Photo courtesy of quazoo.com

Intercollegiate Chinese for Social Action (ICSA), Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor (PACE) and Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) were the Asian American unions that were part of the collective coalition of student unions called the “Third World Liberation Front.” These students fought a year long battle against the marginalization of a Eurocentric education, and were successful when the first College of Ethnic Studies was established at San Francisco State University. This is a battle that continues to inspire the oncoming generations as both Los Angeles and San Francisco are  now institutionalizing Ethnic Studies in high schools.


Fall of the International Hotel:


Photo courtesy of citybadger.com

In what was once the “Manilatown” of San Francisco, there stood the International Hotel (I-Hotel), a hub and a home not only for WWII veterans who were legally denied land, but also for low income families who could only afford single room occupancies. During the city’s first attempt to demolish the building in order to make a parking structure, many Bay Area student organizations, neighboring Chinatown organizations and community leaders stood in solidarity to create human blockade around the building. But during the second eviction, authorities were successful at violently removing the elderly residents, which is seen in the documentary Fall of the I-Hotel. It wasn’t until decades after that the community’s efforts to rebuild the I-Hotel paid off in 2005 when the new I-Hotel was opened.


Featured image courtesy of SFSU.edu.



Video of the Day: Korean Girls React to American Snacks


While there are many, many, many, many, many videos of Americans reacting to Asian food and pop culture, the reversal is less common. Now a new YouTube series called “Korean Girls React” flips the Americans-react-to-Asian-culture video trend on its head.

In this video, Korean girls taste American snacks for the very first time and give their honest opinion of it. The snacks include goldfish, poptarts, rice krispies, salt and vinegar chips, twizzlers, cheez-itz and warheads.

While there were obviously many different opinions, a couple of interesting trends emerged. Most of the girls agreed that the poptarts tasted too artificial. One girl even complained that “it tastes like a candle.” Rice krispies seemed to be a favorite amongst most of the girls whereas the twizzlers and warheads were very, very unpopular.

One thing that viewers all over the world should be able to relate to are the complaints that the snacks were too unhealthy or fattening, followed by later admissions that the snacks are too addicting to be left uneaten. Ah, the power of junk food!

Glow Recipe: Finally, Access to Korea’s Natural Beauty Products


The “time is crucial” mentality has become a lifestyle adopted by many Americans. Between work, the kids’ volleyball practice, and rushing back home to make dinner (out of breath yet?), it feels like there’s hardly any time for upkeep. Well, have no fear, because our saviors are here! Meet Christine Chang and Sarah Lee, the co-founders of Glow Recipe, as they share their beauty advice for any on-the-go woman.

Applying their 10 years worth of extensive research from both Korean and American beauty markets, these highly qualified ladies manifested a company dedicated to bringing nothing but the best Korean products to the American market.  “The theme of Glow Recipe really speaks to what we’re about. We want to give the right ingredients and the right tools for the American women–further more the women around the world–on how to get glowing skin,” says Lee.

So what exactly is Glow Recipe, you ask? The official website points out that their goal is “to create a lovingly curated destination site that makes natural, harsh-free Korean beauty products and the latest skincare trends from the Far East accessible to beauty-forward women around the world.”

Their bi-cultural beauty background has been key in their success. Taking their knowledge of both worlds, they’ve personally curated straight-forward multifunctional Korean products, and given us access to the best of the best. No matter which side of the hemisphere, we can all agree that healthy luminous skin is what we strive for, and we’re grateful Glow Recipe is here to help bring it to us.

Here are their suggested Korean trends to jumpstart any woman’s skincare routine onto the right path to brilliant glowing skin.




Dry Complexions:

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SHARA SHARA: Hinoki Spa Toner

“If we had to pick just one [trend], we would say nourishing toners (sometimes called “treatment toners” or “essence toners”). They’re basically toners that have moved beyond the old school astringent wipe-off toners that were once an extention of your cleanser. [Korean] toners often have more body, they’re almost like a pre-serum, because they’re loaded up with anti-aging and hydrating ingredients. You can kick start your regiment this way. It’s not just balancing, it’s beyond.”



Oily/Acne-prone Complexions:

Tea Tree 90 Essence

LEE JI HAM: Tea Tree 90 Essence

“We think that essences are really suiting for the Asian Americans with this skin type. First of all, not only is this a trend, but we know that a lot of the essences that are being launched have a very light texture (as opposed to the heavy, oily body of serums). These are lightweight, but also as effective as serums. Perfect for people who are afraid of the shine or grease, but still want that effective penetration of all the good stuff for the skin.”



Combination Complexions:


WHAMISA: Organic Flowers Olive Leaf Mist

“We’ve talked to dermatoligist partners in Korea about combination skin, and it’s basically an imbalance. This often happens because certain parts of your skin are actually starved from moisture and it’s over-producing oil, especially on your forehead and nose region. We thought a great product for combination skin would be mists. It’s also a form of toner, but the nourishment and vitamin-packed formulations are packed in a convienient spray bottle. They’re often called “desk mists” in Korea, because every woman has one on her desk in the office or at school. They’re non-stripping [of natural oils], and they really help infuse the right amount of hydration to skin so your skin looks more balanced overall.”



On-the-Go Essential:

The Snow Queen Enzyme Powder Wash

DR. ORACLE: The Snow Queen Enzyme Powder Wash

“There are some products we love that we have on our site. The first is a powder cleanser, which is a very versatile cleanser where you can use it as a daily foam cleanser as well as an exfoliator, once or twice a week. It’s travel friendly, it’s a powder form so you can always carry it around. It’s great, perfect for travel. You can always make sure your face is clean.”



Their Must-Have:

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SHARA SHARA: Honey Bomb All-in-one Ampoule

“A product called Honey Balm is basically a toner, moisturizer, and serum all in one. What we love about it is the very lightweight texture, so you can use it right after cleansing your face, and still feel this lasting nourishment and hydration”


We hope that you’ve learned a thing or two from Glow Recipe, and be sure to check out their online store for even more amazing products!


All photos courtesy of Glow Recipe.


Bollywood’s Deepika Padukone Speaks Out on Her Struggle with Depression


If there weren’t enough reasons to love Deepika Padukone already, her candid piece with the Hindustan Times on her struggles with depression and anxiety solidifies her status as a one of the most outspoken and bravest celebrities in Bollywood.

In the peice, Padukone details how her struggles with depression started negatively affecting her life in 2014. Despite all her perceived success in Bollywood, she admits having trouble even getting up in the morning to shoot one of her most recent films Happy New Year. It was an even bigger struggle to put on a brave front for her parents.

At the advice of an aunt, Padukone started taking medication and continued filming Happy New Year. She concludes that she hopes her example will help inspire others to reach out for help. Additionally, she and her team are working on an initiative to help address mental health issues.


Photo courtesy of Padukone’s official Twitter account.

Padukone’s inspiring actions come at a time when the Indian community is suffering immensely over mental health issues. While the new Indian Prime Minister Modi is attempting to pass a new bill allowing universal mental health services, India still “has the highest number of suicides in the world. According to the World Health Organization, of 804,000 suicides recorded worldwide in 2012, 258,000 were in India. Indian youths between 15 and 29 years old kill themselves at a rate of 35.5 deaths per 100,000 — the highest in the world — and suicide has surpassed maternal mortality as the leading cause of death of young Indian women.”

Since there is still such a stigma against mental health disorders and medication, we find it admirable that a public figure such as Deepika Padukone speaks out. Hopefully, this inspires more people who are struggling with these issues to get the help they need.

If you feel you are struggling with depression, anxiety, and/or other mental health issues, please check out these links here for lists of resources:




If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call:

1-800-273-8255 (TALK), 24hr National Suicide Prevention Hotline, >150 languages available

1-877-990-8585, 24hr Asian LifeNet Hotline, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Fujianese available

The Low-Down On E-Cigarettes And Why It Affects Asian Americans

A few years ago, I began hearing about vapes, or electronic cigarettes, and I saw my peers start to use them with the claim that they wanted to quit smoking. Naturally, I was extremely skeptical because I was against smoking, even if vapes were supposedly harmless. However, I noticed that many vape shops were opening around me and vaping was rapidly becoming some sort of trend.

You would not have expected me to work a part time summer job at a vape shop, now would you? Well, that’s exactly what I did the summer of 2013. Hearing about how passionate the new store-owners were about promoting a healthier lifestyle by “making the switch” and their own experiences with wanting to quit cigarette smoking opened my eyes and made me want to support their cause.


In June 2013, BZ Vapin’ had their grand opening in La Habra, California. I was stunned at how huge the event turned out to be as crowds of people filtered in and out of the store’s glass door. The store produced a chill, Hawaiian vibe since the owners had family members from the islands. This theme is actually quite fitting for a vape shop because, unfortunately, tobacco use is a major concern for the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community. In an effort to find a healthier alternative, they became one of the main consumers of vaping products.

According to the Asian Pacific Partners of Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL) in Oakland, California, tobacco is associated with heart disease, cancer and strokes. These are the top three killers of Asian Americans nationwide. In 2013, APPEAL conducted studies in Asian languages to accurately track smoking rates. Shockingly, the following groups revealed high smoking rates among men: Cambodian (13-58%), Korean (22-37%), Lao (32) and Vietnamese (24-41%).

Standard vaping pens called C-Twists are customizable from color to tank size.

Standard vaping pens are customizable from color to tank size.

So what exactly are vapes? Electronic cigarettes appeared in the marketplace in the early 2000s and were promoted as a cessation tool for those that wanted to quit tobacco smoking. Its use increased substantially over the last several years. Still, over a decade after the electronic cigarette’s first appearance, some doubt remains whether vaping is actually a healthier alternative to cigarettes and whether there are serious health risks.

In a recent issue of the journal Addiction, they reported that vapes have fewer toxins and at a significantly lower level, and found that switching over can help smokers quit or reduce cigarette consumption.

Vapes carry nicotine liquids or “juices” that typically contain propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, flavoring and nicotine. There are a variety of flavors, from natural and synthetic to organic fruit extracts. There are also different levels of nicotine that range from zero to 36 mg. This allows the consumer, if they desire, to gradually decrease their nicotine intake and perhaps eventually stop smoking or vaping altogether.


Aer juices (pronounced like "air") can be mixed to create your own flavor.

Aer juices (pronounced like “air”) can be mixed to create your own flavor.

“E-cig users are inhaling water-like vapor that is free of the tar and high levels of carcinogens that make cigarette smoking so dangerous,” says George Conley, President of the American Vaping Association. He also claims that the public has been misled into thinking that e-cigs are a threat to public health because of the fear that those who have never smoked will vape as first time users. Conley also argues that with the increase of vapor products, there is also a quicker decrease in cigarette sales. Why would anyone be against this?

A customer at BZ Vapin' in La Habra poses with one of the owners while sporting a shirt that says, "Vaping saved my life."

A customer at BZ Vapin’ in La Habra poses with one of the owners while sporting a shirt that says, “vaping saved my life.”

As someone who is anti-tabacco, I support vaping as a healthier alternative. Though I have never smoked tobacco, I have used a vape with juice that contained nicotine many times. Did I become a smoker? No. Am I addicted to vaping? Not at all. I don’t even own one and don’t crave using it. However, I don’t mind the pleasant fruity or dessert scents that comes from the vapor.

So the next time a pleasant smelling cloud comes your way, you’ll know you have nothing to worry about.

All photos courtesy of BZ Vapin’ on Facebook.

Controversy Over ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Producer Eddie Huang


As the first Asian American family sitcom on a “Big 5″ network TV channel in twenty years, the mere existence of Fresh off the Boat has already classified the show as a leading pioneer for Asian American representation, despite the fact that the first two* does not air until February 4. The excitement over the show has garnered enormous online buzz, and television critics are generally positive about the pilot and the first few episodes they’ve seen.

Then in an unprecedented move, Eddie Huang, an executive producer of the show and the author of the memoir Fresh Off the Boat (which served as the source material for the show), wrote a piece in Vulture saying, “The network tried to turn my memoir into a cornstarch sitcom and me into a mascot  for America. I hated that.”

In the piece, titled “Bamboo-Ceiling TV,” Huang was not shy to write about his conflicts with fellow executive producer Melvin Mar (Huang calls him an “Uncle Chan”) and he even questioned whether it was valid for Persian American Nahnatchka Khan to be the showrunner (he wrote that he was worried the show would become “The Shahs of Cul-de-Sac Holando“). Throughout the piece, Huang detailed his experience with production as well as the many, many conflicts along the way. In the end, Huang concluded:

We are culturally destitute in America, and this is our ground zero. Network television never offered the epic tale highlighting Asian America’s coming of age; they offered to put orange chicken on TV for 22 minutes a week instead of Salisbury steak … and I’ll eat it; I’ll even thank them, because if you’re high enough, orange chicken ain’t so bad.

The day after Huang’s piece was published, he sat with the cast (and his best friends Melvin Mar and Nahnatchka Khan) at the TCA panel to promote the show in front of a bunch of journalists – all of whom had just finished reading “Bamboo-Ceiling TV.”



Immediately, the panel was off to an awkward and jawdropping start as an unnamed journalist said, “I love the Asian culture. And I was just talking about the chopsticks, and I just love all that. Will I get to see that, or will it be more Americanized?”

Many TCA critics audibly groaned and instantly tweeted their embarrassment and frustration at the racist comment. And after a beat, the panel on stage laughed it off and made chopsticks jokes. However, while the mood was lightened temporarily, the panel remained uncomfortable and contentious as Eddie Huang’s piece was continually brought up. At one point Huang questioned a reporter’s “reading comprehension skills” after he was asked about his negative comments towards Nahnatchka Khan.

Despite this rough patch, critics remain hopeful. The one thing everyone seemed to agree on was that Fresh Off the Boat was a show they wanted to see succeed because they believed in it and because Asian American representation is important, especially since there are those out there who believe Asian culture is all about the chopsticks.


* Note: Originally, the piece mentioned that the pilot airs on Feb 4th. It has been revised to the first two episodes airing on Feb 4th and its regular timeslot will be on Feb 10th.

[VIDEO] American Teens Watch J-pop For the First Time


The Fine Bros are back again with yet another reaction video. This time, much to our delight, they had American teenagers watch J-pop music videos for the very first time.

Anyone who is familiar with J-pop knows that it’s very, very different from American entertainment. To many Americans, dancing pop groups are a thing of the past. Well the reign of N’Sync and Spice Girls may have ended with the 90’s, but this trend is far from over in Asia.

The teens watched a total of three music videos from the J-pop bands Perfume, Exile and AKB48. It came as no surprise that among the many reactions garnered from these music videos, the strongest of all was confusion. After all, in Perfume’s “Laser Beam” music video, a masked man turns into a fighting polar bear… which then turns into a stuffed animal.

Of course, confusion isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One teen, who seemed completely lost, found delight in his confusion and concluded that the video was “so awesome!” Another, who was at first shocked by the number of group member in Exile, quickly got over it and commented that the video was “kind of amazing.” Things eventually took a turn with AKB48’s music video. This video, although cute, seemed to finally cross the line and make the teens feel uncomfortable with its suggestive content.

In the end, despite the confusion and shock (especially over the fact that AKB48 has over 100 group members), the teens seemed to enjoy the quirkiness and cinematography.

But will they continue watching J-pop in the future?  Probably not.



Want to see the J-pop videos for yourself? Check them out below.