Image of The Day: The Cutest Hello Kitty Bento Boxes

September has been quite the month for Hello Kitty fans. First, Sanrio brought fruit-flavored Hello Kitty beer to China. Then the Hello Kitty jet made its first flight to the U.S.

In honor of Hello Kitty’s rather eventful month, we decided we ought to show some fan-made Hello Kitty love. So what impressed us?

Hello Kitty bento boxes!

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Common in Japanese cuisine, bento is a single-portion meal that is usually placed in a box container. Traditionally, a lot of time and effort is put into the arrangement and preparation of bento boxes. Clearly, these Hello Kitty bento boxes are no exception.

These impressive bento boxes are quickly going viral on various social media sites and for good reason. Check them out for yourself:

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Party Like An Asian … IN VEGAS

Considering she’s been going there for almost a quarter of a century, it’s safe to say that Associate Editor Kanara Ty knows Vegas. Here, she shares her insider secrets to Sin City.

Go ahead and judge me, but I proudly call Las Vegas my second home — after all, I’ve been making memories there since I was a kid. For a lot of Asian immigrant families living in Southern California (like mine), going to Las Vegas was the easy choice for a family vacation: it wasn’t too far of a drive nor too costly. The adults spent countless hours at the slot machines or tables, while the kids would wander around the arcade or the Adventuredome at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. For meals, it was either gorging at a buffet, or hitting up local spots off the strip, at the Asian strip malls that began at the intersection of Valley View and Spring Mountain Road. Holidays like Chinese New Year and Christmas drew lots of families to catch Asian acts from abroad, like Hong Kong singers Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng, Taiwanese pop singer Lee-hom Wang, and more recently, Cantopop singer Sandy Lam and K-pop artist Kim Bum-soo.

Of course, when I turned 21, Vegas was no longer just a place I could enjoy with family. It turned into a weekend hotspot for dabbling in acts of debauchery — eating, dancing, shopping and drinking at any given hour of the day. Sleeping, of course, was not an option. When I stepped into my first Vegas club in 2005, Tao was the first big “megaclub” on the strip. I’ll admit I was peeved at the generic Asian theme, but it was also the first of its kind — an Asian themed nightclub with restaurant — in Sin City. This ushered in a new era of entertainment in Vegas: no longer just a gambler’s paradise, it became a playground for nightlife revelers. Today, Tao is still one of the top- grossing clubs in Vegas, but options abound with current top billers XS (Encore) and Marquee (Cosmopolitan), and the recent openings of Hakkasan (MGM Grand) and Light (Mandalay Bay). Electronic dance music (EDM) has taken over the club scene, with household-name DJs like Tiesto, Kaskade, and Deadmau5 all signing exclusive contracts and holding residencies at various venues in the city.

But Las Vegas is more than just pretty lights and drinking till dawn. It’s increasingly becoming a bona fide vacation destination for Asians everywhere — and the city has taken note, catering its food and entertainment to Asian customers. Furthermore, an increasing number of Asian Americans are truly calling Las Vegas “home.” According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Asian American growth rate in Nevada is the highest in the nation (at 116 percent), with Asian Americans making up 10 percent of the population in Clark County. Over the years, I’ve seen economic opportunities develop and more Asian-owned businesses pop up (the Vietnamese bánh mì store, Lee’s Sandwiches, even has a franchise out there!).

With so much more to do in Vegas than just gamble and drink, here are some of my favorite Asian-friendly spots to eat, drink and play — on and off the strip.

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DINING 
We may all have our individual reasons for traveling to Vegas, but there’s one thing we can all agree upon: the food. My parents are pretty closed-minded about what they eat, so that meant they wanted rice with all their meals. Turns out, some of the best food in Vegas isn’t at the latest celebrity chef-owned restaurant. Check out some of these delectable places in the Chinatown neighborhood of Las Vegas and beyond.

Pho Saigon 8
While Pho Kim Long is arguably the more popular place for pho off the strip, locals told me that this is a much better spot for pho. And they’re absolutely right: I’ve grown to love Pho Saigon 8 for the amazing beef broth. It’ll definitely help cure any hangovers you have the next day.

Ichiza
( japaneserestaurantinfo.com/ichiza/) If you’re a fan of Japanese tapas or izakayas, Ichiza makes the best hamburger steak I’ve had to date: it’s huge, juicy and has this great demiglace sauce that goes perfectly with the ground patty. It’s kind of a cool place, with specials written on paper on the walls (uni mochi, anyone?). Get their honey toast for dessert — you’ll end your meal on a very sweet note.

Buldogi’s Gourmet Hot Dogs
(buldogis.com) A play on the Korean marinated beef dish bulgogi, Buldogi’s menu features an extensive list of fancy hot dogs. I highly recommend the Angry Dog, which has spicy pork bulgogi, Asian slaw, jalapeños and spicy mayo.

Korean BBQ
Sura BBQ Buffet is all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ that’s open until 3 a.m. — need I say more? If you’re not in the mood for AYCE, try the popular chain Honey Pig, where you can get your pork belly fix at any given time of the day. If you’re lucky, you might even get the heart-shaped shot glasses for your soju.

Fukuburger Truck
(fukuburgertruck.com) If you’re without a car in Vegas, this Asian fusion burger truck might be a little troublesome to get to. I’m a fan of the #2 (Tamago Burger) and the #4 (Ki- noko Burger). Once you try it, you’re going to make sure you have a ride next time you’re in Vegas.

Monta Ramen
(montaramen.com) Even with all the awesome ramen places in Southern California, I still get cravings for Monta’s Tonkotsu broth from time to time. Who would have thought Vegas would have such great ramen?

Lotus of Siam
(saipinchutima.com) A little more expensive than some of the other options on this list, but well worth it. The award-winning restaurant definitely rivals some of the best Thai I’ve ever had in my life. Get the Drunken Noodles (with either seabass or soft shell crab), as well as the Nam Prik Ong, a northern style red chili dip, with raw veggies and fried pork skins.

Market Café
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been coming to this restaurant at the Califor- nia Hotel in downtown Las Vegas sim- ply for one thing: the oxtail soup. And I’m not the only one — it’s definitely a favorite among locals and Vegas regu- lars. Be warned: you can only get the oxtail soup after a certain hour (usually 10 or 11 p.m.). Another favorite off the menu: Zippy’s chili (normally just found in Hawaii).

 

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NOBU HOTEL AT CAESARS PALACE 
Nobu Matsuhisa has become more than just a master sushi chef. Renowned for providing a high-class experience at his restaurants, Matsuhisa is applying the same concept to the world of hospitality by joining forces with Caesars Palace to create the world’s first Nobu Hotel. Staying at Nobu is unparalleled to other hotel experiences in Vegas, simply because of the unique Nobu touch. With furniture heavily influenced by Japanese woodworker George Nakashima, the design of each room juxtaposes raw and natural elements in neutral tones with bold traditional and contemporary Japanese graphics. (Some of the artwork was curated by Matsuhisa himself.)

My favorite guest amenities in- clude being served Nobu’s signature tea upon arrival, 24-hour access to Nobu’s first ever in-room dining menu (Blue- berry and Yuzu Soba Pancakes!), and of course, a turndown service to die for: luxurious Fili D’oro Italian linens, a pillow menu, and Nobu’s own blend of linen mist. Details Nobucaesarspalace.com.

 

NIGHTLIFE
Perhaps the most exciting nightclub opening of 2013 is Hakkasan Nightclub and Restaurant at the MGM Grand. The Las Vegas location of the high-end Chinese restaurant (there’s also one in London, New York, San Francisco and Mumbai) will feature a nightclub with high-profile acts like Tiesto, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, and Steve Aoki. Hakkasan will go face-to-face with another rival — the Cirque-de-Soleil-themed Light Nightclub at Mandalay Bay, with its impressive roster of headlining DJs: Skrillex, Zedd, and Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia.

For those who aren’t into the EDM scene, nightclubs like Moon Nightclub (at Palms Hotel and Casino) and Tao Nightclub feature DJs who spin hip-hop and top 40.

 

DAYPARTIES
You don’t have to stop partying when the sun comes up. With summer now in full swing, there are pool parties a plenty up and down the strip. Daylight at Mandalay Bay is currently shaping up to be the hot new dayparty in town, rivaling Marquee’s Summer Lovin’ night/dayparties with Kaskade, and Encore Beach Club’s Daystar Sundays.

 

DETOX
Before you head back home, take some time to detox at the Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace for any of their signature treatments. Tip: Get there early enough to score one of the heated chairs in the Roman bath area. For those looking for a cheaper (and unique) alternative, check out Imperial Health Spa, which has various sauna rooms with red clay, jade or salt to help with detoxification.

Story by Kanara Ty, illustration by David Teas. Originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of Audrey Magazineclick here to buy it!

 

Keeping Away the ‘Freshman Fifteen’

Making healthy choices when it comes to food is probably not too high on the priority list for the majority of you college students. As far as to-do lists, it might fall somewhere in between washing that mug that’s been sitting on your desk since last week and organizing your sock drawer. And who can blame you, there’s an all you can eat buffet waiting for you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s late night dining serving up pizza and burgers. And of course when it comes time to cram for midterms and finals what better way to stay awake than mindlessly munching on candy and Doritos washed down with a sugar laden energy drink? We’ve been there. We’re here to help you stave off the infamous Freshman Fifteen and hopefully spark some good eating habits that will benefit you long after you move out of the dorms. Here are our top ten tips to navigate the murky nutritional waters that is the college dining experience.

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1) Go for the Green:

When faced with a multitude of tasty options in your dining hall start at the stations with fresher choices, these include the salad bar or any fresh veggie sides. Fill your plate to your heart’s content; remember to go light on the dressing (balsamic vinegar and olive oil make a great, more healthful alternative). Besides offering a good range of nutrients, the fiber in the veggies will help you feel full and can keep you from feeling the need to fill up on heavier options.

2) Portion Control:

When choosing other options in the dining hall don’t feel like you need to completely ban certain food groups. Carbs, such as brown rice, whole grain pastas and breads as well as healthy fats, like those found in avocados, walnuts, salmon, and peanut butter are important for a balanced diet.  Just be aware of how much you’re putting on your plate.  For the figure- conscious a general portion size of rice or pasta is ½ cup which is about the size of a hockey puck. For fats, depending on the type (olive oil, butter, nut butters) the general range for one serving is one to two teaspoons.

3) Say No to Social Eating

Food is a common thread in many outings whether it’s for a club event, after an intramural sports game, or just hanging out with friends. Pizza, late night fast food runs, grocery store bought cookies and chips seem to be favorites. Basically, if you’re not hungry don’t eat just because everyone around you is. If you know that you’ll be in this situation eat something more substantial beforehand. Enjoy the company sans empty caloric intake.

4) Your Liver is Your Friend

We are not condemning alcohol. What would college be without it? A lot of studies have actually shown that moderate consumption of alcohol may lower your risk of developing osteoporosis, dementia, and even aid in weight loss. The key word however, is moderate consumption. Red wine is the most beneficial for the prevention of certain heart diseases and dementia. One glass a day is sufficient for women to reap the benefits. If your drink of choice is beer go for lagers or wheat beers (examples: Heineken, Blue Moon, Shock Top), or light beers, all of which contain about half the calories and carbs of their original counterparts, ales, porters, and stouts.

5) Smart Snacking

When hunger strikes in between meals reach for snacks that will help keep you full without weighing you down. Some good options are hummus and fresh veggie sticks, popcorn (not of the extra butter variety), apples or another favorite fruit with a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter, a cup of lightly sweetened Greek yogurt topped with berries or some sliced bananas.

6) Have a Glass of Water

Keep hydrated throughout the day so you don’t confuse your body’s need for hydration with hunger. Keep a reusable water thermos with you while on campus and keep it filled. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water.

7) Just Chew It

Sugar cravings are hard to shake. All you want is a red velvet cupcake or a rich, gooey brownie. Instead of giving in, chew a piece of sugar free gum. Yes, it’s ludicrous to think a piece of gum can completely satiate your overwhelming inclination to inhale anything chocolate, but it might just give you that burst of sweetness that will help you walk on by instead of tearing open that bag of M&Ms.

8) Late Night Dining

Don’t do it. Ideally, try not to eat two to three hours before you go to sleep.

9) Partner Up

Setting goals and sticking to them isn’t easy. Find a like-minded friend who wants to make her health a priority and keep each other accountable.

10) Start Cooking

The best way to avoid unhealthy fast food and heat and eat meals is to get used to cooking. When you cook you can control exactly what goes into your meals and snacks. When you don’t see all the hydrogenated oils, sodium, sugars, and preservatives going into store bought meals you don’t think twice about them.

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kd 5Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/portion-control/NU00267&slide=8

http://magazine.foxnews.com/food-wellness/truth-about-wine-beer-and-liquor-and-dieting

http://laurenconrad.com/blog/post/get-fit-it-s-bikini-boot-camp-time-exercise-diet-plan-tips-lauren- conrad-summer-2013

http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/dementia/alcohol-and-dementia-risk.htm

 

Audrey’s Days of Summer | Summer Hotspots of Chicago

With America is still stuck in one of the biggest recessions since The Great Depression, days and nights of eating out have been hard to come by. We get it, so we pulled out some of the hottest restaurants and bars out of our little black book that has some of the happiest of happy hours around. Whether the hotspot is a chill bar to hang out with your friends or it’s an upscale restaurant to lure in a love interest, we got your back!

Savoring the Night at Plate by Plate San Francisco 2012

A balcony view of the crowd at the 3rd Annual Plate by Plate Tasting Benefit for Project by Project San Francisco. The event took place at the Bently Reserve and marked the 15th anniversary for Project by Project nationally (photo: Nicole Abalde).

Back in July, Audrey told you all about Plate by Plate in Los Angeles and in August, we previewed the annual tasting benefit in San Francisco. The time has come and passed, and this year’s event by the Bay fulfilled its promise of bringing together a terrific crowd to enjoy the company of each other, support the community, and of course, devour plenty of delicious tiny dishes!

The 3rd Annual Plate by Plate Tasting Benefit organized by the San Francisco chapter of Project by Project took place on September 22 at the spacious and gorgeous Bently Reserve near the Embarcadero Center. The evening attracted some hundred of finely dressed attendees to socialize and enjoy three rooms of food samples, desserts, and liquor. Actual RafiqRedstickman, Speakeasy Ray, and Big Sloppy of The Ambient Mafia provided the sounds for the event, and a silent auction for some fun items was also in place.

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L.A. Weekly’s 99 Essential Restaurants 2013: Which Asian Restaurants Made the List?

What I love about L.A. Weekly’s 99 Essential Restaurants list is that it’s a good mix of places that has something for everyone – especially in a city with some of the world’s most eccentric characters. I’ll admit there were some surprises, but I was pleasantly pleased with the numerous Asian entries on the list.

This year’s list is a little different – not just because of the new entries on the list – but because this is the first time other contributors have also worked on this list besides famous food writer Jonathan Gold (Tien Nguyen and Christine Chiao were enlisted). With a place as big and diverse as L.A., it’s important to have a mix of different voices  to offer their opinions (and you know, share with us their hidden gems).

Did some of your favorites make the list? Click on to see!
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Fall 2012 | The Good Life: Namu Gaji of San Francisco

DEPT The Good Life
ISSUE Fall 2012
AUTHOR Kanara Ty
PHOTOS Interior photo by Mohammad Gorjestani, all other photos by Jennifer Yin.

In recent years, the San Francisco Bay Area’s culinary scene has grown beyond the local-produce-loving-community it has become recognized for. In fact, it is steadfastly becoming the playground for renowned chefs to create some of the region’s most creative and innovative dishes. Of course, this all comes at a hefty price — many folks will find themselves breaking the bank to eat at some of the Bay Area’s most coveted restaurants. While this may be an exciting time for food enthusiasts, the accessibility to such experiences is another matter.

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Six Scary Things Found in Meat

Author: Eugene Sung

The average American eats approximately 2,000 pounds of food each year. Out of those 2,000 pounds, we consume 110 pounds of red meat, 62 pounds of beef, 46 pounds of pork and 73.6 pounds of poultry. Unfortunately, with large corporations controlling a vast amount of our food source, we need to be more diligent in educating ourselves about where our food is coming from and how it’s prepared. Below is a list of appalling facts regarding the meat industry that I hope will raise more awareness and assist you in being a smarter shopper.

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Beat the Summer Heat: Naengmyun

Koreans love the refreshing noodle dish called naengmyun. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

It’s the prime of summer and food is always a great way to rejuvenate oneself during hot weather.

Curious as to what my peers were enjoying this time around, I asked a few friends and, to my delight, the top pick was a dish that I had almost forgotten about but was soon ecstatic to re-explore: Korean cold buckwheat noodles or mul naengmyun.

Thought to have been made since the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), mul naengmyun (or naengmyun for short) is a traditional Korean noodle dish that is made up of cold broth, thin buckwheat noodles (or other various noodles), julienned cucumbers, sliced beef, boiled eggs, and sliced Asian pears. Vinegar and mustard are common condiments used for extra flavoring.

These fresh, tangy and refreshing noodles are served cold, and is not only a favorite among Koreans but it’s also gaining in popularity among many non-Koreans.

Mr. Li, an investment banker of Chinese descent, was introduced to naengmyun by his Korean girlfriend and now calls it his favorite summer dish. He frequents Yu-Chun in L.A. to satiate his appetite for these noodles. (His visits to Yu-Chun have led him to try out other Korean dishes). Ms. Yoshida, a fashion market researcher of Japanese descent, says that she has had a great experience trying naengmyun and wishes to try the other spicier kind that her friend had last time at their dinner.

The positive reviews from both native Koreans and other ethnicities have quickly allowed naengmyun to become a dish of first resort to beat the summer heat.

Have you had your naengmyun yet?

Some popular destinations for naengmyun if you’re in the L.A. area:

Yu-Chun Chik Naeng Myun

3185 W Olympic Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90006

Chil Bo Myun Ok Ulsacc

3680 W 6th Street Los Angeles, CA 90020

P.S. Most Korean BBQ joints other than the aforementioned will also serve naengmyun. It’s a great accompaniment to your hot grilled, savory meat.

Happy Summer!

Didn’t Your Mama Teach You …

There are all sorts of rules we as kids in Asian families grew up with, like the proper etiquette in front of elders at the dinner table. Our parents would chastise us if we ate before elders or did not use both hands to serve food to them.

After my own parents’ careful instructions, I thought I had been well informed in common table decorum. However, after recently visiting an elder’s house, I learned something new. Though the custom of cutting fruit might seem trivial to us modern day young adults, it ‘s a practice that’s been carried on throughout generations and has significant meaning to the elders being served.

Much like the etiquette surrounding pouring, accepting and even drinking alcohol, cutting fruit in Korean tradition was a social practice that reinforced the underlying social hierarchy of Korean culture. Specifically, the custom of fruit cutting was one way to impart the traditional values of harmony, hospitality and respect.

I, for one, was excited to learn that there were specific methods to cutting fruit, depending on who you were sharing the fruit with. Take, for example, cutting an Asian pear (which are in season now through October).

  • If in the company of elders, one must first peel the skin of the pear, starting from the stem and circling it off until all the skin is completely removed. Then one may slice the pear into quarters.

  • If in the company of one’s peers, one can cut the pear into quarters first, then remove the skin from the cut fruit.

Besides fruit cutting,  there are plenty of other customs in Korean culture that show respect for others and elders, like the way you serve tea or greet one another.

Were there any social graces or table manners that you grew up with or learned recently? Comment below and let us know!