A Mother’s Creative Bento Boxes Teach Japan’s Geography And Look Adorable


We’ve seen everything from adorable Hello Kitty bento boxes to intricate panda bento boxes. And just when we thought we’ve seen it all, another creative food artist comes along and impresses us even more.

Bentos are home-packed meals common in Japanese cuisine. Traditionally, these boxes hold rice, fish or meat, and pickled or cooked vegetables. More recently, “kyaraben” (which translates to “character bento”) has picked up in popularity. Kyaraben are elaborately decorated bento boxes inspired by characters from anime, comics books, video games, animals, shows, etc. It is not uncommon to come across Japanese children comparing bento boxes at lunchtime to see who has the most impressive looking meal.

But one mother, who goes by the Twitter handle Sasariri, decided that she wanted her bento boxes to not only be cute but help educate her child as well. To do this, she very skillfully incorporated Japan’s prefectures as the theme for each bento box.

For each bento box, she used food items such as seaweed, egg and rice to accurately show the shape of one of Japan’s 47 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Kyoto and Tokyo. She even added the name of of each prefecture written in the roman alphabet to help her child learn even more.

Creative, yummy, cute and educational? Yes, please.








Tokyo Street Style: Fashion Meets Food Courtesy of Rotari Parker


Writing this before breakfast was a terrible idea — my hungry monster keeps getting more upset at the visual deliciousness before me. My love of eating, especially snacks, has gained me the nickname “Snack Attack,” and I won’t deny that I dream of pantries full of crunchy morsels on a regular basis. Now combine this obsession with my daily street style hunts and we reach foodie/fashionista heaven, otherwise known as Japanese accessory line Rotari Parker.

The label has been around for a few years, breathing new life into typical grocery aisle fare, and is still releasing delectable accessories periodically under their “Eat Me” line. These hand-produced marvels are fitting given the eclectic street style of Tokyo, where wearable art garners more appreciation than seasonal fashion movements. I know this story isn’t quite promoting healthy living, but sometimes adorable things are difficult to pass up. That, and I generally take on the “you only live once” approach to eating.

How does Japan wear these sweet and savory finds? By stacking them up because just one won’t do. There’s nothing like being decked out in pretzels and pastries to engage people’s fascination.

And yes, in case you were wondering, this is all real food.

ff 1

Photo Courtesy of Tokyofaces.com

ff 2

Photo Courtesy of Tokyostreetsnap.com



ff 3

Photo Courtesy of hpfrance.com

ff 5

Photo Courtesy of rotariparker.com


If you check out Rotari Parker’s Instagram you’ll find their newest designs along with behind-the-scene photos of how they create this yummy invasion of food and fashion. As a warning, it’s best not to look if you are starving at the moment and suffer from “hangriness.”


Photos Courtesy of Instagram.com/rotariparker






Calling All Foodies: Here’s Why You Need to Check Out MPK Night Market


If there’s anything Asians know how to do, it’s how to make some of the most mouth-watering, tasty dishes to satisfy our appetites. This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to experience different cuisines served by food truck vendors at yet another one of Los Angeles’s night markets in Monterey Park. Popular eateries among the 30 or so vendors that participated in event were the Ice Cream Lab, Fluff Ice, Tanota Takoyaki, Mighty Boba, and Swirls Potato & Lemonade. In addition to all the food, MPK also presented the city’s first beer and wine garden for residents to enjoy.



Thai Ice Tea Shaved Ice with Lychee Jelly and Egg custard, from Fluff Ice Truck. Photo courtesy of LA Weekly

Untitled 2

Takoyaki Octupus Dumplings, from Tanota Booth Photo courtesy of LA Weekly


Fluff Ice Food Truck


Food trucks have technically been around for decades now and in the past they were more commonly seen around college-towns, concerts, music festivals and other events. Now, with the rise of the industry, food trucks have been hitting the streets in some of US’s biggest cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

Daniel Duong, the owner of Rolling Burger Barnes who started his all-American food truck two years ago, decided to get into this particular business because he saw a bright future for the industry. “Right now, I don’t think there is a dominating player among all the food trucks, like how Coca-Cola is the king of the sodas,” he says, and is hopeful that Rolling Burger Barnes could perhaps be the dominating player in the next few years to come.




Other popular vendors of the night included GP Bakery’s booth, a traditional Chinese bakery famous for their onion pancakes and chives turnovers. USC students Maggie Chen and Nancy Chiu, a pair of friends from Taiwan, stood in line at the bakery’s booth for quite awhile before receiving their orders of onion pancakes chives turnovers. “The line was so long, so we thought it must be really good!” Maggie told me. And the consensus? “It tastes just like the food at Taiwanese night markets back home — Totally worth the wait!” said Maggie.



Nancy Chiu and Maggie Chen, rising seniors at USC


Jordan and Monet, a couple that drove to the venue all the way from North Hollywood where they live, also enjoyed the spicy glass noodles from GP Bakery.”We try to attend as many night market events like this as possible, because we love food! But we were surprised how much of a variety of food there was, and even more surprised about how many people showed up!” exclaimed Monet. “And these spicy glass noodles are definitely worth the long drive.”




Spicy Glass Noodles. Photo courtesy of Kollaboration


While the food was definitely the highlight of the evening, it wasn’t the only main attraction of the night. The night market was also prepared with a variety of entertainment for all ages including a DJ, a face-painting booth, merchandise vendors and traditional carnival games.




To conclude the night, the DJ began playing popular line dance songs such as The Wobble, the Macarena, and the Cha Cha Slide which really got the crowd up and going. Families, couples, and friends grabbed one another and danced the summer night away.


Photo courtesy of Kollaboration


Feature photo courtesy of Kollaboration.


How This Indian Food Delivery Business Is Giving McDonald’s A Run For Its Money


For those of you who are 20-something, I’m going to take a wild guess that you are probably pretty acquainted with, and perhaps even on first name basis with, the guys that run the fast food chains closest to your office. And hey, no one’s judging you — on busy work days, In-N-Out drive-through is the ideal solution to satisfy your hunger needs.

But let’s all be real here — not even the juiciest of bacon cheese hamburgers will ever match up to Mom’s homemade fried rice, with just the perfect ratio of rice, meat, eggs, green onions and spices. Oh, look at that, I’m already drooling.

Some 500,000 Indian men from Mumbai, who are nicknamed the “dabbawalas,” came up with a brilliant solution so that hard workers in the city could both save the money they would have spent on eating out and have home cooked meals made by their loving wives or mothers — delivered straight to their schools and offices.




Of course, this delivery service comes with a price for the dabbawalas. Every morning, these half a million men first travel house-to-house to pick up the steaming hot tiffins (tins that store the food), which they then transport all over the city on their bikes, through the blazing heat and maddening traffic. Collectively, they pick up and deliver around 200,000 meals a day.


With so many different moving parts involved in this system, it can get pretty messy. So along with all the food, the families and the delivery people, there is also a code system. By now, the dabbawalas say they have it all imprinted in their minds, so they know the exact location of where each tiffin goes.




According to NBC, their system is so efficient that they have a “six sigma level of efficiency,” equating to “making one mistake per every six million deliveries.” Even with odds like that though, the dabbawalas have admitted that there have been mistakes where tiffins were given to the wrong people who sometimes lack the courtesy and eat the home cooked meal given to them anyway.

Despite all the hurdles these men jump through on a day-to-day basis, Pawan Agarwal, head of the Mumbai Dabbawala, said of his colleagues, “It’s hard work, no doubt about it … But they feel that serving food is serving God so they feel happy to do this business.”

Another dabbawala worker also spoke up on how their business remains so successful. “Many people in this city prefer their lunch fresh, prepared lovingly by their wives or mothers,” he said, adding that despite the many restaurants cropping up all over the city, the business has been continuing to grow 5 to 10 percent every year.

Take that, McDonald’s.


Americans Taste Filipino Street Food and Are Pleasantly Surprised


Last month we all rolled our eyes at Americans overreacting to Asian food where, as you can guess from the title, a few taste testers made it seem like Asian food was the most horrible thing in human existence. Let’s not kid ourselves here. Asian food is amazing —end of story. (Am I biased? Maybe a little.)

So you can imagine our fear when these same Buzzfeed taste testers decided to try some Filipino street food. After all, we’ve seen this before and it wasn’t pretty. A controversial blogpost titled “I Would Rather Go Hungry Than Eat Filipino Street Food Again!” made its way onto the Web a few months ago and sparked some controversy for its writer, Agness Walewinder.

The story received nearly 700 responses and even led other writers, such as travel writer Nathan Allen, to allege that Walewinder was intentionally abrasive and offensive just to gain attention for her blog.

For instance, Walewinder comments, “No wonder why [sic], in the north, the vast majority of Filipino kids and young people are overweight. This is something we have noticed straight away. People in young age [sic] are huge and it’s due to poor quality of food.”



After such controversy, we couldn’t help but expect an even worse reception in Buzzfeed’s Filipino street food taste test. After all, these are the people who cringed at Japanese snacks. (Seriously, how do you not like jelly cups and green tea Kit Kats?)

So you can imagine our pleasant surprise to discover that Filipino street food was rather well received this time around. Although the tasters showed some hesitation before taking a bite, they were quick to admit that the street food was pretty good and even ended up enjoying many of the treats. Finally, we’ve found something they’re satisfied with!

Check out the video below and excuse me while I go indulge in some turon.



Dessert Lovers Rejoice: The Churro Ice Cream Sandwich is Here

Story by Ruth Kim. 

Sugar, spice, and everything (n)ice–Churro Borough is the new kid on the block bringing Los Angelenos the perfect summer dessert: the churro ice cream sandwich.

Created by Los Angeles chef Sylvia Yoo, Churro Burough is a guerrilla operation that’s been around since 2011. Inspired by the culture of Los Angeles street food and art, as well as the idea of serving the masses, the dessert pop-up is raiding the streets of L.A. with its handcrafted churro ice cream sandwiches. Their motto? “Pastry propaganda. Guerrilla goodies.” Now that’s bad-ass.

chur 2

Yoo, who enrolled in culinary school in New York in 2007, has been around some of the most intense kitchens in the Big Apple, including Jean-Georges and WD-50. After moving back to New York, she attempted to balance working at an interior design firm and as a chef at Red Medicine, but the pressure was too much to handle. She decided to take matters into her own hands.

“When I moved back to LA, it was the beginning of the ice cream boom, with places like Carmela and Sweet Rose opening shop. Working in pastry, ice cream was always my favorite thing to make and eat. I had dreams of running my own business, but I knew I needed my product to stand out,” Yoo told Chow.

Well, she’s certainly made a huge splash in the L.A. ice cream scene, with some claiming that the churro ice cream sandwich could be the “worthy cronut successor”. The perfect crispy exterior of the flattened churro “cookies,” hugging a bed of velvety, delicious ice cream certainly seems pretty irresistible. Daily flavors includevanilla custard, horchata, Mexican hot chocolate, and Spanish latte; seasonal flavors are orange creamsicle, panna cotta, caramel apple pie, strawberry buttermilk, and peach cobbler. According to Chow, Yoo makes all of the products herself. Ice cream shakes with churro dipping fries and Churrons (churro-flavored macaroons) are in the works as well. (Be right back–I’m crying tears of joy.)

Since Churro Borough is a guerrilla establishment, you’ll need to stay posted on their pop-up whereabouts. Yoo and her delectable sandwiches will be at the LA Street Food Festival at the Rose Bowl on June 28 and at Tasting Table’s Lobster Rumble West on August 1.

Photos via Churro Borough’s Instagram

This story was originally published on iamkoream.com

Judy Joo’s Korean Food Made Simple

Story by Ada Tseng.

The Cooking Channel’s Korean Food Made Simple, hosted by Korean American chef Judy Joo, is the latest installment of a culinary television series that previously included Mexican Food Made Simple and Chinese Food Made Simple. Part travelogue, part how-to guide, Korean Food Made Simple sent Joo all over Korea to gather inspiration, from fish markets in Seoul and the streets of Busan to the small islands off the coast of Korea. (“I’ve been to more places in Korea than my relatives, who have lived there their entire lives!” says Joo.) After exploring different foods around the country, she returned to London, where she’s been based for the last several years, to show audiences how to re-create Korean flavors in a regular home kitchen.

Joo was thrilled when she was approached to do Korean Food Made Simple, as she’s proud of her heritage and has brought a lot of Korean influences to the menu at the Playboy Club London, where she has been the executive chef since it opened in 2011. Some of the dishes that appear on the show — like the Spicy Mussels with Bacon and the Steamed Ginger Infused Sea Bass with Zucchini — have actually been served at the Playboy Club. “We also make our own kimchi at the Club,” says Joo. “And we have a version of the Korean fried chicken in our sports bar.”

Growing up in New Jersey, Joo was no stranger to the local disco fries or fast fixes at Taco Bell, but she mostly ate Korean food at home. Her mother taught her how to cook authentic Korean food, but she jokes that helping out in the kitchen as a kid felt more like slave labor than fun.

“This was when there was nothing pre-made,” says Joo. “So it’d be me and my sister in front of a mound of meat making dumplings. I remember brushing sheets and sheets of dried seaweed with oil, salting them and then having to fry them. Then going to the garden to pick sesame leaves. It felt like chores.

“Also, [traditionally] you’re supposed to cook each vegetable separately to keep it from getting infected by other ingredients,” continues Joo. “And you want to keep the integrity of the color, so if the vegetable is light, you’re not supposed to use soy sauce. But no one has time to cook seven different vegetables separately in one pan to make one dish!” She laughs. “So I say, just cook it all together, and if the carrots are a little brown, it’ll be OK.”

She also shares tips and shortcuts for any home cook who might not live near a Korean market. For example, if you can’t find mirin, a sweet rice wine that is common in Korean cooking, Joo says it’s perfectly fine to substitute Sprite or 7-Up. And if you can’t find thinly sliced beef, partially freeze it and cut it with a knife. “I don’t think that you have to be completely authentic or traditional in order for people to get a good taste of a cuisine,” says Joo. “Food is always dynamic. Food in Korea has changed tremendously in the past years and decades. It’s like languages; it’s always evolving.”

One of Joo’s favorite meals to serve at a dinner party is do-it-yourself kimbap. Instead of pre-rolling the Korean sushi prior to guests arriving, Joo gives each guest their own squares of seaweed and lets them make their own. Joo is also a big fan of do-it-yourself bibimbap, where she encourages guests to choose their own vegetables for the mixed rice dish.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 12.42.15 PM

Judy Joo with Seoul chef and restaurateur Lucia Cho.

Though Joo is now a recognizable TV food personality — she is one of the few who can claim to have been on Iron Chef as a competitor, an official Iron Chef (the only woman in the Iron Chef UK lineup) and a judge — her road to success was a winding one. Born to a physician father and a chemist mother, Joo initially aspired to a career in the sciences and ended up working in banking for many years before she had what she calls her What Color Is Your Parachute? moment and began to soul-search about what she really wanted to do with her life.

“My parents were not thrilled,” says Joo of the prospect of her giving up her prestigious gig on Wall Street. But to contextualize, she grew up in a stereotypically overachieving Asian American household where her parents were also “not thrilled” when she only got into Columbia and not Yale, where her sister went. She toyed with the idea of joining the Peace Corps (“My dad was like, ‘Why do you do that? That’s why I left North Korea!’”), but eventually enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York. Soon after relocating to London with her husband, she ended up working at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant and worked her way up from there.

But it wasn’t until she got into television that her parents started to understand the significance of her new career path. “When I got invited to the Blue House in Korea —the White House of Korea — that’s when my parents were like, ‘Oh, maybe you are doing something interesting and important,’” she says. “That’s when they realized I wasn’t just a line cook, I guess.”

Episodes of Korean Food Made Simple can be seen on the Cooking Channel, and a cookbook with recipes featured on the show will be available next year. 

This story was originally published in our Summer 2014 issue. Get your copy here

This Japanese Dessert Looks Just Like A Giant Water Drop

This Japanese dessert has recently gained quite a bit of viral fame. After all, who wouldn’t be intrigued by a cake that looks just like a drop of water?

This intriguing dessert is called Mizu Shingen Mochi and can be translated to water shingen mochi. As the name indicates, this dessert is actually a variation of a traditional “shingen mochi” rice cake. The consistency is said to be similar to soft and sticky mochi.

The rare dessert is created using water from the Southern Japanese Alps and is served with kinako soybean powder and brown sugar syrup.  The water is apparently solidified into a solid shape, but feels like it can break with just a poke. Apparently, the cake will melt like water in your mouth, but is extremely tasty. The cake is so delicate that if it is not consumed in 30 minutes, it will melt away.

By now, you’re probably itching to get your hands on one of these. Unfortunately, mizu shingen mochi are exclusively produced by the Kinseiken Seika Company and only available in two locations in Japan:

Kinseiken Daigahara shop:
Address: 2211 Daigahara, Hakushucho, Hokutoshi, Yamanashi 408-0312
Tel: +81-551-35-2246
Open: 9a.m. to 6p.m.
Closed: Thursdays

Kinseiken Nirasaki shop:
Address: 154 Kotagawa, Nakadamachi, Nirasakishi, Yamanashi 407-0262
Tel: +81-551-25-3990
Open: 9a.m. to 6p.m.
No scheduled holidays

mizu 1

mizu 2 mizu 3

mizu 4 Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 12.48.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 12.48.25 PM


(Source 1, 2)

THE ULTIMATE SUSHI GUIDE: Everything You Need To Know About Japan’s Most Iconic Food

History of Sushi

Over 2000 years ago, the first sushi was created. Of course, it was quite different back then. The original “sushi” was created in Southeast Asia simply as a way to preserve fish in fermented rice. The process of creating this original sushi, called narezushi, involved having salted fish wrapped in fermented rice for months and the rice would be thrown out when the fish was consumed.

When this became popular in Japan, the Japanese created a new dish, namanare, which involved eating both the fish and rice. The fish was consumed before it changed flavor.

Finally, a third type of sushi was created. Haya-zushi is the form of sushi we are most familiar with. The fish and rice was assembled to be eaten at the same time and the rice was not being used for fermentation.

Our modern sushi was created by Hanaya Yohei as an early form of fast food.



sushi 7

Proper Way To Eat Sushi

1) Do not rub wooden chopsticks together before use. This may insult your host by saying their chopsticks are cheap.
2) Don’t feel pressured to use your chopsticks. It is also common to eat sushi using your hands. 
3) Sushi is meant to be consumed in one bite.
4) Only a light amount of soy sauce should be used. Otherwise you may insult the chef by indicating that the sushi did not have enough flavor.
5) The fish portion of the sushi should be dipped into the soy sauce and your sushi is consumed “rice up.”
6) Although popular in America, wasabi is not supposed to be mixed into the soy sauce.
7) Use the back end of your chopsticks to grab sushi from a communal plate.
8) Do not place the ginger on your sushi pieces. Ginger is meant to be eaten between different pieces of sushi to cleanse your palette for the next taste.



Different Types of Sushi
Maki (1)
Cylinder-shaped sushi that is rolled up with a bamboo matt and typically wrapped in nori (dried seaweed) and cut into pieces. There was various types of Makizuki depending on the ingredients inside as well as the size of the roll.
Another form of Makizuki, but it doesn’t quite look like the other variations. Instead of a cylinder shape, it is created with nori in a cone shape and stuffed with ingredients.
Uramaki is a Western-style of sushi which has rice on the outside and nori/other ingredients on the inside. This was created in the United States as a way of visually hiding the seaweed.



sushi 5
Nigiri is hand formed. It is a mound of rice with a slice of fish/seafood placed on top.
sushi 6
Raw fish served without rice.
An oval mound of rice wrapped in nori and topped with soft, loose or fine-chopped ingredient. 


“World’s Best Sushi Restaurant”
Tokyo’s famed restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro is said to have the best sushi in the world. The restaurant is owned and operated by 88-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono who is the very first sushi chef in the world to receive three Michelin stars. The sushi gathered so much attention that it became the focus of a 2011 documentary called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.”

Reservations must be made months in advance and customers must be prepared to dish out quite a bit of money. The 20-course “Chef’s Recommended Special Course” is about $300. While that’s a lot of money for one meal, customers always seem satisfied. They argue that the meal is an experience and an art.


Chopsticks Tutorial 

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 3.48.57 PM



DIY Sushi Plush/Pillow

The History of Cambodian-Owned Donut Shops

You’re probably already aware that a large amount of independently-run donut shops in California are Cambodian-owned. What you may not know is that the donut shop industry is an integral part of the Cambodian immigration story.

In honor of National Donut day, we decided to look into the history of hardworking, Cambodian donut shop owners:

1) You won’t find a donut in Cambodia.

Well, you can probably find a few donuts, but if you thought you’d find streets lined with donut shops in Cambodia, you’re in for a let-down. While donuts are a large part of the Cambodian American culture, many can tell you that this is purely an American tradition. Allegedly, there is only one donut shop in all of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

donut 4
2) It all began with a man named Ted Ngoy.

Before donut shops were associated with the Cambodian American culture, there was Ted Ngoy paving the way. He arrived in the U.S. in 1975 and two years later, he begun his own donut shop. Clearly, his legacy continued.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 3.46.29 PM
3) “The American Dream” 

“Ngoy is the one who found a way for Cambodian immigrants to become part of the American dream of owning their own business,” said Dennis Wong of the Asian Business Association. “Taking a loan from an Asian loaning society, Ngoy was able to buy two stores, operate them for awhile and then sell to someone in the community or a family member who wanted to buy them. That’s how they got into it.”

“Italian immigrants are often working with restaurants, Indians with newsstands and hotels. With Cambodians, it happens to be donuts,” he said.

donut 5
4) Running a donut shop is hard work. 

You’ll often hear about these donut shops having only a few workers in order to save money. In fact, many of the workers are family members who must find time within their day to help the family business. As a result, many owners will work long and tiring hours to make sure their shop is functional. Additionally, many donut shop owners have voiced that the long hours have made it difficult to assimilate into a new society.

donut 6
5) They have thrived. 

An estimated 80% of donut shops in the Los Angeles area are owned by Cambodian Americans. In Houston, Texas, the percentage is an even larger 90%.

donut 7
6) A day in the life:

(Source 1, 2, 3)