‘Giant Robot Biennale 4’ to showcase Asian pop culture at the Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles)

Many people complain about something lacking from their lives, but few actually do anything about it. Eric Nakamura is different. He has not only filled that gap, he has created a new movement.

Nakamura is the creator of Giant Robot, now a store with a sister gallery in Los Angeles, which spurred an ever-growing interest in Asian and Asian American pop culture. He is also the curator of the exhibit, “Giant Robot Biennale 4,” set to open Oct. 11 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Giant Robot began as a ‘zine, covering Nakamura’s interests, such as live action robot shows, kung fu films, imported toys and international foods.

I grew up with a mix of both cultures (American and Asian) and I didn’t see a publication out there that documented that kind of hybrid,” Nakamura said.

After being deluged by readers asking if they could visit the Giant Robot office to see the products advertised in the ‘zine, Nakamura decided to open a store. Then he took his hybrid idea a step further by also using the space to exhibit art.

Today, some 21 years and a plethora of copycat store/galleries later, Nakamura still shrugs the notion of success. However, he credits Giant Robot’s longevity to his devotion to fairness and honesty.

The culture of Giant Robot is an artist family experience, which is different. We do things contrary to how a gallery would do things,” Nakamura said.

The exhibit, which runs through Jan. 24, is the fourth time Giant Robot and JANM have united for an art exhibit.

Asian and Asian American pop art has exploded in popularity,” said JANM president and CEO Greg Kimura. “Giant Robot really is the premiere example of that. It’s bringing some of these known and some of these rising artists to the public consciousness and, because of that, JANM is becoming known as a place where folks can come to discover very interesting and frequently provocative contemporary art.

Nakamura has divided “Giant Robot Biennale 4” inside JANM, devoting the ground floor to drawings, including comics, ‘zines and sketchbooks, and showing art from a range of disciplines upstairs.

Two large murals by Andrew Hem and kozyndan will also be featured in the exhibit, as well as work by artists, such as James Jean, Jim Lee, Kim Jung Gi, Katsuya Terada, Luke Chueh, Audrey KawasakiNathan Ota, Mu Pan and Yoskay Yamamoto.

In addition, there will be a photography installation from Hamburger Eyes.

Nakamura finds it hard to name a favorite artist, but he admits that he roots for “the underdogs who are working extra hard.” An example of this is Yumi Sakugawa, whose work can be seen in ‘zines and comics. There will be a video installation featuring a ‘zine reading by Sakugawa.

Kimura is also a big fan of Edwin Ushiro, citing the artist as “someone to watch.”

He’s huge right now, but he’s growing even bigger as a national and international artist,” Kimura added.

There will be a replica of Ushiro’s studio on site in which visitors will be invited to draw.

Kimura also likes Rob Sato’s technical ability and admires the shocking imagery of Mari Inukai, stating that the artists makes you feel differently about the world around you, as well as art itself.

“I like to think that Giant Robot has established a culture of some sort that maybe changed the landscape a little bit of what art is and then what a shop is like and what culture can be,” Nakamura said. “These are things that I grew up with that were separate and we unified and turned it into a package of some sort.

Want to go?

When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday-Sunday and noon-8 p.m. Thursday from Oct. 11-Jan. 24. Free opening celebration 7-10 p.m.

Where: Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles.

Tickets: $9 adults, $5 seniors and children 6-17 and free for children 5 and younger.

Information: 213-625-0414, www.janm.org

Also, check out the Giant Robot Store!

Giant Robot Store

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: 2015 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles.

Information: 310-478-1819, www.giantrobot.com

GR2 Gallery

Hours: Noon-6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon-7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: 2062 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles.

Information: 424-246-7626, www.giantrobot.com

“Welcome Home” by Esao Andrews will be on exhibit in “Giant Robot Biennale 4” at the Japanese American Naitonal Museum in Los Angeles Oct. 11-Jan. 24.

Clarissa Wei’s guide to Filipino food in Los Angeles

Dollars Hits | Photo by Clarissa Wei

KCET (by Clarissa Wei):

Filipinos make up the largest Asian-American population in California, so it’s interesting that the Filipino food scene in Los Angeles is not as prominent as, for instance, Thai or Chinese.

There are various theories as to why there isn’t a stronger Filipino food scene in L.A.: a common one is that home-cooked Filipino food is better than restaurant food. While that may be popular reasoning, that doesn’t explain why restaurant chefs can’t cook better than mom.

A lot of the Filipinos who immigrated here became nurses,” Marianne Aranda, a Filipino-American heavily involved in the Angeleno Pinoy community, told me over dinner. “They integrated quickly into the working class culture in the States so it was easier for them to assimilate because they knew English very well.

This makes sense. The Chinese, Japanese, and Korean communities, on the other hand, were forced to develop their own self-sustaining communities because of stark language and economic barriers. Opening restaurants were not only their way of feeding their community, but an entrepreneurial move. The Filipino community didn’t need that; by applying for the H-1B temporary work visa which allows trained nurses to enter the country and work right away, they were able to assimilate more easily.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a Filipino community. During dinner with Marianne in Historic Filipinotown, I realized that the Pinoy community in L.A. is strong. They seem better organized and much more established than most Asian immigrant communities.

They just don’t open as many restaurants.

The cuisine of the Philippines is a true hodgepodge of international flavors with Malay, Spanish, Chinese, and American influences, and is generally big on stews, roasts, and meats with a distinctive sour element.

There are regional distinctions as well. “In the North there are more bitter flavors,” Marvin Gapultos, the author of the Adobo Road Cookbooks, says. “Bitter melon is common and there are a few dishes that have bile, specifically goat or beef digestive juices. The South has less pork dishes. In the Central region, there’s a lot of coconut used in both savory and sweet dishes. The Bicol region is the Philippines’ main coconut growing industry. There are also a lot of dishes with chilies in them and it works well because the coconut balances out the spices.”

And while there aren’t enough Filipino restaurants in Los Angeles to represent all of the above, we most definitely have a diverse mix of different Filipino food in in our city. Here’s a guide:

Grill City | Photo by Grill City

Grocery Store: Seafood City Supermarket and Grill City

Seafood City is a Filipino grocery chain with marketplaces all over the West Coast. “While we have a supermarket, we like to surround it with Filipino businesses,” Melvin Avanzado, the general counsel of Seafood City says. “It’s a place where people can come. On weekends we have a street food cart where you can get food on a stick. Some of our locations also have a Grill City. So we try to create a community for people to hang out.

Grill City is a turo-turo establishment. What that means: a cafeteria-style dining set-up. “Turo” means “to point” in Tagalog, and that is exactly how you order: point to what you want.

1525 Amar Rd., West Covina, CA 91792


Worker Wednesday Special | Photo by Clarissa Wei

BBQ: Park’s Finest

The folks at Park’s Finest don’t like to market themselves as a Filipino barbecue joint, but prefer the term Filipino-inspired instead. The menu is a variety of meats like pork shoulders slow-roasted for 16 hours, sweet Filipino longanisa (a spiced sausage), and thinly-cut crusted sirloin beef paired with homemade horseradish sauce. They also have their own take on cornbread, which is made with rice flour and baked on a banana leaf for flavor.

If you make it there on Wednesday, they have a Worker Wednesday special where customers get a little bit of everything.

1267 W Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90026


Belly and Snout | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Post-Drink Food: Belly and Snout

Belly and Snout is the place to go for a no-frills, fast, and casual Filipino food experience. The food quality is top notch here and though at its core it’s thoroughly Filipino, it’s presented in ways completely approachable to those with less adventurous palates. Think hot dogs, french fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches. But the french fries are topped with fried egg, garlic crema, and chicharron. The hot dog is a peanut braised oxtail, smothered with cotija cheese, garlic creme, beans, and cilantro. And the grilled cheese is sandwiched with house-made sweet sausage and American cheese.

Located in the heart of Koreatown, Belly and Snout is the ideal place to end up after a long night of drinks.

974 Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006


Fried chicken | Credit: Max's

Tastes Like Home: Max’s Restaurant of Manila

Max’s is a Filipino food chain straight from the Philippines. They’ve been in operation since 1945 and has become the place to go for Filipino fried chicken paired with garlic rice. The menu is mostly traditional: kare kare (stewed oxtail), pork sisig (chopped pig’s head), crispy pata (fried pork knuckles), and chicken adobo (a vinegar-based stew).

Max’s is the place to go if you’ve never had FIlipino food and want a basic introduction to it,” Avanzado says.

313 W Broadway, Glendale, CA 91204


Chicken and pork adobo with garlic fried rice | Photo by LA Rose

Iconic: LA Rose Cafe

LA Rose is perhaps the most visible Filipino restaurant in Los Angeles, and it’s one of the few Pinoy eateries where presentation is a priority. The crowd favorite here is most definitely the lumpia shanghai, which is the Filipino answer to a Chinese-American spring roll. It’s deep-fried and stuffed with ground meat and various spices. For that classic sour element, the sinigang (sweet and sour soup) is a good thing to try. It’s cooked with pork belly and ribs and balanced out with chunks of taro and greens. Folks on the more adventurous side can pursue the dinaguan — blood stew with beef.

But if you just want meat, give the Cebu-style lechon a whirl. “Lechon” means roasted suckling pig and Cebu is an island in the Philippines. Their lechon is distinguished by the stuffing — a combination of lemongrass, leeks, salt, pepper, and garlic.

4749 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029


Dollars Hits | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Street Food: Dollar Hits Food Truck

This food truck is a ton of fun. Perched off to the side of a very rundown strip mall, it’s truly a party on wheels. Music is blasted as a group of Filipino aunties manage crowds and sell $1 skewers off of their truck. There are grills set up all around the sidewalk where patrons can heat up their food. Menu items are offal-heavy and include blood, pork and chicken intestines, liver, and hearts. There’s even balut (fertilized duck eggs).

Most customers are Pinoy who come for a taste of Filipino street food. If you’re clearly not Filipino, the owner, if she’s in the mood, might ask you for your country of origin and proclaim it loudly and proudly on her microphone for the crowd to hear.

2422 Temple St
Los Angeles, CA 90057


Roasted Pig: Eva’s Lechon

Lechon is one of those classic Filipino dishes that everyone has to try at least once. It’s an entire suckling pig, roasted and glazed, and Eva’s is one of the few places that get it right. Banana leaves are usually used to brush the roast and the key to a good lechon is the skin, which should be a crunchy caramel brown. It’s almost glassy when bitten into and the meat is tender and full of juice (no doubt a result of hours of slow and low roasting).

This is most definitely party food. Their largest pig is $260 and can feed a grand total of 80 people.

4252 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90020


LASA | Photo by LASA

Farm-to-Table Pop-Up: LASA
LASA is truly where the future of Pinoy dining in Los Angeles lies. In Tagalog, “lasa” means taste or flavor, and brothers Chase and Chad Valencia are raising the bar for Filipino fine dining, creating a pop-up that merges cuisine from the Philippines with the seasonality of the local farmers’ market.

As with events like these, menus rotate regularly, but past items have included pork rillette paired with sugar cane vinegar pickles and duck longanisa (sausage) with chickpeas and kale stew.

5010 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042


Pondahan | Photo by Pondahan

East San Gabriel Valley/West Covina: Pondahan
There’s a thriving Filipino community in the eastern portion of the San Gabriel Valley, particularly in West Covina. The star restaurant of those parts is a place called Podahan, which means “hang out” in Tagalog. They market themselves as a place to taste home cooking and if you have a group of friends with you, I recommend the crispy meat platter
which is a combination of crispy pata (fried pork), lechon kawali (crackling pork belly), and a whole fried chicken.

535 W California Ave West Covina, CA 91790


Crème caramel | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Desserts: Crème Caramel LA

The eatery specializes in Filipino-inspired treats and the cornerstone of the menu is the namesake dish — the lovely crème caramel. Presented in a pool of caramelized syrup, it has just the right amount of resistance so it doesn’t fall apart at the touch of a fork. In fact, the discs are just firm enough to divvy up among your friends. The caramels are creamier than most, but that’s just because the recipes are based off of the owner’s Filipino aunt’s rendition of leche flan.

Gently cooked in a Bain-marie, Filipino flan traditionally has a heavier egg ratio; and Crème Caramel LA has taken it upon themselves to color the dessert with the flavors of their heritage. They always have French custard, coffee, and chocolate varieties on tap, but if you you happen to stumble in on a good day, you’ll spot some of the most colorful flans to ever grace the Valley. Lavender and bright neon green color variations sit side-by-side. They’re made with fresh ube (purple yam) and buko pandan (young coconut and pandan, also called screwpine), respectively. True to its tubular roots, the ube has an earthy, heavier taste — a clear contrast to the sweeter dewy flavor profile of pandan.

Try them both or order in advance for an eye-popping addendum to any dinner party or Instagram feed.

14849 Burbank Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91411


About the Author:



I’m a writer with a knack for Asian cuisine. Los Angeles native.

A closer look at Asian American night markets: Ramen Burgers & Kimchi Fries calore

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Audrey Magazine:

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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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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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 Network’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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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.”


Six Koreatown restaurants with great banchan

“Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty”: The largest Hello Kitty retrospective ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America


In celebration of the 40th anniversary of everyone’s favorite expressionless cat, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles is hosting the largest ever retrospective on Hello Kitty to be held in the United States.

Titled “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty,” the exhibition encompasses a selection of rare and unique Hello Kitty-branded items chosen from the Sanrio archives, alongside contemporary artworks by artists including Buff Monster, Edwin UshiroPaul Frank and Kozyndan. In these art pieces, the iconic feline is reinterpreted into a number of wonderfully weird and wacky mélanges of disparate pop culture motifs, in doing so paying homage to Hello Kitty’s wide-ranging impact on art and culture throughout its 40 years in the limelight.

Curated by Christine Yano, author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, and Jamie Rivadeneira, founder and owner of the Los Angeles pop culture boutique JapanLA, you can buy your tickets for this retrospective here before it ends in April 2015.



Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

 Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Art Exhibition: “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty”

Angry Asian Man: 

Hello Kitty fans, make some plans to be in Los Angeles. The Japanese American National Museum invites you to Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, a special exhibition in celebration of the 40th anniversary(!) of pop icon Hello Kitty, running October 11 through April 26, 2015.

The first-of-its-kind exhibition will combine a product-based historical and sociological examination of Hello Kitty, including rare and unique pieces from Sanrio’s archives, with an installation of mixed media works by artists demonstrating Hello Kitty’s influence on contemporary art.

Hello! is curated by Christine Yano, PhD, author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, and Jamie Rivadeneira, founder and owner of the Los Angeles pop culture boutique JapanLA. The exhibition’s six-month run will also include lectures, panel discussions and workshops.

Here are some more details about the exhibit:

Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty

October 11, 2014 – April 26, 2015

Japanese American National Museum
100 N Central Ave
Los Angeles, California 90012

The Japanese American National Museum and Sanrio present Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, the world’s first large-scale Hello Kitty museum retrospective.

This unprecedented two-part exhibition includes an extensive product survey with rare and unique items from the Sanrio archives, curated by Christine Yano, PhD, and author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific. It also features a selection of innovative contemporary artworks inspired by Hello Kitty and her world, curated by Jamie Rivadeneira, founder and owner of the Los Angeles pop culture boutique JapanLA.

Organized as part of the global icon’s 40th-anniversary celebrations, Hello! examines the colorful history of Hello Kitty, her influence on popular culture, and her evolution from a simple Japanese children’s graphic to a wildly successful lifestyle brand bridging east and west and crossing multiple generations.

Tickets on sale September 29, 2014.

Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty is a specially ticketed exhibition.

The exhibition is a key element among several events and collaborations celebrating Hello Kitty’s 40th Anniversary. These also include Hello Kitty Con 2014, a convention at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, running October 30 to November 2; new product releases, including limited addition 40th anniversary collectibles; and Hello Kitty appearances around the globe in support of the Share a Hug with Hello Kitty! campaign. Further details and updates about Hello Kitty’s 40th Anniversary celebration can be found here.

For further information about the Hello! exhibition, visit JANM’s website.

Chrissy Teigen throws a flawless first pitch for the Dodgers despite being drunk

Pop Sugar:


Chrissy Teigen hit the field at Dodger Stadium in LA on Tuesday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and surprisingly, she nailed it! Despite drinking margaritas with her dad before the big event — she tweeted, “Crap, I’m pretty drunk,” before heading to the mound — Chrissy threw a nearly perfect pitch while also keeping things supersexy in a pair of blue short shorts and knee-high socks.

In the days leading up to her big gig, Chrissy shared her practice plans via Twitter: “Making John [Legend] practice with me now. I have such a false confidence after 50 Cent,” referring to the rapper’s unfortunate pitch at a New York Mets game back in May. Although her husband wasn’t on hand to help her at the stadium, Chrissy did consult with Dodgers catcher Drew Butera before the pitch and ironed out her plans to jump into his arms after he caught the ball; like clockwork, after her flawless showing on the field, she posed for photos with Drew and had a sweet celebration with family and friends on the sidelines. Keep reading to see photos and video from Chrissy Teigen’s perfect first pitch.



Ramen Burger hits LA with brick and mortar location in K-Town

Ramen Burger



The famous Ramen Burger has hit LA several times now, most recently at the DTLA Night Market, but it looks like Keizo Shimamoto is looking to make his signature creation a staple here in SoCal.

Ramen Burger LA’s new location will take over a walk-up window in K-Town currently known as Stall 239. The stall serves fusion style grub to night owls wandering the streets of LA but will serve favorites from Shimamoto’s menu, including his new Ramen Fries, during two soft opening events on July 5 (1:00PM-6:00PM) and July 13 (2:00PM-8:00PM) ahead of its August 1, 2014 official soft opening.

The location is fairly small so we’re assuming lines these next two weekends will be pretty long for the East Coast transplant. Hopefully Shimamoto gauges how to deal with the crowds before the first Ramen Burger LA location opens.



The emergence of Los Angeles’ Koreatown





Koreatown in Los Angeles used to be like an inside joke: if you were in on it, you felt undeniably cool, and if you had no idea what this sprawl of urban life was about, the town was somewhat befuddling and unwelcoming. The neon diaspora of foreign Hangul signage has generally produced more confusion than curiosity, and so Koreatown, with its all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ joints, secret after-hours nightlife, and the pockets of Latino and Bangladeshi communities was, until recently, not the easiest place to navigate without the help from someone on the inside.


The Next Frontier


Koreatown is like the next frontier in Los Angeles,” says Ted Vadakan, half of the husband-and-wife duo that founded the LA-based shop/gallery, Poketo, which just opened its second location at the new Line Hotel in Koreatown. “It has a great nightlife, delicious food, and a lot of hidden gems—but, it’s also a bit of the unknown for a lot of Angelenos.”

Now, it has slowly come to the attention of many an Angeleno that the joke has actually been on them for some time. “We’ve been special. Everyone just took their time figuring that shit out.” says chef and Kogi Taco master Roy Choi, who was approached by the Sydell Group (the guys behind The NoMad and Ace New York) to head the eats and drinks program at the Line Hotel. Now, in true spirit of true “fomo” (fear of missing out), everyone on the outside of this ethnic hub is clamoring to be on the inside. Lucky for them, they’re being ushered into an era where this town is embracing and abridging the onslaught of attention, all thanks in part and parcel to the flood of cultural PR—from the globalization of kimchi to the phenomenon of Korean pop culture.

However, what these outsiders are initially drawn to is not what they’re discovering. This town isn’t only about the dank and pungent fermented cabbage or people that look and have moves like the ubiquitous ‘Gangnam style’ star: instead, they’re being introduced to a trilingual community—where you can hear English, Korean and Spanish, and sometimes an amusing blend of all three—and a new creative and cultural force spurred on by this diversity.


The Line Hotel Lifestyle


The Line Hotel is the first lifestyle hotel of its kind to draw upon the social fabric of Koreatown, intentionally translating the quirky and unfamiliar aspects of this metropolis into a community experience that pays homage to the Korean and Latino communities. Sydell Group founder, Andrew Zobler, set out with the idea of creating a gathering place where the lobby would be an extended living room for the entire neighborhood. It’s where you’ll witness the intersection of worlds: old Korean men brandishing copies of The Korea Times traversing paths with hordes of horchata drinking hipsters (who are mentally jotting down a few fashion pointers or two from their elders).

The Poketo team, Vadakan and his wife, Angie Myung, were tapped alongside Choi to join the impressive roster of LA creatives that are converging at the Line Hotel. “We considered it an amazing opportunity to acquaint people to this part of LA,” says Vadakan. “The Line is a true collaboration [between] Roy Choi, Sean Knibb, the Houston brothers, and Poketo. It nurtures an environment where we are collectively brainstorming and collaborating on things together. The synergy alone between us all, there’s no stopping us.”


The Koreatown Comeback


Choi, who has founded his success on the Korean Taco, shows another feat of cultural symbiosis at his new hotel restaurant, POT. It’s food that is markedly Korean, but the nuances are Choi, through and through. The mood is set by ’90s hip-hop music, and hipster servers donned in floral prints usher you into a no-frills space. On the menu, you’re faced with a picture of a Korean grandma nonchalantly puffing the magic dragon, priming you for what’s to come in the pages to follow. There’s the standard fare of banchan and galbi, and then the signature dish whose moniker has become a 420-friendly innuendo: the spicy Korean hotpots. The most popular of these is “The Bootknocker,” a hotpot which includes instant ramen, Spam, corned beef hash, pork sausage, rice cakes, fish cakes, tofu, and a sprinkle of greens on top–a literal melting pot of everything in Choi’s pantry. He creates a space for outsiders in this cuisine to explore with ease without forgoing the culinary narrative at hand. And besides, you can’t get more Koreatown than eating kimchi and instant ramen accompanied by uncensored Tupac lyrics.

However, this open door policy was not always the norm. If anything, the same diversity that inspires so much of Koreatown today was actually the bedrock of violence during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. What started out as a reaction to police brutality violently spun out into a free-for-all that drew the participation of all different ethnic groups; Korean small businesses were robbed and burnt to the ground, and with the LAPD and National Guard unwilling and unable to control the chaos, the community was wrecked by the emotional and financial damage. Today, all of that seems like a distant memory.

The homecoming of The Line hotel leaves no trace of a town that was once devastated by anarchic mayhem a mere 20 years ago. Its introduction serves as a subtle reminder of the redemption and progress that has culminated into this creative expression of community, an expression that finds significance in the differences of its people. “As long as the Koreans, Latinos and Bangladeshis live here,” says Choi, “it will always be K-town.”

The town now boasts the highest concentration of restaurants and nightclubs in all of southern California, and a big part of that comeback has been the cultural grit in embracing of one of the most multiracial cities on Earth. “Change mixes things up, it can enrich a community, it can increase diversity,” says Vadakan. “Koreatown will continue to be a melting pot, not unlike Los Angeles, not unlike this country.”

So, without further delay, welcome to a town where cultural collisions run as deep as they run high. Koreatown has finally arrived, and it’s about damn time.


Check out this link:

The emergence of Los Angeles’ Koreatown


2014 V3 Digital Media Conference


V3con Honorees 2014 600x312 LA Ticket Giveaway: 2014 V3 Digital Media Conference



V3 Digital Media Conference is coming up right around the corner. The event kicks off on Friday June 20th with an Opening Awards Reception. Then, the all day conference takes place on Saturday June 21st. Both events are being held at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo (LA). Here is the website for more info: http://v3con.com/.

Registration includes admission to Friday’s Opening Awards Reception and Saturday’s all day conference, including breakfast and lunch on Saturday. Check out the full schedule and the list of speakers.

Broadcast journalist Ann Curry, Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold and singer-songwriter Judith Hill will be honored at the 2014 V3 Digital Media Conference, presented June 20-21 in celebration of Asian American contributions to media and culture.


The third annual conference, presented by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, recognizes the “Vision. Visibility. Voice” of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in digital and social media, with the goal of showcasing the most influential and interesting Asian Americans online while connecting diverse communities and building new media skills.


The two-day event, which drew more than 500 attendees in each of its first two years, will consist of a gala evening awards reception Friday, June 20, to be followed by an all-day conference on Saturday, June 21, both at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles.


“As in past years, we are privileged to bring together such prominent and influential honorees,” said Jocelyn “Joz” Wang, founder and executive director-advisor of V3con. They have taken diverse paths toward a common destination of advancing the stature of Asian Americans and our culture.”

The three “V” awards given at V3con recognize the contributions, talents and values of path-breaking individuals who have enabled Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to become recognized as a significant force in media and the broader community.


This year’s recipients will be recognized at the Friday event for their roles in significantly raising the profile of the AAPI community in the mainstream.


Check out this link:

2014 V3 Digital Media Conference