Roni Mazumdar is a culinary trailblazer. The mastermind behind popular NYC restaurant, Masalawala & Sons, Roni is ready to disrupt your idea of what Indian food really looks like. Largely impacted by colonialism, the richness and diversity of Indian food has never been accurately represented in the West. Roni is changing that. Together with Chef Chintan Pandya, Roni co-founded Unapologetic Foods, a visionary restaurant group in NYC that boldly offers unapologetic Indian cuisine. The duo present authentic Indian dishes from lesser-known regions, shedding light on unexplored Indian culinary traditions. While making waves in the NYC food scene, Roni Mazumdar never forgets his roots. His first restaurant, Masalawala & Sons in NYC is an ode to his father, Satyen Mazumdar, and the cherished dishes of his childhood.
There is a Sifu hidden in the hills of Monterey Park who remains a true guardian of tradition and community 🥋🌟 He dedicates his time to training the next generation of martial artists, teaching kids not only self-defense but also the rich cultural heritage that comes with it. As the community has grappled with change, triumph and tragedy, this community of mostly kids holds on to a ritual and practice that keeps the diasporic community connected to their ancestry and home countries. What’s more? The classes are free in an effort to keep as many people practicing as possible.
Subtle Asian Traits isn’t just a Facebook group– it’s a growing community where Asians from around the world feel like there’s a place for them. Whether you’re Simu Liu, Hasan Minhaj or any other of the group’s nearly 2 million members, here, you'll discover the most niche memes about the little aspects of Asian culture – and the Asian diaspora in particular – that are often overlooked. Like the tradition of removing shoes when entering a house or the experience of always having your name mispronounced at Starbucks. And the reason why the group is so successful? Humor. Lighthearted and fun, the space binds thousands of people together through what is common and funny to them. But that doesn’t come without its challenges. When moderating such a large group, the group’s nine founders – Chinese-Australian students from Melbourne – have run into a few problems. “Why are you only representing Chinese culture?” “You need to speak out about more issues.” “Asians are not a monolith.” Despite issues of representation, co-founders Kathleen and Tony are trying their best to honor all identities. They strive to make sure the members have a good relationship with the group, that it’s a welcoming space for all and somewhere people are not afraid to be who they really are.
Indo-Chinese is one of India’s most popular foods, though most people haven’t heard of it–including Chinese people. Why did Chinese food become so popular in India and what does it tell us about the history of these two regions? Today, this collaborative cuisine is taking over the world. Did you know that Chicken Manchurian isn’t Chinese? Nelson Wang, a third-generation Chinese immigrant in India, created the dish in 1975 while working at Mumbai’s Cricket Club. But Chinese food in India dates way further back than the 70’s. The oldest restaurant opened in 1925, and was frequented by many Bollywood stars. Chinese immigration to India dates way back to the 18th century, when many Chinese workers filled industries from sugar-mills to leather and carpentry. To cater to them, eateries began opening that would replace native Asian ingredients with Indian cooking staples. Further, Chinese men began marrying Indian women, making the union of these two cuisines even more tangible. Now found around the world, here’s the history of Indo-Chinese cuisine.
Biryani, one of the most beloved dishes in India and Pakistan, is iconic, regal, and dates back 3,000 years. Today, it has become a street food that is affordable and accessible to all–and it’s thanks to a brand that was launched in Karachi in the 1980’s: Shan Masalas. Usually made with meat and cooked in layers of spicy, tangy, and sweet flavors, Biryani is an elaborate rice dish. In the 1980’s, Shan Masala, packaged spice mixes, were launched–modernizing desi cuisine and freeing up many South Asian women’s time. In 2020 alone, Shan Masala made around $85 million USD in revenue. Mentions of Biryani have been found in Tamil poems that date as far back as 200 CE, to 17th century cookbooks from a royal Mughal kitchen. Biryani today represents several millennia of the subcontinent's unique mix of different flavors, techniques and cooking cultures. Though there’s a lot of hype around who invented biryani and who has the best biryani, every region has delicious biryani–and comes with its own story.
12Pell says they’re the Madison Square Garden of barber shops. What they mean is when certain folk come through New York City, they don’t leave without visiting. The barbershop is always packed, and there’s a few reasons why barbers combine Japanese style precise scissor work with the sharp shaves of Dominican barbershop, layered on top of K hair techniques. They are one of a kind, and their audience of nearly 2 million followers on TikTok and 300,000+ on Instagram has made them some of the most sought after barbers of our generation. Customers book months in advance for a slot, with prices starting at $150+ for a trim. But 12Pell is important not just because of the popularity. . During the COVID-19 pandemic when Chinatown became a 'ghost town', the store rarely got any customers. 12Pell translated this downtime into community-driven initiatives, offering free haircuts when customers spent $45 dollars at any Chinatown store, and investing in their TikTok community. Soon, 12Pell had things up and running again for the entire neighborhood, including themselves. The barbershop cares beyond just the business of hair – they show up for the Asian American community by creating a space for young Asian men to feel a sense of belonging.
Ryūhō Ōkawa, leader of the Japanese Happy Science religion, was the self-proclaimed reincarnation of Jesus Christ, Elohim and…Yoda. He died earlier this year, leaving behind a complex legacy. From Wall-Street trader to founder of the controversial religion, Okawa was a savvy businessman who is said to have used this know-how to create a money-making machine disguised as spirituality. While Happy Science boasts over 12 million followers worldwide,the real number is likely much lower. Perhaps that’s because members had to give donations of up to $400 at a time for ‘blessings’. The cult is known for bizarre anime, a political party calling for the remilitarization of Japan and celebrity seances with figures like Margaret Thatcher. In 2020, the cult minimized the dangers of COVID and said it was caused by UFOs. But what will the cult do now without its supreme leader?
Which country actually invented dumplings? You’d probably think it’s China but historians have traced dumplings to Central Asia and the migration of Turkic people. It’s said that Turkic and Mongol tradesmen and horsemen traveled across Asia in cold winters carrying ‘mantu’, which we now call dumplings. That’s because 1600’s England called this delicious dough pocket ‘dumpling’, a sophisticated derivative of ‘lump’. In fact, when it comes to the origins of mantu, historians encourage us to look at language. Most Asian cultures call the dumpling how the Turks originally did–Koreans call it mandu, Greek people call it manti, Afghans call it mantu, and Chinese people call it mantou too. But the origins aren’t the only debatable part of the convo–who has the best dumplings?
Shirley Le is the Vietnamese-Australian author of the book 'Funny Ethnics.' As a child, Shirley grew up watching politicians on screen push harmful rhetoric and say things like Australia had been 'swamped by Asians.' In cities Yagoona and Bankstown, she didn’t always feel like she belonged. She was called 'ethnic' often, further stigmatizing her as an outsider. That’s why she's reclaiming the word in the title of her book. "I find great joy in being empowered to take the role of storyteller." Today, she’s an important and authentic voice because of one central defiance: she is speaking from her community rather than for it.
China’s one child policy led to 30 million more men than women in the past 36 years, which has directly driven up bride trafficking from neighboring countries. Like Lào Cai, on the border of Vietnam: this mountainous rural province is a hotspot for human trafficking. Girls and women are tricked in various ways–from friends inviting them to a birthday party to promises of higher paying jobs–only to end up in forced marriages, unable to escape, subject to the behaviour of their husbands. Compassion House in Lào Cai is a long-term shelter for female trafficking survivors, and since 2010 they have supported nearly 300 women and girls–some as young as 12 years old. Every year, human traffickers earn over 150B USD, third only to drugs and weapon trafficking. According to the UN, only 1% of all victims of human trafficking are rescued globally. Here are some stories from survivors who escaped.
In 2019, streetwear designer Khanh Ngo launched his online store and made $90K in less than three months. He landed his “dream job” at Levi’s, but when COVID hit, he lost his job. Growing up in a rough neighborhood, Khanh wasn’t typical in the fashion industry, and people judged him for not being the model minority Asian. He also felt shamed by his father–a Veteran and Captain, who projected his own losses onto his son. Between familial pressures and stereotyping, Khanh wasn’t in a good place. Today, Khanh speaks on how those difficulties made him more authentic, and a source of inspiration, for even his own family. He’s proud to represent where he’s from and tell the stories he believes are important. He’s also focused on love–not normalizing being defensive “because you’re Asian” anymore.
Lai Lijuan, a 67-year-old woman, learned how to play video games from her grandchildren. She just won first place in the Ageless E-sports competition, after three months of training. In a world that rejects elders, Lai found courage and curiosity is a winning combo. Lai is a member of HK Evergreen Gaming in Taiwan, an all-senior e-sports team in Hungkuang University. Her gaming character, Morgane, has skills like burning enemies and protecting herself. But she wasn’t born with a love for gaming; in fact, Lai hated it. Her grandkids' obsession with gaming made her curious, and they ended up teaching her. When looking back at her life before gaming, Lai remembers depressing days where she should watch TV, scroll on her phone, and sleep. Today, she feels invigorated, confident, and closer to her grandchildren than ever. She feels younger, and reclaimed her value in society. Lai has found play.
In Atlanta, there’s only one place you can get late night sushi on a Thursday: Trap Sushi. Fusing Atlanta and Japanese pop culture, Trap Sushi builds community around food, music, anime, and cosplay. Founders speak on the due diligence it takes to appreciate (and not appropriate) culture. Artist Tolden Williams, aka Troop Brand, grew up in Mississippi loving Dragon Ball Z. Stephanie Lindo, an environmental scientist, first learned about manga and anime from her Vietnamese best friends. When Tolden discovered Stephanie art online, their shared love for Japanese culture fueled a project that has now become centerstage of Atlanta’s growing cosplay community. Many Black cosplayers are on the rise–and so is racism. This exists in anime communities too, where being Black means you cannot play a certain character. Trap Sushi has become the place where people of all backgrounds feel safe and accepted to tap into cosplay, anime, and community in general.
In Korea, K-pop dominates the dance industry. But shows like Street Girls Fighter are legitimizing dance–giving performers a platform to be seen as more than just back dancers. They say dance helps them be present–something that is still hard to do in Korea. Street Woman Fighter and its spin-off Street Girls Fighter are dance competitions that began highlighting more than K-Pop. They featured street dancing, which for many adults in Korea, is a pointless path. Even for the teens who are successful dancers, finding the answers to the questions from adults – “What are you going to do with this?” – feels like a very real pressure at a very young age. Despite the societal pressures, physical tolls, and injuries that come with this career, dancers like twenty-year-old Hong Hayeon say they hope to dance for the rest of their lives. Working together with other dancers as a unit is an art form, and being able to draw from your own personality to pair it with the dynamics of others is a skill of its own.
Heesco, a Mongolian-Australian artist known for his murals, speaks on being born under communist Mongolia, and how he used graffiti to escape. Today, when Heesco paints with the next generation of Mongolian artists, he reminds them that dreams are greater than environment. When Mongolia’s economy collapsed overnight, Heesco’s mum moved to Poland, where he began drawing for his schoolmates to avoid being picked on for being a “foreigner”. From an early age, Heesco was drawn (no pun intended) to graffiti because it was a culture built by kids, and rooted in freedom of expression. He also loved that it cut out galleries, critics, and collectors from dictating what art is, or isn’t. Heesco shares that as a kid growing up in a rough area, he can empathize with how difficult it can be to keep dreams alive and not fall into depression. Today, he is an ambassador for ‘Lantuun Dohio’, a non-profit that crowdfunds to build services and libraries for children in Mongolia. He paints with Mongolian children, and has learned that creating on walls with them is healing and inspiring to them both.
Huỳnh Thị Cẩm Tiên is the only African-Vietnamese to compete in a Miss Universe Vietnam Contest. During the competition, some praised her dark skin and mixed appearance, but viewers and judges also told her that she didn’t represent Vietnam because of her mixed-race identity. Despite the racist criticisms about how her skin color cannot represent Vietnam, she remained self confident during the competition and in doing so, found a way to bring Cameroonian culture and Vietnamese cultures together. When Tiên was younger, she would get tone-deaf comments from her friends about her curly hair and melanin skin. While Tiên experienced racism, her mother wanted Tiên to feel confident in her natural features by accepting herself. Her mother taught Tiên to stop seeking validation from others and to live a life that would build and prioritize her happiness. Tiên is currently a fashion designer making clothes so that people who wear her clothes can feel confident about who they are.
Many call him their grandpa! Harumichi Shibasaki is more than a regular painter. Through each brushstroke and youtube upload, he heals the hearts of his 1.4 million subscribers. These life lessons were hard-earned through his own life, when as a young painter he faced a serious creative rut and hard past after WWII, but he never gave up. Seeing each watercolor as a battle, he courageously picks up his paintbrush and cheers us on to tackle our own battles, and in the process gained millions of adoring fans who look up to him as a grandpa.
Put an egg, go broth less, or turn it into a cake - there is no wrong way to make your Indomie. For the last 50 years, Indomie has been the ultimate comfort food for Indonesians. The Indomie cult spread far and wide, even generating rap songs in Nigeria. Watch how Indomie got popular, and meet the chefs that are leveling up how these comfort foods are prepared.
Tony Leung is considered Asia’s most successful actor. Born in Hong Kong, Tony grew up without a father, he found refuge in Hong Kong cinema during his youth. Connecting with his emotions through cinema would end up paying off for Tony, who would take up acting because his friend, Stephen Chow, told him to audition. This is the story of an acting legend: “the man who can speak with his eyes.”
The Police force in Pakistan is changing. Women only make up 1.5% of the police force in Pakistan, but Neelam Shaukat is trying to change that. She's training the next generation of police women to protect communities, in ways that aren't possible without more women. In Swat Valley, a conservative part of Northern Pakistan where honor killings still happen, Neelam is one of few female police chiefs. There she and her crew of other police women have to be ready for everything from supporting domestic violence survivors, to being ready to protect if a terrorist strike happens. This is a day in her life.