The coronavirus pandemic has caused a rise in hate crimes and attacks against the Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time heinous actions such as the ones we’ve seen the past year have happened. It stretches beyond decades and even centuries.
As we fully condemn these attacks and hear the voices of those in pain within the AAPI community, it is vital to spread awareness and provide support as much as we can. While there are several ways to do this, one way is by visiting, dining, and spreading the word about food businesses owned by Asian/Asian-Americans. Here is a list of businesses you can support around the New Jersey and New York area:
1. Baonanas – Jersey City, NJ
Trisha Villanueva and Lloyd Ortuoste curated their own banana pudding recipe that was a crowd favorite at their family parties. Today, that recipe boomed into a dessert shop of their own in Jersey City. You can find an assortment of ice cream flavors, coffee, drinks, and pastries at this Filipino-owned business. To pay tribute to their heritage, they’ve incorporated a touch of Filipino roots into the menu. They have their Pan de Bao sliders — a special sandwich version of the famous Filipino bread — and ice cream flavors such as Ubenanas and Vegan Buko Pandan. The Ubenanas contains the famous Filipino condiment ube! Ube is this creamy purple yam special commonly used in desserts. The Vegan Buko Pandan comes from the sweet Filipino coconut dessert with jelly cubes and condensed milk infused with pandan — a popular plant used in a few dishes from Southeast Asian countries.
2. Okie Pokie Cafe – Highland Park, NJ
This small cafe in Central New Jersey uses the finest ingredients to provide an unforgettable poké experience that will have you returning again and again. You can pick from one of their signature poké bowls, or you can create your own sushi burrito, poké bowl, or salad bowl with endless toppings or fillings to choose from.
3. Hop Kee Restaurant – New York, NY
As one of the earlier popular restaurants in Chinatown, Hop Kee serves one of the most authentic Chinese and Cantonese restaurants around. This place can be easily missed as it’s located in a building basement, so make sure you don’t get confused when your GPS says you made it and you don’t see the restaurant in front of you. Whenever my family and I visit Chinatown, we always have to stop here to eat. The blend of flavors combined into their dishes just makes you feel like you’re walking on the streets of China. I even took my friend from China here, and he felt nostalgic for the meals his grandmother used to make for him. Come here for a taste of China without stepping foot out of the United States.
4. Pho Today – locations in South Plainfield, Bridgewater, Fort Lee, and East Rutherford, NJ
No, you shouldn’t get it tomorrow, you should get it today at Pho Today. There’s nothing like sitting down on a cold windy day and enjoying a steaming bowl of pho. At Pho Today, there are so many types of pho you can get. Either with brisket, steak, meatballs, tendon, vegetarian, or seafood — the possibilities are endless. They also have other specialty soups such as bun bo hue — a broth with spicy marinated beef and pork–and rice and vermicelli noodle soups
5. Mitsuwa Marketplace – Edgewater, NJ
The mother of all Asian supermarkets in New Jersey. People from all over the state and in New York will make the drive to this supermarket no matter how long it may take. Who could blame them? Everything you crave or want in any type of Asian cuisine, you’ll find it here. Everyone loves their little food court inside because it is literally an Asian food hall. In the same complex, you’ll find an adorable strip mall with other Asian-owned businesses that sell accessories, makeup, books, and so much more. You won’t be able to experience everything in one day’s trip, so it’s better to plan ahead because you’re going to want to come back.
6. Inspiration Roll – locations in Westfield and Morristown, NJ
Inspiration Roll is the place to go for their fresh, made-to-order sushi burritos and their carefully crafted ramen bowls by Master Chef Kotani, who has over 20 years of ramen-making experience. Roll with the sushi or sushi burrito, toss with the poké or salad bowl, or slurp with the ramen bowls at Inspiration Roll!
7. Clo Coffee Co. – locations in Edison and Jersey City, NJ
Ralph Angeles wanted to turn his passion into a reality, which is how Clo Coffee Co. was born. This pandemic-born business does not mess around when it comes to coffee. Each cup of coffee contains the most high-quality beans possible and is consciously brewed for a longer period of time to achieve that perfect cup with a bold flavor. Angeles is also paying tribute to his Filipino culture by incorporating sandwiches using the famous pandesal bread — a common bread roll from the Philippines, known for both its sweet and savory flavor that Filipinos love. Make sure to check out our article about Clo Coffee Co. here!
8. Pink Lady Cheese Tart – New York, NY
Another business born in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic: Pink Lady Cheese Tart bakes their beloved cheese tarts in their dessert shop located in Chinatown. These delectable little tarts fuse a mixture of Asian flavors like ube (gently cooked purple yam) cheese, black sesame, or matcha cheese. They are continuously experimenting and coming out with new flavors all the time.
9. Ramen Nagomi – New Brunswick, NJ
If you asked a local where the best place is to get ramen, they would most likely point you towards Ramen Nagomi. This small and humble restaurant has a simple vibe when it comes to their ramen. Every bowl bursts with flavor with a broth that has been simmered for hours to get that utmost flavor or slowly braised tender meats. During the pandemic, they even started selling ramen kits so their customers can safely enjoy their ramen at home.
10. Mochinut – Great Neck, NY & Fort Lee, NJ
The popular donut that has taken Instagram by storm is found right in New Jersey! The mochinut is a chewier yet extremely light version of a regular donut. Just by looking at these donuts, you can tell they have more of a puffy and bubbly shape to them. These fluffy desserts also aren’t as filling, which equals more room in the tummy for them.
They come in dozens of unique flavors including yuzu, taro, black sesame, black sugar, and churro.
11. Mama Fina’s House of Filipino Sisig – Elmwood Park, NJ and New York, NY
A Filipino restaurant highlighting one of the country’s most admired dishes: sisig. What is it? It is a stir fry delicacy that usually contains parts of a pig’s head and is seasoned with spices and vegetables. You can also use other meats like squid, chicken, and beef. The sisig is served on a sizzling hot cast iron pan to the table accompanied with steamed white rice. They also serve other Filipino favorites such as tapsilog, singigang, and ampalaya among others!
12. Catmint Wheel Cake – New York, NY
The Catmint Wheel Cake is a small cake-like pastry packed with custard and other fillings such as boba, matcha, red bean, taro, chocolate, and more. Unfortunately, the Catmint Wheel Cake bakeshop that was once located in New York was shut down because of the pandemic. But have no fear! The owners still have an online shop where you can purchase these adorable tiny cakes.
13. O2 BBQ – Queens, NY and Guttenberg, NJ
O2 BBQ is one of the best all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue spots in the tri-state area. They offer premium meats including thin beef brisket, tender steak, juicy pork belly, and spicy bulgogi. Do you prefer your steak rare, medium-rare, or the debatable well-done? Cook everything to your liking right in front of you. Make sure you grab a close group of friends to join in with you and order as much as you want. It is also the perfect excuse to have endless rounds of Soju!
14. Mama Chicken – Palisades Park, NJ
If you think you’ve been to all the best chicken wing restaurants in the state but haven’t been to Mama Chicken, you can guess again. This Korean fried chicken spot serves your favorite bone-in and boneless chicken. Beyond the wings, Mama Chicken is truly famous for its fried chicken dishes. The chicken in these dishes is usually sat upon a thick layer of sauce and then topped with an insane amount of fries, onion rings, cheese, or vegetables.
Here is one of my favorite Mama Chicken dishes: creamy onion chicken. The base contains a rich, aromatic sauce covered with boneless fried chicken fresh out of the fryer, then finished off with a mountain of onion rings and cheese.
15. Nguyen Coffee Supply – Brooklyn, NY
A coffee company located in New York roasting the finest beans sourced straight from Vietnam. The founder, Sahra Nguyen wanted Vietnam to be represented and have a bigger footprint in coffee production. Many people don’t know this, but their website states that “Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer in the world and the #1 producer of robusta beans.” Why is this fact important? A majority of coffee drinkers in the United States are enjoying Vietnam’s coffee beans without even realizing their origin. Nguyen is changing the narrative and telling a story through the coffee beans to ensure that every consumer knows where it comes from.
16. Ihawan – Queens, NY
Home to one of the best Filipino barbecues you can get in town is Ihawan in Jackson Heights. Although they sell almost all the classic dishes from the Philippines, they specialize more specifically in Kapampangan cuisine — one of the eight major dialects of the country. Dive into a pile of crunchy lumpiang shanghai, the Filipino version of the spring roll. Or try the bopis — chopped pork lung and liver sauteed with sweet peppers and lemon.
If you want to support the Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) community beyond visiting and buying from these food businesses, here are more resources and different organizations you can donate to:
- Websites/documents to share and spread awareness: