How to Support the Asian-American Community in Los Angeles Right Now
From worthwhile restaurants to retail concepts, nonprofits, and more, there are plenty of ways to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in LA.
Los Angeles wouldn’t be the diverse, vibrant city we know and love without its vast community of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who make up 16% of our population. Some of the largest Asian ethnic enclaves outside of their native countries—including Koreatown, Thai Town, Historic Filipinotown, and more—exist here, lending so much of their incredible culture, cuisine, and spirit to our city’s rich tapestry. While it’s vital to show your support for our AAPI communities all year long, there’s no better time than during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Check out all the ways you can support your AAPI community in LA this month and beyond.
Patronize AAPI-owned restaurants and businesses
The pandemic dealt a huge blow to the restaurant industry, but many Asian eateries endured the added hardship of COVID-19-related stigma. One of the best ways to show your support is by spending your dollars at AAPI-owned places (which, coincidentally, will also make your stomach very happy). While there are far too many to name, some of our favorites include Mei Lin’s Daybird, cooking up Szechuan hot chicken in Silver Lake; Ryan Wong’s Needle, serving tasty Hong Kong eats in the same neighborhood; and sake bar Ototo in Echo Park. For Asian fusion on the beach, head to Hermosa to dig into RYLA’s menu, influenced by Japanese and Taiwanese cuisine, or ReMix Kitchen Bar in Long Beach, which showcases French, Italian, and modern Filipino flavors.
There’s also RiceBox’s bomb Cantonese BBQ, Maxwell Chicken Rice’s best-in-class Hainan chicken, Little Shop of Mary’s mouthwatering banh mis, family-run Woon Kitchen, Yang Chow’s Chinese classics, Saikai Ramen Bar’s perfectly executed noods, My Lai Kitchen’s build-your-own Vietnamese bowls, Broken Mouth’s homestyle Hawaiian dishes, Lasita’s Filipino rotisserie and lechon-inspired menu, Simpang Asia’s crave-worthy Indonesian fare, Pho Hue Oi’s soups, Mayura Indian Restaurant’s Kerala-based cuisine, Gamboge’s Cambodian sandwiches, Nanoom’s private Korean dining experience, Top Tep’s Northern Vietnamese fare, and any number of restaurants in the SGV (here’s a primer on the area’s best dumplings).
Once your stomach’s satiated, start shopping at Now Serving—which stocks must-have cookbooks, ceramics, and more in Chinatown. Sawtelle mainstay Black Market is a lifestyle boutique with the coolest clothes and trinkets. Over in Eagle Rock, Leanna Lin’s Wonderland curates covetable art, toys, and decor, while Japanese gift shop Bunkado has been going strong at its original downtown location since 1946. Founded in 1888, Pasadena’s family-owned F. Suie One Co. is your go-to for Asian antiques and furniture. MAUM Market offers monthly pop-up experiences around LA, curating food, drink, ceramics, art, and more from Korean makers and artisans.
Or pay a visit to any one of LA’s ethnic pockets, where you’ll find a plethora of AAPI-owned restaurants, markets, and small businesses that deserve your patronage—like Little Bangladesh, Chinatown, Little India, Little Tokyo, and Sawtelle’s Japantown.
Support local entrepreneurs’ social-media-based pop-ups
The pandemic’s restaurant lockdown birthed exciting, new culinary ventures on social media (and shined a spotlight on a few existing concepts, too). Chinese-Indonesian-American Brian Moeljadi helped launch a sambal sauce with Cash Only, a culinary collective that creates food products, apparel, and events. Burmese Please shifted from cooking at Smorgasburg pop-ups to offering takeout from an Arts District kitchen. Ganchic makes Korean kimbap with quinoa; Kwong Shop turns out brightly colored, small-batch potstickers dyed with plants; Sarifah Ismail Renton cooks up Malaysian and Indonesian food you’ll dream about; and Debi Sushi assembles artisanal chirashi boxes that are too pretty to eat. Also, check out Indonesian chef/entrepreneur Zen Ong’s extraordinary vegan ice cream brand, Awan, which has a takeout window in West Hollywood.
Donate to nonprofits supporting Asian and Asian-American residents
Asian Americans Advancing Justice provides free resources and services—especially for vulnerable, low-income immigrants who aren’t proficient in English—in addition to running an anti-Asian discrimation project you can help fund. If you want to support the elderly, Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center is dedicated to increasing awareness of this community’s needs. The Center for Asian Americans United for Self-Empowerment (CAUSE) advances political and civic empowerment through nonpartisan voter outreach, training, education, and leadership development. The LA chapter of nationwide Project by Project supports local nonprofits, while developing the next generation of leaders through innovative philanthropy.
You can also donate to any of Los Angeles’s many community-oriented organizations, including the Little Tokyo Service Center, Chinatown Service Center, Korean American Family Services, Filipino American National Historical Society, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, The Progressive Vietnamese American Organization (PIVOT), Thai Community Development Center, and more.
You can also show your support without donating. Tune into the podcast of AAPI LA, a newly launched initiative that amplifies the needs and challenges of AAPI Angelenos, or participate in the Asian Business Association’s #HaveYouEatenYet campaign.
Follow LA-based thought leaders and groups who promote AAPI interests
Chinese-American chef (and Thrillist Local Hero) Jenny Dorsey offers a unique point of view through her work with Studio ATAO, which uses events and exhibitions to explore issues like unconscious bias and immigration. Her commentary on how food can be used as a medium for identity, representation, and social change is enlightening. Entrepreneur Jing Gao is another prominent voice in the community, leveraging her premium Chinese food company Fly by Jing (a.k.a. makers of your favorite chili crisp) to challenge the hierarchy of taste in the West. Writer/comedian/actress Jenny Yang combines humor and activism to tackle race and class, while Angry Asian Man’s Phil Yu has voiced his opinions on Asian-American affairs and pop culture for years.
A nonprofit collective of creative voices and influential leaders, Gold House rallies for multicultural representation and socioeconomic equity. Meanwhile, apparel brand Asian American Girl Club, founded by actress Ally Maki, celebrates AAPI women. Vervet’s sparkling canned cocktails and Nectar Hard Seltzer are led by AAPI Angelenos who are invested in giving a voice to the community.