Engage with Asian Culture

Chu Chu Donuts, located on Southwest Ninth Street.

Writer: Sarah Bogaards
Photographer: Duane Tinkey

Nu Huynh

As executive director of the Iowa Asian Alliance since 2014, Nu Huynh (pronounced Hwin) is dedicated to supporting Iowa’s Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities. Largely staffed by volunteers, the nonprofit organization serves as an advocate and partner to more than 14 local groups, including the Thai Association of Iowa and the Japan America Society of Iowa. Huynh encourages Iowans to engage with these communities and to check out the resources they offer, ranging from translation services to how to host an authentic luau. 

IAA also hosts events like the Pho King Cook-Off and the annual CelebrAsian festival, this year May 27–28 downtown. In addition to food, drink and interactive activities, the fest includes entertainment, including one of Huyhn’s favorites–breakdancing from the student group Des Moines Breakerz, led by Anthony San. 

Huynh says she is excited by how many people in the API communities have launched new businesses, including restaurants. “My family and I often frequent the many popular Asian favorites around central Des Moines, but we’ll take the extra time to support the hidden gems, and we hope you do too,” she says.

Here are a few restaurants and food-related businesses she recommends.


Chu Chu Donuts (pictured above)
“Some of the best doughnut [shops] are owned and operated by Cambodians,” Huynh says. Chu Chu’s on Southwest Ninth Street “is my go-to for custard cronuts and croissants—so bad, so good!”

JJ Jasmine Thai Cuisine
“[It’s] hidden in the downtown skywalk, but great for lunches and even private dinner parties.”

Chopstix Vietnamese Street Food & Cafe
Thang Holt and his team opened this restaurant last December in Grimes. It focuses on traditional Vietnamese street food and bubble tea.

The Bean & Leaf Cafe
This Urbandale spot offers “an eclectic mix of Asian-inspired gourmet coffee and desserts,” Huynh says. (There’s another location at Hickman and Merle Hay roads.)

Shanghai Chinese Restaurant
“An oldie but goody in Waukee,” Huynh says.

Winn’s Pizza and Steakhouse
The Norwalk eatery “is definitely on my list for the near future and should be on yours too,” she says. “I have heard so many delicious things about their diverse menu of comfort food. And the Des Moines bypass will take you right there.”

Beauty Services

“It’s important to look and feel my best, and I appreciate all the help I can get,” Huynh says. “I often get asked for recommendations, so here’s a few of my go-tos.”

Lashes by Kaylynn Ngo at Timeless Brows
4806 University Ave., Suite 1B, Des Moines

Family haircuts at Tiji Salon
3225 100th St., Suite 115, Urbandale

Microblading by Adela at MyBrows
1680 S.W. Ankeny Road, Ankeny

Gifts and Decor

Custom gifts and crafts by Liat at Little Crafting Panda
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Professional Photography

Trang Luong at PhotosByTrang
photosbytrang.com; @photosbytrang

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