When I stay at my aunts in Hong Kong, we eat bowls of ramen accompanied by fried dace with salted black beans late at night. Then to absolve our sins, we flush down all the grease, MSG and sodium with cups of expensive Chinese tea. I also kind of have a thing for those candy strawberry sour belts they have in the bins at Sugar Factory. As a kid, I was never allowed to buy them so I’d always sneak a belt or two from my friends. In retrospect, it reminds me of going to the mall on the weekends, which is the last place I want to be on the weekends nowadays, but those bring back old memories of growing up in suburbia.
What is the most adventurous thing you’ve eaten?
I’m willing to try almost anything, bring on the funky tastes and textures. My first taste of durian was in Singapore, which we bought from a stand in the middle of an empty parking lot. I know, kind of sketchy, but people from all over that flocked to this random parking lot for some of the best durian. I still remember it was a warm, humid summer night and we brought back the durian, sat on the porch, and I plugged my nose, scooped up the custardy pod and just went for it. It may smell like dirty feet and rotting garlic, but it was surprisingly delicious and the flavor was unlike anything I’ve ever had. A while back, I finally conjured up the courage to try balut, duck fetus, at King Phojanakong’s Umi Nom. Even further back, on a tour to Vietnam with a bunch of chefs and student chefs five years ago, Michael Bao tricked us all into eating roasted rats, which we originally thought were just abnormally small “baby pigs”. I have to admit, it did taste sort of like roast pork.
What would you like to try but haven’t yet?
I’m interested to try any and all cuisines, as long as I’m not ethically against it or if it risks my health. I’m not sure I’d eat whale for ethical reasons, but my philosophy is that everything deserves a chance! The Tajik cuisine at Cheburechnaya looks interesting, and comes with recommendations from Dave Cook of Eating in Translation. I’d love to have them participate at Asian Feastival and get more people exposed to more cuisines.
When did you first realize you were a foodie?
Food has just been such an integral part of my life. I derive so much pleasure from enjoying good food with good company, the connection it has with people and the warm memories it triggers. For a more long winded answer, you can read this blog post.
What is your favorite meal of the day and where do you get it?
I have to agree with Emily, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. There are so many dishes that are relegated to breakfast that just don’t taste the same for lunch or dinner. I love eggs and am in awe with the million ways they can be cooked. I like runny yolks and a good poached egg always hits the spot. Public makes awesome Turkish eggs, which consist of two poached eggs swimming in a bowl of Greek yogurt, topped with kirmizi biber (a Turkish pepper) butter. The smokey peppers and the tart yogurt are the perfect compliment to the poached eggs, without overpowering it. It’s all about the eggs in this dish. When I have a good egg dish for breakfast, I’m happy for the rest of the day.
Do you ever cook? What’s the best dish you make?
I cook pretty often, but I’m definitely more of a eater than a chef. For my birthday, my mom bought me a copy of Andrea Nguygen’s Asian Dumplings. After helping out at a dumpling demo, I scored 10 extra packs of dumpling wrappers to bring home and decided to test out her steamed vegetable dumpling recipe for a potluck dinner. My sister and I made 80 dumplings and brought a tray of them to the party. By the end of the night, the tray was completely empty; I’d say this was a pretty successful recipe. It takes a bit of time to prepare the ingredients, but if you make it in one big batch and freeze them, they’re perfect for those days you don’t have time to cook dinner. Here’s the recipe, and if you want more dumpling tips check out Andrea’s website devoted to everything you need to know about Asian dumplings.