Each week we talk to a member of the Serious Eats community. This week we chatted with SinoSoul, a well-traveled, outspoken, eater from Southern California. -The Mgmt.
Name: Tony Chen
Location: LA adjacent.
Occupation: Small business owner
Website/Twitter: sinosoul.com, @sinosoul
Some of the posts on your blog focus on value and dining economically, is this important to you?
A couple of years ago after I ate through Southeast Asia for over a month, I realized, despite having consumed over a house down payment's worth of restaurant meals, people overseas eat better and at a lower overall cost even though their wheat, rice, and pork cost more due to differing national food policies. I now try to shun the Providence/Jean George/Everest type restaurants and stick to ethnic meals, be it halal kebabs & sangak, a bowl of khao soi, or some dabeli. There was an entire book published related to this idealogy recently.
What is one of your earliest food memories?
Going home after school to watch cooking shows in between King Beast Go Lion and Spaceship Battle Yamato maybe in second or third grade. Shortly after, a group of kids from my class ended up at our apartment, and I stood on a stool to make ketchup egg fried rice because everyone was hungry.
What is the most memorable bite of food you've ever eaten, can you describe it?
Yolk over tomato marmalade at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, on a 9/11 anniversary. it's an egg yolk from BH's own flock, and a bit of tomatoes. It tasted like plants and animals melded in one wee bite. Got me feeling very new-age for a split second. And then I felt guilt-ridden, I was in bougie country, having a solo $150 meal.
When people come to visit Los Angeles where do recommend they eat?
Depends on the visitor's dining affinities, but something like: Langers, Darabar, Huong Giang, Yoma Burmese, Pailin, Dean Sin World, Can Coon Thai, Torihei. Star Pochang, If you don't enjoy Asian food, I'm probably not hanging out with you for long.
Seems like you've spent some time in NY and LA, which one is the better food city?
Not better, only different. Big ticket meals and getting drunk while eating, NYC for sure. $2.50 banh mi, $1 al pastor tacos? LA.
Is there something that you've eaten recently that you can't stop thinking about?
Indonesian Sulawesi cuisine at Wok Coco, Anaheim, CA -- crazy Indo food. Chicken cooked in the style of rintek wook (dog stew) owned by an ex-tattoo artist and an ex-banker Indonesian couple.
What do you love to cook most? Is there a special dish that you would consider your signature?
I like to ship in Tennshootoe from G&W Hamery, and pair it with a bunch of compotes/nuts/olives from local jammers, plop down a glob of DiStefano burrata and call that a "course". No fire required, and you get to tell people you're serving the same quality ham as Umamicatessen. If I had to cook, probably coconut cream of roasted kabocha with lemongrass creme fraiche, with whatever yard aromatics I have, sprinkled with Kampot pepper from the Pepper Project.
What is the most disastrous dish you've ever attempted to cook?
Thai fried thousand year old eggs with fried holy basil. Was in a hurry, the basil was too wet and the kitchen caught fire. Also, I had the wrong soy sauce which was traumatizing.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Hey Song Sarsi (Taiwanese sarsaparilla soda) paired with unending packs of roasted laver (seaweed). I've been told the combo is rather disgusting. It costs an obscene amount of food miles, and is ridiculously high in salt and sugar. Granted, I haven't done that 10 years.
What is your least favorite kitchen task?
Caramelizing onions. What a waste of time. Someone should just grow caramelized onions. I'm OK if Monsanto gene sequenced caramelized onions.
Is there anything you hate eating?
Filipino Cuisine. Greasy fat bombs. Rather gross. Other than that, I have a moral aversion against rooster sriracha. I also rather despise most Korean food served in restaurants these days.
When you leave Los Angeles where will your last meal be?
Last time I left LA, the last meal was Roy's Hawaiian. It was to mock the girlfriend because her last boyfriend was "Roy". We're married so.. what a stupid meal choice!
What would your last bite on earth be?
A ball of wadded up prosciutto in whisky bomb. Choking on ham would be a pretty good way to die. Or maybe riding the motorbike off Tuna Canyon Rd while choking on ham, naked. An aside: why is Serious Eats so obsessed with the pre-death meal?? It's part of the profile Q's too, isn't it? I'll probably have esophageal cancer, and won't be able to eat a damn thing. I revolt against this question.