Eddie Huang is on the phone and I'm talking about—what else?—the gastronomical topic du jour of the New York City food world: Guy Fieri.
Last week the food world seemed to implode with collective laughter after Peter Wells blasted Fieri's new Times Square theme restaurant, Guy's American Bar and Grill. Eddie Huang, a New York City culinary savant and lawyer-turned-chef-turned-restaurateur-turned-blogger agreed that the take-down was definitely due:
I guarantee in 2 years, we will look back at this review and say "This was the moment." This was the moment where an essential voice in the food world went on the record and said fuck you food network, fuck you guy fieri, fuck this system of big box restaurants with Cheesecake Factory food propped up by people who can't cook. In a world where half these food writers take free meals in exchange for positive press, where people think yelp has any credence, LUCKILY, we have the NY Times.
Residents of Gotham know Huang for his BaoHaus restaurant on 14th Street in the East Village, a Taiwanese eatery (and munchie heaven) that specializes in chicken, pork, and beef Bao Buns served with crushed peanut, cilantro, and BaoHaus' special chili relish. Huang is also the author of a memoir about food, "Fresh of the Boat." He stars in a VICE webseries of the same name. In fact, VICE just dropped the second episode of the Haung's recent trip to Taiwan:
Today, after a little chit-chat about Fieri, we talk about a topic both of us feel very passionate about: Munchies, and how to get creative with cheap, simple stoner foods. Here's what he had to say:
I want to talk stoner food, but before we get into that, let's talk about what everyone in the food world is talking about these days: Guy Fieri. Specifically, Guy's American Bar and Grill. Gun to your head, which would you choose: Tex Wasabi, Johnny Garlics, or Guy's American?
I wrote a blog post about it. I don't trust him with raw fish, so Tex Wasabi is... No. Johnny Garlics I'd probably do. He's Italian, right? So if there's anything he could fuck up least, it's probably something he grew up with and cares about. I've had some horrible Asian spaghetti with zucchini, peas, and carrots in it in Taiwan and China, and it was still edible. So, I'd probably go with Johnny Garlics.
A lot of people want to go to Guy's American in New York and have meetings there. It's like Ninja after [Frank] Bruni reviewed it and everyone wanted to have their birthday there. I mean, I would probably take girls to Guy's American on Valentine's Day just because there's no way she could take it seriously. Like if you're at that point where you can't not take a girl out, you kinda have to take her? You take her to Guy's and use NYC condoms so she knows it's not really all that serious. Those free NYC condoms really should say on the back "I don't love you." We used to give them away at BaoHaus but then like moms and shit got kinda upset. They'd ask, "What does sex have to do with BaoHaus?!"
Glad you brought up BaoHaus. What's the best hidden gem on the menu?
Well the Bao fries are the illest. The hot soy milk and the Bao fries are awesome. I think not enough people know that the manager's meal is the shit. You get everything: There's a fried pork chop, a fried chicken. There's minced pork on rice. It's awesome.
A Guide to DIY Cheap, Easy, and Creative Stoner Foods for Broke-Ass College Students
Eddie's quick and easy stoner recipes for making nachos, fried rice, Dorito-fried chicken, Cinnamon Toast Crunch pancakes, sesame-chili pizza sauce, and funfetti cake weed brownies.
Let's talk easy stoner foods for college kids. What are some unique, go-to stoner culinary creations college kids can make for cheap with stuff they might just have lying around their kitchens? Stuff that's different than just warming up some Easy Mac.
I think nachos you can't fuck up. Going back to Pete Wells' review, he's totally right: If you fuck up nachos, you should kill yourself. You can't fuck up nachos. It's meat, it's cheese. It's a crunchy carbohydrate. When I was in college, I ate a lot of ground meat: Ground beef, ground pork, ground chicken, ground turkey, etc. You could grab any sort of your favorite chip and make your own sort of chili mixture. You could season it with Mexican, Jamacian. Whatever. Nachos are a fun way to explore different flavors in pantries and things like that. For instance, if you want to practice and make something different, make it with Cuban Picadillo, that Cuban ground meat with olives and raisins and shit. Freak that out.
I also really like fried rice. You order Chinese food and they give you tons of rice you have leftover the next day. You can make something crazy with it. My dad love making this crazy ketchup-fried rice. He'll put ground beef, onions, ketchup, and eggs and fry it. It's ill.
If you have old ass bread sitting around that you're not going to eat, just make bread pudding.
I want to do a stoner food ingredient challenge. I'm going to throw out an item and you can tell me what to make with it. First up, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. Suggestions?
Honestly, I'd make Cheeto-fried chicken. I used to love making Cheeto-fried chicken. But what I've found is even better is Dorito-fried chicken. Take your bag of Doritos and let the air out. Crumple up the bag and crush up all your Cool Ranch Doritos while they're in the bag. Brine your chicken in some buttermilk, some salt, some pepper, or some shitty garlic powder that you might have sitting around. Do that whole situation. Then take out your chicken, roll it in some flour egg-white wash, and then roll it in the Doritos to crust it before you fry or bake it.
Let's do another one! A box of sugary cereal, like Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Frosted Flakes, etc.
People make funfetti cake and it's kind of a similar flavor. What if you made pancakes with the sugary cereal in it? Like the marshmallows from Lucky Charms and shit.
Kinda like granola pancakes, except with awesome cereal?
Yes! Exactly. When I was in college or whatever and you're so broke and you have a bunch of random shit sitting around, you can just throw into something that can grab it all. That's what pancake batter does.
Funfetti cake is kinda ill too. I fucks with some funfetti cake. Like, in college your girl probably can't cook too good yet, but she can probably make some funfetti cake. If your shorty can't make funfetti cake, you need a new one. That's like the barometer. If a girl can't make funfetti cake, she's fucked. She's got to go. What else are you going to?
Weed brownie funfetti cake sounds amazing.
It's great. That reminds me. If you're making weed brownies, put some mint in it. I fucks with the mint, even if it's that fake mint extract. Mint and weed go well in brownies.
What about good ways for dressing up terrible tasting $1 dollar pizza?
Like to put on some shitty pizza, like a Papa John's pizza that's absolutely disgusting and you have to put some shit on it? I got you son. You have a total shit pizza that's completely disgusting. Make BaoHaus house sauce. Get Chinese sesame paste and No Ho's Sweet Chili. Like we make our own homemade house sauce with sesame paste and sweet chili, but if you want to make a ghetto BaoHaus house sauce, just mix the sesame paste with No Ho's Sweet Chili. You can dip anything in that. I like it on nipples. It tastes great on boobs.
Also, one more thing. People should eat Persian pizza. In one of the episodes of the VICE show, I go to L.A. and eat Persian pizza. That shit looks disgusting -- It looks like a Totonno's pizza for Frankenstein. There's ranch and ketchup. But it's kind of an ill stoner food.
A few questions about the VICE "Off the Boat" series. How was the trip to Taiwan?
You know what? This was the illest shit. I went to a soy milk place that translates as "The International Soy Milk King." It's a really famous soy milk place in Taiwan. The lady was like, "Look, we've had a lot of famous people come here. A lot of celebrities, a lot of food people, a lot of shows. But never a Taiwanese person who's international to do an international show. We've never had a person come back to Taiwan to do this and do it with so much care. I really, really appreciate that you came back to Taiwan, you care about the food, and that you really, really want people to understand it."
That to me was the coolest experience. They wanted an American boy to come home. That was really, really cool. Other places I go—L.A., San Franscio—everyone is super-friendly and they want the best for you. But literally in Taiwan, every time we left a place in the country, people kept yelling at me "Jah-Yo," which means "Go Team." The literal translation is "add gas" but at games people would say that. But when I left, there was like a band of people from the restaurant waving and cheering us on. It was really cool how the country adopted us.
Being born in America and living here and always not really knowing if people in Taiwan would accept me, going back and being welcomed by the country was really, really cool. I think that's the best experience; to meet these people that look like you but you don't really get to see all that much on a day-to-day basis in America. That was the dopest part for me.
Taiwan is a country that seems to be generally skipped on the culinary map.
Yes! I definitely agree. That's why I didn't really fuck with Momofuku in the beginning, because I was like, "You didn't invent this. Everyone is giving you credit like you invented this shit, but Taiwan had this for 50 years." That was a huge motivation to me for opening the restaurant. By blood I'm Chinese. I love China and I love Taiwan. But I do feel like Taiwan is always looked at like this step-child that doesn't even get to say that it's Taiwan. It's not internationally recognized as its own country. It's a disputed territory. It sucks.
I will go on record to say there's better Chinese food in Taiwan than in China. Hands down. If you talk to Chinese-Americans or people that travel between the two countries, it's undisputed. The one thing that people in Beijing do better is Peking Duck. And you have better Cantonese food in Hong Kong. But otherwise—Shanghainese food, the homestyle Chinese food you eat—It's better in Taiwan.
After the Revolution, most of the people who were chefs and artists in the upper class had to flee. China is a peasant country that's coming back now. The recipes are in Taiwan.
Do you think you're going to see more and more Taiwanese places like BaoHaus pop up in the United States?
I do think so. America's going to have an amazing, amazing food scene as second generation immigrants come into their own. They're going to be like, "You know what? I want to preserve my culture. I want to do what my parents did." That's what my biggest goal with BaoHaus is. I want to show people like "Yo, we're American but don't forget who you are, where you're from."
Like, I love being an American. Since moving to New York seven years ago, I was like "I fuck with New York and I'll claim America." Before then I was like, "Yo, I don't like America" because it seems like everyone was trying to cleanse you of where you came from and who you are. New York is cool because it's very accepting. I think food is a huge thing in this country, just like sports was a big thing in breaking down the racial barrier and hip hop [too]. I don't think Obama would have ever been elected if there wasn't hip hop in the 90s. I think food will be that thing we'll look back on in 20 years and say the movement with people exploring ethnic food from other cultures has opened so many doors to travel, to getting to know people. I think it's a beautiful thing.
That's why I'm not the biggest fan of these chefs taking these foods and then trying to put their own stamp on it to be innovative. There are not even Persian places in New York! You can't wake up and go try different types of Persian food. You can go try all these different types of Hunanese Chinese food. There are these places doing it, but it's in a very Fugazi way.
So my thing is that I really hope people go back to their roots. One guy I really like is this guy who owns Best Pizza. He did an episode on VICE too. He took us back to visit his grandparents in like Bensonhurst, like a true Italian family. I think even Italian food is misrepresented and people don't fully understand it.
You're kind of renowned as a hip hop head in the culinary scene. What are you listening to these days?
I love French Montana. I'm huge French Montana fan. That new Kendrick Lamar album was dope. I like A$AP. You know what's really funny? I actually wrote the highest trafficking Drake hate article back in the day. You can Google it. I hated Drake. But lately -- on "Problems" and his verse on "The Motto" -- Drake is kinda killin' it. Every track he's on. Drake is still dropping heat rocks. So I kinda have to give it up to Drake and say I was wrong. I would take back a lot of the things I've said. I would still say the industry kind of manufactured him, but that kid is talented.
So when are you going to do a cooking show with Action Bronson?
Everybody asks me about that! Someone was hitting me today about booking us for SXSW. Action comes to BaoHaus all the time. The Broccolini Bao was named after Action. He's a huge fan. I'm a huge fan of his. When people ask me what I'm listening to, I try not to say him because he's my homie. His track with French and Harry Fraud is my shit right now. I've been listening to it six times a day.
I don't think people realize it, but hip hop is in another Golden Era right now. This is the best in a while. There was the Dipset era, but it was kinda just Dipset and G-Unit by themselves. This is the best era since the 90s, hands down. It's freakin' amazing.