We were talking a little bit about how Chinese immigration to California kind of preceded Chinese immigration to New York. You know, it’s a sort of different culture up there. Well, you’re living in New York now, in Chinatown. And I remembered when I went to San Francisco for the first time, we all got bent and you brought me to Chinatown there. Do you notice big differences in the Chinatowns?
I never spent a lot of time in San Francisco Chinatown. But I live in the Chinatown here.
I thought that the San Francisco Chinatown, just the way the city is, is a little more spread out. I know there’s a fortune cookie factory you can go to and take photos. New York Chinatown is more of a situation where like I go in a door and then everybody stops talking and looks at me, like, “What are you doing? You gotta go.”
I can see that. I think San Francisco is just a little more touristy of a Chinatown. But it depends where you are in the Chinatown in New York. There’s parts where it’s only tourists and people hustling the tourists.
And then once you go away from that, that’s where more Chinese people live. But, like, Flushing, that’s Chinatown, man. That’s, like, Chinese Chinatown. I think that’s one of my favorites, Flushing.
Do you like one more than the other?
I don’t know. I like the food better in Flushing. The standard is much higher. I think where you have the tourist element, people are like, “Oh, you can get away with this generic stuff.”
You’re getting so much foot traffic. So much white money involved.
So I prefer to eat in Flushing, if I have time to make that trip.
So why did you move to New York? To pursue career stuff here?
I think so. There’s definitely a lot of talent, a lot of opportunities, here. But for me it’s, like, I love California so much. At some point I maybe want to go back. I like San Francisco a lot. I like the cold dreariness.
Of course. Who wouldn’t?
But of course, it’s sunny across the bay. Yeah, in Oakland and Berkeley it’s always sunny. It’s the quality of life. I like the pace. I do like the vibe out there. I think it fits me more. But I think I am too comfortable out there now, which is why I’m here. I wanted to get the more crazy energy of New York and surround myself with that.
And you think living in New York, just maybe the population density, you think it’ll improve your material? Or it’s hard to track it so directly?
It’s hard to track it directly, but I think it makes a big difference when you live in a situation where you can see people a little more closely. You watch them being human and doing weird things and being themselves. It’s seems like a small thing, but it makes a big difference. Just getting off the plane, getting on a train or a bus, and suddenly you’re in a room—an enclosed space—with different people, lots of different people. You don’t get that in Houston growing up. And in California, you might get that to a certain extent. In San Francisco, you can ride the train there.
What are some parts of the city, places you like and neighborhoods you’ve gone to in the five boroughs? Specific places. Maybe restaurants, like, in Flushing.
When I’m at home, I’ll usually eat in Chinatown or in the East Village. That’s kind of my area.
Prosperity Dumplings is your go-to.
I haven’t been there in a while, but that’s kind of, like, the dumpling joint. Five dumplings for a buck. Those are pretty good. Excellent Pork Chop House.
Classic. You know there’s my friend Alec, we’ve been going there for years. The method is when he’s feeling like it, 100 percent tip. That’s the move at Excellent Pork Chop House.
Yeah, you go 100 percent tip. When you’re really in the zone or something, it’s been a really good streak of luck, go to Excellent Pork Chop House, 100 percent tip.
Wow, I have not done that.
I never would. I’m extremely cheap. I would never do that.
So yeah. Excellent Pork Chop House. Xi’an Famous Foods.
I don’t eat meat though. Is lamb the move there?
Yeah, lamb. A lot of lamb burger. The noodles are good too. They don’t put enough lamb in the lamb noodles. So if you get the lamb burger, it’s a heartier meat experience. They do have a pretty gnarly, like, lamb face salad.
That’s what I heard.
I love taco de lengua. I like cabeza, I like buche, suadero. I just like all the parts. The neck, the face, the cheeks, the legs, the hip.
Do you do intestines?
Yeah. I’ll do that.
I don’t fuck with that. Or brain.
When I stepped up to the lamb face salad. That one. I couldn’t fuck with that. It was too much.
It wasn’t just indistinguishable parts? It’s a face?
It was too distinguishable. I just sort of recall the eye socket.
Mm… that’s what did it? Looking at you eating it?
Some ocular thing. It threw me off a little bit. But that’s a good spot. For everything else, I’ll eat there. But Flushing. There are so many good spots. I don’t even know what they’re called. In the Flushing Mall, there’s an old Taiwanese dude that makes great Taiwanese joints. It’s at the end of the food court. I’m kind of bent on Taiwanese dishes.
The Flushing Chinatown is more Taiwanese.
Yeah, in Manhattan it’s all Cantonese food. Or Fujianese. Or Lanzhou. They do a lot of noodles.
What are some of the differences?
Today I had soy milk, a savory soy milk, like a bean curd soup basically. They only have that. Food, to me, can be very delicious. It can hit the spot. But a lot of times, to me, I find it lacking in some complexities. Like a beef wonton noodle soup. Like there’s Wonton Garden I go to late at night. It’s open until 4 a.m. and it’s by my house. Great wonton noodles, but halfway through, I’m like… it’s too much.
I’m South Indian and typically the majority of Indian restaurants serve North Indian food, which I like a lot. I like palak paneer, chicken makhni. But being South Indian, it’s such a fertile region for growing stuff that anything will have maybe 15 ingredients. So eating North Indian food, halfway through, I’m like, “It’s gonna be this again….” Whereas something like rasam, that’s like peppercorn, tamarind, three or four curry leaves. By the time you get the middle part of the thing, it tastes one thing and the bottom is the healthy, sweet craziness. And that’s completely lacking in North Indian food.
Taiwanese people also use more oysters in their meals. One of my favorite things is, like, this oyster omelet.
What I’m imagining is just oysters in a regular American omelet. But that’s not what that is.
No, it’s more like a big pancake, a big egg thing. But there’s also cornstarch in there along with spinach, an orange sauce—I don’t know what it is—and there’s oysters throughout. And then there’s an oyster noodle stew with, like, intestines in there. I had that today. A classic Taiwanese thing.