What’s your favorite dish to eat (or prepare) when you’re stoned?
Anything crispy. On 4/20 I held a bribe at home and got this one square foot grill. It’s the smallest thing, I found it at Savers, the thrift store. I put a quarter sheet on it and made quesadillas. I asked everyone I invited to bring something to put in. Also, instant noodles – I add veggies and a really nice egg on top, and it’s a must-try meal. The last thing would be ice cream, because I’m lucky to have a bunch of talented ice cream makers as my friends. Right now, I have a honey-mezcal sorbet from Chainsaw in my freezer. And my friend Michelle at Pints Creamery makes an amazing black sesame ice cream. I also love to eat trashy ice cream. I always have two pints of something I can snack on hand.
Who is your favorite food person to follow on Instagram?
I love Mina Park, she is @ninetynin.e on Instagram. She makes these amazing whipped cream cakes. She made an espresso-soaked sponge cake with smooth chestnut puree and cocoa-dusted mascarpone ruffles, which sounds a lot like something I’ve made. They happened at different times and we had no interaction with each other. I love the Instagram internet space for sharing baking info.
Who is your dream culinary collaborator?
Brooks Headley of Superiority Burger, New York’s veggie (but mostly vegan) burger joint. I’m just waiting for that call. I added vegan recipes to my repertoire because many Vietnamese desserts are naturally vegan and gluten-free. They use rice for everything. They use coconut milk for everything.
What is the most underrated ingredient for baking?
Salt. It’s really hard to make something too salty. Let’s say you have a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe: two eggs, half a pound of butter, and usually one to two teaspoons of salt. How about a whole tablespoon? Would it be delicious? Would it be too salty? Probably not. It’s worth making the same recipe five different times at 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35 grams of salt, to see if you hit a spot of silver. Realizing how to reach that ceiling and how cause and effect works is what makes you a good cook.
When you need to get away for a quick vacation, where do you go?
Ojai. It’s an oasis two hours away. I always go there myself. I don’t really allow myself to do things on my own, I have a dog and I have a partner that I’m in love with, so it’s really hard to find those times when I don’t consider anyone else. I learned the importance of stepping away and saying very few words, and letting yourself be enveloped by the environment. Ojai is the best place for this.
Which Los Angeles restaurants are your favorites for comfort food?
Yang’s kitchen at the Alhambra. If I’m really sad and need a good meal, I go. I love Woon for their beef noodles and chicken wings. I live within walking distance of Mandarin Noodle House, and this is the best Orange Chicken I’ve ever had. Before working at Pearl River Deli, I was a customer there, and they were with me when my dog was lost for an entire day. I wrote a missing dog poster, it was all over Instagram, and it was all over Nextdoor. They made me two wonton soups and I took them home. I ate them, cried, fell asleep, then at two in the morning someone called and found my dog. This wonton soup is always one of my favorite things on the menu.
What song do you have on loop right now?
Money Dance by DUCKWRTH. It’s really fun to drive and it always puts me in a better mood than I was before listening to it.
What fruit do you enjoy seeing in season?
Passion fruit. Its season begins in August, and the fruits themselves last a long time because all the pulp is airtight. It’s an invasive species, so when the vine is alive, it takes over, it takes up space, it weaves its way between other things, and the fruit hangs down and looks like dinosaur eggs. It’s my favorite fruit, it’s really easy to incorporate into anything, it has more vitamin C than lemons or oranges. It’s nice to amp things up with passion fruit. It just hits all the notes.