I have a crush on Roy Choi, the chef who started Kogi Truck and invented the Korean Taco. Tacos plus kimchi equals romance forever. I wanted his book, published under Anthony Bourdain’s imprint, before I even knew what it would be like.
It is exactly the style of book I’d like to one day be witty enough to write. It’s a memoir, it’s a cookbook, it’s mostly black and white but with the occasional full-colour photo thrown in. It’s beautiful. It’s funny. It doesn’t shy away from the swears, which I think is important because who cooks politely? I’m burning myself and spraying mess everywhere and cursing like a sailor on rough waters and that’s how I like it. Cooking is relaxing, and it’s relaxing because you’re in your kitchen burning off whatever needs it.
L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food is a fantastic book. It’s completely different in both tone and content from any other book on your shelf, I guarantee it. Roy Choi was born in Korea and raised in Los Angeles, and grew up around a mash-up of cultures and flavours. He studied, he misbehaved, he went to cooking school, worked at Le Bernardin, and then became a food truck boss and Anthony Bourdain pal. The book has recipes for everything – all kinds of things – from kimchi and spaghetti to pupusas and French onion soup. I read it over a week or so, savouring the text and marveling at every recipe.
There was one in particular that stood out to me – I laughed so hard I called Nick over to read it. You see, Nick is a sauce junkie. He needs small amounts of every possible flavour all the time, and prefers meals he can construct out of myriad bits. He loves dim sum, tapas, stuff like that, and he makes what he calls a “sauce line-up” whenever there are multiple sauces at his disposal. Chicken McNuggets plus every sauce including mayonnaise and honey is one of his secret favourite treats. The recipe is called “That’s So Sweet” and I might as well excerpt it for you here because if you’re on the fence, this will either sell you or sway you.
That’s So Sweet
I’ve always loved the sauces in life more than the food – maybe that’s why I cook the way I do. So it’s no surprise that I’m a sauce packet fiend. If I go to a fast-food joint or the mall food court, my tray is like twenty-five deep in the packets. And it’s not that I’m hoarding all this shit; no, I have a ritual. I’m real anal about my packet game. I open ’em all up before I eat anything, and make my sauces. I blend and mix and create. Then people say “Oh, he drowns his tacos and rice bowls in too much sauce.” Guilty as charged. Drown your chicken or shrimp in this sauce.
- One 25-ounce bottle Mae Ploy Sweet Chilli Sauce or other Thai sweet chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 serrano chiles, chopped, seeds and all
- 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Sriracha
- 3/4 white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 2/3 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
- 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2/3 dried Anaheim chile, chopped
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 2/3 cup chopped scallions
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons kochukaru
- 2/3 cup natural rice vinegar (not seasoned)
- 1 teaspoon chopped peeled galangal
Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend everything until it’s all real smooth.
Use liberally on whatever you got cooking for dinner – chicken, shrimp, everything – and pack the rest in Tupperware. It’ll store in the fridge for two weeks.
And here’s a preview of Eddie Huang, who I want to tell you about later this week. From his series Fresh Off the Boat, Eddie Huang interviews Roy Choi in L.A.: