"Bawdy and frequently hilarious . Read more...
- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Jan 2013
From the book
Meet the Parents
"The soup dumplings are off today!" Grandpa said.
"Should we tell the waiter? We should send these back."
"No, no, no, no, no, don't lose face over soup dumplings. Just eat them."
My mom always wanted to send food back. Everything on the side, some things hot, some things cold, no MSG, less oil, more chilis, oh, and some vinegar please. Black vinegar with green chilis if you have it, if not, red vinegar with ginger, and if you don't have that, then just white vinegar by itself and a can of Coke, not diet because diet causes cancer.
Microwaves cause cancer, too, so she buys a Foreman grill and wears a SARS mask because "oil fumes can ruin lungs," says the woman who smokes Capri cigarettes and drives an SUV wearing a visor. That's my mom.
I couldn't eat with my mom; she drove me crazy. But she never bothered my grandfather. He was always above the trees. Like 3 Stacks said, "What's cooler than cool? Ice cold." That was Grandpa: a six-foot-tall, long faced, droopy-eyed Chinaman who subsisted on a cocktail of KFC, boiled peanuts, and cigarettes. Thinking back on it, my grandfather created the ultimate recipe for pancreatic cancer. At the time we had that lunch, he'd been battling it for a while, but we tried not to talk about it. That day, we just ate soup dumplings.
"It's the meat, did they not put enough ginger? Mei you xiang wei dao."
"Eh, there's ginger, it's just heavy-handed. Who cares, just eat them! The rest of the food is on the way."
Xiang wei is the character a good dish has when it's robust, flavorful, and balanced but still maintains a certain light quality. That flavor comes, lingers on your tongue, stays long enough to make you crave it, but just when you think you have it figured out, it's gone. Timing is everything. Soup dumplings, sitcoms, one-night stands—good ones leave you wanting more.
The perfect soup dumpling has nineteen folds. Taipei's Din Tai Fung restaurant figured this out in the mid-eighties. While Americans had Pyrex visions, Taiwan was focused on soup dumplings. My grandparents on my father's side lived right on Yong Kang Jie, where Din Tai Fung was founded. To this day, it is the single most famous restaurant in Taipei, the crown jewel of the pound-for-pound greatest eating island in the world. Din Tai Fung started off as an oil retailer, but business took a dive in the early eighties and they did what any Taiwanese-Chinese person does when they need to get buckets. You break out the family recipe and go hammer. Din Tai Fung was like the Genco Olive Oil of Taipei. Undefeated.
The dough is where Din Tai Fung stays the hood champ. It's just strong enough to hold the soup once the gelatin melts, but if you pick it up by the knob and look closely at the skin, it's almost translucent. They create a light, airy texture for the skin that no one else has been able to duplicate. I remember going back to Din Tai Fung when I was twenty-seven and saying to myself, They're off! It's just not as satisfying as I remember it to be! But two hours later, walking around Taipei, all I could think about was their fucking soup dumplings. Across the street from Din Tai Fung was another restaurant that served soup dumplings and made a business of catching the spillover when people didn't want to wait an hour for a table. They were really close to the real deal. Like the first year Reebok had AI and you thought that maybe, just maybe, the Questions with the honeycomb would outsell Jordans. A false alarm.
Grandpa Huang put on for Yong Kang Jie and never cheated on the original. On the other hand, Grandpa Chiao, my mother's father, had money on his...
Praise for Fresh Off the Boat
"Brash and funny . . . outrageous, courageous, moving, ironic and true."--New York Times Book Review
"Mercilessly funny and provocative, Fresh Off the Boat is also a serious piece of work. Eddie Huang is hunting nothing less than Big Game here. He does everything with style."--Anthony Bourdain
"Bawdy and frequently hilarious . . . a surprisingly sophisticated memoir about race and assimilation in America . . . as much James Baldwin and Jay-Z as Amy Tan . . . rowdy [and] vital . . . It's a book about fitting in by not fitting in at all."--Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"Uproariously funny . . . emotionally honest." - Chicago Tribune
"Huang is a fearless raconteur. [His] writing is at once hilarious and provocative; his incisive wit pulls through like a perfect plate of dan dan noodles." - Interview
"Although writing a memoir is an audacious act for a thirty-year-old, it is not nearly as audacious as some of the things Huang did and survived even earlier. . . . Whatever he ends up doing, you can be sure it won't look or sound like anything that's come before. A single, kinetic passage from Fresh Off the Boat . . . is all you need to get that straight." - Bookforum