The Gannet Q&A

Soleil Ho

23rd January 2018

Interview: Megan Honan
Photograph: Celeste Noche

Soleil Ho is a writer, podcast host, chef-at-large and (in her own words) “queer as heck”. Born in Chicago and raised in New York City, she hosts the podcast Racist Sandwich, a show focused on the intersection of food with race, culture, gender. Her chapbook of nonfiction essays, Hungry Ghosts, was published in 2016 by The Atlas Review. She now lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she is working on an Asian American cookbook and a culinary memoir about her family.

If you could revisit one meal in your life, which would it be?

It’s not really a meal, but I would revisit the night I made miniature pumpkin pies from scratch for the bad movie club at my college to pair with the bargain bin whiskey that I got an upperclassman to buy for us. We watched it with the Korean absurdist comedy, Attack the Gas Station, and by the end of it we were draped over our chairs sideways and forgetting that the word “rectangular” was real. It was one of the last times I ever got to hang out with my friend Paul, who drowned himself shortly after.

What’s your most food-splattered cookbook?

Probably Nanban: Japanese Soul Food, because Tim Anderson’s recipe for black garlic oil is my favorite (but is also quite messy).

 

What’s your biggest food or drink aversion?

OK, so I absolutely despise green bell peppers! That seems really childish, right? I hate them because they’re really just unripe red bell peppers, with a grassy, bland flavor that doesn’t express much of anything. They’re a waste of space and potential: the ripe ones are so much better, with a much more interesting and pleasantly sweet taste to them. I’d rather get my hit of bitterness from a good glass of beer.

Describe your perfect breakfast.

The Rivington Street at NYC’s Murray’s Bagels on an everything bagel – smoked salmon and sable, cream cheese, thinly sliced onion, and tomato – eaten while walking around the Greenwich Village on a sunny fall morning.

I absolutely despise green bell peppers! I’d rather get my hit of bitterness from a good glass of beer

Of all the restaurants in the world, which makes you happiest, and why?

Pagoda Café in New Orleans’ 7th Ward is my favorite restaurant in the world, no contest. They serve pastries, sandwiches, and coffee and tea out of a converted Chinese laundromat, and I’ve spent many mornings there just hanging out in the garden with my husband, watching the neighbor’s chickens wander about. That simple “home base” feeling is what makes it special to me.

What do you listen to when you’re cooking?

When cooking at work, I don’t listen to much of anything, though I often sing music from The Phantom of the Opera and Steven Universe: I’m a campy musical theatre fiend. At home, I tend pull up the NieR soundtrack and its jazz arrangement albums on my laptop, or have my husband play the flute for me in the vicinity.

Tell us about a dish you make when you’re short on time.

Every day, I make dinner for the staff at the restaurant where I work. Sometimes I plan it out so that it’s really special: I’ll make Korean hand-cut noodle soup or fried chicken with a bunch of sides. But sometimes I totally forget to cook something until maybe 45 minutes before our set time to eat, in which case I’ll make Vietnamese-style chicken curry! All it takes it a couple of cans of coconut milk, curry powder, fish sauce, chicken scraps, and any random stuff from the fridge.

If you could only drink one thing, aside from water, what would it be?

Vietnamese-style coffee with coconut ice.

What’s your favourite food scene in the movies?

In The Holy Mountain (1973), a student protest is forcibly put down, and the violence is depicted with strawberry entrails and smashed watermelons. It’s beautifully disgusting.

What was your favourite food when you were 10?

Yukon Gold potato chips. Pretty much any potato chips, but those were the ultimate.

What ingredient or food product are you currently obsessed with?

Banana leaves. They smell so incredible when steamed.

Sweetbreads are done poaching when they’re the same firmness as your breasts

Describe the thing that most annoys you as a customer in a restaurant.

When places serve a dish that is obviously not of the culture of anyone running the restaurant and spell its name incorrectly.

What’s your favourite food and drink pairing?

Karaage and a farmhouse ale.

Share a useful cooking tip.

Sweetbreads are done poaching when they’re the same firmness as your breasts.

To hear Soleil’s podcast, go to racistsandwich.com

Follow Soleil: Twitter | website 

Posted 23rd January 2018

In The Gannet Q&A

 

Interview: Megan Honan
Photograph: Celeste Noche

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