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Ronny Chieng Roasts Everything But Restaurants

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Jan 06, 2020

Daily Show correspondent Ronny Chieng’s recurring segment is called “Everything Is Stupid,” and you could say that’s the theme of his stand-up, too. His bits are often grumpy and caustic. But the one thing he won’t call out as stupid is a restaurant. It takes a lot of risk to open one, he says, “and for you to just, you know, shit on a place because they don’t have enough napkins or something” is not his style. This week, Ronny chats with Dan about his love of restaurants, Singapore's hawker centers,  Malaysian food, and Singaporean food.

Check out Ronny Cheng's new special, Asian Comedian Destroys America!, on Netflix.

Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:

  • "Hound Dog" by Jason Mickelson
  • "The Huxtables" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
  • "Stacks" by Erick Anderson
  • "New Old" by James Thomas Bates
  • "Clean" by James Thomas Bates

Photos: Courtesy of Dan Pashman/The Sporkful.

View Transcript



This episode contains explicit language.

Dan Pashman: So Ronny, I've had a few different Daily Show correspondents on here, the show over the years.

Ronny Chieng: Really?

Dan Pashman: Yeah. Yeah. And in particular, a couple of folks you've worked with: Hasan Minhaj and Roy Wood Jr. 

Ronny Chieng: Yessir. 

Dan Pashman: Both of them totally independently of each other. I had a great conversation. The interview ended. The mics get turned off. We put the headphones down and they both looked at me and said, you've got to have Ronny Chieng on this show. 

Ronny Chieng: That's very kind. That's high praise. 

Dan Pashman: Why do you think they said that?

Ronny Chieng: Because they don't know how to eat!

MUSIC “HOUND DOG”

This is The Sporkful. It’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters. I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people.

Happy new year! Welcome back, we are back. I hope you had a great holiday season. I hope you ate and drank exactly as much and as well as you wanted to — and maybe just a little bit more. For me, I would say highlights in the eating and drinking column: great Peking duck on Christmas Day. I made buckeyes with my kids. Those are those peanut butter balls with chocolate on the outside. And ate those out of the fridge all vacation long.

So, I hope that your holidays were as good as mine, or even better! Okay, let’s get into it.

Ronny Chieng has been a correspondent on The Daily Show since 2016. His segments are often grumpy and caustic. When you hear Trevor Noah introduce Ronny, there’s usually a rant coming: 

CLIP (THE DAILY SHOW): America has a problem with food. You guys want your food to be cheap and fast, but also to be fresh and healthy. That’s too many things. Okay? You can’t have both. It’s like racial diversity at a ski lodge. It doesn’t exist.

Now Ronny has a new Netflix stand-up special out, called Asian Comedian Destroys America!. And it finds him in a similarly agitated state: 

CLIP (ASIAN COMEDIAN DESTROYS AMERICA!): Yo the internet is making people so fucking stupid. Like who knew all of human knowledge could make people dumber. Like in 50 years, we’re going to look at the internet the same way we look at smoking right now. It’s gonna be like, man, I can’t believe 50 years ago we just let pregnant people use the internet. We let babies use the internet. Yeah, in 50 years we’re going to have special areas outside buildings where you can use the internet. Don’t bring the internet indoors. Secondhand stupidity is the real killer.

Ronny’s opinions extend well beyond the internet. He has opinions on everything, including, you guessed it, food. As we discussed when he came in to the studio, he’s even devoted part of his comedy website to his favorite restaurants in Melbourne, Australia, where he lived for ten years.

Dan Pashman: You're a you're a verified food blogger. You're a food influencer, Ronny.

Ronny Chieng: Okay. I take offense at the term “food blog.” It's not a blog. I made it very clear in the website. It was a list of places. There's no photos. My thing is: I went here. This was good. Try this. 

Dan Pashman: Your food, not blog, but list. It's called "I'm OK with Anything."

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: And it's, the tag line of it is: "Surrounded by idiots who can't decide where to eat?" Why did you want to give it that name?

Ronny Chieng: Oh, this thing when I wrote it, and I still feel this way... The problem is everyone gathering in a group and can't figure out where to go. And everyone's like, “I’m ok with anything, just whatever, you know, whatever is nearby.” 

Dan Pashman: But don't you feel, Ronny, like most people when they say they're OK with anything, don't really mean it?

Ronny Chieng: If they don't mean it, then it becomes a problem, If you're ok with anything, then you better be okay if anything. You know, I don’t want to hear it. We're gonna go to where I want to go now. Yeah.

Dan Pashman: And how does that work out for you? 

Ronny Chieng: I mean, back then I still had friends. Now I've managed to weed them all out now. I literally weeded those people out of my life. So that’s why, I think that's why Hasan and Roy asked me to be on the podcast, because with me and food it’s like, I can't eat this bullshit and I can't eat with people who are complaining about stuff all the time. So...

Dan Pashman: The other thing I hate when you're trying to make a decision about where to eat is the person who starts off saying, “I'm okay with anything.” And then you say, “Well, how about this place?” And they say, “Nah, I don't really want that place.” It's like you just said, you're okay with anything. And then they'll say, “Well, how about this place?” And you're like, well, that's not where I want to eat, but like I'm allowed to have an opinion ‘cause I never said I was OK with that. 

Ronny Chieng: Yeah, yeah, I agree.

Dan Pashman: So, anyway, I just felt very gratified by the name of your food list.

Ronny Chieng: Oh, thank you. I didn't know where you're going with it. You seemed so angry at the subtitle. You’re like, “Explain yourself with this.” And actually you are holding in your own anger about how much... 

Dan Pashman: I feel like we're kindred spirits in this department.

Ronny Chieng: Also smaller groups. Just hang out in smaller groups. Once you get above this number, maybe three or four, it becomes diminishing returns and the difficulty increases exponentially. I go by myself or I go with my wife, I'm... or late night. So a late night in New York, late night New York is like a different city.

Dan Pashman: So you're a comic with no kids, so you’re going out to eat late at night. For me I beat the crowds by going early. I’m like, 5:00 p.m. dinner. Perfect. You know, there's no rush. Like, why don't we as humans adjust? I could still be in bed at 10:00.

Ronny Chieng: Yeah, I think we as humans need to change the way we eat and also change our relationship to food: the way we view it, how much we consume, and what we’re eating. I'm gonna say sugar, but I know you hate that shit. And also, I know you hate people that say that. But yeah, I think our relationship to sugar is completely wack in this country. And then the other thing we need to change is the frickin’ way we work! This 9-to-5 thing. There's too many people on planet Earth for us to be squeezing in at peak hour. It doesn't make sense for us all to be jamming in here at 9AM. Just stagger it. Just stagger it. Stagger, stagger life in America. I’m like, yeah. If this restaurant is awesome, we shouldn't all have to squeeze in here at 8PM. Let’s stagger it. Stagger the thing out. Go at five. As a comic, I'm all about. I go off-peak. My whole thing is off0peak only. I cannot go during peak period.

CLIP (ASIAN COMEDIAN DESTROYS AMERICA!): We need an Asian president, man. I’m telling you. Man or woman, man or woman, get that Asian president in the White House. We will fix this shit in a week. I promise you, give us a solid 8 days, you will see results. Because we don’t care. We just want things to work! Imagine harnessing the power of Asian people in government? Oh my god! All the Asians in government just going down the list of broken things, fixing it, one by one, with no agenda. Just pure logic! Just going down the list. Live long and prosper. That’s fine. That works. That’s pretty good. Separation of powers is awesome. That works most of the time. That’s okay. That’s okay. That’s fucked. That’s fucked. Environmental Protection Agency is fucked. Medicare is fucked. Do your fucking job. Just slapping people in the face. Right, every nine months in this country there’s a congressional gridlock. Everyone’s always threatening a government shutdown. Government shutdown?  Yo there’s no government shutdown with Asian people in charge. We don’t shut down for anything!

MUSIC “THE HUXTABLES”

Ronny’s recurring segment on The Daily Show is called “Everything Is Stupid.” You could argue that’s the theme of a lot of his stand-up, too. But the one thing he won’t call out for being stupid is a restaurant. 

Ronny Chieng: I don't actually like food critique. You know, I think it's very self-important, but... 

Dan Pashman: Like restaurant critics and stuff? 

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. I just don't like that attitude. Even Yelp. The amount of risk it takes to open a restaurant, you know. And for you to just, you know, shit on a place because, I don't know, they don't have enough napkins or something, I think is you know, I think if you make something, you can appreciate how hard it is for other people to make things, you know. And I think that informs how you view other people's creations. That includes food. You know, it's just so arrogant to go into a restaurant and be like this wasn't up to scratch or whatever. Like, what the fuck do you know about it? Have you been in a kitchen before? Have you ever tried to make something? Whatever the reason is. I'm definitely not like showcasing restaurants I don't like.

Dan Pashman: And so let's say you're coming to a new city. You don't know much about what you know about where you want to eat. What are you looking for? Like what's your process to determine what that restaurant should be for you?

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. So my process would be I'll do some Googling to see what the best places in the city. I'll cross-reference that with Google Maps. And then I will ask locals if... is this place good, is this place legit?

Dan Pashman: And am I right? I read that you, you kind of are meticulous about logging restaurants you've been to and that you want to go to in your Google Maps.

Ronny Chieng: Yeah yeah, Google Maps. 

Dan Pashman: You're taking out your phone right now. So, what kind of information is stored there, Ronny?

Ronny Chieng: Oh, so I mean, this is just my map of Manhattan, but I do this all around the world like I...

Dan Pashman: Oh, my. Oh, my God.

Ronny Chieng: I drop pins.

Ronny doesn’t just drop pins. His Google Map is completely covered in pins. When you zoom out to see all of Manhattan you can’t even see the streets. It’s just red and green pins, like a giant Christmas tree.

Ronny Chieng: A green pin means someone recommended or I read a recommendation somewhere. And then a red pin means that I've been there and it's awesome. The idea is that you'll have go-to places no matter where you are, not just in the world, but which part of the city you're in.

Dan Pashman: So like pop quiz.

Ronny Chieng: Please. 

Dan Pashman: I used to live at 1645 West Waveland in Chicago.

Ronny Chieng: I got you. 

Dan Pashman: If I went back to my old apartment where would you tell me to eat?

Ronny Chieng: Well, I don't know that... 

Dan Pashman: You're bringing up the Google maps.

Ronny Chieng: Yeah, I got, so this is my Chicago map. We did a live show, Daily Show week in Chicago. 

Dan Pashman: Oh, right.

Ronny Chieng: And we filmed near Lakeview. And so I had some I had some go-to places near here. So I got Farm Bar, which was like a really nice farm-to-table, I think, restaurant that wasn't too pretentious. Very accessible food. Shout out Heritage Bicycles. They...

Dan Pashman: Do they have food there?

Ronny Chieng: They have coffee there. 

Dan Pashman: Okay.

Ronny Chieng: Great coffee place. 

Dan Pashman: Okay.

Ronny Chieng: Who knew: bicycles and coffee? Hipster bicycles and coffee go hand in hand. Interestingly enough, up north, near Evanston, there's this place called La Unica Food Mart. I marked it down, I never got to go. But I was asking the locals, yo, so where's the good local place? And they said this little grocery store apparently has like the most authentic Latin American restaurant.

Dan Pashman: They've got a sandwich in Chicago, which is like unique. It's like a Chicago Mexican creation called a jibarito.

Ronny Chieng: That's awesome. 

Dan Pashman: Where they get rid of the bread and they like smash plantations and fry them and use that in lieu of the bread.

Ronny Chieng: Oh my god. That sounds amazing.

Dan Pashman: It is delicious. It is not light, though, Ronny.

Ronny Chieng: Sure. 

Dan Pashman: If you're worried about, if you're worried about feeling like light as a feather when you're done eating.

Ronny Chieng: No but I like the fact that they're not using bread. I don't like to eat a lot of bread so the fact that they're using plantain. That's almost like a...

Dan Pashman: You did a Daily Show segment when you went to Philly and ate a cheesesteak and you asked for it without the bread. 

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: I mean Ronny, come on. Come on.

Ronny Chieng: Yeah man. I love food, but I got my food quirks as well. I try not to eat too much of... You know, I had to stop eating dessert four years ago. 

Dan Pashman: You haven't had dessert in four years?!

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. Basically.

Dan Pashman: Are you okay, Ronny?

Ronny Chieng: Yeah, I'm okay man. And I got to tell you that, you know, coming out of it, you it's better probably better off not eating that much ice cream and sugar and all that. Yeah. It's not good for you, man.

Dan Pashman: I understand that excessive sugar.

Ronny Chieng: And this is coming. This coming from like a food guy. I love food and I'm I'm, you know, the ice cream and all that stuff.

Dan Pashman: Look I understand that, you know, sugar in excess is not good for you, but to not eat dessert for four years.

Ronny Chieng: Well, my problem is that I can't... I don't have moderation with dessert. So for me, if I eat ice cream, I eat the whole tub.

MUSIC “HOUND DOG”

Coming up, Ronny talks about the foods he loves in Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia, where he spent most of the first 30 years of his life. And he explains why he and his wife had three weddings. Stick around.

+++ BREAK +++

MUSIC “STACKS”

Welcome back to The Sporkful. I’m Dan Pashman. You know, we weren’t doing any episodes of the podcast these last couple weeks, over the break. But I was doing a lot of Instagramming! In fact, you wanna see me bowl? You wanna see me cook? You wanna see me eat? You wanna see what’s going on in my life? Instagram! I got the Instagram Stories going, I got the photos, I got pictures of my whole family there. I have a lot of fun on Instagram and I want you to follow me there. I am @thesporkful there. Check it out. Thanks.

Now, back to Daily Show correspondent and comedian Ronny Chieng. 

Ronny was born in Malaysia. He and his family moved to New Hampshire when he was three, so his parents could go to college there. When Ronny was eight, they moved back to Malaysia, to a neighborhood just across the bridge from the city-state of Singapore. 

Singapore is well known for its obsessive food culture. But as a teenager, Ronny wasn’t really into it. Then he moved to Melbourne for college. That’s where he first started doing stand-up, and it’s also where first got more into food. He was going through a bad break-up, so he started exploring the city.

Dan Pashman: It sounds like you needed, sort of like a purpose. Like a thing to go out and do. Like an activity.

Ronny Chieng: It got me out of the house. It got me kind of seeing society. Got me seeing... Melbourne's a cool city. I was lucky to be in a city which is cool. And I think I've visited enough cities now where I can say this relatively objectively: you know, there's some cities, if I was in that city and I had a breakup and I tried to explore food, I probably would never have found anything.

Dan Pashman: You would've been back on Tinder the next day.

Ronny Chieng: I'd still be on the sofa.  

While Ronny was living in Melbourne, he met his wife, Hannah Pham. They got married in 2016. They moved to New York, and soon after, Hannah started her own Youtube cooking show, called Pham Bam Kitchen

CLIP (PHAM BAM KITCHEN): When I moved to New York, I began to really miss home cooking. So I watched a lot of Youtube videos, FaceTimed with my mum, and learnt how to make my favorite Asian dishes… We’re going to be cooking many of your favorite Vietnamese dishes like pho, Chinese dishes like chili wontons and bok choy with oyster sauce…

Dan Pashman: Is there a specific dish that like was really important to both of you to, like, figure out how to how to cook it right?

Ronny Chieng: The banh cuon is really the thing that she really wanted. She didn’t know where to find it here. It's like a rice roll. I don’t even know how to describe it in English. It's like a flat rice thing.

Dan Pashman: It's like a wrap. 

Ronny Chieng: Pancake.

Dan Pashman: Right. Like a pancake and then you put... but you use it as a wrap essentially. 

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. And you put mincemeat in them.

Dan Pashman: But those are really hard to to get them to be like those wraps to get them just the right chewiness. 

Ronny Chieng: Yeah yeah.

Dan Pashman: Like usually they're dry.

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. It's a lot of work. And she makes like this kueh lapis which is the... Malaysian kueh is like a steamed cake. And we haven't found a great version in New York. So she just made it from scratch. Like it's this colorful layer steamed cake from when you are a kid, you know, that kind of nostalgia, it brings it back. 

Ronny goes back to Malaysia and Singapore pretty often, to see family, and to perform. He also got to go when he was filming Crazy Rich Asians, which mostly takes place in Singapore. Ronny plays Eddie Cheng, the guy with three kids who just constantly talks about money, how much everything costs, who has how much.

CLIP (CRAZY RICH ASIANS)

Eddie: Oh my god, Nick, what are you worried about? You don’t have to keep Rachel happy, she’s just lucky to be here. 

Colin: Nice, Eddie.

Eddie: Oh, what, so we’re going to pretend like that’s not the truth? Are we in some kind of fairytale story that I don’t know about? Did you find a shoe at midnight and jump in a pumpkin? Yo, I got so much shit about marrying Fiona, and her parents own the biggest shipping company in Hong Kong. Hey, Araminta’s adorable, but you think your dad would be spending millions on this wedding if her parents didn’t own a billion-dollar resort chain? What’s Rachel bringing to the table?

The food in Crazy Rich Asians is almost its own character. In one of the most memorable scenes, especially for me, Nick and Rachel arrive in Singapore from New York, and immediately go out eating and drinking at a hawker center. 

CLIP (CRAZY RICH ASIANS): Each of these hawker stalls sells pretty much one dish, and they’ve been perfecting it for generations. You know this is one of the only places in the world where street food vendors actually earn Michelin stars...

Singapore — and Hong Kong and Indonesia and Malaysia — are famous for these hawker centers, or markets, which are often open air. Ronny describes them as food courts.

Ronny Chieng: The stalls are lined side by side. And every stall will make like a different dish basically. I mean, every stall can make more than one dish, but they'll be doing like focusing on one style of cuisine. So this

Dan Pashman: Each one has a specialty. 

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. So for example, there are stalls, they just do nasi lemak. There are stalls that just do char kway teow. There are stalls that just do wantan mee. That just do chicken rice. So you're in this hawker center surrounded by this stuff. So you just kind of you know, the tables are public tables for sharing. So you will get up and you just order what you want from each stall and you bring it back to your seat. It's a main part of Singapore. You can't talk about Singapore without the food. It’s the best part of it.

Dan Pashman: Do you have like your go to spot when you go there, when you go back to Singapore?

Ronny Chieng: Oh, my God. In Singapore? Yeah. Malaysia, Singapore. It's the food capital of the world I think.

Dan Pashman: Have you done a Google Maps on this?

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. Dude my Singapore map is ... Yeah. It's the whole. I don't know how to begin to talk. Why I'm so flustered trying to trying to explain food in Singapore.

Dan Pashman: It's a lot to boil down and there’s so much.

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. I don't know to. Yeah. Because if there's no context I can’t even begin to explain.

Dan Pashman: How about, maybe we can do an exercise here, Ronny. I'm going to describe a type of weather and a mood that you're in and you're gonna tell me which hawker center you would go to to eat what?

Ronny Chieng: Damn. Okay. Can I pull up a map?

Dan Pashman: Pull up a map.

Ronny Chieng: Okay, okay.

Dan Pashman: So let's say it's a muggy, humid, hot day.

Ronny Chieng: That's every day. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. 

Ronny Chieng: That’s every day. That’s every day in Singapore, man. 

Dan Pashman: So I got it right. Okay. So it's a typical Singapore day. Yeah. It's hot, muggy. 

Ronny Chieng: I'm hitting that I'm gonna hit exactly what I'm craving. So I don't care about the weather...

Dan Pashman: Okay forget the weather, throw that out. Throw that out of our game.

Ronny Chieng: I'm going to... 

Dan Pashman: But let's just say you want some that's going to be sort of like… Something that’s gonna make you feel like you’re home.

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. Something you want for your home. Char kway teow. Char kway teow is the thing that you can't even attempt to make outside of the country. Well you can but then they always mess it up. Like there’s chicken rice. Chicken rice people have made, and chicken rice like you can make a decent version of it. Char kway teow I've never had a decent version of it. Char kway teow is wok stir-fried noodles in black sauce.

Dan Pashman: What makes a really good version especially good? 

Ronny Chieng: That's a million-dollar question. People have been trying for four decades to try to make this dish outside of Singapore. No one has ever done it properly. It's either the combination of like low health standards or there’s a lot of like lard and like black soy sauce in it. And it's just like, no one's ever been able to make a decent version. But char kway teow in Singapore is… there's like 50 places. But my go to would be, I think, Hong Lim Complex... char kway teow. I think is how I’d do it.

Dan Pashman: All right. Got it.

Ronny Chieng: Just go to Newton Circus. And because that's the place in Crazy Rich Asians

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Ronny Chieng: And there's enough variety there that you can at least try.

Dan Pashman: But you're saying that's sort of the touristy spot.

Ronny Chieng: Yeah, it's the touristy spot. But hey, I was there with Trevor Noah three weeks, two months ago, three months ago. And that's where he went. And I told him, I go this is the touristy spot. But he had eight people with him. So it's just the most convenient, the most variety. So we just ended up going there and you can try a decent variety. So once you’re at Newton Circus, you go look around, try what you like. And then once you discover the name of the dish you like, then go try the best version of that. Use Newton Circus as the base level. That's a good way to approach it.

Ronny says that in terms of food, he thinks Singapore has more variety than the U.S. It is a land of riches: it’s the third wealthiest country in the world.

But still, when Ronny came to the U.S., he was struck by how much of everything there is.

CLIP (ASIAN COMEDIAN DESTROYS AMERICA!): There’s so much stuff here. So much stuff in America. There’s so much abundance. It’s hard to see if you’ve been born and raised here, but when you come somewhere else. It’s so obvious. The abundance in this country. Out of control. So much packaging. Oh my god the packaging in America. Everything here is triple bagged. You order anything to eat at any restaurant, they give you 50 napkins. You throw away 80. Yeah in America you throw away more napkins than you took, just breaking the laws of reality with the abundance. Every restaurant you go to in America, just make it rain napkins!

Dan Pashman: Do you think it's bad for you to get everything you want? 

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. I think what's bad is when you don't realize that when you give a little bit, you get more out of it. I think that's where things become bad. So, for example, if you come to a comedy show, and you go for free, and you sit in the audience with your arms crossed, and you're going, “Fucking make me laugh right now.” Like you're not going to get as much out of it if you go and you give something, which is your attention and your attitude and money to get invested in the outcome. And when you’re invested in outcome, you have a better time. You know, I think coming over assuming the performance is professional, obviously. Right. You know, good things come from having build up. Like it's not just punch lines. There’s setups, there’s punch lines. There's a whole theater experience around that.

Dan Pashman: And I guess that's true in food, too, in the sense that... I think if every meal you ever ate was the most amazing. Forget health for a minute. But just like even if you could eat whatever you wanted and there were no negative health repercussions, I still think that it would be mentally bad for you to get the most amazing, most wonderful meal for every single meal. 

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: Because pretty soon no meal would bring you pleasure.

Ronny Chieng: Yeah, yeah. And then I also think that it's like what attitude you're bringing to the restaurant as well. Like, you know, if every meal you ever eat was Uber Eats to your home as opposed to actually going to a restaurant, having experience there, I think that changes how you might have viewed the meal. For the better. I think. And meaning you gave a little bit. You gave your time and your effort to make it out to a restaurant. And I think you'll get more out of it.

MUSIC “CLEAN”

CLIP (ASIAN COMEDIAN DESTROYS AMERICA!): My wife is Australian. And I love my wife a lot. I love my wife so much I married her three times. That’s right, I married the same woman three separate times. Why? Because when you have Asian parents you have to get married in every fucking country you have relatives in. So we had to get married three times. So the first wedding we had in Melbourne, Australia, because my wife is from Melbourne, Australia. Then we got married in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, even though I’m not from Kuala Lumpur, but who gives a fuck what the groom wants! Right? And then we got married in New York for green card purposes. So, three very romantic weddings for the right reasons. Chain migration!

Dan Pashman: Tell me about your opinions about wedding food planning.

Ronny Chieng: Oh, so I'm biased again, but I think the Asian style has to be the best. So not not necessarily just the cuisine, although in my opinion, the last two years I've become my dad. Like I can only eat Asian food. But in style, so that family dining style is the best because it... So in Chinese weddings, they'll bring out dishes for the table that everyone just kind of shares from the table. In America it’s like a big deal is a family share style, whatever. But that's just standard how you eat with Chinese people. So that lets you have different variety of food. You're not just stuck with one main dish. And also, if some people are hungrier, they eat more. Some people are not as hungry, they eat less. Like it's just options. Freedom of choice, which is very American. And guess what? If people are still hungry, they bring out another thing. 

Dan Pashman: You mentioned that you feel you're eating more like your dad.

Ronny Chieng: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: I saw that the special is dedicated to him. 

Ronny Chieng: Oh, yeah. Yeah. You stay for the credits? I don't know how many people stay for the credits.

Dan Pashman: He passed away?

Ronny Chieng: Yeah. He passed away last Christmas.

Dan Pashman: I'm sorry to hear that. 

Ronny Chieng: Very unexpectedly. Yeah. So he would never eat... He couldn't eat like white people food. He wouldn't enjoy himself. Maybe like a steak, like every year. But that's about it. Yeah. He's all the time was just eating rice and noodles and all that stuff. Yeah. And I’ve become more like that the last two years. I just only started eating basically Asian food most of the time. You know, Japanese food, a lot. Chinese food, Korean stuff. You know, it just becomes my go-to. I just feel better eating it.

Dan Pashman: Is there a certain food that you associate with your dad?

Ronny Chieng: No, he was actually not a picky eater. He, in fact, if you tried to bring him to the best restaurants, he would actually prickle at that. He was definitely a creature of habit. So his neighborhood in Singapore, he’d just eat there. And my mom's cooking. That's all he ate. He wouldn't like... if you tried to do in Singapore what I do in Singapore, which is travel around the island looking for the best version of the dish, he's not about that, yeah. 

Dan Pashman: Are there other ways that you feel like you're becoming more like him?

Ronny Chieng: I think personality wise I’ve definitely been like him for the last 10 years. In terms of low patience and high tendency to have conflicts in personal relationships. Yeah.

Dan Pashman: Right.

Ronny Chieng: And also. Yeah. You know dealing with strangers and all that. He would if he saw something wrong, he would just say it to everybody. He would say it to the person who did something wrong, like in public to strangers. He's very unafraid of confrontation. 

Dan Pashman: And how would he deal with it when a group of people were having trouble deciding which restaurant to go to?

Ronny Chieng: He would just pick a place.

Dan Pashman: And if you were indecisive or complained, he would just cut you out of his friend circle. 

Ronny Chieng: Yeah, yeah. No one complained around him, man. 

Dan Pashman: Does sound familiar, Ronny!

Ronny Chieng: Yeah, for sure. Don't, guys, if you take one thing away from this podcast, don't hang out with people who give you grief. It's not... With food. Food should be happy. Not this unpleasant, complaining experience where no one can decide. And then people who eat don't like where they went. You know, it should be fun. It should be fun. It should be like the best part of the day. Right. It shouldn't be this weird, conflict-fueled, unhappy experience. 

Dan Pashman: Except don't give Ronny any cake. Don't take him to Applebee's. He can't have too much pasta. Otherwise, food should be fun.

Ronny Chieng: Food should be fun, man. Dude, I eat healthy. I think I still have fun food. So if I can do it, anyone can do it, man.

MUSIC “NEW OLD”

Dan Pashman: Thanks so much, Ronny. Congrats on the special. It's really, really great. Thanks so much for coming in. 

Ronny Chieng: Thanks for having me on.

Dan Pashman: Hasan and Roy were right.

Ronny Chieng: Were they right? I hope. I hope I did them justice. 

Dan Pashman: Yes, you did. Absolutely.

That’s Ronny Chieng from The Daily Show, his new stand up special on Netflix is called Asian Comedian Destroys America!.

Please remember to follow me on Instagram, that’s where I post the most pics and videos and stories of what I’m cooking and eating and otherwise doing when I’m not cooking or eating. Come on, it’ll be fun. On instagram I’m @thesporkful. Thanks.

Next week on the show I talk with Chef Kwame Onwuachi, whose life story is so incredible, it’s being turned into a movie. That’s next week.

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