If you had to choose between dragon boat racing or your favourite Chinese dish, what would you choose? If Carmen Yung was left to decide, she would easily just choose BOTH. This Toronto foodie has been on the scene for about a year with her fun-loving blog, CarmenHungry.com – which is a consortium of everything she eats at the table and cooks in the kitchen. Her love affair with food started during her early years but quickly moved away from just rice and Chinese veggies to a more sophisticated palate of plogue à champlain.
Her athletic endeavours with dragon boat racing have left her with some serious upper body pipes, something she is very proud of! Her appetite for adventure involves eating through a city from dawn to dusk, writing all about it on her blog and enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of Toronto.
What else you gotta say Carmen? Let’s hear it…
When and why did you start writing about food?
I started my food blog last year after a friend suggested I do so. Friends often ask me for recommendations on where to eat so I figured it’d be a cool way to show them what I like and to document my food adventures (goldfish memory). The blog’s for them (and now, for the others who follow it too… YAY!).
What do you love most about food?
I believe that food is the most accessible part of any culture, and I love it for that! It’s got so much weight to it; evolving overtime, being shared and influenced by others. The ephemeral quality of a dish is so appealing to me.
What do you do when you aren’t writing about or eating food?
I’m studying to be a French teacher. And I’m insanely dedicated to dragonboat. My family says my butch arms won’t help me find a guy anymore than my insatiable appetite would. But then how else would I be able to eat so much if I’m not athletic?! (Yep, just a taste of my kind of logic.) The sport is a huge passion of mine so I welcome the tan lines and perpetually sore muscles.
Do you cook? If so, what’s your specialty? If not, why?
Cooking: fun. Baking: better. I grew up eating rice and side dishes of whatever Chinese legume was on sale. So I still have that mentality that dinner at home means stretching what you have. Baking, now that’s something I love to do! I can bake a mean banana bread and mildly addictive ginger molasses cookies.
What’s your favourite type of food(s) and where do you go to get it?
Would it be lame if I said Chinese? Because I love it. Throw in some MSG and I’m good to go. I’m kidding, I like the real stuff. I enjoy balance in my foods, and for my wallet to not be empty when I leave the restaurant. So that to me means King’s Noodle Restaurant (for Chinese), Pho Pasteur (pho time all the time!), The Black Hoof (for adventure), and La Carnita (for a chill time).
What’s your favourite hidden gem?
If you asked me this a few years ago, I would’ve said Congee Wong (only the one at Finch and Leslie) and Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu (Yonge and Finch), but they’re not even close to being hidden gems now. Now? This place called Kenny’s Noodle in Markham. I’m a sucker for cheap Chinese (it’s pretty decent!) and good Hong Kong milk tea.
What’s your go-to restaurant?
This is typical Scartan (my dragonboat team) post-practice dinner, take-out gyros from Messini’s, eaten on the stairs two doors over, then gelato from DOLCE across the street. That’s an awesome dinner for under 10 bucks!
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
Most memorable meal would be the first time I visited my relatives in Hong Kong around seven years ago. We all sat around my aunt’s makeshift dinner table (a mahjong table) in her tiny Causeway Bay flat; rolling, filling, pinching chinese dumplings. That’s food at its best — bringing people together.
If strictly sticking to restaurants, then hands down my first time at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal. A few friends and I left for Montreal at 4 in the morning. The four of us slowly ate our way through local favourite spots til dinnertime came around. Foodgasms were served all around in the form of chef Martin Picard’s canard en conserve and plogue à champlain.
What’s one restaurant you have to try before you die?
ONE?! Impossible, but if I have to say just one, then Joe Beef. Considering my most memorable meal was at Au Pied de Cochon, it makes sense that I’m stoked out of my face to one day go to Joe Beef.
What’s your biggest restaurant pet peeve? (Play nice.)
Condescension is a big turnoff. Also, dirty washrooms are disgusting. But the worst? Plastic seats. It’s summer right now* and the worst thing to experience is trying to get up after a (great) meal only to find that your thighs are stuck to the seat. Which is then followed by the horrid sound of you slowly peeling them off. You try to be discrete but it never works. C’mon, us ladies like wearing shorts/skirts/dresses in the summer, so cut us some slack and lay off the plastic!
*Note: It was summer when we had Carmen answer our questions...