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Inevitably with every good interview, there is never enough space to fit every interesting detail. Herewith, the first in a series of outtakes from Young & Hungry’s profile of the “Toque of the Town.”
On my first visit to Toki Underground, the H Street corridor’s hugely hyped new ramen joint, my friends and I were lucky enough (after an extended wait, of course) to land a spot at the three-seat chef’s table where Erik Bruner-Yang was holding court in his trademark ball cap.
As we slurped our various noodle soups, one of my fellow diners immediately took note of the big dark-colored serving bowl sitting atop the counter in front of us, teasing us, like a beacon of untold tasty treasures. We were intrigued enough to ask about its contents.
“Fried onions,” the chef replied. “Funyuns,” my friend would go on to call them.
It was clearly stuff not intended for distribution among the regular clientele, like grated parmesan cheese or fresh ground pepper, but Bruner-Yang offered to let us try some. He scooped some into my bowl of curry broth, fried chicken and curly noodles. Adding crunch and considerable flavor, it kind of made the dish. I honestly felt a little cheated that I’d started on the soup without it.
During my interview with the chef a few weeks later, I asked him for some more details about these fancy funyuns.
“That’s a Vietnamese topping,” Bruner-Yang explains. “They’re deep fried shallots. We brine and then we fry them.”
The topping is not something Bruner-Yang has on hand very often. “It does go really great on that, but it’s so time-intensive,” he says.
Still, if you’re looking for something to spruce up your noodle soup the next time you finally get a seat at the trendy ramen shop, it doesn’t hurt to ask the chef for a spoonful of his signature funyuns. Maybe you’ll get lucky.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery