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Q&A: Nicole Fung

Canada’s culinary cool-kid blogger vs. the world.

Meet Hong Kong–based Canadian expat Nicole Fung, the dominant voice of food blog That Food Cray!!!, which she created in 2012 with husband Eugene Kan (the name was inspired by a Kanye West/Jay-Z lyric). An international black-book of good places to eat, Fung’s blog features everything from reviews of some of the most critically-acclaimed restaurants in the world (see D.O.M. Brazil, Amber Hong Kong, and Septime Paris) to insight on where to simply score a quality plate of noodles or chicken wings from Boston to Beijing, making it a comprehensive resource for discerning, jet-set foodies. But it’s Fung’s distinctive, youthful energy that has really helped her stand out. Unabashed puns, gleefully self-censored profanity, and a light-hearted approach to the oft-stiff art of reviewing fine cuisine makes following along on her adventures (which have included trying to teach comedian Aziz Ansari the proper way to eat a pineapple bun) a delight. That Food Cray!!! delivers all that Gordon Ramsay/Anthony Bourdain–style unfiltered responsiveness, but with the overtones of volatility replaced by an evident, earnest joy in culinary exploration. Travelling the world to find the best food on offer? Rating food not via stars but on a “crayscale” of crayfish cartoons? Plentiful capslock? What’s not to love? Here, we quiz the ever-excitable food blogger on her Canadian roots, the best food in the world, and what to order, where.

Tell us about yourself, and the origins of That Food Cray.
I am a Canadian, born and raised on the other side of the Rockies, Calgary. I moved to Hong Kong about six years ago to pursue a career in the finance industry after graduating at the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree. I hated my job and knew I had to get out quick. Travel and food were essentially my escape. I wanted to document everything I was eating and everywhere I was going, which is how That Food Cray!!! came to be.

If you had to live in one city purely for its food, where would it be?
Tokyo! Or any major city in Japan really. I am obsessed with Japanese food and its culture. Japanese culture embraces quality and doing things to a high standard. Many dedicate their whole lives to doing one thing and becoming experts at it. Sushi chefs are the perfect example. They literally have the same routine every single day, but they’re so passionate and committed that they continue to push forward.

Have you ever gone on a protracted hunt for something really specific to fulfill a craving? If so, what was it, and where did you find the perfect rendition?
I’ve been obsessed with soba lately. I was traveling quite a bit this summer and wanted to eat it everywhere. There aren’t any good soba places in Hong Kong so when I was in Los Angeles, I hit up a couple of spots that were decent, but didn’t quite hit the spot. I finally fulfilled my craving when I was in Tokyo in November. We went to a soba joint in Nakameguro called Dosanjin. I ordered the sudachi [a green, Japanese citrus fruit] soba and it changed my life.

What city’s food scene surprised you?
I went to Portland for the first time in the summer and the food was dope. There were a ton of legit food trucks and cool restaurants. For the most part, the food wasn’t pretentious and you could taste the TLC that goes into every bite.

Any predictions for how the way we eat will change in the coming years?
I think people are starting to care more about where their food comes from and how it’s prepared. I don’t really consider this a trend, but consumers want transparency and are doing their research. Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns [in Pocantico Hills, New York] is a good example. Barber’s goal is to “evoke a consciousness about the effect of everyday food choices.” There is no menu at Blue Hill, everything is fresh and seasonal utilizing all of his farm’s bounty. Blue Hill is more than just a restaurant, it’s “an ecosystem that creates a direct link between the earth, the kitchen and the diner.”

You visit a lot of restaurants, but do you have any favourites?
I always get asked this question and always struggle answering it because it’s never the same answer twice. Some of my all-time favorites are Ronin in Hong Kong, Septime in Paris, Da Wan in Taipei, St. John in London, and, I’ll throw in a couple Calgary restaurants just because—Pho Dau Bo for the beef satay pho and Nawab Indian restaurant. Let’s not forget about Vancouver—PHNOM PENH’s CHICKEN WINGS and BUTTER BEEF!!!