Ronny Chieng on 'Crazy Rich Asians,' Singapore Eats, and Coming Up in Melbourne
Ronny Chieng wants to talk food. Weâre supposed to be dissecting his two months spent on location in his native Malaysia and Singapore for Crazy Rich Asians, the new sure-to-be-Hollywood-blockbuster filmed in which he plays Eddie Cheng, cousin to the lead. After that, weâre supposed to touch on his new Comedy Central digital series, Ronny Chieng: International Student (streaming August 13), thatâs drawn from his time at the University of Melbourne Law School, while cutting his teeth as a comedian in a bloke-heavy culture.
And we do. Both the series and the movie sound greatâ"you should watch them. But weâd rather talk about where to get a great bowl of char kway teow in Singapore, or the best brunch in Melbourne. Turns out Chieng is something of a wandering, Bourdain-like food fiend, who has Google Maps literally sta r-studded with his favorite restaurants and bars. He shares them with his friends, but heâs started offering them up to the masses on his website, imokwithanything.com. âSurrounded by idiots who canât decide where to eat?â the site asks. âHereâs comedian Ronny Chiengâs concise guide to eating, drinking, and playing.â It starts with his picks for brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, late-night eats, and bars in Melbourne, but he plans to expand to other cities. His focus is borne of his needs, he says. As a comedian, âyou want to be able to eat late-night after the show, and find a quiet spot for a drink where you wonât blow out your voice. Where you can eat good food, have a drink and a conversation. Then you wake up late and have a great brunch.â
âIâm all about this shit,â Chieng adds. âI yell at people to go to these places.â Chieng and his fellow CRA castmate, star Henry Golding (whoâs half-Malaysian), became the Pied Pipers of the cast and crew, making sure they didnât waste a single meal while filming. âI made it very clear that eating anything other than local food would be 100 percent unacceptable to me and everyone in the country,â Chieng says. âAwkwafina wanted to go Chiliâs. I was adamant that she would not be allowed to eat thereâ"but I think she snuck in there in the end.â
Chieng loves being on the hunt for great crab noodles or steamed fish; he'll recommend a mix of traditional and trendy, like P.S. 150 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysiaâs capital city. âItâs an old Malaysian toy store in the shopfront, and in the back is a bar,â he says. âIn the past, KL would try to copy Western influences: Youâd have a Hard Rock Cafe, a McDonaldâs, and an Irish pub. Now you see all these Malaysian kids educated overseas who come back and open cool coffee places and speakeasies. They take Western ideas and make them authentically Asianâ"itâs really cool fusion.â
Want to know wher e else to go in Chiengâs adopted city and city-state? He gives us a few of his favorite spots below.
Tong Ah Eating House
"Traditional eating house with great laid-back vibes. Everything on the menu is great but you must try the teh tarik made from scratch, the kaya toast, and the tea pork ribs."
Olde Cuban (cigar bar)
"Iâm very glad to have found this place on my last trip back. Tucked away in Chinatown at 2 Trengganu Street, it has a real secret-and-classy-but-casual-bar vibe where you can have a quiet drink and a cigar with friends in comfort. If youâre looking for something light, I recommend a nice Montecristo no. 5 with a bourbon on the rocks."
Mount Faber Nasi Lemak
"Open late and a favorite with the surrounding late-night clubbing crowd. You can get a traditional mix of traditionally Singaporean homemade dishes mixed with rice the way they used to do it in school cafeteri as around the country."
"In a town of Italian food this one stands out. Great gourmet thin-crust pizzas and dressed-down pasta in a relaxed but classy setting."
"Speakeasy with a mid-20th-century look. Small, cozy, beautifully crafted, and quiet interior that can only fit about 15 people. No photos and no music. Try the freshly hand-pressed orange juice."
"Beautiful, relaxed interior in a easy to get to but still quiet part of town. Everything on the seasonal menu is usually great with the top-notch coffee that is a minimum requirement in all great Melbourne brunch spots."
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