John Cho

It’s not Throwback Thursday, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speak to the star of one of our favorite movies, John Cho (aka Harold in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle), on all things food. Turns out the actor’s been doing a lot since then; most recently the show Selfie, which premiered on ABC last night. For someone who starred in a movie surrounding fast food and the munchies ten years ago, Cho’s certainly still an expert when it comes to slow-fast-food, burgers and did we mention we photographed him at a spot called POT?

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From start to finish what would be your ideal food day?

The morning would be some kind of omelet, maybe sausage, home fries, and a pot of coffee. I’m not a continental breakfast kind of guy. I like a hot, protein-filled breakfast. Lunch would be maybe a cold bowl of noodles – there’s a place in Koreatown that makes Naengmyun from arrowroot noodles. They’re spicy, cold, and delicious. For dinner, bring it on – let’s get heavy. Maybe a lamb shank that’s been cooking for forty-eight hours, a cioppino, tapas, or shabu-shabu.

What was a recipe your Mom used to make that you still love today?

This is real yellow trash food, but my mom used to make a dish that I believe was called “omu-rice.” Some homey joints in Koreatown make it. It’s just an omelet stuffed with rice, which I ate with ketchup. She also would make kimchi fried rice. Not great for the waistline, but what is?

Foods that make you smile…

Hawaiian shaved ice, for one, because my son goes bananas for it. But, if you’re talking about food that provokes a smile versus a moan or delirium, I would say simple stuff like a doughnut (bear claw) or a good sandwich. Like many men, I am a lover of all kinds of sandwiches – deli style, paninis, Cuban pressed, peanut butter and jelly, whatever. Even the fried spam sandwiches my Dad made me for field trips.

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What’s always in your on set trailer fridge?

Because they turn off the power at night and move them from place to place, I don’t keep anything that will spoil. So, it’s water. But for a while it was coconut water, which I was convinced was the key to life. I also keep a coffeemaker in my trailer because when you need it, you need it, and you need it pronto.

What’s your best memory on the set of the first Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle?

Can I cheat and tell you that the most important thing I did was a few days before shooting? I knocked on Kal Penn’s door and told him, “If we’re supposed to best friends, we’d better start hanging out together.” We went and got a beer that night, and under artificial conditions, began a real friendship.

Your favorite spot for the perfect burger…

I recently had an amazing burger, but I can’t tell you where to find it. Maybe you can help me find the chef. He’s a Japanese man who was set up on the sidewalk outside a bar, the Thirsty Crow, in Silver Lake. I wasn’t drinking there that night – I’m defending my sobriety so you’ll know my judgment was good. I was driving by after picking a friend up from the airport. We were looking for late night eats, and everything was closed. There on the sidewalk, this man made a mean burger with bleu cheese and what looked like an obscene amount of arugula. It was greasy but neat, with crunch, an unfamiliar tinge of bitterness, and perfect.

*Editor’s note: The spot mentioned above is called Takuma’s Burgers

Favorite fast food spots in LA…

I used to like Jay’s Jayburgers in Silver Lake, but it’s now closed. I love the pupusas stand (Delmy’s Pupusas) within the Atwater Village farmers market, and Forage’s pork belly and avocado sandwiches. There’s a Vietnamese restaurant called Gingergrass that does some interesting takes on Bahn Mi, with pork being my go-to. I also love Mr. Ramen in Little Tokyo.

What can we expect from Selfie?

I hope some laughs, and an interesting relationship between people who aren’t supposed to like each other. I also think that American viewers, if they don’t know her already, are going to love Karen Gillan– she’s unbelievably talented.

It’s the modern day My Fair Lady; do you like the original?

Yes, it’s very entertaining. Though, there are elements of the cruel, and that took me by surprise as a modern viewer. Henry is rough with Eliza, and it’s upsetting to see her father seek to make money off of her. I think the premise is irresistible, but maybe that’s because I’m an American immigrant; the idea of being able to ditch your past and become new feels particularly American to me.

How does social media play into the show?

Eliza’s character is deeply immersed in social media – it’s a launching pad for stories, and as such, there are unique visual elements that play on and with that theme.  However, from what I’ve seen, this is a show that seeks primarily to explore characters, and not necessarily make overarching comments about the time we’re living in or anything like that.

Your personal favorite people to follow on Twitter…

Mostly funny people – Danny Zuker, Rob Huebel, and Simon Pegg. Leonard Nimoy tweets infrequently, but has something to say when he does. Patrick Stewart is fun because he’s so open. Ditto for Karen Gillan, and I think it’s lovely. The Paris Review has interesting articles – I find it amazing that they tweet. I found it by accident, and find it edifying to read short articles on poetry or authors. And, in the obvious column, Angry Asian Man – a blogger who tweets interesting cultural tidbits on all things Asian American.

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Three things you’re coveting right now…

I saw an item at someone’s house – a speaker system for digital music with analog tubes to warm up the sound. I just looked it up; I think it’s from Bluetube.

A friend showed me a YouTube video of an Australian camper called the UEV 490. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. It’s a small package that turns into all the comforts you could possibly want in the wilderness. My son and I watch the video together all the time.

Houses, houses, houses. We’ve been looking at houses, since we had the second kid and want another bedroom. This time around, I’d like to add one more feature to the list of things this house has to have: beauty. Before, it was neighborhood, square footage, things like that. This time, I’m putting a premium on beauty.

What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants do you go to in each?

I am not Mr. Cosmopolitan, but some places that come to mind are Inman Park, Atlanta. There used to be a place called Victory Sandwiches that would serve food until 2 am. They would make sandwiches in very small sizes, so that you could order several different kinds and not have to choose just one. Brilliant.

Mexico City – they told us to not go outside the hotel because of the kidnappings. However, I am glad I did because otherwise I never would have had the street food, which was uniformly excellent.

New York has the best restaurants – maybe not the best food, but certainly the best restaurants in America. No one needs my recommendations for New York.

I honestly think Los Angeles, if you count all of Los Angeles County, has the best food when it comes to variety, quality, and freshness.

San Francisco has incredible wine everywhere you go. I don’t do a whole lot of fine dining anymore, as I have kids, but at the Embarcadero Center on weekends, you can walk around and munch on the most fantastic variety of gourmet food I’ve ever seen. Oh, and if you want dim sum, I will steer you away from Chinatown holes-in-the-wall, and tell you to go to Yank Sing.

If you could host a dinner party with any five people living or dead, who would be there? What would you cook?

Comedian Dana Gould for laughs and literacy; my friend, actor Sean Maguire, because he is always up for one more drink; Mark Twain for his wit and historical value; Shaquille O’Neal because I think Mark Twain would be amused, and I’m a Laker fan; and, George Harrison for music afterwards.

As an unaccomplished cook, I guess I would go with what I can do. There’s a clam and sausage pasta I make that seems to please people. Or, I might do a miso-glazed salmon, which is hard to mess up. The first time I made it I used Nobu’s recipe, and left out the sake because we didn’t have any and I had to use brown sugar instead of white, and I think I prefer it that way.  And, of course, keep the wine going.

*John Cho, photographed at POT in Los Angeles, CA by Danielle Kosann.