Jon Kung grew up as a ‘third-culture’ child, born in Los Angeles, raised in Hong Kong and Toronto, and now living in Detroit. After pivoting his career from a law school graduate, Jon learned to embrace his diasporic identity through cooking and eventually became a self-taught cook.
Jon begun working at supper clubs and pop-ups around the city of Detroit, assisting chefs before setting up his very own pop-up. When the pandemic struck, he turned to social media – not just as a means of creative expression, but as a way to teach and inspire!
Through his videos, Jon was able to share his third-culture identity through cooking. Delicious creations including pasta dishes seasoned with authentic Chinese condiments (Curry Mac and Cheese) to beloved Italian classics with an Asian twist (Dan Dan Lasagne).
The popularity of Jon’s tasty combinations led to the release of his debut cookbook: ‘Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes from a Third-Culture Kitchen’.
The cookbook explores the exciting and unexpected collection of 100 recipes that re-examine Chinese food.
The boundaries of flavours are broken down by:
- Snacky Snacks, Bites, and Cravings (Sesame Prawn Toast, Vegan Fried Oyster Mushroom Sandwich)
- Noodles & Dumplings (Ginger Spring Onion Noodles, Buffalo Chicken Rangoons)
- Rice & Congee (‘Clay Pot’ Rice Tahdig, Mushroom and Tempeh Fried Rice)
- Stir-Fries (Szechuan Paneer with Mexican Chillies, Motor City Orange Chicken)
- Kung Foo Means ‘with Effort’ (Hong Kong Chicken and Waffles)
Through beautiful, playful and high-energy photos and Jon’s wit and humility, he brings forward recipes that blended cultural traditions, ingredients and flavours with his ultimate goal of redefining what Chinese food can be!
In Conversation with Jon Kung
We were lucky enough to step into Jon’s kitchen and grab a few minutes to understand the talented chef a little bit more. From getting a sneak peek into what his day-to-day looks like, to his personal favourite recipe from the cookbook!
Jon, huge congratulations on the launch of your cookbook ‘Kung Food’! Tell us, what is it about your creative combinations and complexity in dishes that you want readers to learn from?
I’d like people to see how fun and familiar dishes from other cultures can be. Being able to fuse together two different cuisines requires some kind of common ground or a love of a taste, a sensation, an aroma can is the bases for the combination. It’s about finding the things we love in common that makes these dishes work and it celebrates one of the greatest benefits of a live open to diversity.
In the book, we see a collection of seriously delicious recipes. Come on, you must have a favourite!
I’m so partial to the sauce and condiments in the book because – while the dishes are truly great – condiments are things that will last you up to a month in the fridge and they are things that can make a meal. Throw some noodles on ginger scallion oil or chili crisp and its delicious but you can put that chili crisp on the pizza, fried chicken, or mac and cheese that you have later that week. Or you can fry an egg in that ginger scallion oil for you BLT or work it in as the fat for your flour tortilla.
We love your ‘Curry Mac and Cheese’; we see it all the time on TikTok! Do you think social media plays a part in blending cultural traditions/cuisines together?
It absolutely does. Social media not only gave us the opportunity to reclaim our narratives and food stories but it also provided a platform that allows us to talk to each other.
What does a normal day in the life look like for you, Jon?
I wake up really early, around 5 am and I find a burst of productivity then so I’ll make myself a coffee and maybe edit a video before going doing my workout at 7. By 9 the rest of the world is a awake and it’s sometimes calls or meetings, or responding to email. If not then I’ll be filming content. By noon I’ll try to fix up a quick lunch for my partner and I who also works from home. And then it’s more filming (or writing, grocery shopping… all the production parts of content) and by 6 I try to be wrapped up for early dinner and tv time before bed.
Embedded in the day is plenty of time to walk, play, cuddle, and procrastinate with my two pitbulls Mochi and Boba.
Your ultimate comfort-food dish?
Something saucy full of carbs that someone else makes.
Name three things in the kitchen you can’t live without!
I immediately thought of boring basics like a knife a cutting board and a pot for water but more fun are things that are unique in my home kitchen that I thing people should consider:
A speed rack. A wheeled rack that holds large sheet pans. I use mine for pan storage, and some tiers are open shelving and a couple of tiers are actually dedicated to cooking food. It’s the most versatile storage space in my kitchen.
A huge hood: I designed my over-range ventilation to go over the countertop so if I have any countertop appliances like an electric grill, deep fryer, or extra induction stove it still goes under a hood.
Electric everything: I don’t have any gas in my kitchen. It’s not energy efficient, its uncomfortable and it’s extremely bad for your health. I went full induction only over a decade ago at my underground private kitchen and I made sure my home kitchen would follow suit. I have my heath to over a decade next to a gas stove and I feel like I’m trying to make up for it now.
Do you have a current favourite cookbook that you’re reading?
Frist Generation by Frankie Gaw people need to know more about the artistry of Taiwanese cuisine and his third culture interpretations are stunning.
Cold Chilli Oil Noodles
Jon doesn’t remember when he first started eating cold noodles regularly, but before he got air-conditioning, they were on of his favourite ways to keep cool in the kitchen. Chilling the noodles after cooking also gives them a delightfully bouncy bite. Jon prefers Shanxi planed noodles, which are not as broad as those he used in the Ginger Spring Onion Noodles (recipes on page 125), but they are still thick and provide a satisfying chew. You can also use spaghetti-like Shanghai-style noodles for this.
Serves: 2 people
- 225g noodles
- 2 tablespoons Fragrant Chilli
- Oil (page 45) or Chorizo Chilli Oil (page 47)
- 1 teaspoon Zhenjiang black vinegar
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 25g spring onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon toasted hulled sesame seeds
- Pinch of Maldon Sea Salt flakes
- Optional toppings: pickled vegetables, chopped roasted peanuts, poached egg, gan lan cai (Chinese preserved olive vegetable), slivered cucumber, kohlrabi, pak choi.
- Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions and drain well.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water and place the noodles in the ice bath to fully cool, then drain well again.
- Transfer the noodles to a large bowl and add the chilli oil, vinegar and soy sauce. Add the spring onions and sesame seeds and use two spoons to toss and distribute the ingredients evenly. Serve with additional toppings alongside.
Buy ‘Kung Food’ and Create a Recipe!
You can find where to purchase Jon’s ’ NEW cookbook here and start being creative with food and flavours in the comfort of your kitchen.
Make sure you have your Maldon Salt ready for these recipes! If you are running out, please feel free to browse on our Where to Buy Page to find your nearest store in which stocks our beloved Maldon Salt.