While we were at Primavera Sound in Barcelona Éric had a little talk about food with Alex Zhang Hungtai who under his moniker Dirty Beaches make dirty, slow rockabilly that is inspired by the movies of Wong Kar-Wai, the passage of time and travelling without a home to return to. It might make you think of Alan Vega and his old band Suicide.
Hi Alex, what does your tour diet consists of?
I guess it depends where you are. While being on tour we mostly eat at the gas stops, so we eat the paninis a lot everything else is pretty expensive. But here in Europe we have a nicer treatment because the promoters take us out to dinner in every city and usually it’s pretty nice, especially in Italy, Portugal and Spain where the food is amazing.
Is there something in particular you like to eat here in Spain?
Yeah, last time I came I tried the squid ink paella. It’s all black and it’s really really good because they give you home made garlic aioli sauce with it.
Where is home and what do you miss most from there when you’re on the road?
I live in Montréal now. I miss the Portuguese rotisseries, Romados is a good one. There’s another one close to where we live, Ciranos. That one is really good too. Yeah, the Portuguese just know how to make chicken.
You were born in Taiwan, right? Is there something you miss from there?
I miss Taiwanese food the most because for me that’s comfort food. I would eat compulsively when I got back. Usually I gain a lot of weight when I go back, I’m not joking. My record is when I went back for two weeks and gained 15 pounds [about 7 kg].
Is there a Taiwanese dish in particular that you like?
Yeah, there’s a lot. The most famous ones you can get are at the night market eateries. The famous ones are oyster pancakes with a sweet sauce that they use. There’s also this kind of noodle, they stew the pork in tea and all the herbs and it’s really amazing. The soup is really earthy because you can taste all the herbs they use. I really enjoy that too. It’s really good during the winter time when it’s cold and you get a nice warm hot stew.
What would be the ideal picnic to take on a dirty beach?
Oh, that’s a really good question. I guess it depends what mood I’m in. I’m addicted to this hot dog place in Montréal. I think the owner’s family is from Chile and they make these crazy hot dogs, they call it completo and it’s a really nice sausage with a stemmed bun, with diced tomatoes, guacamole, mayonaise and hot sauce. It’s amazing. An ideal picnic, I would have two of these hot dogs, drink a horchata, maybe I’m saying it wrong, I think it’s Mexican. It’s a rice milk kind of drink, I think I’m pronouncing it wrong, but that would be really nice. And maybe for dessert I would get the gulab jamun, the Indian dessert, the little donuts that are soaked in sugar water, those are really amazing. I like really fatty food, or slow cooked pork belly. Haaa, I love that.
What’s your favourite food coming from the sea?
I really like sea urchin. It’s the kind of things they used for Japanese sushi, it’s mustard coloured. And it’s called uni in Japanese. It looks crazy because, I don’t know if it’s categorized as a shell fish, but it’s from the sea and it’s a black ball with spikes coming out but if you crack it and you open it, it looks like a really soft and mushy yellow substance inside. When it’s fresh and you make it into a sushi, it’s really fucking mind-blowing. I almost cried the first time I ate it.
What’s your favourite poutine flavour from La Banquise in Montréal?
I just like the regular one. I tried the Elvis one and I almost fucking died. It’s so disgusting. It has steak, sausage, bacon and pork chop, a bunch of really fatty stuff. I just thought ”I’m gonna go all out and try the fattest poutine”. It was so disgusting! I couldn’t finish it and I had really bad diarrhea the next day. So no, I like the classic poutine or the Italian poutine with meat sauce.
Do you have a soup recipe that you could share with our Swedish readers?
Yeah there’s this one that my mum makes that I really really love. It’s very easy to make. It’s tomato based with eggs. What you do is you pan grill the tomatoes first until they are kinda soft, you take them out and put them in chicken stock and you stir until it becomes red. Feel free to use less tomatoes because the base of the flavour is chicken stock. You add some garlic and at the end you crack an egg in and you stir it continuously in a clock wise motion until they become fluffy kinda like clouds and then it’s ready.
The set you just played here in the park, was it new music?
No, 99% was improvised but there was one drum beat that was programmed that I improvised on top of.
Are you working on new music right now?
Yes, lots. I’m scoring three films: two documentaries and one Italian horror film. I’m doing one EP and two albums and a bunch of 7 inches and splits with friends. I don’t know if the world is gonna end so I wanna get as much music out as possible before December! That’s optimistic, right? Live the most of your life.
Speaking of apocalyptic feelings, do you have a word for the student protesters of Montréal right now?
Yeah, you’re aware of the Sunday tam-tam jams and the people who play the cos-play, the Dungeon and Dragon guys? So if they pass that law that no more than 40 people can gather there’s no more tam-tams and there’s no more Dungeons and Dragons. That’s on a funny, lighter side of things. As much as we dislike that kind of things it’s also what makes it special and unique for Montréal. It just sucks when people tell you ”you can’t do this!” when ”why the fuck not?” Another thing that I’m really scared about is that everything my friends post on Facebook about the riots or if they’re doing anything that’s defaming Harper [Canada’s Conservative prime minister] it gets taken down Facebook the next day. So, this is really fucked up. That’s really bad censorship. That’s like fucking communist China. Maybe the world is not so fucking different, you know? It’s like when something doesn’t go the way they want, the government, they’ll fucking shut it down, whether you like it or not. This is the illusion we all live in, you know?
Dirty Beaches on Spotify.