Los Angeles comedian Ali Wong has become a household name since the May premiere of her hit Netflix special, Baby Cobra. But before the fame, Wong struggled with life on the road as a young comic. “It was lonely,” she says. “You go to this new town, and you don’t know anybody.” Wong spent her days searching for Asian places to eat: dim sum in Vancouver, a Hmong market in Minneapolis. “Food is a huge source of comfort for me,” she explains. Meals have been a touchstone on Wong’s travels since she was a kid, growing up in northern California with parents who were eager to see new places, children in tow.
She can still recall some of the best dishes from her childhood trips: “In Hue, Vietnam, we had savory rice pancakes with crumbled shrimp and pork rinds. I’ve still never had a version as good.” During a grade-school trip to France, she discovered sea urchin (“It tasted like roses”) and escargots (“I had six of them and thought, I want more”). And she vividly remembers trying durian: “People said it smelled like vomit, but I knew it had to be good because everyone made such a big fuss.” By her third try, she was addicted to the fruit. “My parents emphasized experiential learning—in my family, being adventurous was a sign of maturity,” she says.
This fall, Wong appears on ABC’s new comedy American Housewife and continues writing for the network’s Fresh Off the Boat—a brief respite from the road before she headlines a tour next year. This time around, Wong will have company: her one-year-old daughter, Mari. Like her own parents, Wong wants to instill a sense of adventure in her daughter. Mari has flown cross-country already and is quickly changing Wong’s routines: “My travels now are all about her—making her food on the road, being around to nurse, and pumping milk. It’s less about feeding me, and more about feeding her.”
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