One thing about Manila Grey: they’re all about Vancouver. The Juno-nominated Filipino-Canadian duo know the city like the backs of their Supreme racing glove-covered hands. You can hear it all over their latest album No Saints on Knight Street, a shimmering collection of West Coast hip-hop named after the roadway that connects Van with their hometown of Richmond. But you can’t really know a city without knowing its food scene—and the boys assure us that’s a department they are well versed in. And really, there’s no talking about Vancouver’s food scene without talking about its Asian cuisine.
“Oh bro, it’s like the main thing out here,” Soliven tells Complex. “Sushi here is crazy. We got some fire sushi, we got some fire Korean fried chicken spots. We just had some last night, actually.”
Adds Neeko: “Anything Asian out here is super fire, man.”
That checks out, given that about 43 percent of Metro Vancouver residents have an Asian heritage—more than any other major city outside of Asia. Manila Grey say they spend a great many of their nights hanging out at the city’s Asian eateries, from Chinese restaurants to Vietnamese joints, mowing down on everything from bò lúc lắc to xiao long bao. It’s something they speak about with considerable zeal and expertise. When Soliven sings “Now all my day 1z eat, all my day 1z mufuckin’ feast” on “00 Luck,” he may very well mean that quite literally.
For Asian Heritage Month, we caught up with Manila Grey—who are up for Breakthrough Group of the Year at the Juno Awards on June 6—to talk grub. They touch on their connection with Filipino food and their desire to pass recipes down to future generations, before listing their favourite restaurants in the Asian foodie paradise that is Metro Vancouver. They eventually get ravenously hungry. Chances are, by the end of this article, so will you.
Since your new album is called No Saints on Knight Street, can you tell me: What was the last sin you each committed?
Neeko: Leaving my house without a mask on, bro. [Laughs.] Eating too much Korean fried chicken over the past week.
Soliven: Yeah, probably that. Breaking the diet.
Oh, actually, that’s a perfect segue. I wanted to talk to you guys about food. As you know, Complex is pretty big on food. Let’s start with this: If you could only eat one Filipino dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Neeko: I’d rock with sinigang, man. It makes me feel good. That’s like my feel-at-home dish, you know?
Soliven: For me? My mom always cooks the best bulalo. It’s kinda like sinigang but with cabbage. Yeah, I’d fuck with that for the rest of my life.
Neeko: What about you, bro?
Hmm. Maybe lechon.
Soliven: For the rest of your life?!!
Neeko: You’re gonna go the rest of your life eating lechon?!
Straight up pork! Get me some Mang Tomas sauce and I’m good! Fuck it!
Neeko: That’s crazy bro. [Laughs.]
Those crispy pig ears… I can eat that all day!
Neeko: Yeah, that’s pretty fire.
Soliven: It’s an art, man. Making lechon is an art.
It is! Can you guys cook it at all?
Neeko: I haven’t actually learned. But that’s something I want to do this year. I want to learn how to at least make that one. Or just get my mom to make a recipe for me.
Soliven: Bro, that’s the thing. I was actually just telling my mom. I was like, “Yo, you got to teach me all this, and sooner than later because this needs to get passed down.” And I love cooking, so I’ve got to know the ingredients. My girl, too, she loves to cook. And what’s crazy is they have their own family recipes. I’ve tasted her mom’s cooking and it’s like, that has its own vibe. So, they’ve got to pass that knowledge down.
Neeko: It’s crazy, my mom was telling me she knew how to cook all these recipes at like 15, just because of how it is back home. Growing up with your family back home, you’re very hands-on. But here, it’s like, not once growing up was I like, Oh, I can’t wait to help my mom cook some sinigang, you know what I’m saying? But you know, as you grow older, you appreciate it more and you definitely want to hold onto this.
Yeah. I’m just banking on my mom cooking me this stuff forever.
Neeko: That’s what I’m saying! [Laughs.]
I want to talk about the food scene in Vancouver. How up are you guys on the Asian food there?
Soliven: Oh bro, it’s like the main thing out here. Sushi here is crazy. We got some fire sushi, we got some fire Korean fried chicken spots. We just had some last night, actually. Had some soju and some fried chicken. But yeah the Asian food out here is A1.
Neeko: It’s unreal. The dim sum out here is fire. Anything Asian out here is super fire, man.
Soliven: The Malaysian food out here is fire too. But the sushi dominates the city.
Neeko: Yeah, untouchable.
I’m gonna go by category of Asian food and I want you to each pick your favorite restaurant in each category.
Soliven: Aite, bet.
Neeko: OK, let’s go.