Inspired by a friendship founded on weekly dinners in Flushing and a trip to Taiwan, Chef Trigg Brown and Partner Josh Ku have joined forces to introduce what they’re describing as Taiwanese-American soul food with their soon-to-be-opened restaurant, Win Son. Located on the corner of Graham and Montrose, the pair aims to improve an underserved market, combining elements of authentically Taiwanese food with an experimental approach.
But in a way, this approach is inherently Taiwanese. “The food culture there is so vibrant and lively, people are constantly riffing off each other,” Trigg explains. He and Josh took a trip to Taiwan together where they visited the country’s bustling night markets, which are heaven for those looking to go on a food tour of sorts. Trigg credits the night market culture as a key element of Taiwan’s vibrant, constantly evolving cuisine.
There’s also its tumultuous history of colonization, making it a veritable culinary melting pot. From the Dutch colonization in the 1600s and 60 years of Japanese rule to relations with China far too complicated for an article about food, Trigg explains “much of the country has been inundated with multicultural, multi-representational, eclectic food cultures. In fact, it’s not unlike figuring out what American food is. “There are Japanese elements, bao and authentic old-school Taiwanese dishes such as the ones you find in the old capital of Tainan,” Trigg adds.
Trigg cooked Japanese food in Charlottesville at Ten, a high-end sushi spot with an Izakaya kitchen. His Chinese boss had family in Taiwan, which piqued his interest in the island’s politics and culture. When he met Josh, whose family is Taiwanese, he was immediately interested in learning more. Josh further introduced Trigg to the cuisine; and while there was an immediate interest in opening a restaurant, Trigg was busy grinding away in other kitchens, working as sous chef at Upland for Justin Smilie and Starr Restaurants. “It was a succession of steps before we decided to go with it, which included traveling to Taiwan and eating all over the place, both in different cities and with Josh’s friends and families’ homes.” With Win Son, they hope to appeal to newcomers as well as those familiar with eclectic and ever-changing authentic Taiwanese. “The goal is to make it more accessible,” says Trigg.
While Win Son doesn’t soft open till May 12, they’ve held several dinners and pop ups throughout the city, including one this Friday. In tandem with Yumpling’s Jeffrey Fann, they’ll serve dinner and host a talk with Cathy Erway, the author of The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island. You may have heard about the Taiwanese American prolific food writer from her other book, the Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove.
Attendees can look forward to heaping portions of Taiwanese dishes cooked with flair, such as the Big Chicken Bun, which has been a hit at Win Son’s pop-ups: An enormous fried chicken leg with fermented tofu sauce and sliced herbs on a pineapple bun, the dish is a spin on “big chicken.” Fried chicken is big in Taiwan, a staple of its street food and night markets. Speaking of big, another item on Win Son’s permanent menu (sadly not on Friday’s, you’ll have to return in May) will be the Nutritious Sandwich, a hot, savory doughnut stuffed with chilies, ham, pickled pineapples, and cilantro. You can also expect seasonally inspired dishes like Turnip Cake Omelette with Ramps, and “food Taiwanese kids grew up eating,” such as hearty lu rou fan (braised pork on rice).