Brothers David and Andrew Fung were raised in Seattle but as kids frequently visited their cousins in the San Gabriel Valley. “Those were some of my fondest memories,” says Andrew, biting into a Hong Kong waffle sandwich at a new Asian coffee and tea joint in Monterey Park, before passing it to David for a sample. “I remember thinking, 'I ate that really good thing [there], how come we don't eat that in Seattle?' ”
That good thing, it turns out, was a Chinese breakfast favorite called fan tuan, made from fried dough, pork floss and rice. Such Eastern culinary staples now are part of daily life for the Fungs, who moved to Monterey Park last year. They began making the SGV a focus of their YouTube videos, an appealing mix of rap and food jokes that also spotlight their Asian heritage. “We're not food experts,” David says. “But I'm happy to be a cultural representative for the Chinese.”
They've become successful enough to quit the part-time retail jobs they used to juggle and to be featured on YouTube's Hungry Channel — where they had their own show in which they, um, ate calf testicles. (Among more traditional food items.)
Their most successful YouTube video is 2012's “626,” which is named after the SGV's area code and hilariously portrays the lives of young Asian-Americans there. Borrowing the beat from Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa's “Young, Wild & Free,” it's been viewed nearly a half million times. “626” highlights local eateries like Savoy (for the Hainan chicken over rice) and JJ Café (for the plates of steaming fried rice). “So what we hang out? So what we drink tea? We just sittin' good in the SGV,” the Fungs sing. “So what we eat late? That's how it's supposed to be.”
With a father from Hong Kong and a mother from Shandong in mainland China, the brothers are two years apart but often are mistaken for fraternal twins. David, 26, usually takes the lead in conversation, while Andrew, 24, is more low-key. (When they're unsure, they'll look to each other for cues.)
They began rapping and making their own beats in middle school. Though they were self-conscious about their minority status, they decided to play it up. “Rap is all about who you are and where you're from,” David says. “That's when we started talking about being Asian.”
The San Gabriel Valley, it turns out, is a prime spot for folks of their particular demographic, with plenty of Asian tea lounges, which are like bars — open late and full of fried finger foods — without the booze. Their recent video “Boba Life” focuses on the culture surrounding boba, a black tapioca pearl that's put in teas. “Let's head out, it's a boba night, no alcohol, it's a sober night,” they rap.
It's fair to say the Fungs are the most popular comedic documentarians of this demimonde.
The siblings are rarely apart. “Aside from the girls we date, we have the same group of friends,” Andrew says.
Though they once felt out of place, their embrace of their Chinese heritage is good not just for strengthening family ties but also for their brand. “Once a 50-year-old Taiwanese lady asked us to sign her eyeglasses-cleaning cloth,” David remembers. “That was pretty sweet.”