I enter Bok A Bok on Capitol Hill. It's a tight space. Left of the entrance are two tables; on the right, two other tables. I choose one on the right, sit, and wait for Connie Chang, a local singer. She arrives in a dark-blue jumpsuit, a brilliant gold-colored necklace, and black high heels.
Connie immediately walks to the counter and orders the food. She says this, this, and this (all items on the menu) and also this (something not on the menu) to the woman operating a point-of-sale tablet. Connie then sits at the table, necklace glittering. As we eat, we talk about her life, Korean fried chicken, and Connie Chang Gang's new EP.
Connie was born in the United States, her mother is Korean, but her surname is Chinese. As for her first name, this is the story: When she was 19, she finally asked her mother why she was named Connie. Her mother said: "You are named after Connie Chung," the famous newscaster. "Your dad had a huge crush on her. She was really beautiful. She broke the wall for many Asians of her time." Connie had long suspected this, but was not sure until it was confirmed.
"I really like this place," she says as the fried chicken is placed on the table, along with sauces, kimchi mac and cheese, and something I can't identify. "But I wish they served beer. In Korea, all fried-chicken places serve beer. That's my only criticism of Bok A Bok. Otherwise, the chicken is spot-on."
She dips part of a thigh into a reddish-brown sauce called gochujang (fermented red chili paste) and another part into a sesame soy garlic sauce. I follow her lead and find myself preferring the former sauce to the latter. Connie is also a huge fan of the kimchi mac and cheese.
"You know, this is one of the greatest fusions in the history of the world. It really is. Just taste it. Kimchi was meant for this combination." It only takes a few bites for me to fully agree with her high estimation of this Asian/American fusion.
Connie also ordered something not on the menu. It's pickled white daikon (radish). It's chunky and vinegary, and is to Korean fried chicken what coleslaw is to US fried chicken, explains Connie.
We discuss her new EP, Chang Blood, which was produced by the great Erik Blood (Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, Tacocat). Her mode is a space age futurism with lyrics that express the complexities and interconnections of life in a globalized world in startling and original ways. The work is also packed with references to Korean popular culture.
"Here is a fun fact of my track 'That Girl with the Hair,'" she says at the end of our meal, as she stands with the look of a pilot ready to return to her spaceship. "It is about the famous Korean drag performer Kim Chi. Erik Blood in a robot voice gives her a shout-out. It's an homage to her. It's K-pride!"