Sandy Liang at Tomoe. Photo: Christian Rodriguez

When Grub recently asked one of our more fashion-forward colleagues what makes designer Sandy Liang’s clothes so popular, she didn’t hesitate: “She’s a sportswear pioneer” who’s “reinventing gorpcore.” Meanwhile, Liang herself recently told the Cut that her own style is “happy and comfy,” which could describe her taste in food, too: She says she’s enamored with “simple things,” and she regularly cooks with her grandmother, while also making time for journeys to Stew Leonard’s, sushi feasts at Tomoe, and family dinners in Flushing. Read all about it in this week’s Grub Street Diet.

Friday, May 31
I woke up late because my boyfriend, Dorian, and I picked my dad up from the airport the night before and didn’t get back until 2 a.m. We normally prep coffee at night in our Cuisinart, but had totally forgotten to. I love our Cuisinart coffee machine! It’s changed our morning routine entirely. We have this thing called Café Timmy (after my dog, Tim Tam) which is basically a secluded 15–20 mins in our living room, drinking coffee, and no phones are allowed. Sometimes I’ll sit in front of our fish tanks and stare into them. I live two blocks away from my studio, so instead we picked up coffee from the Good Kind on the way to work.

I had a meeting with our stylist, Emily, for my upcoming lookbook shoot, which was the next day. I normally do this prep stuff a bit more ahead of time, but for whatever reason everything got pushed back and it’s the most last-minute shoot I’ve had in five years. We got a lot of good work done, though, and took a break for lunch. I stopped by the apartment and grabbed a Yakult. It’s one of those things that when I was little I’d beg my mom to get and she’d always say no unless it was on sale. Now that I make money, I get to buy as much Yakult as I want!

Then I went to Scarr’s with my boyfriend and friend Rae. We ordered some slices to share and two large vegan Caesars. I ended up having a few bites of the pizza and most of the salad. It’s my favorite salad. I’d never order a Caesar salad before I started compulsively eating this one.

After I looked at shoe options for our model at this shop on Grand Street, I headed back to the studio to resume styling. My friend Danny stopped by to drop off shiso fried rice and spicy xxx wings with halal sauce and pickles from Mission Chinese Food. I hate having food out when a lot of samples are around, so I put it all in the kitchenette and snuck in a few bites of the rice (one of my faves) and figured out looks for the guy models.

Tomoe for dinner, where I met up with Danny again and his girlfriend Sara. Ordered so much food! We ate hamachi collar, scallop, uni, ikura, and potato salad. I love eating at Tomoe. It’s one of those places where I wish I was a regular, but I could never because it’s not within a four block radius of my apartment.

Finally got back to the apartment and stared at my fish tanks for a long time to settle from the day. My boyfriend changed out the water and trimmed the plants while I threw back another Yakult. The plan was to go to sleep at 9 p.m. since call time was so early on Saturday. But I ended up making ramen from this kit we got at Mitsuwa and watching You’ll Always Be My Maybe. Keanu is so hot!

Saturday, June 1
Lookbook shoot date! Woke up on time and drank coffee at home. I had extra oat milk in mine. I like how creamy it tastes. It reminds me of the Chinese “breakfast cereal” in those little packets. As it turned out, I thought the call time was 7:45 a.m. but it was actually 7:30 a.m. and I was late to my own shoot — bad start!

We all got into cars and went to Bayside, Queens. My mom still lives in our childhood home, which was our home base for the shoot. I love going back to Bayside! It was bright and warm and my mom was playing mah-jongg with her friends in the dining room that she literally converted into a mah-jongg room. It felt very much like a typical day in the suburbs as a kid.

We had breakfast sandwiches from Othello in Astoria, brought by one of the girls who works with me, and snacks and coffee from Dunkin’. My mom kept trying to make us food, but was also worried I would yell at her for, like, bothering us. I told her it was not necessary since there were ten of us.

Nostalgia influences my work a lot and this collection is about Polly Pocket, Chinatown grandma meets Virgin Suicides, so Gino’s Pizza felt appropriate. For every birthday, we always got pizza from there. We had our lunch of pizza, salads, and garlic knots sitting around my driveway and enjoyed the suburban lawns and quietness. My mom came out and brought this awesome soup that had lots of green leaves from her garden in it. It was so good and I miss soup like that so much.

Throughout the shoot we got more Dunkin’ — it was so hot out! Someone had a Coolatta but I was only letting myself have iced teas so I could be on top of things and not too hyped.

My friend Rae came by close to the end of the shoot and dropped off bubble tea from Coco for everyone. I got a mango Yakult with extra grass jelly — that’s the only way to have it. I need so much grass jelly it clogs the straw. Right before we climbed back into the cars I grabbed one more slice of pizza. My mom asked if I wanted her to grill a piece of salmon for us to bring back to the city and I said no. She was busy playing mah-jongg anyway.

We packed up. Felt like we should celebrate but also were so tired by the time we got back. Ordered Seamless, but I have this thing where I can’t wait if I’m hungry so I just started making food. I put some lap cheong, which is this awesome Chinese sausage, in the rice cooker and threw in some sushi rice we got from Mitsuwa. The food arrived unexpectedly fast though. I got a salmon and ikura bowl from Chikarashi and had two dinners.

Sunday, June 2
I woke up feeling so good after ten hours of sleep and had coffee with oat milk. A photographer was coming over to shoot a portrait of me and my grandma for a zine while we were making rice cakes.

The thing about my grandma is she’s my person, and I love her food the most. She came over as well as a few friends. She brought a bunch of groceries because she is in constant fear of us starving. Oranges, bananas, lap cheong (even though we already have like five packets in the fridge), more ginger candy (she brings us a bag every single time she comes over), sugar, and some chicken drumsticks she prepared. (When I was little my mom and grandma made so many drumsticks and would wrap paper towels around the bone and we’d walk off with our drumstick to go.)

We started making the rice cakes. I use the term rice cakes for like four different things that she makes because it’s kind of hard to differentiate or properly translate the names. She mixed fermented rice flour and water in a big bowl and then melted sticks of sugar in a pot. She put the hot pot on the counter for a second and I told her that was bad for the marble, which led her to tell me that she wouldn’t know because she didn’t grow up with nice things and only had two pairs of pajama pants to wear for her entire childhood. Everybody tried the rice cakes and loved it! In high school I had a silly phase where I would try and not eat carbs, but these rice cakes were always my weakness. They’re the holy grail of my grandma’s food.

My friends and I decided to drive to Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers. I’ve been in love with Stew’s ever since my friend Paige introduced us to it. It’s like going to the supermarket plus Six Flags.

We were around East Harlem when we got a flat tire and stopped near this school and called AAA. Thank god Danny brought a bag of Red Hot Blues chips. After waiting a while, he decided to explore and find a Dunkin’ so we could get some iced teas. At some point we bought bubble wands from a street vendor. We waited an hour and a half for AAA, then hit the road again and realized there was a tire place open a few blocks down the street.

Got to Stew Leonard’s and sat down to eat because we were all starving. I got a lobster roll. It was the kind with mayo in it which was delicious because I love mayo. Also had some fries and fried shrimp that we were all sharing. Picked up little guavas, a new brand of oat milk, some S’more Oreos, green grapes, olives, and a bag of coffee.

Finally our day came to an end! Ate a S’more Oreo on the ride, it was okay.

When we got home I ate some olives and grapes and a few California rolls that my friend brought. I heated up the rice and lap cheong from yesterday and ate some of the rice with the seaweed sheets. By heat up I mean steam in a bowl inside my wok because I refuse to get a microwave. It takes up a ton of counter space and I don’t like seeing it. And I have a tiny New York apartment. It’s just the right way to live. If you really want to heat up that food, you’ll figure out a way.

Monday, June 3
I love Zhong! It’s this savory sticky rice pouch filled with so much good stuff and wrapped in lotus leaves. For some reason my grandma says we’re only supposed to make it during certain times of the year? I’ve always tried to understand why and I still don’t really know, but it’s one of those Chinese things. I told her that the next time she was making these that I wanted to learn, and she hit up last minute. I don’t think she ever took me seriously until this year, which is when I realized that no one else in my family really knows all of her recipes or at least has recorded them.

Some of her recipes are really complicated. You can’t just look them up on Google. I started asking her to cook with me. I’ll do videos and photos because a lot of it isn’t based on measurements, and then my boyfriend will record us on his phone. But my grandma is the worst teacher because she’ll just go ahead and do everything and be so annoyed if you’re kind of behind. She’ll be like, “put this seasoning in” and I’ll say, “what is this? It doesn’t have a label on it.” And she’s like, “oh my God, it’s just a seasoning you get from the supermarket.”

Anyway, my boyfriend and I walked over to her place and she fed us a zhong each. It had a salted duck egg yolk, pork, lap cheong, dried shrimp, minced pork, and peanuts. We were making two types, one with the minced pork and peanuts and another with mung beans. I love the mung bean ones the most so my grandma loaded up on those.

Went to work and had a second coffee at 2 p.m. I stopped by the apartment and ate like 20 olives. But I knew I shouldn’t eat a big lunch because I had a big birthday family dinner tonight at Congee Village, the one in Flushing. It’s my dad’s restaurant. I think he opened it not because he was in love with the idea of showing off his food, I think it was very much that he wanted a place to hang out with his friends. He primarily did construction and stuff and the Chinatown restaurant was really small when it opened. I do think he also wanted to show off Cantonese food and also really, really appreciates food. We’re both similar in a way. We love all foods, we’re not picky. We love Cantonese food, but the things that really get us are the simple things.

We left work and got in the car with our friends around 6 p.m. My dad was pissed that we were late!

Okay, so first the roasted baby pig came out. I’m trying to be a pescatarian all the time but it’s hard when we eat family dinners (usually on Sunday) — I love hanging out with my family, it’s my chill time — and my family eats everything. The roasted pig became a tradition for us maybe five or six years ago, and ever since then we have one every birthday. First they present it whole, then we either eat it without anything or have it in little buns with scallions and sweet plum sauce. Then we had lobster salad in a half dragon fruit. It’s chunks of lobster with fruit and tons of mayo on top — it tastes a lot better than it sounds I promise. Also had cold king crab, abalone, and sea cucumber. Dessert was this beautifully carved fruit, birds nest steamed with coconut water in a coconut. My brother’s girlfriend got me a cake that looks like one of my fleeces, with the leopard pocket and everything! So cute.

Tuesday, June 4
My birthday! Had coffee at home and went to work because it was the first day of market appointments for our Resort collection. My family has a tradition where we eat an egg first thing every birthday but my boyfriend forgot! I was annoyed!

For lunch we ordered vegan Caesars from Scarrs. Before I got to eat it though, my friend Rae came to pick me up and we went to Time Cafe so I could get my favorite sandwich in the world, the Plowman lunch sandwich. It’s cheddar, dill pickles, and dijonaise. Only they were out of pickles so we had the tuna sandwich instead. Still good, and it had capers which I love. Capers taste like the smell you smell when you’re about to cry.

After work I went home and checked my phone. Dorian had texted me to check the fridge and inside was my little hard boiled egg that he snuck in there at some point before he left for work with a sweet note on it. I had a Yakult and some grape gummy candy while I got ready for my birthday bingo dinner at Mission Chinese.

The menu was insane! First was the “Congee Princess” congee, which had ikura, scallop floss, and kabocha. There was also Lil Naan Donuts with corn (I love corn!) and condensed milk (I love condensed milk!), soft-shell crab noodles, lobster fried rice, mapo tofu, xxx chicken wings, scallop sashimi, mala cucumbers, water pickles, and vinegar peanuts.

I’d been wanting to try a Beggar’s Duck from Mission for so long. It’s a duck filled with rice and yummy things baked inside clay. And I got to wack it with the back of a ladle, it was sick. Then I got pizza and a fruit crepe cake and a Barbie cake from Stew Leonard’s! My only request, besides the bingo portion, was Hypnotiq. Unfortunately there was none to be seen. We had awesome blue MSG margaritas instead though.

Then the bingo started and things got very serious. This was my idea. I love bingo. I’m the genius behind that, don’t let Danny have any credit! It was very legit bingo, we had daubers and everything. I won one round! It was so much fun.

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