Crystal Kung Minkoff Always Has Something Simmering
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member dishes up the good stuff (and some juicy stuff) about her cast mates, her culture, and keeping life normal for her kids.
When Crystal Kung Minkoff joined the cast of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in 2021, she was a breath of fresh air. She feels about as real as anyone on a Bravo reality show can possibly feel, and her open-book personality, relative youth — she just turned 40 — and cultural background have brought a welcome vibe shift to recent seasons.
As a first generation child of Chinese immigrants, it’s no secret that the mom of two — Max, 10, and Zoe, 8 — is passionate about celebrating culture through food and drink. However, as fans of the show know, Minkoff is recovering from an eating disorder, so her relationship with food is a complicated one. On a recent call, Crystal — who is the founder & CEO of Real Coco, as well as a Real Housewife — opened up about how she keeps her kids grounded, which RHOBH cast member is the most fun to go to dinner with, and the wildest thing she’s ever eaten.
What did family meals look like in the home you grew up in? Was home cooking a big part of your childhood?
Yes. My parents are from China but they met in the States. So, I grew up in quite a traditional Chinese house. My dad was an oral surgeon, and my mom would stay at home — very classic. My dad would come home at 5:30, and we would have dinner at the dining table every night. It would almost always be Chinese soup — fish head soup or ramen or something like that. We all had giant bowls with tons of noodles and vegetables. And on the table would be like Chinese pickles, cabbage, and stuff like that.
As a kid, do you feel like you appreciated it? Or did you feel that push and pull between what you were eating at home and maybe what your friends had at their houses?
I was really lucky. My parents, even though they were very Chinese, they were super open. We lived in a gated community in the Valley, in Northridge. All our best friends lived in the same community. So, even though my house was very Chinese, my brother’s best friend — and our moms are also best friends — their family is Jewish. So we would literally walk back and forth to each other’s houses. They’d come over and eat Chinese food, we’d go over there and eat all the Jewish food. So we got a lot of exposure. It’s no wonder I ended up marrying Jewish guy! It was really fun. I also had one of my best friends living like 10 houses away. They were German and cooked amazing food. You’d walk in and things were baking, things were cooking. It was a lot of culture on the same street, and we’d all pop into each others’ houses and eat.
How did you learn to cook? Were you included in meal preparation from a young age?
My mom doesn’t consider herself a cook, she doesn’t really give herself credit for it. But my grandmother — my mom’s mom — was a great cook and the classic “grandmother making dumplings.” Every weekend, we’d sit in front of the TV, they’d watch Chinese news or Chinese opera, and we’d sit at a tiny little table with all the aunties and make dumplings. I really grew up with my grandma.
What do meals look like in your house now? Are you the main cook?
Yes, I’m definitely the main cook. A lot of meals [are] on-the-go because our kids play sports and they’re not home until 8:30 ... I think their lunch boxes are actually very gourmet, because I know they’ll get a quality meal sitting down. But we sit at the dining table probably three nights a week. We have a lot of friends over all the time, so it’s like a revolving door. I tend to have something on the stove.
If you’re going to have family dinner at home, what do you like to cook?
I try to keep it healthy for the kids and balanced. I usually make some kind of fish and veggies. I do a lot of roast chickens. I make a lot of dumplings, too. My kids eat dumplings at least twice a week. I’ll make about 300 once a month and I stick them in the freezer and then that’s a go-to food for us.
300 is a lot of dumplings! Do the kids help with the prep?
Yeah! They’re very good cooks. They have definite passion for cooking as well.
Tell me more about these dumplings! Do you make different kinds? Or is it just the classic scallion-ginger pork kind?
Yeah, pork is number one in our house. I’ll make ground chicken dumplings for our friends, but for us, it’s gonna be pork or shrimp. My favorite is like a pan-fried and then steamed, because they’re just so crunchy and oily and fattening and delicious.
What is your kids’ favorite thing that you make?
They love dumplings, but they also love ramen. It’s such a Chinese food, and such an Asian thing to eat soup for breakfast. They eat ramen for breakfast all the time, with like, a poached egg in it and seaweed and stuff like that. It’s really fun to see because I always was worried. I’m first generation, but I felt like I grew up in a very Chinese environment. But my kids, you know, it gets diluted, right? So I’m like, are they going to hold on to our culture? I am so lucky because Rob, my husband, loves Chinese culture, and I obviously love Jewish culture so it’s been very easy for them to experience both, and have that ingrained into their life.
Rob and I have a home in China, and our plan was to live there four to five months a year. And then Covid hit, so now [we aren’t doing that]. Now I’m like, how do I get the kids to really immerse themselves into Chinese culture? But luckily, it starts with food, right?
Yes! I agree, food transmits culture for sure.
Yeah, it’s what brings people together ... I think it’s the first step to understanding people, because it’s a universal language. Everybody needs to eat. On the show, I was like how are they gonna get to know me? So, I did a dumpling-making party my first season and it was like, this is who I am. I didn’t want to have a fancy party. I was like, we’re going to sit in my kitchen, you’re gonna put on aprons and make your own dumplings, you’re gonna fry them on my stove. [I wanted to] show them what it looks like on a regular Sunday afternoon at my house.
I remember that! I thought it was fun. So, what is your go-to comfort meal?
I was gonna say ramen, but I would actually say my comfort food is Tom Yum. Thai soup. Spicy. Spicy as possible.
I’m thinking about your Chinese heritage and Rob’s Jewish heritage and I feel like in both of those cultures, food and gathering around food is so huge. Was food part of your initial connection to each other?
Totally. When I met Rob [and to this day] I would go every weekend to Monterey Park. I remember when we started dating I was like, do you wanna come to my family? And he is like, yeah! Then my mom was like, so, now that you guys are like really together, does he know that this is every weekend?
I told him that part of my culture is family respect and hierarchy, especially with my grandparents. And when I met Rob, he was like a big director and he had a lot of people like treat him a certain way. And I’m like, you’re the new guy. You’re at the bottom of the family line, here. You’re gonna sit at the worst seat at the table. And he’s like, great. Got it. He came every Sunday, and that was it for us.
I love that so much. Are you raising your children also in the Jewish tradition?
I don’t have religion. I mean, my grandpa’s Christian, my grandma is Buddhist, but the next generation doesn’t really have religion. So we didn’t have to compete in that way. So our kids are religiously Jewish, but very culturally Chinese. So it’s kind of perfect.
So when it’s time to do a seder or celebrate a Jewish holiday, do you cook all of the classic things?
Yes! I learned how to make challah in culinary school. I make kugel and I make latkes and I do the brisket. I do everything. Rob’s family likes to give me their little secrets to their recipes ... The sharing of cultures has been very easy for our family.
If you’re comfortable talking about this, I know that your history with an eating disorder has come up on the show. How does your complicated personal history with food and eating impact your parenting? Does it?
I’m still in my head about it all the time. And that’s why Rob is really a great partner for me. He keeps me in check. He’ll notice if I am starting to spiral about watching them. When they were really little, I was obsessed with getting vegetables in and not letting them eat junk. And then I was like, I gotta let go. I had to just let them be kids.
I still have to deal with my, as you say, complicated issues with food. So it’s definitely the forefront of my mind, not letting that pass onto them. I spent so many years avoiding food, hating food. It was my enemy. I went through so many iterations of trying to recover from that. And the end of the day, it was so weird that I was like, maybe I’ll just learn to love food. And then I went to culinary school and it was about appreciating it with every step, every chop, and knowing what goes into food.
I didn’t cook with my mom, I didn’t see her cooking. I just walked into the kitchen. So, my kids now appreciate food in a way that I didn’t get to as a child. And I think that’s hopefully one aspect to where they can have a healthy relationship with food.
Yes. That makes so much sense. Thank you for sharing that. OK, I have some fun fast questions about your fellow Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast members. Whose house are you most excited to go to because you just know the food is always actually good?
Oooh. I’m gonna say Sutton, because she always serves caviar. We sat at her store last week and I was sitting with some of the girls. We were filming, and the waiter’s like caviar? I was like, yeah, and I just took the tray. Garcelle was like, you’re crazy. But everybody wants to.
Who is the most fun to go out to dinner with? Who's going to order the most interesting food?
Oh God ... that’s really hard this season. I’m going to say Garcelle, because she has a wider palette. She served us this big Haitian dinner, which I loved. What I appreciate about the cast, no matter how nuts they can be, is that they all really dive into people’s cultures.
I know you're into cocktails, so I’m curious who you think has the best taste in cocktails?
Dorit has a very specific drink, which I think is hysterical. She’s like coined this term “carcass out.” She drinks “vodka, three lemons, carcass out,” that’s her thing. It’s three whole lemons and you have to squeeze it all in and no rind or anything like that.
Well, I love that for her. So what about you? What is your favorite cocktail to make?
I’ve become a tequila drinker, like everyone in America the last few years. I actually did a dinner party for the show two nights ago. Production kind of asks you what events you want to do and then at the last minute, they said can you do a Taco Tuesday? So I did Asian-inspired tacos. To go with with that, I designed a few Asian-flavored margaritas. I did a sweet and spicy mango-kafir lime margarita. It was a killer.
When you've had a long day and want to mix up an easy cocktail, what’s your go-to?
It's very simple: blanco tequila on the rocks, two limes, three Cuties.