Yearly Archives: 2008

When is a Sauce Not Really a Sauce?

This question came up during an Asian food panel discussion I attended at the Asia Society in New York on Monday. The discussion was titled “From Soy to Satay: Asian Sauces Going Mainstream.” A panelist put forward the idea that there is a difference in the definition of a sauce in Asian versus Western, or more specifically French cooking traditions. It was a revelation to … Continue reading When is a Sauce Not Really a Sauce? »

Head into Summer with Drunken Chicken

Memorial Day is over and we’re now officially in the summer season again. Whites are back. So are barbeques, picnics, ice-cold beers and leisurely simple meals. It’s time to dig out our recipes for cold summer dishes. But what can you do to jazz up the boring standard fares in your recipe collection? Why not add some Chinese cold dishes to your repertoire? Drunken chicken (紹興醉雞), for one, can give your summer meals some extra pizzazz.

Beyond Bok Choy: Other Shades of Green

Many Chinese vegetables are known to Americans as bok choy or simply Chinese cabbage. Although there is a wide variety of these “Chinese cabbages,” they all have a very similar, neutral, non-threatening taste recognizable to the American palate. But don’t be fooled, not all Chinese vegetables are bland and blah. There is also a large selection of mustard greens, not commonly known by Americans, that have much more distinct bitter and spicy flavors.

Red Cooked Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner

Yes, you can make red cooked beef. But the recipe is slightly modified from red cooked pork so as to add extra spices for reducing the gaminess of beef. Well, the Chinese do consider beef gamey. In fact they think “foreign savages” who eat beef and consume dairy products smell like stale butter. Yet many areas in China have large repertoire of beef dishes, especially in the Northern and Western regions. Go figure!

In Search of “Food Roots” with Jennifer 8. Lee

First a disclosure. I am a fan of Jennifer 8. Lee’s writing so everything I am about to write is terribly biased. This is not a review of Jenny’s book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, but an expression of how it resonates in my life as I discover my Chinese roots through food. Everyone in America is to some extent an immigrant. The closer you are to being a first generation immigrant like me, the more you think about what part of you is “American” and what part of you is not. Jennifer 8. Lee, in her book writes about her food-centered journey of self-discovery just as I continually do.

Oh My God – It’s Still Alive!


Photography by Ron Boszko

When I order live fish at a restaurant in China it is customary for the kitchen staff to present the live fish tableside for inspection in a basket or plastic bag. (And sometime on an elegant silvery stainless platter in upscale restaurants.) The fish invariably flips and flops, and gasps for its last breath. The Asian and European diners amongst us would nod approvingly except of course for the Americans. They would shake their heads in disbelief. Twenty minutes later a beautifully fried or steamed fish is served, and everyone ooohs and aaahs except for the Americans. By this time they are so completely revolted they’d just sit and smile politely, believing PETA evangelists are about to materialize and surround the table with police tape. The different reactions remind me of what I recently read in The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee. She wrote that Americans don’t want their food to look like real animals. Here lies the root of the culinary culture difference.