Martin Yan's Asian Favorites: From Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailandby Martin Yan
Public TV chef Martin Yan has demystified Chinese cuisine for millions of viewers, showing them how to create dishes once thought too complicated or obscure to try at home. He’s been combining kitchen expertise, engaging humor, and his trademark enthusiasm for more than 20 years. Today, after more than 1,500 shows, he’s recognized as an icon in more than 60 countries. His latest book is a cultural and culinary journey through Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Readers learn how to make such simple, healthy dishes as Exotic Eight-Treasure Squash Soup, Fried Yam and Potato Pancakes, Barbecued Fish in Banana Leaves, Drunken Prawns, Yin Yang Pizza, and Spicy Mint Garlic Spareribs.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
- Ten Speed Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 8.62(w) x 9.55(h) x 0.97(d)
Read an Excerpt
The Global Eating Place
From a distance, 1t could be any other modern skyline: bright lights, glass, concrete, and neck-straining skyscrapers, with a liberal sprinkling of bill boards at their feet. But move a little closer, and the whole scene will come into sharper focus.
See the green "Nine Dragon" mountain range, from which the Kowloon Peninsula got its name, rising behind the manmade mountains of glass and steel? You won't see that in Chicago or Manhattan. And what about the little fishing boats and houseboats trolling the harbor in the foreground? Their old-fashioned simplicity makes a stark contrast with the modern cityscape. Come to think of it, the very harbor itself, teeming with life and the unmistakable fragrance of my youth, proves that this, in fact, is a place like no other in the modern world.
Hong Kong, a placea state of mind, some would saythat completely redefines our notion of the modern urban center. At first sight, that rearrangement seems a little chaotic but, trust me, it's a controlled chaos. After all, in Hong Kong, control and chaos are just two sides of the same coin. To the outsider, much of Hong Kong seems a mishmash of conflicting elements. It can even be a little head-spinning for me, and I've spent a good chunk of my life here! The frantic pace and the subatomic energy vibrating everywhere are emblematic of the island's day-to-day existence, and this intensity applies to all aspects of Hong Kong life: commerce, work, and, of course,dining.
Here you'll find great-tasting food on every corner. Hong Kong is crawling with the world's greatest chefsin the fine-dining restaurants, elegant international hotels, and especially in the street-snack stalls and hole-in-the-wall eateries that are the foundations of the city's culinary heritage.
Where the Unworkable Worksand Plays
As much as it seems that this mixed bag couldn't possibly "work," it does. Hong Kong works hard. How else could this small, cramped island have risen to its status as an internationally renowned capital of trade and business? Its Hang Seng stock market is beginning to rival those of Wall Street and the Nikkei, and its corporate conference rooms are packed with "suits" whose decisions shape economies around the world.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong knows what "all work and no play" does to a person, and to a city. As one evening out on the town will tell you, this territory is just as good at playing as it is at working. After all, it's not only a business hub, but also a wildly popular travel destination and a jewel in Asia's cultural crown. There's a reason why millions of tourists visit Hong Kong each year. Quite simply, it's the irresistible lure of a place where people are always on the move, where the action runs on a nonstop loop, and where restaurants and streets are just as bustling at midnight as they are at noon. Hong Kong is a city of life, and like any other living thing, its heart beats twenty-four hours a day. And its seven million inhabitantsthe city's true life forceare poised and ready to go!
Seven million people. That's a lot of shoes, books, and CD collections to pack into such a small place. The only way to accommodate them all is ... upa philosophy that more or less shapes the skyline of Hong Kong. And while each new layer of building may add a little to the overall congestion, it also adds a new layer of life and character to Hong Kong's unique structure.
The people in Hong Kong take the hustle and bustle in stride, one-upping even New Yorkers when it comes to maintaining a true "urban cool." So how do they make it all work, bringing together the old and the new, the peaceful and the frantic, the buttoned-up and the busting loose? T'ai chi, for one thing. But I credit the ancient Chinese concept of yin-yang balance. After all, no matter how international Hong Kong's face becomes, its heart and soul are still unquestionably Chinese.
The International Intersection: Where the Four Corners of the Globe Meet to Eat
I consider it a testimony to how deeply Chinese Hong Kong's psyche is that it can accommodate so many people, so much change, and such powerful international influence without losing its own character.
Hong Kong has a complex history of interacting with the "outside" world, taking the fruits of those interactions, and incorporating them in a unique way into the fiber of its culture. And nowhere is that interplay more evident than in the cuisine. I never get bored eating in Hong Kong, and not just because it has so many restaurants that I could eat in a different one every day of my life and still not have the same thing twice.
Hong Kong's food really keeps me on my toes, because it's an ever-evolving cuisinejust as Hong Kong is a living, breathing, changing city. Hong Kong has always been a crossroads, a gathering place for all manner of Europeans, North Americans, Middle Easterners, and other Asians. Its colonial history has left an international stamp on its cultural and culinary face, as evidenced by how the Hong Kong hotels blend the daily rituals of yum cha and dim sum with the British fancy for tea and crumpets. These forces from the past and present keep the cuisine from growing stale.
As a magnet for international trend and style, Hong Kong, the "Fragrant Harbour," continues to attract creative culinary energy from all corners of the globe. While many visitors stay only temporarily, some make Hong Kong their home, leading to an expatriate population that culls its members from all the continents of the world.
Part of the current acceptance of all foods foreign may be an attempt to accommodate the homesick tastes of some of these new residents and visitors. But if you ask me, that's a superficial explanation. Many Hong Kong natives are affluent and they travel all over the world. Naturally they soon develop likings for "exotic" dishes ranging from Italian panini, made with focaccia, to Buffalo chicken wings to Norwegian smoked salmon to Moroccan couscous.
When you get down to it, the people of Hong Kong simply love to eat. We fixate on food. Remember, the island was originally settled by Cantonese, and we Cantonese are known for our never-ending quest for the next great food idea.
The Lap of Luxury
For the best in Hong Kong's international flavor, join me at the city's most luxurious hotels, where many of its most respected restaurants are located. Hong Kong's elegant eateries are often the laboratories where dishes that blend Western cooking techniques with Chinese ingredients and flavorsand vice versaare conjured up. It's a true melding of the culinary arts with international diplomacya hybrid of Escoffier and Kissinger.
If you're feeling like a high-roller after enjoying some worldly wining and dining, don't forget to take advantage of Hong Kong's other global luxuries. I'm talking about the international boutiques, the shopping centers, the cars, and the commerce that make living the good life in Hong Kong a snap.
A Night in the Life of Hong Kong
Old Blue Eyes may have been thinking about New York when he sang about the city that doesn't sleep, but he could just as easily have been talking about Hong Kong, another city that pulls more all-nighters than a college student during finals week. And judging from the number of tables in Hong Kong's twenty-four hour eateries that are still packed hours after the conventional dinner rush has ended, many of Hong Kong's citizens don't do much sleeping either.
It's likely that no matter what you do during the witching hours, you won't forget to eat. Hong Kong's inhabitants sure don't. They feed whenever passionrather than the clockstrikes. They're obsessed with food at any time of the day, and the happy sounds of slurping, munching, and chomping heard throughout the night are proof. Even the morning rituals of yum cha (taking tea) and dim sum dining are available to all-night eaters. As much as I enjoy all of Hong Kong's other night temptations, I think I'd be just as happy spending my evenings tethered to a table full of its edible treats.
Fine Fare for the Common Man
Fancy hotel dining and highfalutin, Hong Kong nightlife are all well and good. But if you really want to experience the city's sights, sounds, and flavors, then, do as the Hong Kong residents do. That means mingling among the people as they grab a quick bite on the way to work, or meeting friends at a tea house for early morning dim sum.
The best way to explore "Everyman's" (or "Everywoman's") Hong Kong is to do it on foot. The streets may seem noisy and chaotic at first, but your ears will quickly turn the blaring horns and the street vendors' shouts into an almost pleasant background din.
Pay a visit to Temple Street Market. It's a curbside cafeteria with rows of wandering hawkers serving a mind-boggling list of options. For starters, there are fish bails, fried tofu, roast pork, steamed chicken-and-vegetable buns, sweet red bean jelly, and sliced red-cooked duck.
Can't make up your mind? Join the club! I just point at whatever looks good and enjoy. Don't be shy; you can always ask for recommendations. Being part of the street-food crowd makes meeting people easy, and it gives you a little picture of the whole Hong Kong community to boot. Class distinctions are irrelevant here; professionals slurp their soup alongside day laborers without batting an eyelash. After all, everyone here has the same thing in mind: good food in a hurry.
To truly experience the breadth of Hong Kong's food, you can't just hit the streets. You've got to go home, too. For me, real dining in Hong Kong wouldn't be the same without a few meals like the kind my mother makes. I can think of no better way to take myself back to a simpler, slower time than sitting down to a table of simply-prepared foods with my Hong Kong friends and family. No matter how international, cosmopolitan, or fast-paced things get here, Chinese traditions and family ties remain a part of everyday life.
Fitting the realities of modern-day Hong Kong with the simple pleasures of its past isn't as impossible as it seems. If I know anything about Hong Kong, I know that this unique place can make it work. You can make it work in your own kitchen, too. All you need are the following recipes. They incorporate the best of international accents, cutting-edge culinary style, and down-home Chinese sensibility in the same flavorful mix that makes Hong Kong worth coming back to time and again.
Yam and Potato Pancakes
This is my take on the tried and true breakfast hash brown: little pancakes of shredded potato and sweet yam fused with the robust flavor of shiitake mushrooms, onions, and chives. Cook to perfectioncrispy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside.
MAKES 16 PANCAKES, SERVES 4 TO 6
1/2 pound yam
1/2 pound russet potatoes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced Chinese chives or green onions, green part only
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
About 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1. Peel yam; shred in a food processor or with a box grater.
2. Peel and shred potato; roll in tea towel and twist the ends hard to remove excess liquid.
3. Combine flour, water, and egg in a bowl. Mix to form a thick paste. Add yam, potato, mushrooms, onion, chives, soy sauce, salt, and white pepper; mix well.
4. Place a wide frying pan over medium heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons oil, swirling to coat sides. For each pancake, spoon 1/4 cup batter into pan to form a 4- to 6-inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick. Cook, turning once, until golden brown and crispy, 8 to 9 minutes on each side. Repeat with remaining batter, adding oil as needed. Serve hot.
T'ai Chi, not T'ai Bo
You'll often find early risers in this city-that-never-sleeps practicing the slow, fluid, and relaxing moves of t'ai chi. Forget the "no pain, no gain" mantra of Western exercise here; with t'ai chi, "if it hurts, be alert." Many of Hong Kong's senior citizenry credit their regular practice of t'ai chi with keeping them nimble and healthy. We would all do well to follow their lead. And it's not just popular with older folks; many young people have also discovered that t'ai chi can work wonders in increasing their flexibility and fitness.
Steamed Shrimp Dumplings
The key to success for these tender little dumplings is the the wrappers! They are made of rice flour, which turns translucent when cooked, showing off the shrimp inside.
MAKES 14 DUMPLINGS, SERVES 6
1/2 cup wheat starch
1/2 cup glutinous rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
14 large raw shrimp (about 1/2 pound)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons grated ginger
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
About 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 large lettuce leaves
1. To make wrappers, combine wheat starch, glutinous rice flour, and cornstarch in a bowl. Add oil and boiling water, stirring with chopsticks or a fork, until dough is evenly moistened. Knead dough into large ball. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
2. Shell, devein, and butterfly shrimp, leaving tails intact. Place in a bowl with salt and white pepper; let stand for 10 minutes.
3. To make ginger vinegar, combine rice vinegar, water, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
4. Shape each dumpling: On a lightly floured board, knead dough until smooth. Roll dough into a cylinder about 12 inches long; cut crosswise to make 14 pieces. Cover dough to prevent drying. Dip a paper towel in oil; wipe towel over work surface and blade of a cleaver to lightly oil. Place one portion of dough on work surface; with cleaver blade smear dough into a thin circle about 3 inches in diameter. Lift the thin circle of dough and drape over back of a shrimp, leaving tail exposed. Pinch edges together under shrimp to seal. Cover while shaping remaining dumplings. Re-oil work surface and cleaver blade as needed.
5. Prepare a wok for steaming (see page 6). Line bottom of steamer with lettuce. Place dumplings on lettuce without crowding. Cover and steam until shrimp turn pink and wrappers are translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve hot with ginger vinegar for dipping.
A Superstar Chef
Being a great chef takes nerves of steel, lust ask Chef Kuen Cung Chow, of Hong Kong's Superstar Restaurant. Recently the earned the title of "Iron Chef" in the popular Japanese culinary show of the same name. In these, cooking duels, two highly esteemed chefs are pitted against each other. The contestants must create a sample of dishes based on a theme ingredient, the identity of which is a well-kept secret until show time. The show's outspoken judges evaluate the dishes and award the "Iron Chef" title to the winner. To make it more entertaining, the contest is timed, televised, and commented upon with a scrutiny befitting the Super Bowl. And my good friend Chef Chow made it through with championship colors! I'm honored to include his recipe for Steamed Shrimp Dumplings here.
Pan-Fried Vegetable Ham Rolls
The elegant simplicity of this dish makes these rolls a classic on the menu of the Dynasty Restaurant at the New World Hotel. Tender pork loin, ham, and leafy green spinach are rolled and pan-fried. Who says a great dish has to be a complicated one?
MAKES 12 ROLLS, SERVES 4 TO 6
3 tablespoons chicken stock (see page 38)
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pound spinach, cleaned, stems
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 pound boneless pork loin
12 thin slices ham
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1. To make sauce, combine stock, vinegar, rice wine, soy sauces, sesame oil, garlic, and sugar in a saucepan; set aside.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Squeeze to remove excess liquid. Roughly chop spinach into 2-inch pieces. Add sesame oil, salt, and white pepper; toss lightly to mix.
3. Cut pork loin into 12 thin slices. To assemble each roll, place a slice of ham over a pork slice and trim to same size. Place about 2 tablespoons spinach along one end of ham slice. Roll up and secure with a wooden toothpick.
4. Place a wide frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add roils and pan-fry on all sides until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer roils to a serving platter.
5. Heat sauce to boiling. Pour over rolls and serve.
What's Old Is New Again
The chance to sample elegant four-star cuisine keeps pulling me back to Hang Kong like a magnet. But sometimes I get a hankering for those homey, Chinese classics I find at snack stalls, from street vendors, and in the little mom-and-pop restaurants that are the city's heritage. When I can't decide which culinary road to take, I head to the kitchen of my good friend Chef Tan Sek-lun. In his restaurant, Dynasty, at the New World Hotel. Chef Tan serves the best of both worlds by putting an upscale spin on the things my mother makes. Regional specialties like southern Chinese clay pot dishes, the freshest seafood, and straight-from-the-farm vegetables are his stock in tradebut they've always got his refined, updated stamp.
What do you keep in your purse? I like to keep shrimp in mine. These elegant shrimp satchels take a while to create, but for my money, they're well worth the time and effort. SERVES 4
1 dried black mushroom
12 medium raw shrimp
1/4 cup fish paste
1 1/2 teaspoons minced water chestnuts
12 siu mai or potsticker wrappers
Banana or cabbage leaves, for lining steamer
3 tablespoons red vinegar or vinegar of choice
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fine chile sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1. Soak mushroom in warm water to cover until softened, about 20 minutes; drain. Discard stem and dice cap. Shell and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact.
2. Place fish paste, water chestnuts, and mushroom in a bowl; mix well.
3. Make each purse: Place 1 teaspoon fish paste mixture in center of a siu mai wrapper; keep remaining wrappers covered to prevent drying. Place a shrimp, tail side up, on top of fish mixture. Gather up and pleat wrapper around filling to form an open-topped pouch with shrimp tail exposed. Pinch firmly to seal. Place purses on a lightly floured plate. Cover purses with a damp cloth while filling remaining wrappers.
4. Prepare a wok for steaming (see page 6). Line a steamer basket with banana or cabbage leaves and arrange purses on top. Cover and steam for 5 to 6 minutes.
5. To make dipping sauce, combine vinegar, soy sauce, chile sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl: mix well.
6. Place purses on a serving plate. Serve warm with dipping sauce on the side.
A Temple to the God of Shopping
Any bargain hunter would do well with a visit to the Temple Street Night Market, a collection of hundreds of open-air stalls that turns into a shopper's paradise when the sun goes down. Temple Street is not about department stores or fancy boutiques. Most of the "shops" are about the size of a magazine kiosk. Merchants display their entire stock on folding counters and TV trays. Given the small selling quarters, it's amazing how much variety you'll find: anything from gaudy plastic chopsticks and Rolexes of questionable origin to items made with genuine craftsmanship. If you can't find it at Temple Street's Night Market, it probably doesn't exist. And of course, where there are shoppers, there's food! All the classic Hong Kong snacksnoodle soups, wontons, jookare here for the taking.
Crispy Sesame Rice Dumplings
Do we have desserts at a dim sum brunch? Well, not exactly, but these crispy glutinous rice balls come close. Bite into one of these wonderfully chewy rounds filled with red bean and lotus root paste and you will want to whip up another batch to enjoy with your afternoon tea. MAKES 14 DUMPLINGS, SERVES 6
2 cups glutinous rice flour
1/2 cup boiling water
1/3 cup red bean paste
1/3 cup lotus seed paste
3 tablespoons finely chopped roasted
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1. To make wrappers, place glutinous rice flour in a bowl. Add boiling water, stirring with chopsticks or a fork, until dough is evenly moistened. Knead dough into large ball. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
2. To make filling, combine red bean paste, lotus seed paste, and peanuts in a bowl; mix well.
3. Shape each dumpling: On a board lightly dusted with rice flour, knead dough until smooth. Roll dough into a cylinder about 12 inches long; cut crosswise to make 14 pieces. Cover dough to prevent drying. With flour-dusted hands, make an indentation in center of a piece of dough; place about 1 tablespoon of filling in hole and pinch edges to seal and shape into balls. Cover while shaping remaining dumplings.
4. In a wok or 2-quart saucepan, heat oil for deep-frying to 350°. Dip dumplings in beaten egg, drain briefly, then coat with sesame seeds. Deep-fry dumplings, a few at a time, turning once, until they puff slightly and float, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. After dumplings rise to the surface, cook until golden brown, about 30 seconds more. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve warm or at room temperature.
A Sneak Technique for a
Let me give you a hint for making these crispy little bubbles of sweetness that are favorite snacks all over Hong Kong: don't roll out the dough. If you roll it out and then try to wrap it around the filling, the hairline seams where you've sealed the dough will burst open into gaping, laughing cracks when you deep-fry the balls. Instead, cup the dough in the palm of your hand and use the thumb of the opposite hand to push a little well into the dough's center. At the same time, using the fingers of the hand that's holding the dough, gently draw up the "walls" of the well. They'll thin out some, but that's okay. Now place the filling into the well, gather the thin top edges of dough together, and press tightly to create a seal. This safely sealed glutinous rice ball won't let out its secrets until you take a bite.
Excerpted from Martin Yan's Asian Favorites by Martin Yan. Copyright © 2001 by Yan Can Cook. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved.
Meet the Author
MARTIN YAN began his illustrious career as a chef'¬?s apprentice in Hong Kong and China and went on to receive certification as a Master Chinese Chef from the Ontario Restaurant Association. He holds a master'¬?s degree in food science from the University of California at Davis and an honorary doctorate from Johnson and Wales University. Seen in more than 240 markets throughout the United States and internationally in more than 70 countries, Yan Can Cook is one of the world'¬?s most watched cooking shows. The program has received two James Beard Awards for "Best Cooking Show" (1994) and "Best Television Food Journalism" (1996).
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews