Wednesday, January 29, 2003


Flavorful dish is
a must for the holiday

By Joan Brunskill
Associated Press

In China and Chinatowns around the world, the arrival of the New Year means parades, firecrackers and food. Lots of food.

Martin Yan, master chef, cookbook writer and host of PBS cooking shows, has just the recipe to recommend from his latest book, "Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking."

His choice is a version of jai, the classic vegetarian dish served at the beginning of the new year. "At the new year, there is always a vegetable dish, even if you are not Buddhist," he said. "The Chinese like to observe a gentler beginning for the new year."

Traditionally, he said, knives are not placed at the table at any time -- "but for the new year, knives are not used even in the kitchen."

If you want to serve a chicken dish that requires knife work, you must take care of the preparation a couple of days before, he said.

His new book is a collection of some 200 traditional recipes from 11 Chinatowns around the world. "For me," Yan writes in his personal preface, "all the Chinatowns I have visited are personal touchstones as well as sources of inspired cooking. ... These Chinatowns of the world have offered this wandering son of China new flavors, new friends, and new memories that I want to share with you."

Jai is prepared many ways, Yan said. "You can create your own. It's generally a combination of fresh vegetables, as well as dehydrated items, such as mushrooms. A few basic ingredients would be shiitake mushrooms, straw mushrooms, ginkgo nuts, tofu in several forms."

Martin Yan's colorful jai includes broccoli and cabbage.

Feel free to improvise with this contemporary jai recipe, Yan said. "Don't be limited by the ingredient list; substitute your favorite vegetables."

Market Basket Vegetable Stir-Fry

"Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking" (William Morrow, 2002, $34.95)

3 dried black mushrooms
4 dried wood ear mushrooms
1 piece dried snow fungus (optional)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 cup diced (1-inch squares) purple cabbage
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup snow peas, trimmed
1/2 cup bean sprouts

Put mushrooms and snow fungus in separate bowls and pour enough warm water over them to cover. Soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain. Discard black mushroom stems and cut caps in half. Thinly slice wood ears. Discard hard yellow portion of snow fungus, then cut the remainder into bite-sized pieces.

Combine oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl.

Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add vegetable oil and swirl to coat the sides. Add garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, stock, mushrooms and snow fungus, cover the wok and cook until cauliflower is tender-crisp, 2 to 2-1/2 minutes.

Add oyster sauce mixture, snow peas and sprouts; stir-fry until snow peas are tender, about 1 minute. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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