I had a culinary adventure in China last week. No passport was required - I had only to drive to Sangari Restaurant at First and Yamhill in downtown Portland.
I attended 'The Asian Culinary Experience,' a culinary seminar led by noted celebrity Chinese Master Chef Martin Yan. Yan is to Chinese food what Julia Child was to French; he has demystified the art of Chinese cooking for the home cook. He has written 26 cookbooks and has a syndicated TV cooking show 'Yan Can Cook.'
The seminar was sponsored by Lee Kum Kee USA (LKK) and Chin's Import Export Co., Inc., as a educational event for area restaurants and others in the food industry wishing to increase their knowledge of Pan-Asian cuisine.
In business for over 100 years, LKK is the leader of authentic Chinese sauces. They are responsible for the creation of oyster sauce, as well as soy sauces, chili sauces, convenience sauces and exotic gourmet sauces. They manufacture over 200 different kinds of sauces and condiments for different people around the world. Think about the restaurants you frequent. You can probably list Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean restaurants among your favorites. With the ever-growing popularity of Asian cuisine in the American culture, LKK wants to get the word to consumers about their products.
Before the seminar I had the honor of meeting Martin Yan. 'Mr. Martin,' as he is called, talked about Chinese sauces and how you can make hundreds of dishes using the same basic ingredients in different combinations. He likens Chinese sauces to the paints an artist uses to create a masterpiece.
Authentic Asian cuisines require the use of good quality soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin, oyster, plum, and chili sauces. Mr. Martin explained that naturally fermented soy sauce was fermented using the same process as is used for fermenting wine. He explained that light soy is used as a marinade ingredient, while dark soy is best suited for braising, because of its rich, vibrant color.
'I am here to share a passion or love for food. I pay a lot of attention to the sauce. Basic seasonings alone can cause one to lose sight of creativity. Mixing and matching of basic sauces are like paints for the artist. Don't buy seasonings not of high quality, buy high quality. Lesser quality sauces will ruin it all.'
I asked him what constituted Chinese comfort food.
He said with a smile, 'I was brought up with a clay pot tofu dish over rice or vegetables. It's simple food, not rich; simple ingredients that turn into a masterpiece.
'Every cuisine has comfort food, humble food. Look at rice. Rice with anything is comfort food. Rice with sesame oil and soy, soy on an omelet with oyster sauce over rice. Comfort food is nourishing, nutritious and comforting.'
We talked about where chefs, both professionals and home cooks, get inspiration for cooking.
'Many restaurant chefs are working 10 and 12 hours a day and don't have time to get excited about new tastes or combinations. I want to inspire them to a new dimension,' Yan said.
'I am an ambassador - a cultural and culinary ambassador. It is my job - my mission - to introduce and excite consumers to be creative. Eating food brings family and friends together. Sharing good food brings everyone together.'
And then the show began, and oh, man - Yan can REALLY cook!
Mr. Martin is an energetic and entertaining instructor. He carries on a lively banter as he effortlessly chops, slices and stir fries. He reminded us that stir frying is not 'stare frying' - don't just watch the food lying in your pan, keep that food moving! He is ingenious, informative and fun.
Following the presentation, a banquet of traditional Chinese dishes, artfully prepared by Sangari's staff using the Lee Kum Kee sauces and seasonings, was served. Mr. Martin is right; by using the basic sauces in different combinations masterpieces were made.
At the end of this exciting feast, we were sent home laden with an assortment of sauces to try.
The next night, my family enjoyed Mandarin Orange Chicken, Mu Shu Pork and Kung Pao Chicken made from the sauces of Lee Kum Kee. They were restaurant quality and easy to prepare.
I consider myself an excellent cook but my best attempts at authentic Asian cuisine could not match these sauces. With these sauces, Yan Can Cook and so can I!
Lee Kum Kee products are available through Chin's Imports for those of you in food service; visit their Web site at www.chinsimports.com. For your home kitchen, you can buy them at Asian markets, like Uwajimaya, 10500 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in Beaverton.
Visit www.leekumkee.com to learn more about the sauces and for recipes using them. Visit Martin Yan's website at www.yancancook.com to learn more about Mr. Martin and his recipes.
This week's recipes are from Lee Kum Kee's website. I know you will enjoy them - they are quick, ambrosial and eye appealing!
Spring Salad with Grilled Chicken Served with Plum Sauce Dressing
6 ounces baby mixed greens
2 ounces red bell pepper, (half a pepper)
4 ounces mandarin orange segments
2 tablespoons Plum sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 ounces cooked shredded chicken
Wash and drain salad greens. Cut red bell pepper into 2 inch by ¼ inch strips. Drain mandarin oranges.
Whisk Plum sauce, light soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil.
Put greens, peppers, oranges in a bowl, drizzle with dressing and toss. Season with black pepper.
Grilled Beef Flanken Ribs
(Flanken ribs are short ribs)
1 pound beef flanken ribs
4 tablespoons premium soy sauce
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Black pepper to taste.
Combine premium soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, lemon juice, sesame oil in a bowl. Combine and pour over beef ribs. Marinate for one to two hours.
Grill or broil 5 minutes each side.
Adapted from www.leekumkee.com
Randall welcomes your questions and food research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at [email protected]