From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

State of Our Food

A couple of days ago, when I got home from work, Madison, my younger daughter, greeted me at the door with a picture that she had drawn. This picture, while done from memory, evoked a grave sense of concern in my mind. How such a young mind could so readily illustrate an item that represents our current state of food affairs brings to light the problems that face our youth, and the diets that we must manage for them.

Indeed, it makes clear the reasons behind recent revelations that the portion size of Jesus’ last meal has grown in more recent illustrations. It makes clear the constant reminder that there is a growing obesity problem (no pun intended) among our children. It also makes clear the continued need to embark on an all-out assault on our ignorance of food. I am not suggesting that I become the next Jamie Oliver and get on the nearest bandwagon that is destined to demonstrate to the kids the gross elements of food in their cafeterias, or in their lunchables, or even in the fast food meal that they consume on a daily basis.

(And our President, who just pushed through a costly health reform bill, smokes.) Does anyone else see the irony/hypocrisy there?

For sure, healthy eating starts at home, but creating 3 meals a day, for a family of 4, takes more time to plan than it will take to read this post. That, combined with the time spent on prepping, cooking and cleaning, can often equate to nearly 24 hours per week. With the economy in its current state, and the lack of time that has befallen us all as a result of both parents needing to work to earn incomes to support a family, most people choose the easiest path, a path that takes us through someone else’s drive-through pad.

Hence the ability of my 5 year old to recreate the image that has become such an iconic representation of food in America.

Hence the growing trend of families purchasing ready-to-eat meals in their nearest supermarket.

Hence the growing unfamiliarity with staple ingredients in regular food recipes, such as corn starch, and seasonings such as basil, oregano, rosemary and cooking techniques such as sautéing, braising, deglazing and roasting. Investing in this knowledge will pay off in forms that you would never imagine, as some of these techniques capture the flavor and nutrients of food without extra fat or salt.

Hence the creation of a show called “The Worst Cooks in America.” Against Kim’s advice, I applied for a shot to make the next casting call, just to see if my appeal for more time to cook would be heard. While I certainly would not like to be considered one of the worst, I do know that there are elements in even my cooking that would make Gordon Ramsay shudder.

I continue to be frustrated by scenes of ineptitude that constantly replay themselves on television. Whether it is a cook on “Hell’s Kitchen” lighting a towel on fire, then burning the scallops, or someone on the aforementioned “Worst Cooks in America” undercooking chicken, such scenes gnaw at me, just because of the simple, common sense steps that are not followed, and they are the beginnings of great things possible in the kitchen.

I often wonder if I would be able to create the same on-screen personality and presence that Martin Yan made popular. It concerns me to no end that, while there are dozens of shows dedicated to teaching new methods, new recipes, and new flavor profiles, none of them seem really focused on describing and exemplifying what might be healthiest. Chinese food can be fun to make, and great to eat. Perhaps with the right kind of exposure, it will be possible for my kids to make a tasty Chinese meal for the family. First, we have to instill the passion for cooking, and Madison loves to help, so I let her get up to her elbows in it if I can. (As long as there is no potential for injury, I step back and let her have at it in the kitchen with me.) Do I want to be the next Guy Fieri, with his over-the top television persona? No. Do I want to be the next Chinese version of Giada DiLaurentis, with her bubbly Italian smile? Not so much, again.

I want to be able to be me, having fun while in the kitchen, and, while doing so, expound on the benefits of healthy Asian cuisine.

Is that so much to ask?

Until then, Good Eating, Friends…


Beggar's Chicken (Qi Gai Ji)


4 cups self-rising flour

1-1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons canola oil

6 medium-sized boneless and skinless chicken breasts

1/2 pound ground pork

1 green onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/4 cup bamboo shoots, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce (specialty shop or local grocery store)

Extra flour for kneading**


Place flour in a large bowl. Combine the milk and 1 tablespoon canola oil. Pour into the flour, mixing well into a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until it is smooth.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, place in a clean bowl, and cover with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Wash the chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the chicken on a platter, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat a wok on medium-high for 30 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil and heat for a few more seconds.

Add the ground pork. Cook for 5 minutes or until the meat gets brown slightly. Use a spatula to remove the pork to a clean bowl (you can use a frying pan, if you do not have a wok).

Reheat the wok and the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Add the green onion, celery, and bamboo shoots. Stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Return the pork to the wok and add the salt and hoisin sauce. Cook for 2 minutes. This is the stuffing. Let this mixture cool completely in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Unwrap the dough and cut it into 3 pieces. Then cut each piece in half. Take 1 piece of dough and cover the rest with a clean cloth.

Lightly cover work surface with flour. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to make a circle about 6 inches in diameter.

Lay 1 chicken breast in the center of the dough and top with 1-1/2 tablespoons of stuffing. Gently fold the dough up over the chicken and stuffing and press together at the edges to seal. Place this in a well-greased baking pan.

Repeat the above step with the other pieces of dough, chicken, and stuffing.

Bake for 50 minutes, basting the chicken with the juices in the bottom of the pan at least twice during the baking time.

Serve hot.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

No comments:

Post a Comment