The film revolves around the clash of cultures that occurs when an Indian family opens up a restaurant in France directly across the road from a Michelin-starred French one.
If you’ve seen this charming film, you know the scene I’m talking about. It’s where the young Indian Chef Hassan (played by Manish Dayal) dares to cook an omelet for the matriarch of the French restaurant, Madam Mallory (played by Helen Mirren).
He pours beaten eggs into a pan, then adds chile, tomatoes and cilantro, as well as Indian spices. When the omelet is done, he carries it over to the skeptical Madame to try. We see only the back of her as she sits broodingly at the table, fork in hand, armed with the lowest of expectations. When she takes a bite, we see her back and head stiffen ram-rod straight, as she’s jolted to attention by the deliriously delicious omelet she’s never had the likes of before.
When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco, it was not uncommon for my birthday dinner at home to consist of Chinese roast duck with plum sauce, followed by a St. Honore cake decked out with mini cream puffs.
Because Chinatown and North Beach bump up against one another, my Mom would often trek after work to pick up provisions for dinner from a nearby Chinese deli, then stroll over to an Italian bakery to buy my favorite cake.
Part Chinese, part Italian – it made perfect sense. And it was a most delicious way to celebrate. So much so that when the folks at Columbus Craft Meats invited me to create a recipe using one of their premium salami, I immediately thought of fried rice. Columbus was established in 1917 in North Beach, long before today’s craft salumi craze took hold. It’s what I grew up with, tucked into sandwiches or just nibbled by the slice out of hand.
The clever cookbook is a showcase of familiar Asian dishes (“Green Papaya Salad”), with some creative liberties taken at times (“Miso Clam Chowder), that’s highly seasoned with irreverent musings.
Take the “Rotisserie Chicken Ramen,” in which the editors anticipate your question of “Do I really need to cook this for TWO HOURS??” The answer is yes, if you want the flavor at its peak. There’s the recipe for “Dashimaki Tamago,” the traditional Japanese sushi egg omelet, in which the editors offer encouragement by writing, “I always thought making this kind of omelet was some next-level ninja thing until we started working on this book. Now I know it can be made in 10 minutes flat, and the worst thing that will happen is that it won’t be as pretty as the one in this picture.”
This Sichuan ragu is a simplified version of one from Chef David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York. I love this sweet-spicy, chunky ragu because it’s a change-up from the usual Italian pasta dish, yet it’s as easy and comforting as one. It’s also faster to make than an authentic bolognese.
It’s no secret that the Chinese love the color red, which is festive, and symbolizes prosperity.
We also love our pork.
And no cut quite so much as the pig’s luscious belly.
Combine all three and you get “Red-Cooked Pork,” an iconic family-style dish of pork belly that’s cooked in a soy sauce-laced braising liquid that’s not really more brown than red. The “red” in the name, though, comes interestingly enough from the fact that the Chinese language doesn’t really have a character to describe “brown.” So, apparently, they opted for the next best color — red.
So writes Kian Lam Kho in his new cookbook, “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy. The comprehensive book just won the prestigious “Julia Child First Book” award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. The book’s poetic name pays homage to the Chinese characters used as synonyms on Chinese menus for chicken feet and Chinese broccoli.
Indeed, if you are interested in learning more about Chinese cooking, this book is a must-have. Kho of New York City is a private chef, culinary instructor, and creator of the blog, RedCook. He’s written a book that deftly explains the fundamental cooking techniques of Chinese cuisine — from pan-frying to light frying, from flash-poaching to oil-poaching, and from simple steaming to flavored steaming.