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Martin Yan to help welcome the Year of the Dragon

| Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012

The Year of the Dragon is starting out with a roar for cookbook author, restaurateur and certified master chef Martin Yan.

The popular host of the PBS cooking show/travelogue "Yan Can Cook" is looking forward to his latest venture, the opening of M.Y. China in San Francisco. The 200-seat authentic Chinese restaurant will feature dim sum cuisine, hand-pulled noodles and wok dishes prepared in a full-exhibition kitchen.

M.Y. China recently was named to the consumer dining guide Zagat Survey's list of "17 Hottest Openings of 2012."

"I am excited about the opening of my new restaurant, scheduled for sometime in May," Yan says. "At M.Y. China, diners can discover the art of noodle-making and dim sum."

Yan was eager to celebrate Chinese New Year at home with his family on the West Coast earlier this week, as well. He had plans to visit San Francisco's Chinatown and attend the popular Chinese New Year parade there, and then head for Pittsburgh for a scheduled Market District appearance on Sunday in Bethel Park and Pine.

"I look forward to my return visit to Pittsburgh in a few days," he says. "We can welcome in the Year of the Dragon together."

The Chinese holiday that began Monday is a celebration that lasts for 15 days and focuses on a variety of foods with special significance -- including noodles, because their length symbolizes a long life filled with good luck. The most important part of the traditional observance of Chinese New Year, Yan says, is that it brings families together.

Yan recently returned from one of his many culinary trips, where he visited Vietnam, Korea and China, meeting with chefs and giving presentations.

"My good friend, Chef Khai, owner of the popular Vietnamese restaurant Ana Mandara, in San Francisco, just opened a new restaurant in Saigon," he says. "From him, I have learned about serving traditional Vietnamese food in a more contemporary way."

In Korea, Yan accompanied a group of some 40 food enthusiasts from Singapore and Malaysia on a culinary tour, hosting dinners and conducting cooking demonstrations. They went ice fishing, then enjoyed their catch at a traditional Korean barbecue.

He picked up tips about cooking with local ingredients, including kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish, and he visited a squab farm and learned how to use the meat in a variety of dishes.

Yan will host two major culinary tours to China later this year and says he enjoys teaching others about good food and watching their reactions when they learn or see something new at a cooking class or a local street market.

"It's a great sense of satisfaction knowing that you have helped someone discover something new that is enriching his or her life," he says.

In Asia, family traditions -- including those during Chinese New Year -- still are celebrated, with banners, lanterns, festivals, celebrations and family dinners, although the younger generation tends to prefer eating out with friends rather than cooking at home.

At home, Yan likes to prepare simple stir-fries or steamed dishes.

"A couple of my favorites are steaming a whole fish with ginger and green onions, lightly flavored with soy sauce and sesame oil, or a quick chicken stir-fry with seasonal vegetables such as bok choy or long green beans, seasoned with a touch of oyster-flavored sauce," he says. "I typically like to have a Chinese soup made with fresh soup stock that I always have on hand to accompany my meal."

For healthy, money-saving meals, Yan urges home cooks to resist the urge to constantly dine out, opting for dishes made from ingredients available in the pantry or refrigerator.

"Try to have more seasonal vegetables on hand and less meat; add more fish to your diet," he says. "Keep in mind the type of cooking techniques -- use less oil, do more stir-frying or steaming, rather than frying. Use simple seasonings rather than heavy sauces. It's all about your basic approach and keeping it simple."

Fish Roll with Chili Sauce

This recipe is from "Martin Yan's Culinary Journey Through China" (KQED Books, $7.13).

For the fish rolls:

  • 4 dried black mushrooms
  • Water
  • 1 pound firm white-fish fillets, such as sea bass or red snapper,
  • each about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 1 rib celery, julienned
  • 2 green onions, julienned
  • For the Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chili sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

To prepare the fish rolls: Soak the mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, for about 15 minutes; drain. Trim and discard the stems. Thinly slice the caps.

Cut the fish crosswise to make 2-inch by 3-inch pieces. Parallel cut each piece so that each piece is about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the fish. To make each roll, place 1 or 2 pieces of mushroom, carrot, celery and green onion on the short side of the fish, then roll the fish into a cylinder.

Place the fish rolls, seam side down, without crowding, in a heatproof glass pie dish. Prepare a wok for steaming. Cover and steam the fish rolls over high heat until the fish turns opaque, for 5 to 6 minutes.

To prepare the sauce: Combine the sauce ingredients and 3 tablespoons of the steaming juices in a saucepan. Heat the sauce over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens.

Arrange the fish rolls on a serving plate and pour the sauce over the top.

Makes 4 servings.

Fortune Noodle Meatball Soup

Soup is the ultimate comfort food, and this is the ultimate soup.

Yan writes: "I love this soup on a cold, wintry day; it has everything I like: meatballs, noodles, and a hot and sour broth. Wood ears are black fungi grown on trees. Other members in this family are cloud ears and snow ears. With so many ears, trees must be great listeners!"

For the soup:

  • 2 ounces dried wood ear mushrooms Water
  • 3 ounces fresh Chinese wheat noodles or dried spaghetti
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons diced, pickled mustard greens
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch freshly ground white pepper

For the garnish:

  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs cilantro, leaves and stems minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground meat
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • Butter for greasing plate

To begin soup preparation: In a bowl, soak the mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, for about 15 minutes. Drain. Thinly slice the mushrooms and set aside.

Bring a medium-size pot filled with water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook according to the package directions. Drain, rinse with warm water, and drain again. Place the noodles in a bowl and cover to keep warm.

To prepare the meatballs: Put the meat, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process to a smooth paste. Scoop the meatball mixture into a bowl. With wet hands, roll the meat mixture into walnut-size balls, using a heaping tablespoon for each ball. Arrange the meatballs, without crowding, on a lightly greased plate.

To complete soup preparation: In a medium-size pot, combine the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the meatballs and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, for about 8 minutes. Stir in the wood ear mushrooms and pickled greens and simmer for 2 minutes more. Add the cooked noodles and cook, stirring, until the noodles are heated through. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve: Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each bowl with some of the green onions, cilantro and chili oil and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Tangerine Peel Chicken

This recipe was adapted from "Martin Yan's China" (Chronicle Books, $24.95).

  • 2 pieces dried tangerine peel
  • Water
  • 2 tangerines
  • 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced

For the Marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

For the Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • For the chicken:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 dried red chiles
  • 1 (1-inch) piece gingerroot, peeled and julienned
  • 2 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

In a small bowl, soak the dried tangerine peels in warm water to cover until softened, about 20 minutes; drain. Cut into narrow strips and set aside.

Slice off the ends of the tangerines with a knife, hold the fruit with one cut side on the board, and slice downward from top to bottom to remove the peel in strips, working your way around the fruit. Cut deeply enough to remove the white pith. Now cut toward the center of the fruit on one side of the membrane. Slice the fruit segment while leaving the membranes intact. Cut away the white pith from half of the tangerine peels and cut the peels into long, narrow strips. Place the fruit and peels in 2 separate bowls and set aside.

To prepare the marinade: Combine the cornstarch, soy sauce and wine in a medium-size bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and stir to coat evenly. Let stand for 10 minutes.

To prepare the sauce: Combine the orange juice, soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, salt, and white pepper in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.

To prepare the chicken: Place a stir-fry pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the oil, swirling to coat the sides. Add the onion, chiles and gingerroot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, for about 30 seconds. Add the chicken and stir-fry until it no longer is pink. Add the green onions and the dried and fresh tangerine peels; stir-fry until the green onions soften, for about 1 minute. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Add the tangerine segments and stir to coat them with the sauce. Add the cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens, for about 30 seconds.

Transfer to a serving plate.

Makes 4 servings .

Additional Information:

Master Chef Martin Yan

What: Appearance and cooking demo

When and where:

• 10 a.m. Sunday at Bethel Park Market District

• 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Pine Market District

Cost: Free, reservations recommended


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