Monday evening, right before bedtime, Mimi casually calls to tell me that Martin Yan was going to be teaching an extra class at the Cooking School Tuesday night and did I want to go? Was that a rhetorical question?! Of course I wanted to go.
I've been watching Yan Can Cook since I can't remember when, and the chance to meet the puckish culinary celebrity in person seemed almost too good to be true. I had to wait until the next morning to see if there was still an opening in the class. He had been stranded in San Antonio after Hurricane Ike took out the Houston classroom.
Yippee! There was still a seat available, so all I had to do was finish up work early and drive over to take part in his class! ACS Phase 2 was set to go live the next morning so I figured I could cut out after my meetings and actually get a benefit of working all those long hours!!!
We grabbed up seats and made sure we had a good view of Yan's every move. Yan made a dish called Crystal Wrap Chicken, which was impeccable. The colors and textures were amazing. It’s one of those dishes that make you reconsider ever eating at PF Chang’s cheap imitation of Chinese food ever again! Throughout the demonstration, Yan wowed us all with the deft dexterity of his signature cleaver, which he used to make some very impressive garnishes. He halved and quartered an English cucumber and made 70 small slices, enough to trim a dinner plate. He made roses out of tomatoes, fleur de lis out of veggies, and all with a single cleaver (which he cleverly was also selling, and I most definitely purchased) – too bad the knife doesn’t come with instant handling skills.. I guess I will just have to work on my chopping, slicing and dicing skills now with my new Martin Yan Custom Cleaver!
The highlight of the night, was watching Martin Yan completely debone a chicken in 14 seconds. It was awe inspiring.
He served a spicy garlic shrimp, with a sauce that was just to die for. A Mongolian style firecracker beef with the most amazing red chilies. (The chilies make me sneeze, but I devoured them all anyways). The crystal wrap chicken with Miso was fabulous, and the Yan fried rice was hands down the best fried rice I have ever had. The ingredients of duck, shrimp, ginger, mint and a few other secrets, are now my all time favorite. I plan to recreate this dish in my kitchen soon… Stay tuned for dinner party invites!
When the class ended, Mimi presented Yan with a moon cake. He was delighted and we all shared a bite. Mooncakes are a Chinese pastry traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. This one has a thick filling made from lotus seed paste, surrounded by a relatively thin crust and a yolks from a salted duck egg to symbolize the full moon. The imprint on the top had the Chinese characters for "longevity" and an imprint of a woman on the moon. Mooncakes are expensive and considered a delicacy, and production is labor-intensive and few people make them at home. Despite the difficulties in making mooncakes, they are very delicious and should be fully enjoyed. It was a real treat!
We headed out to the main hall, where Martin Yan would be signing copies of his cookbooks. He was more than happy to autograph my copy of Martin Yan: China, on which he wrote: "To the gorgeous and very sexy beautiful woman who can cook!". I was flattered and thrilled. He also wrote in Chinese a proverb about living to enjoy life. He was genuinely a nice guy, a little flirtatious, but overall very warm and friendly! He had made so many wonderful dishes, I thought for sure I was done eating, but we decided to head over to StoneWorks in the Quarry for the 14Karat Cake and coffee. What a fun night!
I couldn’t help thinking of the movie Rice Rhapsody. In the film, Martin Yan plays Kim Chui, the owner of a Singapore restaurant, eclipsed by its more successful competitor down the street, a place owned by Jen, who makes the best Hainanese Chicken Rice in town, and who happens to be the object of Yan's affections. She has two openly gay sons, and fears that if her third boy veers in that direction, her hopes of ever having a grandchild will be dashed. A conspiracy ensues to propel her number three son into the arms of a pretty French exchange student, while competition between Jen and Kim Chui comes to a boil in a city-wide cooking contest for the best traditional Singaporean dish. If the character in the movie had made the fried rice I had last night, there would have been no competition!
All I can say is, with so much positive energy and generous goodwill it’s no wonder Martin Yan is such a global success. Must be the mint leaves and jalapeño in the fried rice...