Titus Chan hosts benefit dinner parties at Won Kee
Nadine Kam photos
Titus Chan leads a Chinatown Cultural Center tour prior to the start of his benefit dinner for Kapiolani Community College.
Titus Chan, among the TV chef pioneer of the 1960s and early ’70s, is sharing his expertise during "Dinner With Master Chef Titus Chan," a program blending cuisine and culture, at Won Kee restaurant.
The program involves a brief guided tour of the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, followed by a 10-course Chinese dinner hosted by the effervescent chef, who still has the personality and sense of humor that made him one of the original celebrity chefs, before Food TV and The Cooking Channel existed.
Chan rose to fame in 1972, when "Cooking the Chan-ese Way" debuted on KHET, followed by a national PBS release in 1973, introducing the art of Chinese cooking across the United States.
During the dinners, which can accommodate six people and up, each table will include a bottle of "Mui Kwai Lu" Chinese white wine, which, at 96 proof, acts more like vodka. Guests may also bring their own libations, with no corkage fee.
The cost is $194.40 per person, including tax and tip, and Chan is able to work accommodate large parties and groups. A portion of the fee will be donated to Kapiolani Community College’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific to help provide scholarships for culinary students.
Below, Chan hosted a preview dinner to show off his menu.
For information or reservations, call 983-1327.
Won Kee Seafood Restaurant is at Chinatown Cultural Plaza, 100 N. Beretania St. Call 524-6877.
I've walked or driven by the Sun Yat-Sen monument many times, but never stopped to read it. The words highlight the ideas he stood for, including "loyalty," "filial piety," "peace," "pacify the world" and "study the nature of things."
The dinner started with an appetizers of sashimi, and below, deep-fried shrimp toast.
Tofu and scallop soup was the next course.
Crisp, thin Peking duck skin and buns were served next. When one of the guests asked about the whereabouts of the duck meat, I knew he wasn't Chinese. We all live in such close proximity here, but food traditions are so ingrained into our respective cultures that unless diners make an effort to go exploring, the most basic aspects of a culinary tradition will remain a mystery. Some of my Japanese friends can't fathom the attraction of a salted duck egg.
Two spotted sea basses are hidden beneath a pile of ginger, green onion and cilantro. Titus said he searched for these fish for four days and had to fight off two other men early in the morning to get these one-and-a-half pounders with their perfect tender meat. Larger fish tend to be tougher, he said.
Though served at a time when people were getting full, shrimp-stuffed tofu proved so popular that most enjoyed seconds.
The toasted garlic-and-sweet coconut topped Hong Kong Harbor-style lobster was one of the meal's highlights. Garlic prepared this way can be bitter when browned, but it was perfect here.
Titus Chan with Won Kee chef Hai Qing Li, right, and Min Yan Lin, who co-owns Won Kee with her husband Wen Le Lin.
Kenneth Ching is 101 years old and says the secret to longevity is enjoying his favorite foods, including the Chinese pot roast pork, kau yuk. He doesn't eat many vegetables either, which suggests the importance of having good genes as well.
Sweet-sour shrimp and vegetables.
Here's the rest of the duck.
Choi sum with garlic.
Diners will be able to choose from desserts of red bean soup or almond float, shown. I prefer a chilled dessert to a hot one.
Titus brought in what he called Chinese wine, but at 96 proof, had alcohol content more on par with whiskey or vodka. It lures you in with its floral bouquet before slamming your throat.