Archive for the ‘Chinese’ Category

Blessings at Taste of Taiwan

August 23rd, 2016


A "Tray of Togetherness," assorted fresh fruit, captured the spirit of the "Taste of Taiwan" friendship dinner that brought Taiwanese and local Chinese together at the table.

Can you build friendships through food? That is question and the driving philosophy behind the United Chinese Society's Hawaii-sponsored "Taste of Taiwan" that took place Aug. 22 at Jade Dynasty restaurant.

From what I saw, yes you can. If not through food itself and the cooperation behind the scenes that goes into feeding hundreds, then through the camaraderie of sitting through a five-hour, 12-course meal. In between courses, there was also a lively bit of alcohol-fueled karaoke, for a good cause as friends challenged friends to step up to the mic in exchange for $100-plus donations to UCS.

The Taiwan chefs and crew took their bows following the dinner.

On the menu were homestyle comfort dishes from southern Taiwan, "not restaurant dishes," our hosts made clear. Many dishes looked familiar to anyone versed in local Chinese cuisine, but flavors were not. You don't often find cinnamon, and never find basil stirred into dishes at our Cantonese or Hong Kong style restaurants.

The one thing these cuisines do have in common is that the major ingredients have meanings tied to blessings and prosperity, and dishes presented were intended to bestow all guests with good wishes and abundance, and they sent us all home with a small planter of lucky bamboo.

Co-sponsoring the event were the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Honolulu, the Hawaii Taiwanese Center, China Airlines, Lucoral Museum and Jade Dynasty.

The dinner started with an appetizer of blessings, foods representing abundance, prosperity and all-round success. Plates comprised a shrimp fritter, a sliver of abalone, sea snail, mullet roe and spicy abalone.

Auspicious soup consists of crab meat, shrimp, ham and mushrooms. The Chinese word for crab and harmony are pronounced “xie.” Therefore, the dish reinforces the desire for peace. Shrimp represents liveliness, and mushrooms represent longevity and ability to sieze opportunities.

Lobster is known as the “dragon of the sea” and it represents strength, energy and good fortune. It was served chilled in these individual portions of salad.

The whole fish course was dubbed "Swimming in Prosperity" because the Chinese word for fish has the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for abundance or surplus, symbolizing the wish for an increase in prosperity.

Taiwan virgin, or juvenile, crabs were steamed, then cut in two to expose their insides and supposedly make them easier to eat. No having to lift the carapace. It was not as messy as our way, but I found it a little unappetizing because I thought of horror movies in which people are sliced in two.

Thin-sliced braised abalone signals an assurance of surplus, representative of wealth and good fortune.

Cuttlefish was stir-fried with sesame oil, basil and mushrooms, and served with broccoli.

A whole chicken went into this "Happy Family Chicken" soup with mushrooms representing longevity and seizing opportunities. The chicken represents prosperity, joy and togetherness of the family. Sweetened with antioxidant red dates and goji berries, it's also a home remedy for colds.

Serving the chicken and mushroom soup.

Aniseed and angelica were among the medicinal seeds and herbs that went into this dish of herbal shrimp, along with sorghum liquor and shaoxing rice wine. The flavor was light, but complex, not at all the basic salt/pepper shrimp offered at most Hawaii Chinese restaurants. I also detected a celery/celeriac component.

We were most curious about the dish called "Buddha Jumps Over the Wall," a seafood and poultry casserole said to be so good that smelling it would have Buddha beating a path to your door, and have vegetarian monks convert to eating meat. It is traditionally made with 30 ingredients, including controversial shark fin. This one featured dried scallops, crab meat, shrimp, ham and mushrooms. But the soup is the best part, spiced with star anise and cinnamon.

The finale was a "Happy Ending" traditional Taiwanese dessert of warm mung bean and rice porridge with sweet mochi dumplings.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Titus Chan still a booster for Chinese cuisine

May 23rd, 2016


Lobster with mochi rice steamed a lotus leaf bowl was among the highlights of a dinner presented at Jade Dynasty by hosts Titus Chan and Kimo Wong.

Once an educator, always an educator. People 40 and older may remember Titus Chan as one of the original television chefs, right up there with "The French Chef" Julia Child, and "The Galloping Gourmet" Graham Kerr.

But few know Chan was a math instructor before finding TV stardom 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 to 200 public television stations across the United States.

It was a combination of ease with instruction and being in front of the cameras, as well as his knowledge of Chinese cooking that got him the gig, and more than 40 years after starting to educate people in the "Chan-ese" way of cooking, he's still a proponent of learning more about Chinese cuisine.

One of the origiinal celebrity TV chefs, Titus Chan.

A frequenter of Chinese restaurants, he says he feels he hasn't done his job when he sees people going to the restaurants and ordering the same old, like beef broccoli and sweet-sour pork, when Chinese fare has evolved so much over the decades.

To prove his point, he teamed up with Kimo Wong to host a nine-course dinner at Jade Dynasty Restaurant, showcasing options beyond beef broccoli, in hope that of encouraging people to step outside their comfort zone and perhaps try one new dish at a time.

Now that it's graduation season, most of these festive dishes can be prepared with 24 hours notice.

In addition, the restaurant in the fourth-level Ho'okipa Terrace offers dim sum offerings during the day, mirroring the latest innovations in Hong Kong and China. Call 947-8818 for reservations or information.

The big reveal for the the lobster on mochi rice:

Jade Dynasty owners Alan and Sylvia Ho with Bank of Hawaii VP Kimo Wong and Titus Chan.

The first course of crisp, juicy pork in egg crepes, and garlic-marinated cucumbers (also plated below), arrived on this lighted vessel.

jade start

Steamed whole wintermelon soup arrived looking like a flower in bloom or burst of fireworks, with the rim of the melon lined with crab meat.

A baked Pacific oyster was topped with shrimp, scallop, spinach and a Portuguese-style curry sauce.

Peking duck and bun.

Crispy Peking duck skin and bun.

The duck meat was presented in lettuce cups.

Sweet, tea-smoked tiger prawns was one of my favorite dishes of the evening.

Braised pork ribs were presented for viewing before being taken back to the kitchen for shredding for individually portioned buns, below.

jade pork bun

Housemade silken tofu was ladled into bowls with ginger nectar for dessert.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Titus Chan hosts benefit dinner parties at Won Kee

April 9th, 2013

titusNadine 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.

tsunI'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."

tsashimiThe dinner started with an appetizers of sashimi, and below, deep-fried shrimp toast.


tsoupTofu and scallop soup was the next course.

tiduckCrisp, 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.

tfishTwo 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.

ttofuThough served at a time when people were getting full, shrimp-stuffed tofu proved so popular that most enjoyed seconds.

tlobsterThe 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.

To Grandma's Home we go

May 1st, 2012

grandmataroNadine Kam photos
While waiting for other dinner guests to arrive at Grandma's Home in Shanghai, we started dinner with refreshing taro shave ice. If you go, there's also a fantastic Taiwanese restaurant, Bellagio, that offers shave ice that's unbelievably light. If you travel there this summer, try the black sesame and peanut butter combo.

During my stay in Shanghai, I attended a sumptuous dinner at Grandma's Home restaurant, hosted by my new friend, Priscilla Wu of Xinmin Evening News.

The name of the restaurant is based on the longtime tradition of returning to the family home on Sundays after a long week of work, and it's a popular restaurant that serves up a mix of dishes from several regions of China.

Most of the dishes ordered at the dinner were Shanghainese or Szechuan.

The restaurant is at 818 NanJing Xi Road, Plaza 818, 7th floor.

grandmaSzechuan-style pork.

grandmanoodlesI loved the noodles served throughout the city.

grandmamapoThis is the Shanghai version of mapo tofu, with whole slabs rather than Hawaii-style crumbled tofu.

grandmagreensDuring the course of my stay, I encountered many unfamiliar greens, and my hosts did not know the English names for them. When I came home and found New Zealand spinach at the Kailua Farmer's Market, I thought it looked similar, but when I bought some home and tried to cook it, the warrigal greens were rubbery, whereas these greens were light and crisp. I loved the Shanghai greens and wish I knew what they were.

grandmabeanThese deep-fried bean curd rolls were unbelievably light and airy. I haven't found anything equivalent in our Chinese restaurants.

grandmafishThis whole fried fish was fantastic, as were the accompanying peppered noodles. (more…)

Recent Posts

Recent Comments