Martin Yan and Local Chefs Demonstrate Asian Cooking

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Martin Yan and Local Chefs Demonstrate Asian Cooking

For the first time ever, the 8th Annual Asian Heritage Street Celebration is offering the public a chance to learn how to cook delicious Asian dishes at the festival’s cooking demonstration booth located at Ellis and Larkin Streets. Appearing will be celebrity chef Martin Yan, The Slanted Door’s owner and executive chef Charles Phan, co-owner of Nombe Restaurant Mari Takahashi, cookbook author Andrea Nguyen, chef Steve Cortez, and BBC America’s Chef Kayne Raymond.

The fair will take place Saturday, May 19th at San Francisco’s Civic Center. The festival is produced by the AsianWeek Foundation and will also feature a scrumptious collection of pan Asian delights and sweets, along with the Bay Area’s favorite food trucks.

Martin Yan is “no different from any other chef”

Martin Yan

Having hosted more than 3,600 episodes, Martin Yan has become one of the most famous Asian Americans in the world, but he’s more than just a TV personality.

“I don’t think of myself as a TV chef,” he says. ‘I’m no different from any other chef. You just have to be passionate and have a love of cooking.”

Yan formally began cooking at the age of 13, when he left his native Guangzhou for a cooking apprenticeship in Hong Kong. He eventually moved to California and graduated from UC Davis with a master’s degree in food science. Today, most people know him as the enthusiastic chef with lightning-quick hands who starred on Yan Can Cook, but Yan’s life as a TV chef started by accident.

“I was helping out a friend on a cooking show in Alberta,” said Yan. “The radio station called me and said that the scheduled chef was sick. So I showed up, and they liked me.”

At the festival, Yan will not only be demonstrating his culinary skills. He will also be showing his intense pride of his heritage, a sense he wants to instill in every visitor.

“I hope that young people today are proud of their Asian heritage,” he said. “It’s important to understand your heritage. To know where you are going, you have to know where you came from.”

Andrea Nguyen, non-chef and great cook

Andrea Nguyen

As for Andrea Nguyen, she refuses to be called a chef.

“I’m a professional home cook,” she claims. Nguyen has had no formal culinary training, owing all her cooking experience to what she learned in cookbooks.

For years, Nguyen worked away from the kitchen, in positions as diverse as her cooking ingredients. She has been a university administrator, a bank examiner and a community consultant, among others. It all changed when she decided to give in to her culinary aspirations and worked at a restaurant in Los Angeles for one year.

“After that, I wanted to set my emphasis on other aspects of food.” she said.

After her year in the restaurant business, Nguyen decided to go back to her roots.

“I’ve always been fascinated by cookbooks,” said Nguyen, whose interest started at the age of 10. Today, she is the successful author of several cookbooks.

Her latest book is Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook It At Home, which was released in February. Her debut cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award and two International Association of Culinary Professionals awards. She writes a popular culinary blog at

Steve Cortez, not just a chef

Steve Cortez

Unlike Nguyen, Steve Cortez welcomes the title “chef.” But he uses the titles “engineer” and “teacher” as well.

“As much as I enjoy this, there isn’t a lot of money in it,” said Cortez. “I’m doing this for the love, fun and experience.”

According to Cortez, in an industry where the average chef gets paid about $14 per hour, moonlighting is a necessity.

This hasn’t deterred the San Francisco native from spreading his knowledge of Asian cuisine across the Bay Area. Cortez has taught cooking classes and hosted numerous corporate culinary lessons.

“I like to do something elaborate but not too complex,” said Cortez. “My job as an instructor is to make it easy to replicate.”

Having traveled to 80 countries, Cortez has a wide knowledge of global cuisines. By communing with locals in Africa and eating on the streets of Asia, Cortez has discovered a craft that transcends all borders.

“Food is always a great passion anyone can enjoy,” said Cortez. “Not all of us drive sports cars, but all of us eat.”

Charles Phan

Charles Phan

Charles Phan, considered to be the inventor of modern Vietnamese cuisine in the United States, is Executive Chef and Owner of The Slanted Door Group of restaurants located in San Francisco, California, which includes: The Slanted Door, Heaven’s Dog, Wo Hing General Store and three locations of Out The Door as well as the California Academy of Sciences’ Academy Café and The Moss Room.

Born in Da Lat, Vietnam, in 1962, the Phan family relocated just before the fall of Saigon, they spent two years in Guam before settling in San Francisco in 1977.

Phan opened his first restaurant, The Slanted Door, on Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District in 1995. The restaurant moved to its current location in the historic Ferry Building in 2004. A former architecture student at UC Berkeley, Charles’ vision for The Slanted Door as well as all the restaurants in The Slanted Door Group, has been to create a stylish atmosphere and ingredient-driven menu that figures prominently into the Bay Area’s sensibility for locally sourced products.

Winner of the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: California in 2004, The Slanted Door was also nominated in the Outstanding Restaurant category in 2008. In 2010 & 2011, Charles was nominated for an Outstanding Chef award by the Foundation. In 2011 he was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.

Mari Takahashi

Mari Takahashi

Mari, who grew up in Yokohama, Japan, worked for several multi-billion-dollar American bio-tech and high-tech companies traveling all over the world before changing her career.   She moved on to open her catering company, Mari’s Catering, Inc., which is specialized in Japanese and California cuisine in 2004 to satisfy the needs of on-site Sushi chef catering. With Gil, Mari opened Sozai Restaurant and Sake Lounge, voted Best Japanese Food San Francisco by Citysearch in 2008.

Chef Kayne Raymond 

Kayne Raymond

Chef Kayne Raymond brings his passion for cooking to BBC America’s all-new original adventure cooking competition “No Kitchen Required.” With appearances on Food Network’s “Chopped,” Raymond has served as the Private Executive Chef to a slew of exclusive clients, including the CEO of Oracle.

After extensive training in his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand, Raymond took his talents across the globe, cooking in kitchens throughout Australia, England and the US. Raymond worked with some of the culinary world’s best and brightest including: celebrated New Zealand chef Peter Gordon, Henry Harris & Simon Fawcett of Fifth Floor Harvey Nichols of London, OXO Tower at the River Thames and Hugo’s Bondi Beach.

Raymond currently resides in San Francisco, California with his wife and daughter.


Cooking Demo Schedule

10:50 a.m. – Kayne Raymond

11:30 a.m. – Andrea Nguyen

12:30 p.m. – Mari Takahashi

1:30 p.m. – Charles Phan

2:30 p.m. – Martin Yan

3:30 p.m. – Steve Cortez


Recipes from the Chefs

Martin Yan’s Phoenix & Dragon Longevity Noodles

This is a perfect dish to use freshly made noodles. The combination of rice noodles (fun) and hand pulled noodles (la-mein) makes it interesting.  Makes 4 servings.

1/4 pound boneless, pork or chicken, cut into 2-inch juliennes
1/4 pound medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, halved
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup soup stock
3 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce
1 tablespoon chili sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh red jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced diagonally
2 cups rice noodles
1 1/2 cups cooked egg noodles
2 eggs, lightly beaten, made into a thin omelet, shredded
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup sesame seed, toasted

1. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, shrimp, cornstarch, salt and pepper stir to coat.
2. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl; mix well.
3. Heat a stir-fry pan over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic, shallot, and jalapeño; cook, stirring, until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add chicken and shrimp; stir-frying until shrimp turn pink (about 2 minutes). Add celery and stir-fry for 1 minute.
4. Add noodles and sauce; cook, stirring gently until chicken is no longer pink and noodles are heated through, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds, then serve.

Copyright Yan Can Cook, Inc. 2012

Andrea Nguyen’s Cellophane Noodle and Tofu Roll
Cellophane Noodle and Tofu Rolls (Bi Cuon Chay)
Makes 12 rolls, to serve 4 to 6 as a snack

12 ounces firm or extra-firm tofu
1 small bundle (1.3 ounces) cellophane noodles
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon light (regular) soy sauce
2 tablespoons raw long-grain rice
Canola oil for sautéing and shallow-frying
8 ounces jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons packed light palm sugar or light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 small Thai or Serrano chile, thinly sliced
1 small clove garlic, minced, optional
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Generous 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
11/2 cups lightly packed thinly sliced iceberg lettuce
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
12 rice paper rounds, about 8 inches in diameter

1. Halve the tofu crosswise, then cut each half crosswise into rectangular slices, each about 1/3 inch thick. Put into a bowl. Put the cellophane noodles in a different bowl. In a teakettle, bring a generous 4 cups of water to a boil. Turn off the heat. When the boiling has subsided, measure out 2 cups of water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, stirring to dissolve. Pour the salted water over the tofu. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes.

Return the water to a boil, turn off the heat, then measure out 2 more cups. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce. Stir to dissolve, then pour over the noodles. Let sit for 6 to 8 minutes, until the noodles are clear, pliable, and al dente*. Drain well and set aside.

2. In a small skillet over medium heat, roast the rice for 7-8 minutes over medium heat, shaking the skillet frequently, until the grains are caramel in color. Set aside to cool for a few minutes. Working in 2 or 3 batches, transfer to a clean spice grinder (or coffee grinder dedicated to spices) and process to a powder. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

3. When the tofu is done soaking, pour off the water. Transfer it to a non-terry dishtowel or double layer of paper towels placed atop a plate. Drain for 10-15 minutes.

4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of oil over high heat. Add the jicama, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally at the beginning and more often toward the end. Spread the jicama out after each stirring to allow it to cook evenly and dry out. When done, the jicama will be soft and translucent, with a little browning. It will be roughly one-third of its original volume. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

5. Lower the heat in the skillet to medium-high and add oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. Blot the tofu dry one last time. Working in 2 batches, shallow-fry the tofu for about 5 minutes, turning midway, until golden and crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain and cool.

6. To make the sauce, in a small bowl, stir together a generous 1/4 teaspoon salt with the palm sugar and lime juice. Use the back of the spoon to mash the ingredients to dissolve the sugar. Add the remaining 3/4 teaspoon soy sauce and 1/3 cup water. Taste and adjust the flavors for a tangy-savory finish. Add the chile and garlic, then set aside.

7. Before assembling the rolls, make the “pork” filling. Cut the fried tofu into thin strips, then place in a bowl. Chop the drained noodles into 1- to 2-inch lengths and add to the tofu strips. Add the jicama to the bowl, too. Sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon of salt along with the granulated sugar, white pepper, and toasted ground rice. Toss to combine well. Then season with 11/2 tablespoons of the sauce; try to leave out the chiles or your guests will get a whopping surprise. Combine the lettuce with the mint in bowl. Set near the filling.

8. For each roll, dip a rice paper round in warm water and then place it on your work surface. When the rice paper is pliable and tacky, position about 2 tablespoons of lettuce slightly below the midline of the round, arranging it into a 4-inch-wide rectangular bed. Top with 1/4 cup of the filling. Spread it out to cover the lettuce and neaten it up, making sure the tofu strips on top lay horizontally for a nicer presentation.

Lift the bottom edge up and over the filling, tucking the edge under it. Give the rice paper a full roll to secure things, then fold in the sides and continue rolling to close. The rice paper is self-sealing. Repeat to make a total of 12 rolls.

9. Serve the rolls whole or halve each one crosswise. Present the rolls with the sauce. Invite guests to drizzle a little sauce into the rolls to prevent the filling from falling out.

Lighten your load by preparing the tofu, jicama, and roasted rice powder up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate the tofu and jicama and return them to room temperature before using. The noodles and sauce can be made up to 4 hours before serving. You can assemble the rolls at least 2 hours ahead and cover with plastic wrap; rolls made with rice paper brands such as Three Ladies can sit for as long as 4 hours. Do not refrigerate prepared rolls because they will stiffen and dry out.

*Italian for to the tooth. Means to cook noodles until firm, but not hard.

Steve Cortez’s Malaysian Plain Roti Canai (pronounced RO-tee CAN-eye)

Roti canai is a deep-fried, Indian-influenced flatbread found in Malaysia and Indonesia.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup water
1 cup cooking oil


1. Mix the salt into the water.
2. Put the flour in a mixing bowl. Add the salted water gradually.
3. Mix the flour into a dough. Knead until smooth. Make sure the texture of the dough is not too sticky and gooey.
4. Oil your hands with cooking oil and then make the dough into palm sized balls.
5. In a bowl pour some oil so that the dough doesn’t stick to the bowl. Put in the balls, coating it with oil as you put one on top of another. After the balls are all in a bowl, immerse them completely in oil. Leave overnight.
6. Oil your kneading space. Take out one dough ball, flatten it out into with you palm until the size of a dinner plate.
7. Flip it like a pizza.
8. Flip the dough a couple of times and spread it out until paper-thin.
9. Take one edge and fold it to the middle. Do this three more times so that it will turn into a square.
10. Grease a flat pan or skillet with cooking oil and cook until golden brown. Repeat for the rest of the dough balls.


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