Chef Danny Bowien issues a warning early in “The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook,” which weaves the story of his red-hot restaurants in San Francisco and New York with some of his most famous dishes.
“To those of you who have never eaten at the restaurants and are expecting a book of authentic Chinese recipes, let me just dispel that idea right now,” he writes. “To Chinese-food purists, the cooking at Mission Chinese Food is profane. We’re not experts or historians. We’re fans.”
“Profane.” You can almost hear a certain pride in the word. “Authentic”? Listen for a clang, like a cleaver dropped on the floor. For “authentic” — once much esteemed — is simply out these days for many in the newest generation of chefs cooking Asian food. We live in an age when steamed Chinese buns are stuffed with Mexican carne asada, Japanese sushi rolls pair with Thai curries, and Korean kimchee is spooned over french fries drizzled with melted cheese.
The latest batch of Asian cookbooks reflect this cross-cultural current. How else to explain a title like “Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes From the Philippines to Brooklyn”?
Here is a sampling:
▪ “Asian-American” (Grand Central Life & Style, $32) tells the story of Dale Talde, a Chicago-born, Filipino-American restaurateur based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
▪ “Chinatown Kitchen: From Noodles to Nuoc Cham” (Mitchell Beazley, $29.99), London food blogger Lizzie Mabbott recounts her search for the foods she remembered growing up in Hong Kong.
▪ Andrew Wong, the London restaurateur, writes in “A. Wong: The Cookbook” (Mitchell Beazley, $29.99) that his cooking is not “fusion” but “a refinement of classical Chinese cuisine” for today’s tastes.
▪ “Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes” (Clarkson Potter, $35). At one point, author Peter Meehan writes of a “cavalier and labradoodle-enthusiastic approach to what we mean when we talk about Asia.”
Grilled Sweet Potatoes With Soy Sauce, Maple And Bacon
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
This recipe from “Asian-American” by Dale Talde with JJ Goode, calls for twelve 8-inch bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes before cooking. Talde prefers a charcoal grill for this dish.
2 large sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds total), peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut into 1-inch-thick slices
About 1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 bacon slices
1 / 2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 / 2 cup maple syrup
1 / 4 cup sherry vinegar
1 stick ( 1 / 4 pound) cold unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
1 / 4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1. Put the potatoes in a medium pot, add enough water to cover by about 1 / 2 inch, and add enough salt so the water tastes slightly salty. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, and simmer gently until the potatoes are nearly cooked but still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain and let them cool. You can do this a few days in advance.
2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the bacon to a foil-lined baking sheet in one layer, and bake until brown and crispy, about 15 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving the fat for another purpose.
3. Combine the soy sauce, maple syrup and sherry vinegar in a small pan, bring to a boil over high heat, and cook until the mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Combine in a blender with the butter (or over low heat, whisk in a piece of butter at a time), blend until smooth, and reserve.
4. Heat a well-oiled grill to cook over medium-high heat. Skewer the potatoes, leaving a little space between slices and leaving a couple of inches at the bottom of each skewer empty. Brush or drizzle some of the soy sauce mixture all over the potatoes. Grill the potatoes, flipping and brushing or drizzling on sauce occasionally, until the potatoes are lightly charred, shiny and cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes.
5. Transfer the skewers to plates, crumble on the bacon, sprinkle on the scallions and drizzle on a little extra sauce. Eat.
Nutrition information per serving: 402 calories, 15 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 37 mg cholesterol, 62 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 762 mg sodium, 7 g fiber
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Bacon and cream cheese are used to “turbocharge” this Korean drinking snack recipe from “Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes” by Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach magazine.
4 ounces bacon, chopped (about 3 / 4 cup)
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound frozen corn kernels (about 3 cups) or the kernels cut from 3 to 4 ears fresh corn
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon white miso
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the bacon in a large, cold skillet, and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the bacon is crispy and its fat rendered, about 10 minutes.
2. Pour off most of the fat, leaving the bacon in the pan, and toss in the butter. When the butter melts and sizzles, add the corn and toss to coat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes to heat the corn through. Add the cream cheese and miso and use the back of a spoon to smush until they melt and coat the corn. Stir in the mayo and toss until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
3. Spoon the corn into a baking dish (or a fajita pan) big enough to fit the corn mixture in a 1 / 2- to 1-inch layer. Sprinkle with the mozzarella, and bake until browned and bubbling, 5 to 7 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving (for 8 servings): 218 calories, 16 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 41 mg cholesterol, 12 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 331 mg sodium, 8 g fiber
Cola Chicken Wings
Prep: 30 minutes; cook: 30-40 minutes; makes 6 servings. Lizzie Mabbott’s recipe from “Chinatown Kitchen: From Noodles to Nuoc Cham.” Do not use a diet or flavored cola, she writes.
1 3/4 pound chicken wings
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 slices fresh ginger root, peeled
1 star anise
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 can of cola
Drizzle of sesame oil
Split the wings at the joint (one wing makes 2 pieces, the “flat” and the “drum”). Place in a bowl and rub with the dark soy sauce. Let marinate for a few minutes, and while doing so, crush the garlic and separate the white and green parts of the scallions, chopping the whites coarsely and slicing the greens diagonally.
Heat the vegetable oil in the wok over medium heat, and brown the chicken pieces well, about 3 minutes per batch. Remove and set aside. Stir-fry the garlic, ginger and whites of scallions with the star anise. Return the chicken wing pieces to the wok, stir to coat, and add the light soy sauce. Open the can of cola and pour into the wok. Bring to a boil, then let it simmer, tossing occasionally, 20 minutes. The liquid may not quite cover the chicken pieces, in which case, turn the pieces over and simmer another 20 minutes. By that point, the sauce should have reduced to become thick and glossy. If not, simmer it a little longer.
To serve, arrange on a platter and garnish with the scallion greens. Drizzle with the sesame oil, and serve with steamed white rice and a vegetable side dish or two.
Nutrition information per serving: 205 calories, 13 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 72 mg cholesterol, 8 g carbohydrates, 13 g protein, 729 mg sodium, 0 g fiber