I didn’t know there was “101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die” until I met Jet Tila. Quite frankly, I can’t even name 30 Asian dishes by their proper name, let alone know how to make them. I didn’t even realize by the nature of the title of Jet’s latest cookbook that he would challenge me to cook every recipe in his book.
For those of you who don’t know, Jet appears as a judge on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen as well as The Today Show, The Talk, and Chopped to name a few. Jet is also a chef, restaurant owner and creator of a frozen meal line. Now he adds cookbook author to his culinary arsenal after he was challenged to do so by Alton Brown.
For a fascinating read about how this LA kid got his culinary start, check out former LA Times food writer Barbara Hansen’s story about Jet on her blog Table Conversation.
Jet’s cookbook “101 Asian Dishes You need To Cook Before You Die” is easy to follow and uses ingredients that can be easily found. He is a natural-born teacher which makes learning the philosophy of Asian cooking easy. For example, I know “yum” means delicious, but I didn’t know it is actually a Thai word that translates to the perfect balance between spicy, sour, salty, sweet and savory.
Asian cooking considers all of the five flavors when making any dish. This answered my question as to why, for instance, Asian savory dishes often include sugar as it covers the sweet in the five flavors. I thought it was maybe a superstition thing like throwing salt over your left shoulder or done because Grandma always did it that way. LOL
Jet also explains, “Using authentic ingredients from the right country is half the authenticity battle! Always ask which country the dish is from because each one has its core ingredients.”
So here are the core ingredients to keep in mind.
Chinese – Oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce, and ginger.
Japanese – Dashi, light soy sauce (green label), dark soy sauce (red label), mirin, sake, and miso.
Korean – Soy sauce, gochujang, garlic and sesame oil.
Vietnamese – Fish sauce (nuoc mam), lemongrass, basil and hoisin sauce.
We were privileged to have Jet demonstrate two of his favorite dishes. The first one was Pineapple Fried Rice.
Jet advises when cooking with a wok, Mise en place (a French term for having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated, etc. before you start cooking) is key because everything cooks so quickly.
Using the pineapple as a bowl is what chefs call “high perception of value” because it looks bigger than it is, and more fancy too!
The final product was beautiful and delicious.
His second demonstration was today’s recipe for Szechuan-Style Green Beans. The technique for the beans is called twice cooking. The Chinese flash-fry items to precook them then finish in a wok.
Think about it like blanching broccoli or peas just to take the raw flavor out of things and jumpstart the cooking process. Jet likes wok cooking and deep-frying in any high-temp low-flavor oil such as vegetable, corn, canola, grape seed or soybean oil.
Note: If you don’t want to deep-fry your beans you can blanch them instead.
I can buy all of the ingredients in any grocery store with the exception of Tianjin Preserved Vegetable — a type of pickled Chinese cabbage which consists of chopped cabbage and salt. It can be purchased inexpensively online and appears to last until you die. In a pinch, I would substitute sauerkraut, drained and dried well on a paper towel. Tianjin vegetable is more pungent and earthy than sauerkraut but could work. Forgive me Jet for saying this.
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- ½ tablespoon (22 g) brown sugar
- l teaspoon chili garlic sauce
- l lb. (450 g) green beans, trimmed
- 4 cups (960 ml) canola or peanut oil
- 1¾ cups (200 g) cornstarch for dredging
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) Tianjin preserved vegetable or any Chinese preserved vegetables (optional)
- 2 tablespoons (20 g) chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons (18 g) chopped ginger
- Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Wash the green beans and drain them thoroughly.
- Add the oil to a deep skillet and bring the oil temperature up to 375°F (190°C). Dredge the beans in the cornstarch in a large bowl, knocking off any excess.
- Deep-fry the beans for 1 to 3 minutes, until their skins begin to wrinkle but they're still crisp. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- Heat a separate deep skillet or wok to high and add 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the oil leftover from deep frying. When you see a few wisps of white smoke, stir in the preserved vegetables, garlic and ginger and brown for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the beans to the pan, folding constantly for about 30 seconds. Stir in the sauce and fold into the beans until well combined. Cook for about 1 minute until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
To see more of Jet’s recipes and latest restaurants check out chefjet.com. He also conducts “Melting Pot Food Tours” of Thai Town in Los Angeles which offers a curated tour of his favorite aspects of the neighborhood. For a limited time you can get a personalized cookbook on his website.
Jet was challenged to write this cookbook, I was challenged by the title, and I challenge you to buy this cookbook and give it a try.
…and then, she paused for thought.
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of “101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die” to experiment with. All opinions are my own. This post may contain Amazon affiliate links for your convenience, at no additional cost to you.