This was our tastiest talk yet! Chef Dan Wu, Culinary Evangelist and Head Chef at Atomic Ramen, came with a whole grocery isle of new-to-us produce that originates from Asia. Armed with a deep fryer and pre-cooked samples all of our senses were engaged.
Chef Dan started with the Holy Trinity of Chinese cooking. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of a culinary Holy Trinity, it is the three basic aromatic ingredients that forms the flavor foundations of a cuisine. You may be familiar with the French Holy Trinity, often called mirepoix, which is celery, carrots and onions. In Chinese cuisine, the Holy Trinity is garlic, ginger and scallions. So if you start with these three ingredients you are well on your way to creating a tasty Chinese dish.
In the talk we sampled six different produce: Sugar Snap Pea Shoots, Snake Beans, Thai Eggplant, Lotus Root, Longan Fruit and Dragon Fruit. If you are even a novice at cooking you'll already know the basics of preparing these vegetables and fruits. You can saute Sugar Snap Pea Shoots the same way you would spinach; blanching and cooking Snake Beans would be the same as the green beans from the farmers market, and there is no special way to peel a Longan Fruit! (Although to peel ginger, scrape off the papery skin with a spoon not a knife or peeler).
Chef Dan's general advice for any unknown food is, "Don't let the differences intimidate you, let the similarities draw you in." So take the Lotus root for example: it a root similar to potato with a slightly sweet starchiness, and like a potato it is peeled and, like a potato, is perfectly delightful deep fried. Simple!
Eating and cooking is a completely universal human activity that keeps us healthy in body and mind, and no food is going to be so differently out of the blue. So next time you're in an Asian grocery store, which should be soon as Dan has provided a list of places in Lexington, reach for the unfamiliar and give it a go.
Have a meal at Chef Dan's restaurant, Atomic Ramen, located in the Barn at the Summit: 119 Marion #195, 40517.
Chef Dan Wu's List of Asian Grocery Stores in Lexington
(In order of preference!)
Dong Yang Market
3101 Clays Mill Rd Ste 102,
1085 E New Circle Rd,
2220 Nicholasville Rd Ste 118
Tylor's Asian Market
1555 E New Circle Rd
Yu Yu Asian Supermarket
393 Waller Ave
4371 Old Harrodsburg Rd
Ayame Japanese & Gourmet Market
115 Codell Dr