FARMINGTON – For LuLu Yen, cooking is not only a family tradition, but a way to express her cultural roots since she uses her cooking talents and traditions in a Chinese cooking show on Mt. Blue television, a community access channel.

Her show mirrors the way that she learned how to cook when she was a girl in Taipei, Taiwan. “The Chinese learn how to cook by watching others cook, instead of reading recipes.”

Yen said she spent her childhood “with my grammy in the kitchen. She let me help her, taught me how to tell different spices and told me the secret of Chinese cooking.” With a large family, 10 members altogether, there was always something cooking in the kitchen; so Yen had many opportunities to watch her grandmother work.

However, it wasn’t until much later that Yen really got a hang of it. “My first attempt to cook was five years ago. When I worked in an American food restaurant in Taiwan, I was a waitress but I always snuck into the kitchen. I learned to make bread, grill steaks, pastas and pizza, and mix drinks. After that, I have a pretty good concept to make food and always make them at home.” In spite of her American food experiences, the lessons that Yen learned as a child were still ingrained in her memory. “It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend that I really started to cook and look for my grammy’s flavors.”

Today, her husband buys her many cookbooks, which are a great reference, both in her own kitchen and as she prepares to write a cookbook about American food. Yet recipes aren’t a must-have in her kitchen.

“My thing of cooking is never just following the recipes. They give you a good idea about how to make it. But I also add some things I have left over from a previous night into the new dish.” This is creative, Yen says, but she also admits that a cook needs to be careful when doing it. “Not following the recipes can result in overcooking the dish. I guess I should follow the recipes, sometimes.”

Yen enjoys using her wok in the kitchen. “It’s good for stir-fry, pan cooking or even for deep-fry food.” Using the wok also allows for quick cooking and the addition of a variety of spices. Her favorite flavorings include: “soy sauce, the fresh garlic, fresh ginger root and sesame seed oil. My husband also really enjoys curry too.”

She believes that cooking is a gift of the heart. “The best part of cooking, for me, is to share love with someone by cooking for them or with them. Never be afraid to try anything, because once you get the appreciation from others, everything is worth it!”

In addition to her cooking show, Yen writes for the weekly Franklin Journal and does a food column for a Taiwanese publication. In her spare time, she enjoys all kinds of craft handiwork.

Kung pow chicken
Ingredients:
2 chicken legs (250 grams)

2 tablespoons scallions (or spring onions)

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 fresh red chili pepper

1 teaspoon red peppercorns

1 egg

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons starch water (1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with cold water)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Seasoning:
1 tablespoon soy sauce

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon cooking wine

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon starch water
2 tablespoons chicken broth
Method:
Remove bones from chicken legs, dice chicken into 2-by-2-centimeter squares. Add egg, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons starch water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and mix well. Mix all seasonings in a separate bowl with 2 tablespoons chicken broth; this will be the cooking sauce. Seed and thinly slice red chili pepper. Preheat the pan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to medium hot, stir-fry the diced chicken until almost done, and then remove chicken, draining oil from it. Stir-fry fresh red chili pepper and red peppercorn, add diced chicken, scallions and chopped garlic, pour in cooking sauce, stir-fry until chicken is done, then serve.
LuLu’s note:
This is a Chinese Szechwan dish. It’s hot and tender.
Sweet and sour spareribs
Ingredients:
300 grams pork spareribs

1 6-ounce can pineapple chunks

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chopped ginger

2 eggs

¼ cup flour

¼ cup cornstarch

3 cups vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cooking wine

1 teaspoon white pepper powder

3 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon starch water (1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with cold water)
Method:

Mix spareribs well with ½ teaspoon of salt, cooking wine and white pepper. Mix 2 eggs, ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup cornstarch to be a paste, and coat the sparerib. Preheat the pan with 3 cups of oil to medium high, put spareribs in pan, fry into golden color, then remove spareribs from oil, draining oil from spareribs. Preheat another pan with 3 tablespoons oil, stir-fry pineapple chunks, chopped garlic and chopped ginger for a few seconds. Add ½ teaspoon salt, ketchup, sugar, vinegar with 3 teaspoons water; add sparerib to pan and stir-fry. Thicken the sauce by adding starch water, and serve.

LuLu’s note:
This is a northern Chinese dish, sour and rich-flavored.
Fry sliced beef with curry
Ingredients:
400 grams beef fillet

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chopped ginger

Half a small onion

½ teaspoon bruised red chili

5 tablespoons oil

½ cup beef broth
Seasonings:
1 egg

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cooking wine

2 tablespoons curry powder

½ tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon starch water (1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with cold water)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Method:

Clean and slice beef fillet, mix well with the egg, soy sauce and cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon oil. Slice the onion.

Preheat a pan with 4 tablespoons oil. Stir-fry the beef for a few seconds and remove it from pan. Briefly stir-fry the garlic, ginger, onion and red chili. Add beef broth and the cooking wine, curry powder, sugar, salt and starch water. Stir-fry beef again, sprinkle sesame oil on it, then serve.

LuLu’s note:

This is a favorite Beijing dish – tender and spicy with flavor.


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