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A thanks to Martin Yan


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Another thread got me thinking of him for the first time in years.

I grew up eating very basic chinese due to a fortune of circumstance despite a southern background. Almost 22 years ago as a new husband I wanted to cook better food for my wife and pending baby. Martin was my go to because I could watch his show, buy his books and actually buy most of the produce that it required in a growing city. I learned all I could and my first real knife was a cleaver that I can use pretty darn well to the point that I have used them in pro kitchens with some amazement from others.

My daughter was very young when Chef Yan made a promo stop at a local kitchen store in a mall. We all went. I had no idea my daughter had been absorbing all she had done watching; when Yan came out my daughter of 3 or so began shouting Yan Can Cook Yan Can Cook to laughter and my embarassment as it went on a bit.

Yan, clever guy, said something about how well she talked for her age and proceeded immediately into making an apple into a bird shaped garnish and handed it to her. Problem solved for all and the show went on.

My daughter cooks asian very well now as a result of this incident which she remembers.

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What a lovely story. My late mother-in-law who would never cook anything as exotic as Chinese used to watch him regularly! He was one of the earliest chefs on TV that drew me in too.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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My Dad was a huge "Wok with Yan" fan. He grew up in Singapore and Hong Kong, but when he moved to Canada with my Mum, the town they lived in had very limited Chinese food offerings, let alone any other Asian options. But there was one Chinese grocery he used to take me to as a treat on Saturdays, and we'd always get (frozen) char siu baos and ingredients to make dinner. He had a lot of fun (although - I would say lovingly, little success) in recreated sweet-n-sour pork, broccoli beef, and other dishes. If he and mum were feeling really ambitious, we'd all have a go at making egg rolls.

Wow, I hadn't thought of egg rolls in years.

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I always enjoyed the shows. He made it all seem natural and doable. My memory is hazy on this so maybe someone else can recall - I remember an episode where either he or maybe it was Ken Hom (???) went to visit his mom in China and they worked together in a true postage stamp kitchen to make a lovely multi course meal. It always stuck with me when I was cooking in a small space with limited tools - how not about the Gaggenau and the SubZero it is.

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I'll join the thanks. Behind the goofball bluster, he was a remarkable technician. I remember the first time I saw him wield his cleaver -- not doing that rhythm section shtick he sometimes did, but whacking garlic, julienning carrots, expert stuff. What with all the sloppy knife work on TV now, even from otherwise excellent chefs, that admirable technique sticks in my brain.

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I remember watching his show as a child. My mom is Chinese but had a weird home dynamic where she wasn't "allowed" in the kitchen so she ended up learning how to cook largely from PBS. Martin Yan was one of her "teachers". I was always impressed by him.

Was his show one of the earliest "ethnic food" cooking shows on PBS?

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I never watched Yan when I was younger, but in the last couple of years I've occasionally watched Yan on the internet for his knife skills. I don't use a cleaver, but I like that pepper rolling technique. I use it all the time.

There's a video on the net where he's doing a demo selling his knife, maybe it was at some college if I remember correctly, and he shows how he makes the swan garnish from the apple.

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Martin Yan was right up there with La Juia and Graham Kerr as shows I watched with my mom that got me into cooking. "Chinese" was exotic for us....way exotic. But he made it seem non-threatening and achievable. Though he was entertaining, there was never a doubt he knew his stuff. I still watch his shows when they're on with awe and respect, and think part of the reason I love Asian cuisines so much is that he opened my eyes to the flavors that are possible in them. He's in my pantheon of food gurus with very few others.

--Roberta--

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I still have a signed copy of one of his cookbooks that I purchased at one of the very first Book and the Cook festivals probably almost 20 years ago. He was paired with the kitchen at the old original Joe's Peking Duck House in Chinatown and he was funny, charming, incredibly informative without being the least bit pedantic, and the food was delicious. His knife skills probably remain the best I've ever witnessed first hand, and don't forget that I've worked in a LOT of restaurants over the years. Dude can seriously rock a cleaver! And his garnishes are without parallel. I've had a soft spot for Yan ever since. :smile:

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Martin Yan is amazing. I think he doesn't get the credit he should sometimes because he IS so good that he makes it look SO easy. He makes all of his dishes approachable for everyday cooks. I saw him at the asparagus festival in Stockton a few years back and live he is just as amazing, never missing a beat. The only bad thing about Martin Yan is after watching him one feels woefully inadequate in terms of knife skills.

Charles a food and wine addict - "Just as magic can be black or white, so can addictions be good, bad or neither. As long as a habit enslaves it makes the grade, it need not be sinful as well." - Victor Mollo

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I still have a signed copy of one of his cookbooks that I purchased at one of the very first Book and the Cook festivals probably almost 20 years ago.

I have a Martin Yan book signed at Book and the Cook too. It's Martin Yan's Asia. My mom brought me when I was still a bit of a youngin'--it was a formative experience for me. His knife skills are as everyone is saying amazing and he's a born showman.

nunc est bibendum...

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I have two copies of his A Wok For All Seasons - one if covered in splash marks and the other is pristine and autographed. I loved his shows and bought the first book, a cleaver and a wok in the late 80's. When he came to Austin about a dozen years ago to do a demo at the World Market I had to go and see him. I bought the second copy there and he autographed it with a note saying I was a terrific, charming, talented lady and a sensational cook. I wonder how many times he's written that! :biggrin:

Edited by robirdstx (log)
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The books are pretty much dedicated to cooking. Each recipe typically has info on the origin of the dish or an anecdote from Yan. The recipes are solid too; I have never found any mistakes or confusion in using them.

The man taught me mise so that alone has helped over the years.

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Thanks for starting this thread, Doodad. I just went to the Shelf of Many Cookbooks and found 2 by Martin Yan, bought long ago and not looked at lately. One is a Martin Yan, The Chinese Chef (with a mighty young Martin on the cover). It has chapters on recipes from Canton, Szechuan & Hunan, Peking, Shanghai and something called Nouvelle Chinese - it's from the 80s! Lots of info about ingredients and tools and a great spread entitled, Yan Can Cut, with 8 photos of correct hand positions and techniques. Oh look, a recipe for Baked Pork Buns (with a separate recipe for the char sui), I can only buy baked bao from the Chinese bakeries (and occasionally, small ones during Sunday dim sum). Plus, step by step instructions to make an apple bird!

The other is Martin Yan's Favorite recipes with Meyer Cookware - in the intro he writes that this is the companion book to season 7 and calls the collection A Wok for All Seasons. Ha, photos of almost 2 dozen of his gorgeous garnishes. I feel the need to start cooking from this book! From the introduction to the Glass Noodles with Peanut Sauce recipe, "Peanuts are a "new" food in Chinese cooking -- we've only been using them for three or four hundred years, since they were introduce from the West." I think his personality comes through pretty well.

edited for spelling

Edited by hsm (log)
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My father has always enjoyed the Yan shows on PBS. Martin Yan was at a booth at the National Restaurant Association show a couple years ago giving a demonstration for a vendor. After his '15 minutes', he stayed to converse with those who had gathered around the booth to watch him cook. Both in his presentation and after, he was genuine, friendly and helpful. I asked for an autograph for my father and he happily reached into his briefcase, extracted a photo and personalized the inscription without hesitation. The photo still sits on my father's desk.

I certainly appreciate his being so nice and have told this story countless times. Not every chef I have met has equaled this standard.

Thank you Chef Yan!

"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

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I always like Martin Yan. I don't really cook Chinese, but his shows were always fun to watch. I like all his schtick. The cadence with the cleaver. The "It's no STARE fry it's STIR fry" line and dumbfounded look he would give. That always cracked me up every time. I know he is still around, but I haven't seen him regularly in years. I miss him. It's nice to hear all of these stories about him.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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