World Chefs: Hom seeks the yin-and-yang in Chinese food

Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:03am EDT
 
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By Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - To learn Chinese cooking, it helps to understand the concept of yin and yang. Meals, typically shared with others, should aim for a balance among a variety of ingredients: some are considered cooling foods (yin), others are heating foods (yang).

Such a yin-and-yang approach to cooking helps define Chinese cuisine and explains why it is relatively healthy, according to a new book by chef and television presenter Ken Hom. His book, "Complete Chinese Cookbook," surveys food from Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine to the more grain-based Northern School.

The U.S.-born Hom, who has published 33 books, now divides his time between Paris and Bangkok. He spoke with Reuters about the appeal and health benefits of a Chinese diet.

Q: Is it too reductive to talk about Chinese food as a single category?

A: "Yes. China is a vast country. It has as many regional cuisines as France or Italy. They're very different. We need to expand our minds about what China's really about. The Chinese are rediscovering their own heritage.

"Chinese food has changed because of Hong Kong. At the Handover in 1997, people were fearful that China would change Hong Kong. It's been the reverse. It's the quality of cooking, the attention to detail, all the Hong Kong chefs that have gone to China. You see the Peninsula (Hotel) opening in Beijing and Shanghai. Their influence is a standard China was not used to."

Q: Has Chinese food gained prominence since you first started writing about it?

A: "People are more aware of it. I go to Brazil a lot. Ten years ago it was kind of a curiosity. Chinese food was off the radar. Now everybody's interested in it in Brazil."   Continued...

 
Chef and cookbook author Ken Hom prepares a dish in this undated handout photo. To learn Chinese cooking, it helps to understand the concept of yin and yang. Meals, typically shared with others, should aim for a balance among a variety of ingredients: some are considered cooling foods (yin), others are heating foods (yang). Such a yin-and-yang approach to cooking helps define Chinese cuisine and explains why it is relatively healthy, according to a new book by chef and television presenter Hom. His book, "Complete Chinese Cookbook," surveys food from Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine to the more grain-based Northern School. REUTERS/Woodlands Books 2011/Noel Murphy/Handout