Chef Ming Tsai adds new year touch on Valentine's Day

Tue Feb 9, 2010 12:35pm EST
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Ming Tsai upped the ante on his Valentine's Day menu for Sunday after he realized Chinese New Year fell on the same day.

The Chinese-American chef, known for his fusion of Asian and Western cuisines, blended ingredients that symbolize wealth and fertility for the Lunar New Year with those that represent love and passion on Valentine's Day.

Tsai, 45, who owns the Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Massachusetts, spoke to Reuters about mixing Chinese and Valentine's Day traditions and why there will be no chocolate for dessert.

Q: Was this Valentine's Day a culinary challenge for you?

A: "It's the only instance when I could remember that Chinese New Year fell on Valentine's Day. I really thought this was a unique opportunity to combine both. Valentine's Day is about love and couples, but if you really further the analogy on love, that falls right into family. Quite often the anecdotes of Chinese New Year are not only based on good fortune and wealth and prosperity but the ultimate prosperous Chinese man or woman has a family."

Q: What on your Valentine's menu came from your childhood?

A: "As a kid, my grandparents would always do tea eggs, soy eggs or they would mix the soy and tea to make the mosaic-cracked eggs. Taking that basic idea of flavoring as opposed to Western cuisine, (in) which you just boil an egg, so by flavoring with a little tea and soy, and by deconstructing it, separating the yolk from the white, I came up with a Western-style plating which is a parfait which is a layered construction. We layer the yolk and white and top it off with a little wasabi tobiko which are, of course, flying fish roe which are also eggs. So it's a very fertile dish literally and figuratively because you are using chicken eggs, fish eggs and eggs symbolize fertility."

Q: You will serve duck breast but not a whole duck. Why?   Continued...

<p>Ming Tsai in an undated photo. REUTERS/Anthony Tieuli/Handout</p>