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Celebrity chef points to the heart and to the stomach

(No.1, Vol.4, Jan-Feb 2014 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)


Chef Martin Yan.
Photo: Windsor Plaza Hotel


At lunchtime on the 17th of December, 2013 at the Ngan Dinh Cantonese Restaurant of the Windsor Plaza Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City's Chinatown, a small group of Vietnamese journalists and I were treated to a culinary presentation which both revealed secrets of the Chinese chef and involved considerable audience participation. The presenter was none other than celebrity chef Martin Yan, who is an honorary culinary ambassador for the hotel. Martin, who has a show called ‘A Taste of Vietnam’, makes a point of visiting Vietnam from his California base several times a year. Not only did his enthusiasm for his home country's dishes become apparent, but his eagerness to learn more about Vietnamese food and his fascination for this country’s culture in general beamed through in his conversation.
I had thought that cleavers were only for chopping up meat or for wielding when someone had riled the chef. Martin, however, showed us how to use it to cut up vegetables very thinly - ‘a la julienne’, as the western term has it. He cut them once then once again and then again and again. ‘Think we can't get any thinner?’ he asked. ‘Think again and watch!’ If we had had a micrometer on hand to measure the veggie thickness, Martin might have made the Guinness Book of Records.
The whole group sat down at one table to enjoy some Chinese dishes. As you can imagine, being a TV chef, Martin has the gift of the gab. He also knows his stuff, holding a Masters in Food Science from an American University. He had many questions for me about my life in Vietnam, as I was the only non-Vietnamese present and also the only man in the party. I, for my part, have to admit that I had never heard of him before that day. A slice of Aussie beef with mustard was one dish on the table. We both remarked that it was strange that mustard was not part of Vietnamese cuisine. ‘They do eat the leaves but not the seeds,’ I was able to inform him.
Martin Yan is a man with an intense passion for his work. He also has a passion for Vietnam. Watch out for him here in 2014. He is a great chef, a great showman and also an excellent dining companion. If you cannot actually meet him, I recommend you try the cuisine of his original homeland, of which he is a great promoter and teacher and there can be no better place in town to do so than at the Windsor Plaza Hotel.

Windsor Plaza Hotel
18 An Duong Vuong St, Dist.5,
Ho Chi Minh City. Tel: (08) 3833-6688

By Pip de Rouvray
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