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Ming Tsai

Chef Ming Tsai
Photo © Melissa Mahoney

F&W Star Chef

Restaurants: Blue Ginger (Wellesley, MA), Blue Dragon (Boston)

Experience: Mandarin Kitchen (Dayton, OH); training with Pierre Hermé (Paris), and Kobayashi (Osaka, Japan)

Education: Cordon Bleu (Paris)

What recipe are you most famous for?
The miso-sake marinated butterfish, also known as sablefish.

What technique are you obsessed with right now?
Pressure-cooking. I think it’s the best time-saving pot in your kitchen when you want to do lesser cuts of meat.

What’s your favorite store-bought ingredient?
Sambal is still my most favorite condiment of all because it’s really spicy but not crazy spicy—not habanero spicy. I mix it with soy, ginger, garlic and vinegar—it makes the best dipping sauce ever. To make one of the best sandwich spreads ever, mix good store-bought mayonnaise, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard and a tablespoon of sambal.

What ingredient will people be talking about in five years?
Black garlic, which is something I discovered two years ago. A whole head of garlic is fermented and dried until the cloves are two thirds of their [original] size, and it turns pitch black. Because of the fermentation, it’s one of the most umami-packed flavors out there.

What do you eat straight out of the fridge, standing up?
I’ve totally been caught with a pair of chopsticks and a Chinese container. Or when my kids get pizza because of a sleepover or whatever, I will actually take two pieces, fold it over, John Travolta-style, and just inhale it.

What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?
The most touched is Escoffier, probably, because it is the bible of all the mother sauces and all the classic techniques. I would have to say the modern Escoffier is Jacques Pépin’s new book, Essential Pépin. Jacques is truly is a living legend.

If you were going to take Thomas Keller out to eat, where would it be?
I think I would have to take Keller to Sukiyabashi Jiro, in Tokyo. When I went, it was just the purest meal ever. It was definitely the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life.

Do you have any restaurant rituals?
At Chinese New Year, every person who works with me gets a red envelope, which has a dollar. The point is, when you go into the new year, you always have to have money. This ensures that they will have riches into the new year. Some of my people have 15 of them. They just save them. We joke that when they hit 20, they’ll cash in and go buy a couple six-ers or something.

What is your hidden talent?
I still compete in squash. I was all-American; I played pro two years in France. I just practiced this morning. As soon as the kids are gone, maybe I’ll play in the nationals.

27 recipes by Chef Ming Tsai
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