Food & dining
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    Ming Tsai’s perfect appetizers

    From the chef’s new book come these Asia-inspired recipes to feed a crowd.

    Chicken satay with basil puree and smashed shrimp dumplings are pretty and party-ready.
    Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty
    Chicken satay with basil puree and smashed shrimp dumplings are pretty and party-ready.


    Makes 18 skewers

    2 tablespoons minced garlic, plus 2 cloves for the puree

    3 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for brushing the grill

    2 tablespoons soy sauce

    Freshly ground black pepper

    3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds), tenders removed

    18 6- to 8-inch wooden skewers

    Kosher salt

    Leaves from 1 bunch basil

    ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

    Banana leaf or shredded cabbage or iceberg lettuce

    In a medium bowl, combine the minced garlic, 3 tablespoons canola oil, and the soy sauce. Season the marinade with black pepper and stir.

    Butterfly each chicken breast by placing it with the thin end nearest to you. With a palm resting on the breast, run a knife parallel to your work surface through the thickest side of the breast and open like a book. Cut each breast into 6 equal vertical strips. Add the strips to the marinade, turn to coat, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, soak the skewers in a bowl of water for 1 hour.

    Remove the chicken from the marinade and thread a skewer straight through each strip. Preheat an outdoor grill or broiler or use a large grill pan. If broiling, cover a baking sheet with foil and set the rack in the middle.


    Fill a large bowl with water and add ice cubes. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the basil and blanch until the leaves are bright green, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain the basil in a large sieve and transfer the sieve with the leaves to the bowl of ice water. When the basil is cold, drain and squeeze the leaves to remove all the water. Transfer to a blender. Add the 2 garlic cloves to the blender and blend, drizzling in the olive oil to make a puree. Add 2 tablespoons water, or more, so the mixture can be drizzled. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

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    Brush the grill, grill pan, or baking sheet with canola oil. Season the chicken with salt and black pepper and grill or broil, or cook in the grill pan, turning once, until the chicken is cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

    Place the banana leaf or spread the cabbage or lettuce on a serving platter. Top with the satays, drizzle with the puree, and serve.



    Makes 20

    1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

    2 large eggs

    1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and diced

    1 teaspoon truffle oil (optional)

    Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

    20 thin square won ton wrappers

    1 bunch scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced, 2 tablespoons of the greens reserved for garnish

    2 tablespoons sesame seeds

    4 tablespoons canola oil

    In a food processor, combine the shrimp and eggs and process until almost smooth. Add the butter and truffle oil, if using, season with salt and white pepper, and pulse until the butter is incorporated but still visible in small pieces. Test a small amount for seasoning by microwaving it at high power for 10 to 15 seconds, or by sauteing it in a little oil in a small pan. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Use or place the mousse in a container, cover, and store refrigerated for up to 2 days.


    To form the shumai, have a bowl of water handy. Hold 1 won ton wrapper in the palm of your non-dominant hand. Cup the hand and place 1 heaping tablespoon of the mousse in the center of the wrapper. Bring the wrapper up around the filling, pressing it to adhere to the filling and pleating as you go. Continue around the filling. There will be 6 to 8 pleats and the filling will be exposed. Tap the dumpling against the work surface to flatten the bottom. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

    Put the scallions on a platter. Add the sesame seeds and combine. With a wet palm, press down on the shumai, flattening them to a thickness of about ½ inch. Press the “open” top side of the shumai into the scallion mixture.         

    Line a large plate with paper towels. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is hot, carefully add half the shumai, coated side down, to the pan and cook until golden, turning once, 1½ to 2 minutes per side. The tip of a paring knife, when inserted in the shumai, should emerge hot. Transfer the shumai to the paper towels to drain. Cook the remaining shumai with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with the reserved scallion greens, and serve.


    Makes 16 portions

     Curry-Ginger Oil

    1/4 cup Madras curry powder

    2 cups grape-seed or canola oil

    1/4 cup minced ginger

    Parsnip Puree

    1 tablespoon canola oil

    1 large onion, roughly chopped

    Cloves from 1 head garlic, smashed with the flat of a knife

    6 large parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped

    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    4 cups low-sodium chicken stock

    2 tablespoons unsalted butter

    2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives

    Four hours in advance, or the day before, make the curry-ginger oil: In a large heavy saucepan, heat the curry powder over medium-high heat, stirring, until toasted, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the oil and heat. When the oil is hot, add the ginger and cook until it sizzles, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, allow the oil to cool slightly, then transfer to a glass jar. Allow the mixture to stand until the oil and curry powder have separated completely, about 4 hours. (Store in the refrigerator if not using immediately.)

    Make the parsnip puree: Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring, until caramelized, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the parsnips and saute, stirring, for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the stock, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the parsnips are tender and the liquid has reduced by a third, 20 to 25 minutes. Working in batches if necessary, transfer to a blender and puree on the lowest speed. Add the butter and puree on high. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.


    Transfer the puree to warmed espresso or other serving cups. Drizzle with the curry-ginger oil, garnish with the chives, and serve.

    Excerpted from Simply Ming in Your Kitchen, by Ming Tsai and Arthur Boehm (Kyle Books, 2012). Send comments to