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Western spin on Asian cuisine

Ming Tsai has been lauded for his Western interpretation of Asian cuisine since opening his restaurant, Blue Ginger.

by: Richard Leong: Reuters | 26 Aug 2008

The classically trained chef showcased his knowledge and East-West spin on traditional Chinese dishes as a television correspondent during the Beijing Olympics.

His TV work will continue when the sixth season of his cooking show "Simply Ming".

In addition to his culinary endeavours, the 44-year-old former mechanical engineering student is a national spokesman for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

Ming recently spoke about his take on Asian cuisine and "confusion" cooking.

Q: How would you describe your cuisine?
MT: "It's a combination of the West and the East. Bold flavours are paramount for me.

I love contrasting temperatures and textures. For example, I like hot shrimp toasts on a cold Asian gazpacho."

Q: Do you consider your cooking fusion?
MT: "I hate to use the term fusion when it comes to food. Food is more of a blending. I'm not forcing lemongrass with olive oil. There are a couple of rules I go by. I never mix East with East. I won't do Thai-Japanese.

All Asian cuisines have such bold flavours. You end up muddling them. Because people could get access to everything now, they put it all together in a blender and call it fusion. That's confusion cuisine."

Q: In what way has the American view of Asian cuisine evolved?
MT: "People became better travelled. They started going to Asia: China, Japan and Thailand. They tasted the authentic dishes and they now demand great flavours. Plus, they have become better educated from public television and all the cable programming. And the internet is ridiculous. You can tailor what you like to eat by using the internet."

Q: What inspires your cooking now?
MT: "I get my inspiration from eating at down-town Asian restaurants. I love traditional Asian cooking and try to make it more Western. I do read a lot. I have a lot of cookbooks. And there's the internet."

Q: What do you cook for yourself?
MT: "During these summer months, I fire up the grill. I usually grab a couple of pieces of salmon or butter fish or a couple of lamb racks. I throw a bunch of raw vegetables and cut them up, toss them in garlic and olive oil and throw them on the grill. I put them on a bed of couscous at room temperature. During the winter, I love braises of oxtails, short-ribs and lamb shanks with some white rice and some vegetables."

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