Ever since executive chef Cory Chen took over at Yan Can Asian Bistro, an Asian fusion restaurant at 3927 Rivermark Plaza, local diners have munched on Chen’s delicious Asian cooking prepared with fresh ingredients. Wanting to treat his diners to more flavors of Chinese cuisine, Chen composed a set Chinese New Year menu available for a limited time from Jan.1 to Mar. 15. The special menu comprises of items corresponding to a variety of Chinese New Year superstitions.
“Chinese people have ideas similar to the Western phrase that you are what you eat,” Chen says. He explains the philosophies behind his clever menu selections.
Chen offers the crispy fish lettuce wraps because fish is a symbol for the abundance of good fortune and lettuce symbolizes new and fresh opportunities in the New Year. The hot and sour soup’s tightly wrapped wontons, like wallets without holes, signify financial security. The orange in the orange chicken alludes to gold, a symbol for wealth. The spicy Singapore firecracker shrimp is intended to chase away evil spirits, as firecrackers do according to Chinese superstition, and “ha,” the Chinese name for shrimp, mimics laughter. To maintain a yin and yang harmony in the meal, the light greens in the vegetarian cashew stir fry balance out the heartier dishes. The carrot brown rice appropriately welcomes the Year of the Rabbit. Sealing the meal with lasting sweetness will be a dessert of ice cream and fruit.
The multi-course Chinese New Year menu, intended for a minimum of two people, costs $22/person including tax and tips. Chen highly recommends that interested diners mention their intent to order the set Chinese New Year menu when they call to make reservations.
Born in California to Chinese immigrants, Chen grew up with an interest in food preparation. After studying communications and sociology at the University of California, Davis, Chen earned certificates in food service management, culinary arts and hotel management at the City College of San Francisco. While working as a caterer, Chen met celebrity chef Martin Yan at a fundraising event in San Francisco. Soon Chen became the new executive chef at the Yan Can Asian Bistro at both the Santa Clara and Pleasant Hill locations.
In early January, at the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants awards ceremony held in Burlingame, CA, Yan Can Asian Bistro won a Top 100 Brand Names award and Chen received recognition as a Rising Star Chef.
At Yan Can Asian Bistro, Chen is able to combine his creativity with his passion for food.
“As executive chef, I create seasonal specials after running the dishes by [Martin Yan] first. Our most recent special was a garlic noodle dish with spicy crab. We’ll be coming out with a mustard beef and caramelized onions dish soon,” Chen says.
An advocate for community outreach and education, Chen will allow students from the neighboring Don Callejon School to receive free tours of the restaurant during the school year. He is also planning some cooking classes at the restaurant in the spring.
Call Yan Can Asian Bistro at (408) 748-3355 to make a reservation.
Watch the news clip on www.cbsnews.com/sections/sunday/geist/main502423.shtml to view the spicy crab over garlic noodles that Chen prepared at the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants awards event.
Fish Lettuce Wrap
|Cod or Catfish (small dice ¼”)||½ Cup|
|All Purpose Flour||1 Cup|
|Shitake Mushrooms (finely chopped)||1 Tbsp|
|Water Chesnuts (Chopped)||1 Tbsp|
|Carrots (Chopped)||1 Tbsp|
|Green Onion (chopped thinly)||1 Tsp|
|Cilantro (finely chopped)||1 Tsp|
|Ground Peanuts||2 Tbsp|
|White Pepper||1 pinch|
|Xiaoxing Wine||1 Tbsp|
|Oyster Sauce||2 Tbsp|
|Iceberg Lettuce||½ Head|
|(Hoisin Sauce Mixture)|
|Hoisin Sauce||1 Tbsp|
|Sweet Thai Chili Sauce – Mae Ploy||3 Tbsp|
- Take the Fish and dice into small cubes. Heat a pan with about 1 Cup of oil in it
- Take fish and bread it with flour, place breaded fish into the pan with oil.
- Fry until golden brown, then strain the oil and place fish on the side.
- Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in the pan, once hot toss in diced water chestnuts, finely diced carrots and finely diced shitake mushrooms. Heat and toss occasionally.
- After the carrots become tender – 2-3 minutes toss in the chopped cilantro, green onions and catfish. Coat all ingredients with 2 Tbsp of oyster sauce and 1 Tbsp. Xiao Xing Wine; mix well cook for 20 seconds and then take off heat.
- Slice a head of lettuce in half and use the outer 7-8 pieces as the wrap.
- Place Fish Mixture in a bowl with Lettuce Cups on the side. To serve, take fish mixture inside one piece of lettuce, top with some ground peanuts and top with the Hoisin Sauce Mixture (made by combining Hoisin and Sweet Chili Sauce).
Copyright 2010 Chef Cory Chen