Talking summer and sake with TV’s Chef Ming Tsai [plus recipes!]
If there’s one thing that Boston-based chef Ming Tsai knows well, it’s fresh food. Tsai is the executive chef and owner of Blue Ginger, an award-winning Asian fusion restaurant which specializes in fresh catches of fish.
But you may also know Tsai from hit television show “Simply Ming,” for which he travels the globe, discovering new foods and meeting new chefs. (For the record, if you ever find yourself in Chicago, Tsai insists you try to dine at Grant Achatz’s Next.)
When the chef isn’t working on his show — he’s currently in the middle of taping the 11th season — or wielding his magic in Blue Ginger’s bustling kitchen, you’ll find him throwing an impromptu summer BBQ or two. We asked him to whip up a couple of killer yet low-maintenance recipes for us to try at our next party.
OK, so say we told you that you’re in charge of throwing a BBQ…in one hour. What are you going to make?
“I buy a great vegetable — zucchini, eggplant, or peppers — whatever’s grillable. And I like whole grain so I buy a whole-wheat couscous or quinoa, something that’s super easy. I always grab beautiful ears of corn because on the husk is easy, you just throw them on the grill. It has its own insulator it cooks perfectly, you don’t need to boil water and heat up your kitchen. And I’m a big fan of seafood, it’s just a lighter way to eat during the summer, so I let the eyes and nose dictate. Ask the guy, what’s your freshest fish? — and whatever looks best, smells the best is the fish I’m going to buy.”
“In a glass or high-edged plate, I add a cup of sake, one-to-two cups of whatever acid I have — the juice of three lemons, the juice of five limes, vinegar, grapefruit, any good acidic juice or vinegar — and then a tablespoon or two of soy sauce, to marinate. Whatever you grill, let it sit in the mixture for two-to-three minutes max. Acid, being acid, will start cooking [the fish] so the outside will get a little pink and it brings the soy and the sake flavor into the protein. You get a much more nuanced flavor of fish that you can’t even pinpoint — but its still so delicious. And by adding sugar or honey, it will help with caramelizing and gets you a better piece of seafood.”
A busy guy, Tsai also recently partnered up with TY KU Sake, a high-end sake brand for which he’s the newest spokesperson. It’s a good fit, because it Tsai is something of a sake-aficianado. “A misconception about of sake in this country is that most sake in Japan are drunk chilled,” he says. “Cold like champagne. Cold like white wine. I mean cold. When sake was first introduced in this country, it came with the warming machines. So, yes there is sake drunk warm in Japan, usually around mount Fuji in the winter time, but 95 percent of all sake is drunk chilled in Japan.”
Tsai was kind enough to pass us the recipe for his drink of choice this summer — Sake Sangria.
“In traditional sangria, sometimes they add brandy. So instead of brandy, which is a stronger flavor, we’re adding sake to rosé wine,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be Spanish, but keep it in the sangria realm. And, by the way, this is a $10 to $12 bottle of wine — don’t buy a $50 bottle of rosé to make sangria. If you’re making it at home for a picnic, it’s delicious, refreshing, light and low alcohol. It’s really a great summer drink.” [recipe after the jump]
1 1/2 oz TYKU Silver
1 1/2 oz Rose Wine
1 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
1/2 oz Peach Mathilde
1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
1/4 oz Cranberry Juice
Serve over Ice in a wine glass with fresh fruit
By the pitcher
1750 ml bottle Las Rocas Rose
1750 ml bottle TYKU Silver
1 750 ml bottle Lillet Blanc
5 oz Peach Mathilde
2.5 oz Cranberry Juice
16 oz Pineapple Juice
Serve in a wine glass over ice with fresh fruit
Interest piqued? Tsai also gave us the recipes for his favorite new oyster dish. Says Tsai, “Summer to me, especially in New England, is about oysters and lobster. And there’s no reason to do too much to an oyster. Raw oysters are one of my favorite things in the world to eat. Close to my heart are Duxbury Island Creeks, who are great friends of mine. They have delicious oysters. Instead of just putting shallots with vinegar, we add sake to this and freshly grated wasabi (you can buy frozen grated wasabi, that works just as well). So you get a good little spicy heat note — of course you get the acidic note from the vinegar — and you need the shallot because it’s sweet and makes oysters taste sweeter. And the little surprise of sake makes it a delicious oyster.”
TY KU Sake and Fresh Wasabi Mignonette with Island Creek Oysters
Makes about 1 cup
2 dozen of shucked Island Creek Oysters
1 tablespoon of shallots, minced
1 teaspoon of fresh grated wasabi, or wasabi powder, rehydrated with water
2 tablespoons of TY KU Black Sake
2 tablespoons of Wanjashan Organic Rice Vinegar
1 teaspoon of sugar
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
In a bowl combine: shallots, wasabi, Sake, rice vinegar and sugar. Season with Kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Spoon TY KU Sake and Fresh Wasabi Mignonette over shucked Island Creek Oysters. Garnish with chopped chives. Enjoy.