Cookbook Profile

Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking

by Martin Yan

Chinatown Cooking 
"Martin cooks and eats with engaging gusto, and he is certainly the premier exponent of Chinese cuisine. He has been researching this ancient art for years, he knows both its classical and modern versions, and equally important, he knows how to teach. Thanks to this seminal book you are holding in your hands, we now have the best of all China and Chinatowns to savor. How lucky we are to have him here with us."

— Julia Child from "An Appreciation of Chinese Cooking and Martin Yan" in Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking

For many Americans, Chinese cooking is synonymous with the name Martin Yan. The renowned chef, teacher, and host of the tremendously popular television cooking series Yan Can Cook invites you now to join him on a grand culinary tour of eleven of the world's most fascinating Chinatowns in his new Public Television series and companion cookbook—Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking: 200 Traditional Recipes from 11 Chinatowns Around the World. Marrying the concepts of cookbook, travelogue, and cultural index, Chef Yan provides an insider's view of these historical, cultural and tourist meccas, introducing the reader to his favorite chefs, restaurants, and shops, and offering insights into the individuality and personality of each Chinatown.

The Chinatowns of New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, Yokohama, Sydney, Honolulu, Singapore, London, Macau, and Melbourne are fascinating communities that contribute significantly to the vitality of these major cities. First established as places where early Chinese immigrants could live and prosper, "while remaining faithful to their heritage," Chinatowns have evolved into important tourist and culinary destinations that generate significant income for their cities. Here is a glimpse into some of the unique Chinatowns across the world:

• San Francisco claims to be the original western Chinatown. Yan transports readers back to the first days of immigration with his recipe for Triple-Decker Egg Fu Young, which was made popular by the first Chinatown settlers;

• New York and London boast the most populated Chinatowns: each is home to some 350,000 people. Aromatic Duck is the London term for Peking Duck, and is found on every Chinatown menu. Yan provides a recipe for the best of these and shares that one of his favorite stops in New York is the Peking Duck House, which has been serving up the crispy dish for forty-two years.

• Sydney's Chinatown BBQ restaurant serves more ducks in a day than anywhere else in the world. The Chinatown Aussies make the most of their oceanic location, using sea creatures as big as the Tasmanian crab, which can feed eight from a single pair of claws, and as delicate as the fried Chrysanthemum Fish.

• Singapore, a nation-state that most think of as Chinese, contains its own Chinatown where you'll find the world's best—and most expensive—fried rice. Readers will learn how to make the saucy Fujian version of this staple.

Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking goes far beyond just recipes. Ideal for the home cook, he outlines and defines basic kitchen equipment and includes a comprehensive Chinese pantry list. He also offers techniques for deep-frying, marinating, steaming, and stir-fryina, as well as basic knife work. Readers will discover the process of preparing a Chinese meal: learning how to clean squid, crack crabs, select dried red chilies, and everything in between.

Travelers to these Chinatowns will benefit from Martin's personal restaurant selections in each city, as well as recommended specialties. Complete with a "Rookie" sheet for "how to order in a Chinese restaurant," Martin takes the guesswork out of ordering dim sum with a helpful list of dumplings, deep-fried delights, and sweets.

Chef Yan's lively sidebars delve into the Chinatown lifestyle. A devoted student of Chinese culture and history, he tells the stories of Hakka cuisine (simple travel foods born from the traditions of the migratory descendants of the Han Chinese), Singapore's red-hatted Sam Sui women (hardworking, unmarried ladies who played a pivotal role in the construction of Chinatown and later opened their own restaurants), and 1,000-year-old eggs (a complex refrigeration-free method for preserving eggs). Chef Yan is most excited to introduce the many colorful descriptions of traditional festivals and ceremonies, still being observed in Chinatowns all over the world:

• Yan calls the annual Chinese New Year's celebration "living, breathing and eating-proof that the Chinese community is alive and well." A celebration of rebirth, it begins officially on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar. This year, the Year of the Ram, begins on February 12. Many traditional Chinese New Year dishes include spring rolls for gold bars, coin-filled dumplings, and fish salad or whole fishes as symbolic food to bring good fortune.

• The autumn Moon Festival is a three-day event to celebrate the bounty of the fall harvest. The holiday is easy to spot in Chinatown by the endless boxes of Moon Cakes, round pastries with sweet or savory fillings and closing lantern festival.

With his teacher's eye for detail, Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking is a book that has something for everyone: a travel guide that unlocks the mystery of Chinatowns for the adventurer and armchair traveler; a cookbook that will thrill home cooks, their families, and guests; an expert's restaurant guide that goes well beyond the standard tourist offerings; and a special keepsake for those looking to recapture the memories of a Chinatown trip.

About the Author

Martin Yan's TV cooking programs have made him one of the most recognized Asian chefs in America and around the world. Born in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou (also known as Canton), Yan discovered his love of cooking as a child and eventually apprenticed in Hong Kong before coming to the United States to study food science at the University of California at Davis. He is the author of 25 cookbooks, including the best-selling Martin Yan's Feast: The Best of Yan Can Cook, Chinese Cooking for Dummies, and Martin Yan's Asian Favorites. A popular speaker and writer on cooking techniques and food trends, Chef Yan addresses conferences, food industry events, panels, and various culinary functions. He lives in San Francisco. Visit Martin Yan's official website at


Buy the Book!


Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking
200 Traditional Recipes from 11 Chinatowns Around the World
by Martin Yan
William Morrow / an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
$34.95 / hardcover
Illustrated with 200 color photos
ISBN: 0060084758
Information provided by the publisher.


Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking



More about the book in Kate's Global Kitchen: Chinatown Dining & New Year Feasts


Cookbook Profile Archive


This page created January 2003