Eating out for 16 years at the Jade Restaurant for special occasions is one food memory that will remain until my last Chinese meal. Growing up in Baguio with Ilocano parents meant that Chinese food was a break from the usual grilled bangus (milkfish), bagnet (salted, twice-fried pork belly), pinakbet (vegetable stew flavored with fermented anchovies), dinengdeng (vegetable soup again flavored with fermented anchovies), etc. The complex flavors of Chinese cuisine (sweet, spicy, sour, citrus-y and salty) opened up my Ilocano palate to the flavors of the Oriental East.
While our whole family could make up a whole line of capable home cooks, venturing into Chinese cuisine was quite daunting. My own few feeble attempts would never taste like the sweet and sour fried pork ribs at Jade Restaurant, nor would the pata tim my brother Benedict (an accomplished home cook as labeled by all guests who come to his home in Seattle) would painstakingly prepare. Lemon chicken with the perfect balance of sweet and citrus-y flavors, a favorite of my children, is beyond my imagination to concoct.
The easiest Chinese dish would be steamed vegetables sautéed in Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce, a dish my mom, Beth, perfected with broccoli and Chinese cabbage. Taking my cue from my mom who trusted the Lee Kum Kee lines from as far back as I can remember, I began venturing into cooking Chinese dishes with hoisin sauce, shrimp paste, chili and garlic sauce and black bean sauce. The prepped sauces gave me some confidence to try cooking Chinese dishes, and the simplicity of it got me doing one recipe after another.
The Lee Kum Kee brand also assured me of the quality of the ingredients they used and the food safe food processing method applied. Its history alone speaks for it as it turned 123 this year assures its consumers of its quality and consistency from generations of home cooks that have used it.
When I go to the grocery I always pass by the Lee Kum Kee shelf even if my pantry is still chock full of Lee Kum Kee oyster, hoisin, sesame oil and chili garlic sauces. I am constantly on the lookout for new sauces, and I was excited to discover the lemon chicken sauce, which my kids always crave for. To boot, the Lee Kum Kee line of hotpot stock bases (seafood, pork bone and chicken) allow me to easily throw together a hotpot with prawns, sukiyaki cut beef, fish, assorted seafood balls and a variety of vegetables. The Lee Kum Kee dimsum dipping sauce is a winner with my family not only with dumplings but also as a seasoning for steamed vegetables.
From a friend I learned how to mix a whole small bottle of Lee Kum Kee hoisin sauce with an equal amount of Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce; add a few tablespoons of honey, a few pinches of white pepper, a whole star anise with every kilo of chicken or pork, and water added to just cover the meat on top of its surface while simmering. When the meat is cooked, remove it from the pot and continue to simmer until sauce is thick. Pour the sauce over the plated meat, and a Chinese savory sweet and salty dish with a sticky sauce is ready to serve.
When Lee Kum Kee came up with a mini recipe book with the collaboration of chefs Sandy Daza, Bruce Lim, Sau Del Rosario, Him Uy de Baron and Ernest Reynoso-Gala, it gave me a chance to update my Chinese home cooking repertoire.
Daza's crispy chicken with hoisin peanut sauce inspired me to make a fish version of it, and the faintly sweet and slightly spicy sauce was Chinese to the core. I could have fooled my kids it was delivered straight from one of the Chinese restaurants on Banaue Street, Quezon City.
I am also intrigued with the pork chili binagoongan (pork with shrimp paste sauce) made with Lee Kum Kee fine shrimp sauce, thinking if this would taste like a Chinese or Filipino dish. I most certainly would make the sautéed tokwa at talong (sautéed firm tofu and eggplant) as any eggplant dish becomes my favorite.
Lim's three cup chicken made with Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce, sesame oil and chicken hotpot soup base took the mystery out of this Chinese restaurant staple. His oyster chicken with mushroom medley made also with Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce is a home-cooked-style dish that can easily become part of one's menu. For special occasions one can make the spicy seaside prawns made with chili garlic, premium oyster sauce and seasoned soy sauce for seafood.
Del Rosario's steamed bass with Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce with orange juice added to it gave me a fresh recipe using the real citrus fruit. His spicy chicken and broccoli in chili garlic sauce is a revelation to the usual steamed or stir fried broccoli. Del Rosario uses Lee Kum Kee chili garlic and Premium Soy Sauce to add another flavor dimension to the vegetable.
Uy de Baron's beef bulgogi "taco" with chili garlic recipe is a delight to read as I register that the high-protein, carbohydrate-free dish which will help me build muscle and not put on the pounds. There is a minimal need for Lee Kum Kee sesame oil as it is pure, and this means less fat. The Premium Soy and chili garlic sauces pack on flavor for maximum taste.
Reynoso-Gala's Lee Kum Kee chili garlic chicken wings can satiate a chicken wing craving, Chinese style. His sizzling Chinese beefsteak made with Lee Kum Kee char sui and Premium Soy sauces is another Chinese take on a comfort dish, this time served with pineapple rings.
The "master" recipes provided a new slew of resources to go to when the husband and kids get a hunkering for Chinese food. Cooking Chinese food in our own kitchen means we get to control the quality and quantity of ingredients, the amount of fat, carbohydrate and protein in the dish and the cleanliness of the food preparation process.
The only other thing we need to secure in the pantry is a lineup of Lee Kum Kee variants to execute beloved Chinese dishes which are now demystified with the use of the prepped sauces. True to its promise in its mini-cookbook entitled Cooking with the Masters, Lee Kum Kee has unlocked the "true genuine flavors of fine Chinese cuisine."
For recipes and more information, log on to www.leekumkee.com.