Iron Chef: Battle Chinese Cabbage


Theme Ingredient: Chinese Cabbage
Iron Chef: Chen
Challenger: Cui Yufen, Head Chef, Han-mei-fang, Tokyo
Remarks: was also used as a reference for this battle, mainly because I lost the second page of my notes. Comments refer to the Food Network 11/11/2000 airing of this battle.

Mao Zhedong once said "Chefs who create great food are treasures of the state." He established the Special Grade Certificate of State-Certified Chefs to certify the best chefs in the country. The top rank are referred to as Culinary Craftsmen. Three of these chefs work at Han-mei-fang, a Chinese restaurant in the Akasaka district of Tokyo. Ji Wenchen, Special Grade Chef, specializes in stir-frying. Hao Huizhi, Special Grade Chef, Culinary Craftsman, specializes in appetizers. The most highly regarded is Cui Yufen, also a Special Grade Chef, Culinary Craftsman. She is the head chef at Han-mei-fang, and had previously served as a chef catering to Mao Zhedong and Zhou Enlai. She challenged Chen, who seems to have been picked on a lot lately. The theme ingredient was Chinese cabbage, a staple of Chinese cuisine. This battle wasn't as simple as Chinese vs. Chinese; Chen is a Szechuan-style chef, and Yufen's speciality is Imperial cuisine, also called Peking-style. The guest commentators were actress Kayoko Kishimoto and singer Shinji Tanimura (making his first appearance in two years). The other judges were Lower House member Shinichiro Kurimoto (doesn't this guy ever actually spend any time in the Diet? On second thought, the country's probably better off this way) and the dominatrix, err, food critic, Asako Kishi.

Cui Yufen rocked the house with six dishes whose presentation knocked the judges' socks off:

  1. Chinese cabbage in crepe, Imperial style. Shredded cabbage was wrapped in crepes and served with fried eggroll skins as garnish.
  2. Prawns wrapped in cabbage. The prawn heads were boiled and the liquid drained off to produce a 'shanton' broth. Pickled cabbage was served as a side dish.
  3. Rockfish stewed in naitan. This is a premier dish in Imperial Chinese cuisine, often served to visiting dignitaries. The fish is deep-fried, then cooked in naitan, then served on a fish-shaped plate. The name of the soup, naitan, is literally translated into Japanese as 'swimming lady.'
  4. Mustard cabbage and diced pork. Chairman Mao's favorite. The judges seemed to cough when they ate it (too spicy?) but said they liked it.
  5. Cabbage soup. A clear soup with cabbage chunks; Zhou Enlai's favorite.
  6. Diced pears and cabbage hearts. For reasons not disclosed, Chinese Chinese cabbage isn't as bitter as American Chinese cabbage, so you can get away with using it in a dessert.

Chen countered with five:

  1. Cabbage hors d'oeuvre with mushrooms. Something (can't remember) was used to control the sourness.
  2. Cabbage spring roll. "The soft and fluffy texture creates a new harmony with the chenpi." I don't know what chenpi is, and they didn't explain. Chen used sheets of bean curd instead of dough to wrap the spring rolls.
  3. Chinese cabbage stew with crab meat. "Grated carrots and crab meat add depth, body, and visual impact." This is the dish that he's cooking in the show open--the one where it looks like he almost dropped it on the floor. The orange color comes from carrots.
  4. Cabbage, pork belly, and red snapper cooked in a clay pot. He made a fiery broth featuring (for Chen, what else?) hot bean paste, saying it was his hottest sauce ever.
  5. Sauteed cabbage and soup. "The crispy texture of the cabbage matches with an oyster sauce." Sesame seed oil and boiled rice were served on the side.

Cui Yufen won the battle 4-0. Kurimoto 20-19, Kishimoto 20-19, Tamimura 19-18, and Kishi 19-17. 78 points total for Cui; I don't think I've ever seen a challenger score that high. Even the great Ron Siegel (Battle Lobster) only totalled 77. Note also Kishi giving the challenger a two-point margin; that's almost unheard of.


Chenpi is tangerine peel

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This page contains a single entry by Chris published on May 10, 2005 4:10 PM.

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