Soy & The Asian Kitchen
Introduction by Rebecca Broida Gart
Recipes by Martin Yan

Chef Martin Yan keeps tofu in the kitchen and cattle in the field.

Some chefs just make it look way too easy. Take wok-man Martin Yan at the 17th Food & Wine Classic in Aspen last summer: I'm sitting in the packed audience while Chef Yan is demonstrating Asian recipes on stage. He's slicing, he's dicing, he's cooking with tofu. And he's not only making it look effortless, he's making it look scrumptious. Where are all those soy-haters now?

Yan, who is the spirited host of the Food Network's Yan Can Cook and author of 20 cookbooks, is a true entertainer, similar to one of those hibachi restaurant chefs who cook your meal while you watch in awe. He's funny, he's incredible to observe and the results are amazingly delicious. He combines cooking artistry with teaching skill and humor, all the while dispelling the mysteries of Chinese cooking. Further, he's really into soy and not afraid to sing its praises.

"I use soy because I believe it is a very healthy ingredient," explains Yan. "Tofu is bland, but it goes well with any taste. I put it in soups, casseroles and stir-fries, I pan-fry it and grill firm tofu, I poach and steam tofu. I eat it raw with sesame seeds and oil. I marinate it with miso and grill it on the barbecue. I dice it in a salad and crumble it in soups. I always have tofu in my refrigerator."

Born in Guangzhou, China, Yan says he has been eating tofu since "before I was born." The Chinese and Japanese have been using soy for centuries, he says. "In Asia, tofu is considered to be the vegetarian cattle because it has such high protein. Also, in Asia cattle is normally raised not for human consumption but to plow land and work in the field. Why would anyone slaughter their tractors?"

Today, soyfood is not only a star attraction on Yan's cooking show but also in his own home. His children eat raw tofu instead of hamburger, and the whole family drinks soy milk in place of regular milk (like many Asians, Yan is allergic to dairy milk). And as for all those tofu-phobics out there, Yan simply suggests that before you say no to something, you should at least try it. "In America, people like to eat things that have a specific texture, so people might not like [raw] tofu," says Yan. "But I believe that if you prepare tofu in a different way, it will be very good. If I would press the water out of it and stir fry it," he adds, "people wouldn't even know what it was!"

The following five recipes are guaranteed to make tofu haters at least think twice about soy. And for the others, well ... enjoy.

Steamed Tofu With Shrimp Mousse

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

1 package (16 ounces) soft tofu, drained
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 green onion (including top), chopped

Shrimp Mousse:

1/4 pound raw medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1. Chop the shrimp in a food processor. Add the remaining mousse ingredients and process until the shrimp are finely diced. Remove the shrimp mousse to a bowl and mix rapidly to incorporate air into the mixture.

2. Cut the block of tofu in half horizontally; cut each piece in half lengthwise, then crosswise, to make 8 equal pieces. Lay the tofu pieces side by side in a 9-inch glass pie pan or other heat-proof dish. Evenly spread shrimp mousse over each piece.

3. Place a steaming rack in a wok or saucepan. Add water to just below the level of the rack and bring to a boil. Place the dish on the rack; cover and steam until the shrimp mousse turns pink, about 6 to 10 minutes. Remove the dish from the wok and carefully pour off the cooking juices. Drizzle soy sauce and sesame oil over the tofu, sprinkle with green onions and serve.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 154 Fat: 7g % fat calories: 43 Cholesterol: 96mg Carbohydrate: 5g Protein: 17g

Chilled Tofu With Bean Sprouts

Serves 6

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 1 minute

1/2 pound fresh mung bean sprouts


3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon chile garlic sauce
2 teaspoons honey
1 package (16 ounces) soft tofu, drained
1 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1. Parboil mung bean sprouts in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Remove to a serving plate, cover and chill.

2. Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

3. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Place over chilled mung bean sprouts. Drizzle dressing over tofu and garnish with sesame seeds and walnuts.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 127 Fat: 8g % fat calories: 56 Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrate: 7g Protein: 8g

Ma Po Tofu

Serves 8

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 8-10 minutes


1 tablespoon oyster-flavored sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 pound ground turkey
1 package (16 ounces) soft or regular tofu, drained


1/3 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons chile garlic sauce
1 teaspoon black bean garlic sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground toasted Szechuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 fresh red chile pepper, minced
Chopped green onions, for garnish

1. Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add meat and mix well. Let stand for 10 minutes. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl; set aside.

2. Place wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic and red chile pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add meat mixture and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

3. Add tofu and sauce. Cook, stirring gently, until tofu is heated through and sauce boils and thickens.

4. Place in serving bowls and garnish with green onions.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 232 Fat: 11g % fat calories: 44 Cholesterol: 28mg Carbohydrate: 9g Protein: 24g

Seafood And Tofu Soup

Serves 6

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

4 ounces raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 ounces bay scallops


1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon minced ginger
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup straw mushrooms
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 tomato, peeled and diced
1/2 package (8 ounces) soft tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
1 egg white, beaten
Basil, green onions or cilantro, for garnish


2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Combine shrimp, scallops, cornstarch and salt in a bowl; stir to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Place saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add oil; swirl to coat sides. Add ginger, shrimp and scallops; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add chicken broth; bring to a boil. Add straw mushrooms, peas, tomato, tofu and seasonings; cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add cornstarch solution; cook, stir until thickened, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and slowly drizzle in egg white; cook, stirring constantly, until egg white sets. Add basil, green onion or cilantro as a garnish.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 115 Fat: 5g % fat calories: 37 Cholesterol: 40mg Carbohydrate: 7g Protein: 11g
All recipes copyright Yan Can Cook Inc.

Chef Martin Yan is the celebrated host of more than 1,750 cooking shows, respected food and restaurant consultant, and certified Master Chef. Rebecca Broida Gart is a senior editor at Delicious! magazine.

Photography by Rita Maas