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Jet Tila’s Enticing First Cookbook “101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die”

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(Gerry Furth-Sides) Low key and genuinely as friendly as ever, Jet Tala’s personal introduction to his new cookbook,  “101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die”, made us feel special in the Melissa’s Produce kitchen ( https://chefjet.com/cookbook)(www.melissas.com)

Chef Jet flanked by two of the best anywhere ethnic food researchers and writers, Barbara Hansen (left) who “discovered him”,Linda Burum (right)

Jet was relaxed among friends.  I’ve known him for 20 years and he has remained earnest, intelligent and friendly.  He referred to Barbara Hansen several times during his demo because when he worked in the Los Angeles Times kitchen.

There is a new side now.  Jet playfully told of how he negotiated with mastermind, gazillionaire Las Vegas owner, Steve Wynn for his Wynn Encorehotel job at Wazuzu.  This was after he cooked for him and never even thought he would land an offer.  He put down what he thought was an outlandish fee on a piece of paper and it was snapped up,” he laughed.  I realized heard this story before — from Jet on the phone in Las Vegas when it happened!

Below is the Pineapple Fried Rice dish that has become a Wynn Hotel favorite. “It’s a recipe my family has been serving for 40 years,” says Jet.  “And I’ve put on every menu I’ve ever written.”  The chef asked the audience to call out the price for this “easy to make dish” at the hotel.  It turned out to be double the highest price called out.

Pineapple Fried Rice

Jet is proud that Alton Brown wrote the introduction, explaining that the book was not a definitive guide to Asian cuisine, but it is a very practical guide full of every essential recipe you’ll want.  I already tried three.  It helps that Ken Goodman’s photos jump off the page.

I worked with master Tommy Tang for 15 years, always preferring to eat his creations no how easy he said his dishes were to prepare.  Jet’s book holds tso many simple recipes that don’t require extra shopping while remaining true to the identity and origin of the dish that you jump right in.

Szechuan-Style Green Beans

Jet explained it this way, “If you look at the way Americans and non-Asians consume Asian food, I wanted to give everyone the book that covered 90% of the things they love to eat.”  The book notes aptly label his guide “demystified Asian cooking” that is “approachable.

Chinese Chicken Salad and Noodles below



Sample tip:  The secret to good curry is not shaking the can of coconut milk, though even good Thai coconut milk cans have these instructions.  A good Thai coconut milk has 13% to 19% fat on top.  Scoop that off to use  as cooking oil, and fry your cooking (curry) paste in that fat to bring out the flavor. Forget the ” light” ridiculous  coconut milk!

“All Asian dishes essentially are a balancing of five flavors, but each country approaches this differently,” emphasized Jet.  “The ‘Yum’ philosophy of Asian kitchens is key.  It literally means balance of five flavors: hot, sour, sweet, savory, salty to achieve the ‘yum.’ ” Jet claims that cooking through the book will instill an understanding of this.

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Gerry Furth-Sides

Gerry Furth-Sides

Content Editor/Columnist

Photo-journalist Gerry Furth-Sides has been covering the ethnic and American culinary scene in California since it first came into prominence 25 years ago.