American-born Taiwanese Chef restauranteur Chris Cheung has quite the killer resume – having cooked with famed chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Vong and Jean-Georges. Currently, he serves as the executive chef of Tansuo restaurant in Nashville, and also runs NYC’s restaurant, East Wind Snack Shop – known for delicious dumplings and being one of the last standing Taoishan Tea Houses in NYC. But before all this came to be, Chris was living in China, studying dim sum in Hong Kong and farm-to-table cooking in the villages of Shanghai. Chinese cuisine isn’t just a passion for Chris, it has been his life’s passion. So naturally, the National Peanut Board wanted to know more and shot Chris five questions to learn more about the art behind his cuisine.
NPB: You’re a New York City native with a serious affinity for Asian cuisine. What inspired you to dedicate your life to this particular kind of cuisine?
CC: My love for Asian cuisine was certainly inspired by the great chefs I've worked for, Jean George Vongerichten and Nobu Matsuhisa. However for a very long time I've been focused on Chinese cuisine which is the food I grew up eating. I've always felt there was no better cuisine to eat and to cook.
NPB: There is a quote on your website that says “The magic of Chinese food is that there is always something spectacular created out of humble ingredients.” Can you give me a few examples?
CC: Humble ingredients like rice. We turn ordinary rice into fried rice, and congee. Mill it to become flour which we then make noodles and dumpling skins.
NPB: Peanuts and Asian food have been a natural complement to each other for centuries. How do peanuts play a role in your culinary creations?
CC: I have always loved working with peanuts. As a crunchy nutty crumble to savory bao buns to fillings inside Chinese pastries. One of my favorite dishes was boiling and roasting raw peanuts and pairing them with house pickles and seasonal local grapes as an appetizer. It was my take on the dish you get at many Chinese restaurants when you first sit at the table.
Chef Cheung's Taiwanese Gwa Bao with Pork Belly, Hoisin, Roasted Peanuts.
NPB: In your opinion, what is next in the evolution of Asian cuisine?
CC: I think China in its entirety will be in focus. Many more regions and cooking styles will be brought to the forefront of American Asian cooking.
NPB: And finally, you have been touted as making ‘the best dumplings in New York”, what is your number one tip for home cooks making dumplings at home?
CC: My top tip for making dumplings at home is have fun with it. Get the whole family involved. Don't worry if you don't get the folds perfect. Get the same amount of filling in each one to start.