5@5 - Chef Ming Tsai
September 29th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
Share this on:

5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Ming Tsai opened the doors of Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Massachusetts, more than 10 years ago. Since then, he's earned two James Beard Foundation Awards, hosted three Emmy-nominated cooking shows, authored four cookbooks and come October 3, will compete on Season 3 of Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef" alongside our Waffle House-loving friend, Mr. Bryan Caswell.

Before that whole shebang, you'd most likely chance upon Tsai as a young whippersnapper in the kitchen with his mom and dad at their family-owned restaurant, Mandarin Kitchen, in Dayton, Ohio.

And now, even after a Le Cordon Bleu eduction, training under renown chefs and a decade running his own restaurant, Tsai remains convinced that mama really does know best.

Five Things My Mom Taught Me in the Kitchen that I Still Use Today: Ming Tsai

1. Dumpling Skins: keep the edges thinner than the middle
"To this day, my mom is still better at making dumplings than me. As early as two years old, we would gather with my brother, dad and grandparents to make dumplings. It was a social event for my family, and it was time for my brother and I to have fun and make a mess. My mother's method was to keep the edges of the skin thinner than the middle. This way when you fold and seal them, the thickness is the same all around. Whether I make my own or use store-bought skins, I always make sure to follow her teachings."

2. It's O.K. to play with your chopstick wrappers
"My mom loved origami and would occupy us often out at restaurants with her paper creations. She could make anything. The most practical was to make chopstick rests out of our wrappers. It's a great trick to know - most restaurants don't provide you with rests and this gives you a way to keep your chopsticks off the tables. My kids love doing this today. It's a family thing!"

3. You can never have too much rice
"My mom's rule if you’re making rice is to make double. Day-old rice is best for when you are making a stir-fried rice dish. She would always make extra purposely when cooking rice - this way we could have a stir-fry dish the next day. Mom's tips on rice: it is best to transfer your extra to a storage container and break it up a little, but not too much, to store in your refrigerator. Use wet hands to break it up because this helps with the rice sticking."

4. Always plan on 20 percent more
"When we were younger, my family would cater. My mom always had us bring 20 percent more than what the customer had asked for. This didn't cost us much to do, but we were ready if more people arrived. It's also part of our Chinese culture that we never leave a table hungry. I still practice this today in my restaurant."

5. One for all plus extra!
"Whenever we go to a Chinese restaurant, my mom always had us each select our dish for the table. She then would always double it and add a noodle dish. This way everyone at the table gets to try something different. I feel if you don't leave a Chinese restaurant with a bag then you didn't order correctly. My mom would then turn the leftovers into other meals, sometimes putting her own spin by adding more to the dish."

Did your mom, dad or other family member teach you a valuable cooking lesson growing up? Share your culinary wisdom in the comments below.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

Posted by:
Filed under: 5@5 • Celebrity Chefs • Ming Tsai • Think

soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. steknolojib


    February 7, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  2. Marg

    Your mom sounds like a wise and wonderful lady. :>

    January 19, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  3. Kathleen

    Is it possible to give tofu the taste and texture of whale and dolphin? If it can, then perhaps the Japanese would accept it and stop the needless and senseless killing of those beautiful creatures.

    September 30, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  4. Fiona

    My mother taught me (through her unremarkable and unenthusiastic cooking) that my father was a much better cook than she, and that it was perfectly normal for a man to be proficient and helpful in the kitchen. I ended up married to a guy who likes to cook and who cleans up after himself...and often cleans up after me, too!

    September 30, 2010 at 3:25 am |
  5. MasterChef O bin L

    1Thing My Mom Taught Me in the Kitchen that I Still Use Today: Dont waste food – cook 20% less than what you can eat and cook what everyone likes.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:09 am |
    • MasterChef Chan

      Agree. Dont waste food.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:34 am |
  6. Toni MacTavish

    I'm telling you this man looks good, cooks good, what more could you ask for. I watch his PBS show faithfully. If I were 40 years younger I'd give him a wink.

    September 29, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
  7. Roxanna

    This all sounds nice, but I want some FLAMENONS!!!!

    September 29, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
    • Steak Awesomeness

      See above under yesterday's viral word of the day...

      September 30, 2010 at 12:02 am |
  8. diana

    yay! ming tsai! i've been a fan of yours for over a decade. nice to see you're still kicking ass! :)

    September 29, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  9. Mary Criswell

    If somes's enough, more is better !

    September 29, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  10. VRAlbany

    I love you Ming!

    September 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
  11. cnsellout


    September 29, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
  12. C. Gilles-Brown

    From my mother: always remember to plug in the toaster. Applies to computers and sewing machines also.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
    • Willy Wire-Head

      Suppliment to above:
      Always use a fork to get out stuck toast.

      September 29, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
  13. Dawn

    Best 5@5 so far!

    September 29, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
  14. confused

    wasn't Tsai removed from the Food Network when it was found his restaurant was involved in some credit card fraud or something? Then again, that Robert Irvine guy falsified his credentials of working with the British Royals and they hired him back, so I dunno...

    September 29, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
    • Fiona

      I think that someone at the restaurant was stealing credit card numbers. Wouldn't be the first time that happened (I once had my credit card number stolen by a clerk at a store), and it would not necessarily have anything to do with Ming Tsai. A lot of people disappeared from TFN. They change things up occasionally.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:36 am |
  15. indigo

    I enjoy watching Ming Tsai on PBS and would love to try his Blue Ginger Restaurant. Does anyone know how long ahead of time a reservation should be made?

    September 29, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  16. JA

    Fish flays dabbed with flour and crushed cracker (saltine crackers, mind you) and fried with a bit of butter makes for excellent tasting fish. It may sound rather plain to some people, but you don't need to go all elaborate to make food that tastes good. If it was one thing I always looked forward to during summer as a kid, was the fried fish.

    September 29, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
    • Yesterday's Viral Word of the Day

      Uh-oh, I think that guy that wanted two flamenons as his death-row last supper is back...

      September 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  17. Maida Smith

    My Grandma Nore taught to never buy cheap ingredients and if you always want to have brown sugar on hand, just mix some molasses with reqular sugar and it is amazing how that works for any recipe I have tried

    September 29, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  18. Lala2001

    My mother taught me that whenever you deep-fry anything like the battered butterfly chicken breasts for sweet and sour, put them in a roaster pan, in which you've placed an upside-down cupcake pan, so the oil can drip well off the chicken batter coating. Put the roaster pan with chicken sitting across the cupcake pan mounds, in the oven for fifteen minutes on low, so all the oil runs off. Non-oily battered chicken is much crisper!

    September 29, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
    • Grandma

      I love you all for learning something from me.

      September 29, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
      • Lala2001

        I haven't learned anything from you.

        September 30, 2010 at 2:53 am |
  19. Jim

    I learned everything from my grandmother that my mother didn't. Grandma was a great cook (grew up on a farm) and mother was horrible at it. No one ever goes away from my table hungry. Food is an enjoyment thing. Dinner should never be rushed and should leave you with that nice "satisfied full feeling".

    September 29, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  20. elaine

    i watch chefs (especially emeril) throw their kitchen towels over their shoulders. My mother said never to do this as the towel picks up whatever falls out of your head. now don't get crazy. clean heads loose cells and hair all the time.

    September 29, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
    • Jim

      If you just use the towel to clean off your hands it's not really clean after the first wipe anyway. I use it mostly to wash or wipe things and it's always on my left shoulder (I'm right handed). I'm not worried about the occasional dander. Compared to everything else I use a towel for, it's one drop in an ocean. On the other hand, I always use a fresh clean towel for drying dishes.

      September 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
    • Lala2001

      I tie my towel to my apron belt on the right side, that way it's handy for scrunching up to help hold hot pan handles. And drying hands off.

      September 29, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
      • apronlady

        who wheres an apron nowadays anyways? I just use a dish towel for what it is, and pot holders for what they are.....hence the name....

        September 29, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
      • Lala2001

        Apronlady, thank you for your sarcasm. Obviously you're not a cook, just a troll.

        September 30, 2010 at 2:52 am |
  21. Jesus

    Gee, my Mom taught me to stay out of the kitchen and told me to hire a nice looking Asian girl to cook for me. Hop Sing has been with me for 14 years. She cook for me "long time".

    September 29, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
    • Grandma

      Look here Youngman-I've watched Bonanza and Hop Sing was a Man. You must be from California.

      September 29, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
    • Kam

      If he was from California he'd probably know not to use the name "Hop Sing"

      September 29, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
    • Bruce Lee

      Hey Jesus, you probably takes it up the äss "long time" also since Hop Sing was a man.

      September 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
      • Shapoopy

        wow this is funny.

        September 30, 2010 at 12:48 am |
  22. 3141592654

    We don't have too many family traditions in my family but one was going to grandma's house for Thanksgiving and getting food poisoning. To this day, I am very careful and sanitary in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination. Thanks grandma!!

    September 29, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
    • Grandma

      Well honey I always wondered why you were in the bathroom making all those funny noises. Was I suppose to wash those knives and the cutting board from last weeks dinner?

      September 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
    • 5897932384

      Maybe you should've skipped the turkey and stuck to the pie.

      September 29, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
  23. Ann August

    i'm of Italian descent, and the best culinary skill was passed on from my mother and grandmother: Let the ingredients speak for themselves. In other words, it's called tomato sauce, not pepper sauce, so let those tomatoes sing. And of course there is the standard: If it calls for two cloves of garlic, at the very least double it. My father used to say he could never tell when garlic was in a dish, but he always knew when it was missing. Me, too. And the secret to fantastic marianara, even for those who say they don't like garlic? Why a whole bulb of garlic, of course. Thanks for the fabulous profile of Chef Tsai.

    September 29, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  24. BoogieNYC

    Ceramic knives do need to be sharpened but much less frequently than their metal counterparts, and they're incredibly sharp so they require much less work than their metal counterparts as well (just my experience, anyway). Not for chopping but excellent for slicing/prepping fish.

    I've been a fan of Ming's since East Meets West, and I'm really glad to hear he's doing well (Blue Ginger) and will appear on The Next Iron Chef show, even though the Food Network has, aside from Alton Brown and Michael Symon, turned into a complete joke.

    Once they begin re-airing Tony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour on the Cooking Channel, I'm deleting the Food Network from my favorite channels line-up and switching it to the Cooking Channel once and for all. Hope it's soon ;-)

    September 29, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  25. RichardHead

    It's in Mass. and I found a place to park my Big Truck so I could go in a enjoy the food. They say the Ceramic Knives never need to be sharpened but I don't know.

    September 29, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  26. deathbydonuts

    Oh nice I'll check it out. I do like ceramic knives, I only have one though. Where is his restaurant?

    September 29, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  27. RichardHead

    Hey DBD=Ming is a damn good cook and only uses Ceramic knives. Never have understood that part. I've eaten at his place and though rather expensive it was well worth it. He has a series on PBS so try to catch it when you can.

    September 29, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  28. deathbydonuts

    This has been my favorite 5@5. Dumpling skins I know nothing about. I do play with chopstick wrappers, I make tons of rice, and I always cook extra. I bring leftovers for lunch the next day anyways. Number five is interesting, never tried it though. Seems like something a loud obnoxious in your face family would do, which does seem like fun. I like loud people. What is it with Asians and their obsession with knives???

    September 29, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
    • MartyKorn

      Go Ming! Thanks for the dumpling skin tip. //www.scoreface.com

      September 29, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
| Part of

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,975 other followers