Book Club: Ming Tsai's One-Pot Recipes

By Aviva Shen

Chef Ming Tsai wears a lot of hats. He’s executive chef and owner of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, the host and creator of the cooking show, “Simply Ming” — and now, with his upcoming cookbook, Simply Ming One-Pot Meals, he’s taking on a new role as the Rachael Ray of Asian cooking.

One-Pot Meals is all about simplicity: it’s chock full of “quick, healthy and affordable recipes” that, as you may have guessed, only require one pot (or wok, or pan). “The reality is that this is the way most people, most chefs, cook at home.” Ming says. “These are products I would bring home — I’m not going to get kobe beef for the kids when I can just get a couple of nice hanger steaks.”

Ming says that lots of other people do this, like Rachael Ray, but “I don’t think anyone’s done it with Asian-style food.”

Ming has featured one-pot cooking on “Simply Ming” for several years now, and approximately fifty recipes from the show made it into the book. And the new recipes? They were based on flavor and/or technique (i.e. braising, roasting, wokking, and stir-fry) and tested out many, many times. “I think we do such a disservice to people who buy cookbooks if the recipe isn’t perfect,” says Ming.

Although the cookbook is health-conscious, Ming stresses that he’s not a “diet chef” — like a true Bostonian, he admits to a weakness for fried whole belly clams — but wants to simplify healthy home cooking. “The end-all goal is to get people to cook,” he says. “Especially in Asian cuisine, there’s a mystique around cooking.” In an effort to dispel that mystique, recipes like chicken and rice with Craisins and dried cranberries; Hoisin chicken and rice; and pork belly with pineapple mostly use ingredients that most people will already have around the house.

As Ming points out, “At least half of America has soy sauce in their fridge.”

One Pot Meals is meant for everyday home cooks, but Ming also has a word of advice for those who have higher aspirations: “Cook!” he says. “You can only learn so much from TV and books. Get into a restaurant, even if it’s McDonald’s, somewhere where there’s heat, protein, the immediacy of a restaurant, the urgency. You have to start somewhere. I was a dishwasher. Then, once you’re in a restaurant, taste. Taste everything all along the way, not just the final product, and your palate will develop. You’ll know what tastes good not just for yourself but for the general public, and once you get to that point, you’re a chef.”

Look out for One Pot Meals in stores this fall, and Simply Ming’s eighth season premiering in October.