“Danny Kaye Masters Chinese Cooking”

Charleston Daily Mail – Dec. 1, 1975

By: Johna Blinn

BEVERLY HILLS – “I cook or taste food with the same concentration I give an instrument approach in an airplane. There is no way you can do one thing well if you have three things occupying your mind. There has to be total concentration,” said Danny Kaye.

Kaye gives the same effort to performing, flying his plane, working for UNICEF or playing golf as he does to whipping up an eight-course Chinese feast! As a result, he has mastered the art of Chinese cooking to the point that he often substitutes as the teacher in his Chinese friends’ cooking classes, dazzles his friends with his fabulous meals and cooks with equal ease for master Chinese and French chefs. In fact, after a recent three-day cook-in, he captured the voluble admiration of not one, but three celebrated French kitchen wizards: Paul Bocuse, Roger Verge and Michael Guerard, no small feat!

Kaye, who will be seen on the television special “Danny Kaye’s Look In at the Metropolitan” on CBS Dec. 6, performs at the range much like a conductor directing a symphony orchestra. As he talked, Danny quickly prepared a stir-fry oyster-shrimp feast. He obviously knew to the split second the precise moment to drop the seafood into the sizzling oil.

“There’s a squab dish I make that gives off a really terrible, grating sound when it hits the hot oil. It won’t give that sound if the oil isn’t hot enough,” Danny remarked. “The careful cook knows exactly when to pour an egg into sizzling butter. If the butter isn’t hot enough, the egg sticks to the pan.”

As well as Chinese, Danny’s repertoire of cuisines includes Japanese, Italian and French. He operates in two kitchens, one conventional and one Chinese. The Chinese kitchen consists of a 10-foot, stainless steel, professional battery of stoves, custom-built by a San Francisco designer. The range has three giant woks fired by gas jets that are controlled by a knee lever. Easily accessible refrigerator drawers are located across from the woks. Danny keeps an array of Chinese cooking ingredients at hand, including a special, 11-year-old, licorice-flavored sauce he constantly replenishes and reboils to keep in top condition.

The master chef does his own marketing, often driving as far as 20 miles to get special Chinese foodstuffs if a dish he’s cooking requires them. “The Chinese are careful about the quality of the food they use. For example, in Chinatown they sell fish from tanks. You can bring home your fish live in a plastic bag. When I cook fish, it is swimming until 15 minutes before it’s served.” Now, that’s fresh fish!

“Anyone who can read a book can learn to cook. You can teach anybody how to slice, fry, steam or boil, but of course, some people have more dexterity than others. What you can’t teach someone is how to taste. When I pinch-hit teaching Cecilia Chang’s cooking classes, I have trouble with people who ask for exact measurements. They are so busy writing down the recipe, they don’t know what is going on. What some people don’t realize is that you must cook to your own taste. Your body chemistry changes from day to day. What tastes salty enough today may need more salt tomorrow.”


Serves 8

1 cup raw oysters

¼ cup flour

½ lb. raw shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tbsp. peanut, vegetable or corn oil

1 two-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled, cut into fine shreds

5 scallions, trimmed, cut in two-inch lengths

1 tsp. light soy sauce

1 tsp. sesame oil

Salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 ½ tbsp. cornstarch

1 ½ tbsp. cold water

Place oysters in mixing bowl; add flour and enough water to cover. Stir oysters in the liquid. Drain well, run under several changes of cold water, drain well again. (Flour will cleanse and plump oysters.) Prepare shrimp; set aside. Drop oysters into barely simmering water. Turn off heat. Let stand 1 minute; drain. Set aside. Repeat with shrimp. Heat oil in wok or skillet with high heat. Add ginger, scallions. Cook, stirring, 5 seconds. Add oysters, shrimp, stir rapidly. Cook 15 seconds. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper to taste, stirring constantly. Blend cornstarch into cold water; stir into the wok or skillet. Cook 10 seconds. Serve at once!


Serves 6

1 ½ lbs. shrimp

2 lbs. fillet of sole

1 lb. thin asparagus

¾ lb. snow peas

2 green peppers

Corn oil

Batter: 2 beaten egg yolks, 2/3 cup cold water, ½ cup flour, ½ grated Japanese horseradish

Sauce: Combine 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup sake, 1/3 cup fish stock

Shell, devein shrimp, split lengthwise, without cutting all the way to the end. Press open, butterfly-fashion. Cut sole into 1 x 2-inch strips. Cut vegetables into bite-sized hunks. Pour oil in skillet or wok. Test temperature of oil by throwing a pinch of bread into oil. If bread browns immediately, fat is hot enough. (365 degrees F.) Starting with seafood, dip all items into the batter, then into the hot, deep fat. When cooked to a golden brown, remove and drain on a paper towel. Tempura should be eaten immediately with the sauce.

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