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Haute Chinese Cuisine
From the Kitchen of Wakiya

By Yuji Wakiya

A native of Japan who began his training as a chef at the age of 15, Chef Yuji Wakiya revolutionized Chinese cuisine in Japan by jettisoning the traditional large portions in favor of individual servings of elegantly prepared food presented in many courses. Now this pioneer of haute Chinese cuisine shares his unique cooking style in the impressive new book Haute Chinese Cuisine From the Kitchen of Wakiya (Kodansha International, 2008, $42).

As David Bouley notes in the book's foreword, "The sensitivity of Wakiya's cooking is almost sensual. His cooking is a step beyond what we think of Chinese cuisine, in terms of the balance of flavors, thoughful combination of ingredients and flawless execution of its techniques."

Wakiya shares his in-depth knowledge of Chinese food and culture in over 70 detailed recipes that are supplemented by invaluable explanations of Chinese cooking techniques. Each dish, showcased on exquisite antique serving pieces is stunningly photographed by Masashi Kuma and is a treat for the eye.

It is obvious from the book's gorgeous production and thoughtful organization that this project was a true labor of love. Haute Chinese Cuisine From the Kitchen of Wakiya is a great inspiration to anyone who has a love of Chinese cuisine.

Pepper Hunt for Chicken
Serves 4


8 large chicken wings
Soybean oil for pre-frying
8 cups (200g) dried chao tian chili peppers
Lily buds, branched (optional)

Ground white pepper
2 tsp. shrimp paste
1 whole egg, beaten
1⁄2 cup (120ml) cake flour
2 tbsp. potato starch
1⁄4 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. la you hot oil
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. sansho peppercorns
Pepper Hunt for Chicken
Pepper Hunt for Chicken.

This dish also has a story to its name. The Chinese characters mean that you go deep into a mountain of chili to hunt for a piece of chicken, eat the chicken, and scream “Hii!” from its heat. Sichuan red chili, chao tian pepper, is the key. In Sichuan cuisine, this chili is used for almost everything, from making la you (Chinese hot oil) to cooking mao po dou fu (spicy tofu). The heat of chao tian pepper is milder than the heat of Thai bird chilis. Even so, if you use a lot, like in this dish, the heat does become noticeable. I use lily buds to balance the color, but you can substitute strips of green pepper or broccoli florets. At Wakiya, guests can request a “hunt” for lobster or crab instead of chicken, so try this dish with your favorite meat or seafood.

1.Cut off the tips of the chicken wings and separate at the joint. Cut the thicker part of each wing in half lengthwise by inserting a knife between the two parallel bones.
2.Pre-season the chicken : Coat the chicken wings with pepper, shrimp paste, beaten egg, cake flour, potato starch and baking powder in sequence.
3.Pre-fry the chicken : In a wok, heat the soybean oil to 320°F (160°C). Over low heat, slowly deep-fry the chicken wings until lightly colored. Increase the heat to high and continue to deep-fry until the chicken wings become crisp.
4.In another wok or a frying pan, combine seasoning ingredients. Add chao tian chili peppers and cook slowly over low heat. When the peppers become slightly transparent, add the chicken wings and increase the heat to high. Season generously with salt and stir-fry for about a minute.
5.On a serving plate, arrange the chicken wings along with chao tian chili peppers. Garnish with the lily buds.

Excerpted from Haute Chinese Cuisine From the Kitchen of Wakiya (Kodansha International). Photographs by Masashi Kuma.