Rachelle, Claire, Genevieve and Kirk enjoy a day in the California sun (above). Cheering on their home team, the San Francisco Giants, are Genevieve and Rachelle (below).

“When I was a law student in San Francisco, my brother’s father-in-law Ming Chong (I call him ‘Uncle Ming’) lived a block from my student abode,” shares Rachelle Chong from her home in San Francisco, California. “Ming and his wife Jessie invited me up to dinner often, feeling sorry for the busy law student. One of my favorite dishes Ming made me was his Chinese Five Spice Chicken. He would cut the roasted chicken up very small with a huge Chinese cleaver to be eaten with chopsticks over white steamed rice. It was so good I asked Uncle Ming to teach me how to make it.

“I think he used whiskey instead of rice wine in his version, but I changed it up since I always have rice wine in the house and rarely whiskey. The honey gives it a sweetness that is very nice and it is okay if the skin turns sort of dark brown, almost burned, as the chicken roasts because it makes it crisp.

“My husband Kirk and I are both from the Central Valley of California and from families who loved to eat. Kirk, who is the prime cook in the family, comes from an Italian-Irish set of families. He talks often of Great-Grandma Rosa and Grandma Annie Del Prete, who were fantastic cooks. He has an Italian meat sauce recipe from them that he makes often. It is a recipe he doesn’t give out easily!

“Mine is a fourth-generation Chinese-American family. My mother Barbara Ah Tye Chong had 14 brothers and sisters,” says Rachelle. “Gatherings in family always involve a big Chinese meal. My mom was a very good Chinese cook. She used to make elaborate Chinese hot pot meals, eight-course banquets and very good French meals.

“She taught me many Cantonese-style dishes during high school and college. She made a soy sauce-and-garlic chicken that was sort of a pared-down version of

Ming’s recipe. It was my comfort food of childhood.

“We lost Mom to breast cancer in 1989. One of my most treasured possessions is her church cookbook with her handwritten notes in it and many of her own recipes, including her Lobster Cantonese.

“I am now a mother of twin girls, age 11. Kirk and I began cooking with the girls when they were only four, because we both enjoy cooking and wanted them to learn to cook early. We have a home-cooked family dinner every night.”

Family field trips to the fantastic farmer’s markets in San Francisco are a big part of their loving to cook together. “The Alemany and Ferry Building farmer’s markets are our favorites in the city,” says Rachelle. “The girls enjoy exploring the fun food stands, and Kirk and I scour the place for the best vegetables and fruits.”

----As told to Emily Tyra

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Uncle Ming’s Five Spice Chinese Chicken

This wonderful dish from Rachelle is simply bursting with flavor.

  • 1 5-lb. roasting chicken
  • 2 TB. hoisin sauce (Rachelle likes Koon Chun brand)
  • 1/3 Cup dark soy sauce
  • 1/3 Cup light soy sauce (it’s okay to use just one type of soy if you don’t have both)
  • 1/4 Cup rice wine (mirin)
  • 1 TB. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. CAYENNE PEPPER
  • 1/4 tsp. GROUND CUMIN
  • 1 TB. finely minced, fresh peeled ginger root (or 1/2 tsp. POWDERED GINGER)
  • 1 TB. minced fresh garlic (or 1 tsp. MINCED GARLIC)

Clean the chicken and remove the giblets and any excess fat. Place in a zip-top bag. Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Add the marinade to the bag, seal, and carefully rotate the bag to coat the chicken. Marinate at least 3 hours in the fridge, removing the chicken from the fridge 1 hour before roasting to come to room temperature. Line a roasting pan with foil. Place the chicken on a rack, breast down over the tin foil. Put any excess marinade at the bottom of the pan and add 1/2 Cup water. Roast at 350° for 1 hour and 20 minutes, basting every 30 minutes or so. A large chicken may need a bit longer--use a meat thermometer if desired. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes after you remove it from the oven. Carve it and serve over steamed white rice with a stir-fried vegetable.

Prep. time: 10 minutes plus 3 hours marinating time
Cooking time: about 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Nutritional Information: Servings 6;
Serving Size 7 oz. (201g); Calories 440; Calories from fat 240; Total fat 26g; Cholesterol 150mg; Sodium 290mg; Carbohydrate 1g; Dietary Fiber 0g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Chinese Five Spice Powder .9 oz. 1/4 cup jar $4.35
Cayenne Red Pepper Powder 1.0 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.45
Cumin Ground .9 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.55
Powdered China #1 Ginger .9 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.65
Garlic Minced 1.2 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.79

Lobster (or Crab) Cantonese

Rachelle shares, “Here is my mom’s recipe for Lobster Cantonese. You may also make this recipe with Dungeness crab. I have made this and it’s easy and very delicious.”

  • 3 TB. vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed (or 1/2 tsp. MINCED GARLIC rehydrated in 1 tsp. water)
  • 1/2 lb. pork, finely minced (pork loin, butt or boneless chops)
  • 11/2 TB. light soy sauce
  • 2 Cups chicken broth (or 2 cups water plus 1-2 tsp. CHICKEN SOUP BASE)
  • 1 tsp. honey or granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. WHITE PEPPER (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. POWDERED GINGER (optional)
  • 1 lb. lobster meat--meat from 2 1-lb. lobsters or 11/2 lbs. lobster tail, cleaned, shelled and cut into 2-inch pieces (may substitute equal parts crab)
  • 2 TB. cornstarch
  • 2 TB. cold water
  • 2 green onions, washed and chopped small (green part only)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten

Heat the oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and pork and stir-fry until the pork loses its pink color. Stir in the soy sauce, chicken broth, honey, PEPPER and GINGER (if using); bring to a boil. Add the raw lobster pieces, cover, reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes. Mix the cornstarch and cold water into a smooth paste. Add to the lobster and stir until the gravy is thickened. Stir in the chopped green onions. Pour the beaten egg over the lobster and stir until the egg is just set. Do not overcook! Remove and arrange on a platter. Serve with rice and veggies.

Prep. time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Nutritional Information: Servings 4;
Serving Size 1 1/2 cups (328g); Calories 350; Calories from fat 140; Total fat 16g; Cholesterol 180mg; Sodium 820mg; Carbohydrate 10g; Dietary Fiber 0g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Garlic Minced 1.2 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.79
Chicken Soup Base and Seasoning 8 oz. jar $10.85
White Pepper Fine 1.0 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.89
Powdered China #1 Ginger .9 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.65