- Liam Mayclem, the KCBS <a href="http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/category/foodie-chap/">Foodie Chap</a>

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – “Meet Cecilia Chiang, 96 years young, is today celebrated as the doyenne of Chinese cuisine. Her high-end restaurant Mandarin, which was a fixture in Polk Street and later Ghirardelli Square neighborhoods through the early 1990s, focused on the classic northern Chinese and Shanghainese dishes she ate growing up in a wealthy Beijing family. Those dishes, including red-cooked pork and pot stickers, were largely unknown at the time in America.

In 2013 Ms. Chiang was given a James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award – “I waited a long time for this” she told me with a twinkle in her eye.

This extraordinary food pioneer will be celebrated again at “Above and Beyond China Town” – a gala celebrating Ms.Chiang at the Chinese Historical Society on Saturday September 19th from 4-8pm. I will serve as the event EMCEE.

I had the joy of chatting with Ms.Chiang at her San Francisco abode for our Foodie Chap interview.



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Cecilia Chiang's Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups (credit: Foodie Chap/Liam Mayclem)

Cecilia Chiang’s Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups (credit: Foodie Chap/Liam Mayclem)

Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups

  • 6 dried black mushrooms
  • 1 pound boned chicken thighs, dark meat, finely ground
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1/4 cup finely diced Chinese sausage (lop chong) or Virginia ham
  • 1/3 cup (5 ounces) drained and diced canned water chestnuts
  • 2 teaspoons (about 2 stalks) minced green onions, white part only, plus additional, thinly sliced for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 6 to 8 crisp, trimmed iceberg lettuce leaves


In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in hot water to cover for 15 minutes. Drain and chop them finely. You should end up with about 1/3 of a cup.

On a cutting board, use a cleaver or sharp knife to carefully remove the bones, tough tendons, and extra fat from the chicken. Mince the remaining meat and skin and set-aside until ready to use; you should have 6 ounces.

To make the sauce, whisk together half the wine with the soy and oyster sauces in a small bowl.

To make the filling, heat a large wok over high heat until a bead of water dances on the surface and evaporates. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the chicken, and quickly stir the meat to break it apart. Cook, stirring constantly, until a bit of pink remains, about 1 minute. Toss in the mushrooms and stir to combine well. Add the sausage, water chestnuts, and green onions and cook for 30 seconds or more. Pour in the reserved sauce, bring the liquid to a boil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with white pepper and remove the pan from the heat.

Turn the chicken mixture out onto a serving platter and scatter with pine nuts and sliced green onions. To serve, place a bit of the chicken mixture in a lettuce leaf and eat while the mixture is still warm.

Serves 6 to 8 as part of a Chinese meal and 4 to 6 as a Western-style entrée.

For more on Above & Beyond China Town, visit chsa.org


KCBS radio “Foodie Chap” and KPIX 5 television “Eye On The Bay” host Liam Mayclem introduces us to the culinary stars behind the food and wine loved by so many in the Bay Area.
Follow him on Twitter & Facebook @foodiechap