We're Nate Tate and Mary Kate Tate, a brother and sister cookbook author team obsessed with all things China. We create authentic and accessible Chinese recipes for home cooks. See more...


my dog nelson, the chinese actor, starring in "two widows"




Nate was the set decorator on a short film that was filmed in Chinatown called "Two Widows." They needed a dog for a few scenes and I volunteered Nelson. I was so excited about taking him to the film shoot that I taught Nelson a few commands in Mandarin... you know just in case he needed to know them. Sit! -- zuo le! Down! -- tang le! This was going to be Nelson's and my debut in a long and lucrative dog/trainer acting career.

On the actually day of the shoot in the tiny Chinatown apartment with all the actors and film production people around, I couldn't get Nelson to listen to me in English or Mandarin, no matter how many profanities I shouted at him. He was wild. He only ended up making it into one scene of the short movie and it's kind of hilarious because the whole time he's on the screen, he's pulling on the leash and definitely not zuo le! -ing. Nelson has not been asked back to appear in any other films.

To see the beginning and end of Nelson's and my acting/trainer career, skip to 7:20 of the film. The movie itself is actually pretty funny. It's about two widows who live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Chinatown New York. There's a bachelor living in an apartment on the second floor (with a dog). The two women compete to win him over because they don't want to walk up five flights of stairs anymore. Having lived in a sixth floor walk-up, I see the attraction.

-mary kate


chinese truism of the day

种瓜得瓜, 种豆得豆
(zhòng gūa dé gūa, zhòng dòu dé dòu) 

If you plant melons you'll get melons, if you plant beans you'll get beans:
what a man sows, so he shall reap

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stir-fried baby bok choy (chao xiao bai cai)


Mary Kate, her roommate Lauren, and I went to a dinner party a few weeks ago at our friends' Yoje and Sergio's apartment. Yoje cooks great southern-style Chinese food and she made a bunch of dishes using in-season ingredients. Yoje knows Mary Kate loves lotus root so she stir-fried some with fermented bean sauce. She also made crispy snap peas, and stir-fried baby bok choy with garlic and oil.  Everything was wonderful, but the baby bok choy really stood out.  I'm used to cooking with bok choy, slicing it up and putting it in soups and stir-fries, but I rarely think to use it's smaller cousin baby bok choy.  The flavor is slightly sweeter than regular bok choy, and as vegetables go, it's pretty darn cute.  Lauren is a vegetarian and was particularly impressed with the baby bok choy and vowed to make it for herself at home.  Well, here you go Lauren.  Here's our recipe for Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy, 炒小白菜 (chao xiao bai cai).  For a lighter taste, feel free to just stir-fry it with oil and a little salt.




Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb. baby bok choy, halved lenghthwise
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt


Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat until it is very hot.  Add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds.  Add the bok choy and stir-fry for 2 minutes, or until the leaves begin to wilt. Stir in the soy sauce and chicken stock. Cover with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally for for 4 minutes, or until the bok choy is tender.



ingredient stalker: what is taro?



Selecting taro: choose firm taro roots that do not show signs of mold or have shriveled skins.


I really missed eating dairy my first year living in China. I love cheese, yogurt, milk, and ice cream, but there aren't many dairy foods in the Chinese diet. I eventually found a man who would deliver yogurt to my apartment door every other day from an icebox on the back of his tricycle. I also discovered a corner store that sold Nestle ice cream bars. The ice cream bars came in two flavors: chocolate-vanilla and lavender colored "ube."  I assumed ube was grape flavored because of its purple color but it actually tasted something like roasted hazelnuts. I had no idea what ube was but I was hooked. These little ice cream bars were a contributing factor to the 20 lbs I packed on that year.  I found out later that ube is a tuber very similar to taro. Taro is a common flavoring in foods in China.  


Taro, 芋头 (yu tou), is a leafy tropical plant with underground root-like tubers. It's poisonous if its large leaves or tubers are eaten raw. I think they should put a warning sign or a sticker on taro at the market... "this can kill you. Cook first!" If cooked, taro is actually really nutritious (iron, potassium, vitamin C). Its tubers look like miniature coconuts or hairy sweet potatoes. In China, taro is a common ice cream flavor (it's as addictive as chocolate ice cream in my book, I love it), there's also taro bubble tea, taro ice cream, popular taro root cakes during Chinese New Year, McDonalds sells a taro flavored pie, and taro tubers are incorporated into many other traditional dishes.


We're cooking fried sugared taro tonight. 





chinese truism of the day

(shēng mǐ zhǔ chéng shú fàn)

The rice is already cooked; what's done is done

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