Jaden Hair on Her Second Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, "Healthy Asian Favorites"

BlogHer Original Post

This year is proving to be a big one for Jaden Hair. The popular blogger is releasing her second cookbook, Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites, and she also has big plans for her family’s Florida homestead (aquaponics garden, anyone?).

I caught up with Jaden last week to find out all about her new cookbook, get a few food photography tips, and ask her how she figured out how to microwave rice. Read on to see what else Jaden is up to, and be sure to leave her some questions in the comments! For a sneak peek at the book, here is Jaden's recipe for Korean Beef Bites.

Jaden Hair
Images: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

Jane Tunks Demel: You describe the book’s recipes as “healthy Asian favorites outside the takeout box.” What kind of recipes should your readers expect to find?

Jaden Hair: So many Asian-American restaurants feature the same ol' dishes, kung pao this, sweet and sour that...and everything is deep-fried or drowning in goopy sauces.

But, in fact, real Asian cooking is light, healthy, and incredibly flavorful without the fat. These are the recipes I wanted to highlight in my book. Also, the recipes are designed to be flexible, whether or not you eat gluten-free, vegetarian, or a meat-eater who needs to cut back a little. Every recipe has options for substitutions.

Dishes like crowd favorite Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Grilled Tofu; light, clean Cantonese-Style Poached Fish; and Lemon Chicken with a light sauce and crunchy vegetables are examples.

JTD: You talk about your first favorite food memories in the introduction to the book, which is of eating with your Gong Gong (maternal grandpa). As a mom, what do you hope your sons’ first memories of food include?

JH: My older son, Andrew, learned how to make bread from scratch when he was four years old. Sometimes the bread would be in a shape of a strange three-legged dinosaur! We'd sit on the steps and eat the entire loaf together.

My younger son, Nathan, loves to be on television. He always wanted to be on the set every time I taped a cooking segment! One time, we had to stack five giant blocks just so he could stand and help me with the cooking segment. His job was to mix and stir. He’s so good on TV. I think he'll always remember giant television camera robots surrounding us while we cook.

JTD: What are your sons’ favorite recipes in the book? Do they help out in the kitchen? What about your husband?

JH: That's an easy one: We all love Korean barbecue! I have an entire chapter in my book called “Share,” which involves cooking and eating together at the table. It's kind of like fondue, Asian style.

Korean barbecue features a tabletop grill set up in the middle of the table. All around the table are little plates and bowls of vegetables, meats, seafood, and dipping sauces. Each person cooks their own food on the grill...and then you wrap it up in a lettuce cup with a little bit of rice. I throw on a bit of kimchi, too.

This kind of communal eating is just so much fun. Other recipes in the "Share" section include Sushi Party, Chinese Hot Pot, Japanese Hot Pot, and Vietnamese Summer Rolls.

JTD: You devoted a whole chapter to pickles and sauces--including three recipes for kimchi and sriracha hot sauce. What inspired you to do this chapter?

JH: The easiest way to add TONS of flavor and very little calories or fat is with pickles and light sauces. All of the recipes are so simple to make, the quick pickles take just minutes!

Homemade sriracha hot chile sauce is the best. Using fresh chiles, garlic, and ginger to make your own hot sauce makes such a big difference in flavor. I make my chile sauces with medium to mild peppers--so that you can really taste each individual ingredient--instead of just having your mouth burn!

JTD: I am so intrigued by your instructions for cooking rice in the microwave. How did you figure that out?

JH: One afternoon, alone in the house, I was hungry. Curiously, a lot of my food experiments begin that way.

I wanted to eat rice, but didn't want to drag out the big rice cooker just to make rice for myself. Then I remembered seeing a late-night infomercial for the microwave pasta cooker. Aha! Try cooking rice in the microwave!

JTD: You shot all the photographs for both of your books. How has your photography evolved over time? Any tips for bloggers and photographers who want to shoot for print?

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