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Jon Yao keeps his grandmother's memory alive through his modern Asian-American cuisine at Kato in Los Angeles.

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Transcript

- Abalone porridge is something that's steeped in Chinese and Taiwanese culture and my family's as well. For my grandma, eating porridge was so nourishing for her, and that tradition passed to my parents and me. I'm John Yao. I'm the chef here at Kato restaurant in Los Angeles, California. Kato represents the modern Asian American experience. It ties back with a lot of our food memories, and a lot of people in my generation, it really helps us connect with our upbringing and gives us a voice. Rice porridge was looked at as something that was super nourishing in my family. I remember I was super skinny kid, so my grandmother would actually make me chicken broth and rice porridge just to kinda fatten me up. I've been thinking a lot about my childhood and what my grandparents made me, and that fond memory of my grandmother making me porridge was really special to me. That porridge exemplifies what we do here at Kato because now that my grandmother's no longer around, this dish and memory connects me to her. We braise that abalone in master stock to create a stock that has more body than just braising it in, say, dashi or water. Usually abalone's braised in chicken stock for a lot of hours, but for our master stock, we add beef tendon as well. To a pot, we add roasted chicken wings and we add sliced beef tendon. The beef tendon we do for flavor and an extra layer of collagen and gelatin to give the stock some body. To the pot, we add star anise, cinnamon, ginger, and scallion. We smash the garlic to release some of the flavor, and we add the garlic to the pot. Finally, we add our rice wine, dark soy, and chilis. This gives it kind of a red braised feel instead of just your typical master stock, and the chilis give it a nice little kick. All our cooking processes for this dish are very slow. So, to the pot, we add ice water to slowly pull out the collagen and gelatin. We simmer it over a low heat and let it come up to a boil very slowly, and then we put a lid over it. After eight hours, the stock is rich, the soy flavor comes through, you get a little bit of the chili flavor, but not so much of the heat, all of the star anise and cinnamon is perfumed. We strain out all of the solids and we ice bath the stock so we don't boil the abalone and we're able to cook it slowly. To a pot, we put in the abalone. We put in the abalone gel up because it helps us weigh down the abalones. Over the abalone, we pour the master stock. We bring it up to a simmer over slow heat so it's not a violent cooking process, and that way we start our slow braise over the next three to four hours. After it comes to a simmer, we cover it with saran wrap and we let it simmer for two to four hours. When the abalone is ready, we remove the clingfilm, pull out the abalone that has separated from the shell, and let it rest, and it'll taste like the rich master stock that has been fortified with that rich abalone seaweed liver flavor. It'll be fork tender, it'll be easy to cut through, and you'll be able to slice it for the next step. When my grandmother made rice porridge, it was just boiled dried abalone and chicken stock, and she'd just pour over white rice, and it would just look kind of white and unappealing. Ours is a little darker, and seeing that dark green color and eating the flavor of the seaweed flavored stock, it just matches. To a pot, we heat up some grapeseed oil. We'll add our ginger scallion paste. Ginger and scallion's the base of all Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine. We made it a paste so it kind of dissolves into whatever you're cooking more easily. We saute until it's fragrant and all the oils are released, but we don't do it 'til any color is formed. We then add to the pot rice, and we saute the rice so the rice picks up all of the fragrant ginger and scallion oil. Once the rice is sauteed, before it picks up any color, we deglaze the entire pan with rice wine. After some of the starch is released, we add all of our master stock. This master stock has picked up all this nice seaweed flavors of the abalone liver, and it tastes like abalone as well. We bring it to a slow simmer and we cover it and cook it until all the rice is tender and almost falling apart. Once our rice is tender, we add a couple drops of our dashi soy. We stir everything together and our rice porridge is ready for plating. Porridge is such a humble dish, but to our version, we add luxury ingredient like fresh abalone, and we add more seafood flavors to really make it a Kato dish. The first thing we wanna do is crisp up our kale. We brush both sides of the kale with grapseed oil and we put it in the oven at the lowest possible temperature. It'll take about two to three hours to crisp up. Once it's crispy, we take out the kale and there's an immediate smell of the seaweed flavor coming off of it, which will go well with the rest of our porridge. Next, we clean out the abalone. We cut off the liver and the mouth and we slice it into thin slices. We slice it into thin slices so it's thin enough to chew through, but still big enough to be visible to the diner when they dig through the porridge. We ladle some of the rice porridge into the smaller pot. Then, we add our thinly sliced abalone, and we mix it together to incorporate all the flavors and to have the nice gelatinous and starchy stock stick to all the abalone. We take the porridge and abalone mix and we spoon it onto a plate. Then, we arrange the kale on top. We place the frilly parts facing outwards so it resembles a live abalone, and finally, we dust it with kelp powder to reinforce that seafood flavor throughout the porridge. And there you have it, Kato's abalone porridge. Abalone porridge is a great warming dish with tons of seafood flavor from the kelp powder, from the abalone stock. It's really rich from the chicken, from the tendon, and all the spices that we put in. Abalone porridge helps us convey the Asian American experience. This is a memory that most Asian Americans grew up with, and here at Kato, we're putting it through a new lens for everyone to try, and it's important to me because it honors the tradition of me cooking with my grandmother, all the memories and traditions that we keep until this day.