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Profile: Designer Daniel Chan

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    Daniel Chan
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    Mhalbi pudding with pistachios
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    Milk, rose water, cornstarch and sugar
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    Mhalbi pudding with pistachios

Text, photos and food cooked by Michal Martinek

Dec 3, 2014

Print this recipe

Daniel Chan is a very good cook. When he was 14 years old, he rebelled: His sweet tooth cravings and his parents’ refusal to allow sugary desserts in their home propelled him to teach himself how to bake. Through trial and error, and thanks to hardheaded dedication and Julia Child, he perfected his technique and became the official family supplier of cookies, Jell-O pies and birthday cakes for years to come.

These days, Daniel’s culinary span is much wider and includes dinner party show-stoppers (porchetta with sambal sauce and elderflower relish) as well as dishes that highlight his constantly growing wine collection. 

Age 49 — Hometown Los Angeles — Where do you live? Los Angeles, on top of Bunker Hill — Occupation Designer for corporate marketing and advertising — Signature dish Roast something or other—some kind of beast or vegetable, or both — Who taught you how to cook? Julia Child, Martin Yan, Lidia Bastianich, Jamie Oliver, Alton Brown, and my mother — Favorite kitchen tool My knives — Always in your pantry Spices of every kind. A variety of salt (sea, smoked, Himalayan etc.). Pepper. Popcorn. Pasta. Rice. Japanese rice seasoning. Flour. Sugar. Liquors for cooking and drinking (Vermouth, Cognac, Bourbon). Walnuts or some kind of nuts. Dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, dates) — Go-to snack Potato chips. Popcorn. Seaweed. Cold starch taken directly from the fridge: seasoned balls of rice, pasta, potatoes — Favorite cuisine Japanese — Do you diet? No. If anything, my diet is eating well, which means all things in moderation, and being aware of how foods affect me. For instance, my consumption of carbs and meat is low because my little physical activity doesn't demand them. — Food addictions Salt and/or fried. And baked goods. For instance, if potato chips or chicharones were on a buffet table, I'd likely take the healthier portions of them over chicken wings and potato salad. Similarly with baked goods: a slice of pie or a croissant would entice me before a salad or chocolate. — Food allergies None — Food fad pet peeve Diets, particularly ones built around the latest "it" food. People needing or wanting to take on a diet seem to gravitate toward the ones with the presumed most effect for the least time or effort, and that's no way to eat or treat oneself. Add to that some food chemistry like high antioxidants and low fat, and you have people gorging or hoarding food stuff that (a) may not be any good after all and (b) messes ecosystems. — Who’s your sous chef? I typically cook alone unless I have close friends on-hand whose cooking skills I respect. Then it's whoever is willing. — Drinking while cooking? Only to be polite and social. But usually no. After awhile, alcohol will affect how I cook and that's usually not a good thing. — What’s for dinner tonight? Whatever my fridge provides — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Yes for literal spilled milk because it's a waste. No for existential spilled milk because a mistake is also a learning experience. — Best meal you ever had This answer is kind of cop out, but any family dinner—whether with my kin or my circle of friends—is the best meal. The ultimate joy of cooking is sharing the products of the effort and everyone tucking into it. The cameradie of friends and friends of family over the shared experience of a meal from my kitchen is always the best meal. And, no, I can't rank any one as best ever.

Mhalbi Pudding

All white and perfumed with rose water, this originally Algerian dessert is pleasing to look at and sumptuous to eat. “I’ve been making it on and off over the years, whenever I end up with extra milk in my fridge” says Daniel. His version uses cornstarch instead of the more traditional ground rice. Use non-dairy milk for a vegan version.

O

  1. Serves 4
  2. 1/3 cup cornstarch
  3. 3 cups milk, divided
  4. ¼ cup sugar
  5. 1 cinnamon stick
  6. 2 tablespoons rose water
  7. ¼ cup pistachios, chopped

1

Add the cornstarch into ½ cup of the milk and mix thoroughly. Add the sugar and mix.

2

In a medium, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, cook the remaining 2½ cups of the milk and the cinnamon stick until tiny bubbles form around the edges. Do not allow to boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture, and whisk slowly and constantly until it thickens, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in the rose water.

3

Pour the pudding into parfait glasses or ramekins. Cover each dish with plastic wrap to avoid thick skin forming on top. Let cool.

4

Serve chilled or at room temperature, sprinkled with the pistachio nuts.

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