Profile: Apparel Manufacturer Emily Zhang
Emily Zhang is a very good cook. She lives with her husband Gary and their two kids in Monterey Park, California, but she grew up in Shanghai, “with parents who were both incredible cooks,” she says. “My dad especially—he made amazing food for every Chinese New Year.” So it’s a bit of a surprise that Emily didn’t step into the kitchen until her mid-20s. “Before I got married, I wasn’t interested that much. I didn’t even know how to boil rice.”
It all changed, however, when she started a family and needed to feed her son. “I had a great neighbor in China who became my cooking teacher for six months,” she continues. “We would double the ingredients and cook together for our families. She taught me how to slice tofu, how much soy sauce to add, how to make good soup, how to properly slice beef to make it thin, and how to make it taste tender.”
When Emily moved to Los Angeles to join Gary—he had come a year earlier for work and to set up home for them—she had already mastered all the necessary cooking skills. “He was so surprised I can cook,” she laughs. She had a daughter and became a stay-at-home mom, cooking every day.
“I only really made Chinese food,” she says. “So when my kids got older, they became interested in cooking and American food, and they learned from the Food Network.” Now they cook for her, too. Everyone’s happy.
Age 53 — Hometown Shanghai — Where do you live? Monterey Park, California — Occupation Apparel Manufacturing — Signature dish Taiwanese Oxtail Stew — Who taught you how to cook? My old neighbor in China — Favorite kitchen tool Wok — Always in your pantry Sesame oil, soy sauce — Go-to snack My own custom trail mix: sesame seeds, pine nuts, raisins, and walnuts — Favorite cuisine Chinese — Do you diet? No — Food addictions Steamed fish — Food allergies None — Food fad pet peeve Food with no flavor, too much oil and fat — Who’s your sous chef? My husband Gary — Drinking while cooking? No — What’s for dinner tonight? Not sure, I might go out to eat. — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? No. I don't drink milk — Best meal you ever had Steamed Alaskan king crab with garlic
Taiwanese Oxtail Stew
This hearty, unpretentious stew is Emily’s go-to dish when she entertains at home. “I make it several times a year when we throw a party, and everyone loves it,” she says. The recipe comes from her friend Jacqueline, who is from Taiwan.
Oxtails need longer cooking time to become tender, but the upside is you get moist, flavorful chunks of beef that melt in your mouth. In this recipe, you’ll cook them in water first to create a rich broth, and then you’ll add a variety of vegetables resulting in a tasty, satisfying stew.
- Serves 4–6
- 3 pounds oxtails
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled, chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 4 tablespoons ketchup
- 3 large carrots, cut into ½-inch slices
- 3 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 3 cups green cabbage, chopped
- 1 large russet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup milk
- Bring a Dutch oven or a large, heavy pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the oxtails, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the oxtails under cold running water. Set aside.
- In the same pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the oxtails, salt and bay leaves. Cover the pot with a lid, and simmer over medium-high heat for 1 hour.
- Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and tomato, and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mixture to the oxtails, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the ketchup, carrots, celery, cabbage and potato to the pot, and simmer until the meat is soft and a knife goes through it easily, about 35–45 minutes. Add a cup of water if the stew looks too thick.
- Remove the pot from the heat, carefully take out the oxtails, and put them on a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone, and cut into bite-size pieces. Place the meat back in the stew, add the milk, and heat through. Taste for salt and serve.
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