Barbara Kim Stanton
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Celebrity chef Martin Yan is a master of many cuisines. His “Yan Can Cook” television series made him famous in Hawai‘i and around the world for cooking Chinese food.

But one of his favorite comfort foods is Japanese.

“My all-time favorite Japanese comfort food is ochazuke — tea rice with assorted pickles, roasted nori and grilled fish. I can eat that any time of day,” Yan said.

Since “Yan Can Cook” was first broadcast on PBS 40 years ago, Yan has cooked and traveled his way throughout Asia and Southeast Asia, exploring food and culture with his own brand of humor. His latest series, “Taste of Malaysia with Martin Yan,” can be seen on PBS Hawai‘i on Saturdays at 5 p.m. beginning Feb. 16.

Yan is also a health and wellness ambassador for AARP, teaching healthy cooking and living a well-balanced life. Next month, AARP Hawai‘i is bringing Yan to Honolulu and Maui for cooking demonstrations as part of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s 70th Narcissus Festival.

Yan’s participation in the Narcissus Festival is a homecoming of sorts. He is a regular visitor to Hawai‘i and has even been a judge in the Narcissus Queen pageant. Back in the day, he did cooking demonstrations for Liberty House.

“I’ve always loved Hawai‘i,” he said. “People in Hawai‘i enjoy life, clean air, good medical care, and the people are very, very charming and hospitable.”

Yan’s demonstration will focus on healthy cooking, which he said is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Walking to the market is exercise, he notes. “Walking Chinatown is a wonderful experience. There’s a lot of history, a lot of color, a lot of tradition and heritage.”

Cooking and eating with friends is also healthy because it promotes socialization. Too many people are solitary and eat alone, which is unhealthy.

“I encourage everyone to eat better and cook at home and have fun cooking at home,” he said.

Japanese shabu shabu, a version of the Chinese hot pot, is an example of a dish that’s healthy and social, Yan said. “It’s a great choice for entertaining at home, as everyone can choose and cook ingredients on his or her own.”

Yan loves that people in Hawai‘i have access to local fruits and vegetables like watercress, papaya, ginger, taro and pineapples.

The other thing he likes about Hawai‘i is that “there are a lot of elderly folks. You live longer. Because you live in Hawai‘i, you live longer.”

Good weather. Fresh, healthy food. Cooking healthy and socializing. That does sounds like a recipe for a long life.

Barbara Kim Stanton has been the state director of AARP Hawai‘i since 2005. She writes about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.


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