Tag Archive | "Simply Ming"

Cocona Ceviche

Ceviche in its bath of leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) and garnish of starch items, onion, plantain, sweet potato, chiles and more.

During the shooting of the public television show “Simply Ming” earlier this week, chef Elizabeth Johnson, Latin cuisines specialist at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, demonstrated making this Peruvian-style ceviche. Her host and celebrity chef of the show, Ming Tsai, gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Note that in the technique, steps are taken to keep bitterness out of the mix of flavors. Slicing the limes top to bottom, discarding the pithy, seedy center before squeezing, is one way. And, the chef recommends not using a hand-held lemon squeezer, as the bitter oils stay on the tool.

The recipe calls for discarding the center part of the red onion, or the heart. That is because this part grew first, and is the oldest and most bitter-tasting.

Cocona Ceviche


1/2 pound grouper, bonito
Kombu sheets, as needed, (optional)
4 teaspoons salt
1 Ají limo, thinly sliced with seeds/veins OR Substitute habanero, without seeds, veins)
1/4 cup red onion, heart removed, julienne,  rinsed in ice cold water
Ice bath and kosher salt, for curing fish

Leche de Tigre (Yields 1 cup)

20 Mexican key limes, or Mexican limes
1 pinch Bonita flakes (find in Japanese market, or section of supermarket)
2 Ají limo, thinly sliced with seeds/veins OR substitute habanero, without seeds, veins
1 celery stalk, peeled, thinly sliced
Ginger, peeled, grated to make 1 teaspoon pulp
2 garlic cloves, mashed with chef’s knife
1/4 cup cocona pulp (Amazonian tree tomato) OR substitute with other acidic fruit
1/4 cup red onion, heart removed, julienne, rinsed or soaked in ice cold water


1/4 cup plantains, ripe, peeled, 1/2-inch bias slice
1/4 cup sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled, sliced
1 cilantro sprig, roughly chopped

For the garnish: preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake the sweet potato, skin on for 35 minutes. Slice the plantains and reserve.

For the leche de tigre:  Cut the limes in half lengthwise, discarding the middle section and squeeze into a bowl. If you choose to use a lime squeezer, wipe the squeezer down with a dry towel after each use to avoid the build up of bitter oils from the limes. Add the remaining ingredients to the lime juice and reserve on ice. Season with salt to taste.

For the ceviche: Square off the fish and remove any bones or discolored pieces of flesh, adding these pieces to your leche de tigre mixture. Cut the fish into ½ inch bias cubes. Transfer the cut fish to a bowl set over an ice bath. Generously salt the fish, approximately 4-5 pinches of kosher salt. Mix the salted fish with a spoon and watch as the proteins in the fish produce a glossy sheen around the fish with the additional of the salt. Add the ají limo and red onion and continue tossing the fish for 1 minute.

Pour the leche de tigre through a strainer over the fish and press the strained ingredients. Transfer the ingredients to a bowl, add the garnish and serve immediately.

Makes 4 portions

From Elizabeth Johnson, chef-instructor, Latin Cuisines Specialist, at Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio

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Chef Ming Tsai in San Antonio, Keeping Things ‘Simply Ming’

Chef Ming Tsai, prepares for a shoot at a CIA kitchen on Wednesday. The host and star of “Simply Ming” cooked with several San Antonio chefs this week.

Public television chef and restaurateur Ming Tsai, known to many for his show, “Simply Ming,” may live in Boston but this week he seemed to make himself right at home in San Antonio.

Ming was in town for several days to produce the WGBH-TV show for his 11th season, which started last week. He also appeared at a reception as part of the KLRN Chef Series.

Wednesday’s shoot at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, was one of four that Ming and crew were doing. Also that day, he visited John Besh at the New Orleans chef’s San Antonio location of Lüke.

“John Besh is a great guy, and he really has embraced San Antonio – and San Antonio has embraced him,” Ming observed. “You’re lucky to have him.”

On Thursday, the crew would visit Johnny Hernandez’ La Gloria on the Pearl  campus, followed by a shoot at Los Barrios with chef and owner Diana Barrios Treviño.

Wednesday, the award-winning chef’s guest for the segment was CIA chef and instructor Elizabeth Johnson. (Ming, of course, was a guest in her kitchen.)

Focus, minding the details, issuing a few directions and, of course, admonishments to the small group gathered to watch, were part of the action. But, the crew moved with good-natured precision under the watchful eye of executive producer Laura Donnelly, and Ming Tsai was as relaxed and personable as his on-screen persona.

Ming Tsai mingles with KRLN fans.

The main attraction (besides Ming, of course) was Johnson, a Latin Cuisines Specialist, who would demonstrate the unique way Peruvians make their famous ceviche. But, the show would start off with cocktails — pisco sours (made with the priciest pisco around — Pisco Mosto Verde).

Introducing Johnson, Ming cracked a joke about her name not seeming to sound traditionally Peruvian and issued a mock threat to onlookers about turning off their cellphones.

“If anyone’s cellphone goes off, I’ll look at you in a really mean way. Even if I am drinking Pisco sours,” he said.

The first part of the Peruvian show (after the icy pisco sours were poured) would focus on the two chefs “shopping” for ingredients, which were arrayed in vibrant colors on one side of the work table.

Johnson pointed out the plantain, yucca, fresh hearts of palm, Peruvian purple potatoes, bowls full of limes, red onions, chiles large and small, a variety of Cape gooseberry, dried bonito, nuts and more. Also, there was cocona, a small acidic fruit that gives this dish its name, Cocona Ceviche.

The camera crew took their places, the audience settled down and Donnelly was focused on the small screen in front of her.

“Ready, ready … action,” she said, and the show was on.

The ceviche demonstration began with Johnson introducing the amazing variety of ingredients, many of which we’d call “exotic.”  Johnson picked up a cob of corn – but unlike any corn most of us had ever seen. The kernels were big, knobby and misshapen (at least compared to the corn we know). “It’s all starch, not sugar,” Johnson said.

One of the main differences between ceviche as we know it and the Peruvian dish is how the ultra-fresh, raw fish is treated. Instead of an acid bath of lime juice to cure the fish, salt is used for the same purpose. Lots of salt.

Johnson asked Ming to salt the fish — “until you think it’s over-salted.” After he did so, turning the fish (bonito) around and around in a large ice bath, she told him to add even more.

“You’re not cooking with acid, you’re curing with salt,” said Johnson. This, as both chefs noted, would bring the fresh-fish taste, especially the umami sensation, to the fore.

It’s not that acid isn’t important for this style of ceviche — it is, to the point that Johnson crafted not one, but two levels of acidity for the flavorful “broth” that the ceviche swims in called leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk.

Starch is added in the form of plantain, potato, the big corn kernels. A bit of habanero added heat to the profile, celery its perfume, dried bonito offered a smoky accent and a touch of dried kelp, from an inland lake, layered in another earthy element.

CIA San Antonio chef-instructor Elizabeth Johnson prepares some of the ingredients for Peruvian-style ceviche.

Lime juice was, of course, an important part of the liquid portion of the dish, along with another acidic ingredient, aguaymanto, a type of Cape gooseberry. This liquid is delicious in itself, and is consumed — either with a spoon or drinking from the bowl — after the main ingredients are gone.

When the ceviche was completed, Ming tasted it and declared it the best he’d had.

Ming then took over, and with Johnson’s help, made a breaded, nut-crusted fish on a colorful bed of purple potato hash, with fresh hearts of palm salad and a light vinaigrette. Johnson returned the compliments for his “perfectly moist” fish.

Yes, the audience and cooking assistants all had a taste of everything afterward — and yes, it was simply delicious. We got to sample the exotic nuts, berries and starches, and agreed with Ming that the ceviche made with salt-cured fish was worth every bit of the effort.

The shoot was done in three or four efficient segments and took three to  four hours. In the end, Ming thanked Johnson, gave the audience a friendly wave and said his benediction — “To all of you out there, peace and good eating.”


 Photographs by Bonnie Walker

A recipe for the Peruvian Ceviche will be provided as soon as SavorSA gets it. The shows done in San Antonio will probably air in the first few months of 2013.


Camera focuses on set — a work table in a CIA San Antonio Test kitchen Wednesday, where a segment of “Simply Ming” was happening.

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You Can ‘Mingle with Ming’ as Celebrated PBS Chef Comes to SA

Ming Tsai, one of PBS television’s top chef’s, will be in town filming four episodes of “Simply Ming” next week.

The popular chef will be cooking with some of San Antonio’s own top chefs, in their kitchens, as they collaborate on Ming’s signature “cooking on the fly” style.

San Antonio’s Convention & Visitor’s Bureau pitched this event nearly a year ago, and they’ll all be on hand at the events next week along with KLRN Chef Series, which is hosting a special “Mingle with Ming” event Wednesday at 6 p.m. Tickets still are available.

Casandra Matej, executive director of the CVB, says the bureau approached Ming believing that this Emmy-award-winning chef would be an especially good match for San Antonio.

“We’re so excited to bring ‘Simply Ming’ to San Antonio. Chef Ming Tsai will join several of the city’s talented chefs in their kitchens. The results should be inspiring. His passion of bringing together a mix of cultures and tastes makes him a natural fit for cooking in San Antonio,” Matej said.

The chefs who will be working with Ming, as they film four episodes, are Johnny Hernandez (La Gloria, Casa Hernan), Elizabeth Johnson (CIA), Diana Barrios Trevino (Los Barrios and Hacienda de los Barrios) and John Besh, another celebrity chef (though not a San Antonio resident) who owns Lüke, in downtown San Antonio. Johnson’s segment will be filmed at the CIA. The other chefs will host Ming at their kitchens.

The other cities featured at out-of-studio locations for Season 10 of “Simply Ming,” include the Azores and Chattanooga, Tenn.

According to the CVB, the show averages roughly between 750,000-1 million unduplicated viewers each week, and runs on 93 percent of the PBS stations in the top 50 markets.

The sets will be closed to the public, but, the public can purchase a ticket from KLRN and “Mingle with Ming” at the Pearl Studio in the Full Goods building. The event begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, and your $85 ticket includes an autographed cookbook from Ming.

This reception is part of the KLRN Chef Series. To order tickets, click here.


Photos courtesy PBS/KLRN/Ming Tsai

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