Chef Brandon Jew’s memories of Lunar New Year (on February 1st this year) are firmly entrenched in San Francisco’s iconic Chinatown. He marched in the annual parade, showing off his kung-fu skills. Today, he watches the parade from the perch of Mister Jiu’s, his award-winning restaurant.
It was coming full circle for the kid who grew up in the Chinatown, nestled under the wing of Ying Ying, the family matriarch and chief cook, as she made her rounds at the markets. “We had seven stops,” he remembers. “Lap cheong from down the street, a live fish from Stockton Street, the produce market. A lot of times, she was battling other grandmas to get the very best!”
He had been cooking at Quince, a renowned Jackson Square restaurant, when Ying Ying passed.
“Some things just matter most,” he writes in his 2021 book. “Ying Ying was dying, and with her a history in recipes and love.” On the line cooking perfect Ricotta Sformato, he found himself far from his heritage. In a sense he was, he writes poignantly, “a long way from home.”
So he quit his job and bought a one-way trip to Shanghai, studying the many cuisines and micro-seasons of China. He learned how to make many types of dumplings (conjuring the ones that would soon make him famous), the trick to a beautiful roast duck, and more.
The result was Mister Jiu’s, a restaurant that inspires with its mix of storied Chinese recipes, European technique and super-fresh ingredients. The banquet hall he chose at 28 Waverly in the heart of San Francisco’s iconic Chinatown was one he’d visited as a child, for parties. It still smelled of celebration, he writes in his book: cognac and firecrackers.
Mister Jiu’s was a hit, and the acclaimed book Brandon co-wrote with Tienlon Ho is lovely—a mix of memories and recipes.
Today, Brandon lives with his wife in his grandmother’s house, walking to 28 Waverly every morning.
We’re thrilled to share his recipe for dan tat, an egg tart with Portuguese roots. Monks brought pastéis de nata to China in the early 20th century, writes Brandon, and Hong Kong and the mainland added Chinese lamination technique, which includes lard, for an inimitable flakiness. “Dan tat have been on the world’s dim sum carts ever since,” he writes. This recipe takes a cue from Parisian flan, making it even more international.
We’ll be making his dan tat for a celebratory Lunar New Year meal of longevity noodles, dumplings and the like—a riot of foods to ring in the February celebration. At Brandon’s house, his Mom often cooks. “Since she’s from the American era of casseroles, she’ll make chicken a la king or maybe randomly brisket and cabbage.” But there’s also black bean chicken and steamed fish with ginger and scallions, rice noodles, Chinese soups like Westlake beef soup or jook.” (Start your prep early; the table should be brimming!)
We’re longtime Brandon fans, and think his divine egg tarts are just the thing to round out the feast.
Parisian Dan Tat
- Food processor
- 9-inch (23-cm) flan ring or round cake pan
- pie weights
- small offset spatula
For the dan tat crust:
- ¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk
- 1 egg yolk
- 1½ cups (210 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ cup (185 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
For the egg custard filling:
- 3 cups plus 2 Tbs. (750 ml) whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and pod reserved
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbs. (265 ml) heavy cream
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1 egg, plus 4 egg yolks
- ⅓ cup (45 g) cornstarch
- 1 pinch kosher salt
For the crust:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and egg yolk and set aside. In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse briefly to combine. Scatter the butter over the flour and pulse repeatedly for a second or so until the butter is cut into pea-size pieces. While pulsing, stream the milk mixture into the flour mixture. Continue with more 1-second pulses until wet clumps start to form. The dough should not be dry or form a ball. Remove the dough from the food processor, shape into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a 9-inch (23-cm) flan ring, or a 9-inch (23-cm) round and 2-inch (5-cm) high cake pan on the baking sheet.
- Unwrap and lightly flour both sides of the dough. Roll the dough out into a 12-inch (30-cm) round about 1/4 inch thick. Line the prepared pan with the dough, wrapping it over the rim so it will not slump during baking. Trim the overhang. Using a fork, pierce the dough all over to prevent bubbling. Set aside in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Press a 16-inch (40-inch) long sheet of parchment paper onto the crust, then fill the crust with pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the parchment paper and weights. Continue baking until the crust is very pale golden brown, about 5 minutes more. If parts of the crust have puffed up, use your fingers to flatten gently. Remove from the oven and let the crust cool to room temperature.
To make the custard filling:
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and vanilla seeds and pod and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let the mixture steep for 20 minutes. Discard the vanilla pod.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cream, sugar, egg, egg yolks and cornstarch until smooth.
- Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl by filling it with ice cubes and a little water.
- Bring the vanilla milk back to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk 1/3 cup (80 ml) of the milk into the egg mixture to combine and temper the eggs, then whisk in the remaining milk. Pour the milk-egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens and just starts to bubble (don’t worry if it’s a little lumpy), 3 to 6 minutes. Stir in the salt.
- Strain the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pushing it through with a rubber spatula. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard so that it doesn’t develop a skin. Place the bowl in the ice bath and let the custard cool until slightly warmer than room temperature, about 30 minutes. The plastic wrap should pull off the surface cleanly. If not, let it cool further.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Stir the custard until smooth, then pour into the crust. Smooth the top with a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Leave on the baking sheet and bake until the surface is mostly dark brown and the custard bubbles around the edges, 40 to 45 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet as needed for even browning.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let the tart cool for 2 hours. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours or up to overnight before slicing and serving.
This is a wonderful post! I am buying the book, and am trying this recipe. As an Oakland hills native, I have wonderful memories of Chinatown as a child