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Scientist Turned Chef Yunan Yang Ditches Lab to Experiment with Food

Yunan Yang never intended to open a restaurant when she first arrived in the United States from China 10 years ago

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Chefs work with peppercorns shipped overnight from the owner's hometown of Chongqing, China, said Yunan Yang, the owner. VOA

Yunan Yang never intended to open a restaurant when she first arrived in the United States from China 10 years ago. Her plan was to study cancer. As a post-doctorate cancer researcher, she spent six years in Madison, Wisconsin, and worked to publish her findings in scientific journals.

She used radiation and chemicals in her research, which took a toll on her body. She said her job affected her platelet count, which made her bleed easily.

“After I (lost) two babies when (I was) pregnant, I had to make a big decision. My doctor told me, ‘Yunan, you have to write your last words (will) because we don’t have time to save you. Your body, whole body (at any) moment could be bleeding,’” Yang recounted.

For her health, and to prevent future miscarriages, Yang chose a second career as a restaurateur, moving in the opposition direction of many immigrants in the United States. Instead of entering the restaurant business first in hopes of sending her kids to college, Yang began working in the restaurant business after her life in research.

Scientists, Chef, Yunan Yang
Pepper Twins owner Yunan Yang left her career in cancer research and started her first restaurant four years ago in 2015. She now has six Sichuan Chinese restaurants throughout Houston. VOA

Her inspiration for opening a restaurant came during a trip to a conference in California, where she saw an hour-long line of hungry patrons waiting to get into a Chinese restaurant.

In Madison, the small city where her lab was located, she said “We don’t have a good Chinese restaurant.”

Yang did not start a restaurant in Chinese enclaves like many other immigrants across the U.S. She opened restaurants outside of Chinese communities, in affluent neighborhoods. In Houston, the most diverse city in America, she said its residents’ tastes in Chinese food have become quite discerning.

“American guests, they can find out which one is authentic Chinese restaurant.” Yang continued, “They travel a lot around the world. They know (what) original Chinese food looks like.”

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Ravi Chawda is a diner who loves spicy food. He has never been to China but knows the difference between the so-called American Chinese food and something more like what he would get in China.

“I’ve done a lot of business with the Chinese, so I’ve been to some pretty authentic places. This is by far one of the most authentic,” Chawda said.

Yang said one key ingredient in her restaurant is fresh peppercorns from her hometown of Chongqing, China near Sichuan, a province known for its spicy dishes. The peppercorns are shipped overnight to Houston and create a flavor called “mala” in Mandarin meaning numbing, tingly, and spicy.

The hometown flavors are also drawing loyal Chinese guests, such as Yan Xiang Yu, who attended university in Chengdu, a city in Sichuan.

Scientists, Chef, Yunan Yang
Some of the popular dishes at the Pepper Twins restaurant, clockwise from the upper left: Golden Eggplant (top), Spicy Persian Cucumber (right), Crystal Pudding (left). VOA

“I think the biggest highlight is they can really deliver well the ‘ma’ (numbing/tingling) feeling. The peppercorns are very flavorful,” said Yu who would eat at Pepper Twins when he craves the “mala” feeling in his mouth.

Yang started her first restaurant four years ago, since then, she’s expanded to six locations throughout Houston.

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Not only does Yang have a successful restaurant business, she also now has two children who inspired the logo for Pepper Twins. (VOA)

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Chef Colibri Jimenez Talks About Mexican Cuisine

Mexican cuisine is so varied, you can never stop learning

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Mexican cuisine
Mexican food is known for its variety of flavours. Lifetime Stock

BY SIDDHI JAIN

We saw her competing with star chefs from around the world in Netflix’s grand culinary contest “The Final Table”. One of the 24 best chefs of the world chosen, Chef Colibri Jimenez is an authority on Mexican cuisine.

Author of the book eUna Aventura Gastronomica’ in which she shares stories and photographs about her journey around Mexico and its most remote corners, Chef Colibri first got interested in Mexican cuisine due to the centuries-old rich culture behind it.

“What excites me is the different flavours and ingredients there are in Mexican cuisine. It’s complex but it’s interesting because you never stop learning and researching all the different flavours Mexico gave to the world,” she told IANSlife.

The culinarian likes to uncover the hidden gems in Mexico, and frequently travels around the Mexican countryside for it.

Mexican cuisine
Mexican cuisine is famous due to the centuries-old rich culture behind it. Lifetime Stock

“The vanilla plantations and cocoa plantations are a treasure. There are secrets of coloured corn. In central Mexico, they find blue corn, purple corn, red corn, which are all hidden gems that tourists should visit.”

Colibri, who has been in the industry for 11 years, heads Aventura Gastronomica, a company dedicated to the investigation and preservation and promotion of ancient Mexican culinary traditions.

Asked about her experiences in “The Final Table” last year, she said It was a life-changing experience and she made many good friends that are now family. “It was also challenging to compete with Michelin-star chefs all over the world, some of them much older than me,” she added.

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On the worldwide fame of Mexican food, Colibri said: :People love it, and it’s always a pleasure to share one’s own culture with other cultures. People love to eat more tacos!”

She is currently in India on the invitation of CRED, and is conducting specialised culinary masterclasses in different cities. “I am teaching them how to make fresh salsa, traditional guacamole and Xni-pec Salsa from the state of Yucatan in southeast Mexico.” (IANS)