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A Rich Life and Healthful Food

September 26, 1996|BARBARA HANSEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"In just a couple of minutes, I can make a dish--easy," says Harriet Chia Lin Moore. The meal she's preparing tonight, however, will take a little longer. She's serving a Chinese banquet for 16 benefactors of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, one of 50 dinners being staged in the next two nights for the museum fund-raiser Art of the Palate '96.

Almost all the dinners around town for the fund-raiser will be handled by caterers and chefs. Moore is one of the very few hosts who will use her own recipes and be in the kitchen cooking herself. Her menu is so extensive, however, that she will need help. Assisting will be chef Alan Pu, who, like Moore, is from Shanghai. The dinner will take place at the home of actor Eddie Albert.

The guests at Moore's table, each of whom has paid $150, will taste shredded five-color delight, a cold appetizer; crispy chicken-and-shrimp rolls; minced chicken velvet thick soup; fragrant seafood rice wrapped in lotus leaves; honey-walnut diced chicken in a flower-shaped basket made from potato; Cantonese roast duck; asparagus with straw and black mushrooms and much more.

In addition to the food, Moore's unusual life story should make for interesting dinner table conversation.

Born in Hangchou, China, Moore grew up in Shanghai. There she married K.S. Yao, a developer who conceived the idea of tract housing for the city. The couple escaped Shanghai 10 days before it fell to the Communists in 1949 and settled in Tokyo.

Borrowing money, they opened two nightclubs and a restaurant, Cathay Tokyo, which became the first restaurant American military forces were allowed to patronize during the transition to Japanese rule at the end of the U.S. occupation of Japan after World War II. Touring entertainers who dined there included Danny Kaye, Errol Flynn and Jack Benny. Drummer Gene Krupa performed at one of the nightclubs.

Moore's husband died when the youngest of their three children was 8 months old. "I thought, what can I do?" she recalls. Her answer was to become a strong businesswoman, well able to deal with recalcitrant chefs who threatened to quit. "I was very tough," she says. "I would walk into the kitchen and say, 'If you want to get out, get out.' " When they failed to intimidate her, they would stay.

Her approach to such stress is this: "You just take a deep breath and say to yourself, 'It's part of the learning process.' "

Eventually, Moore opened a second restaurant, House of Cathay, in Yokohama. There, she taught cooking to American Navy wives. Her recipes have appeared in an Army-Navy cookbook published as a fund-raiser and in leading Japanese women's magazines.

For two years, just after the Korean War, Moore taught Chinese cooking on Nippon Television. She laughs at the memory. "I made a lot of boo-boos. I didn't know that much Japanese at the time." After almost 10 years in the restaurant business in Japan, Moore moved to the United States and remarried. Now divorced, she is president of Tri-Crown Vacations, a travel agency in West Los Angeles.

Moore certainly attests to the benefits of Chinese cuisine. Tall and slim, she has worn the same size of close-fitting Chinese dress for 30 years. "Right now, everybody is so health-conscious," she says.

Therefore, tonight's dinner will not only look pretty and taste good, it will be low in fat. Moore uses as little as 1 tablespoon of oil in a stir-fry for six to eight, in contrast restaurant food that sometimes glistens with oil. "I keep it to the very, very minimum," she says.

What follows are some of Moore's recipes that will be served at the banquet.

MINCED CHICKEN VELVET THICK SOUP

1/4 cup shredded Sichuan pickle

1 1/2 inches ginger root

Water

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons Chicken Concentrate

2 chicken breast halves, minced

3 egg whites, beaten until stiff

3 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry Sherry

1 cup Chinese pea pods, sliced into thirds

3 to 4 large white mushrooms, sliced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 small tomato, peeled, seeded and minced

1 teaspoon minced parsley

Combine pickle, ginger root and 2 cups water in saucepan. Bring to boil and reduce to 1/2 cup. Strain, reserving liquid.

Mix 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch with 1 1/2 tablespoons Chicken Concentrate. Combine minced chicken breast and cornstarch mixture. Fold in egg whites, mixing well. Set aside.

Combine chicken broth, remaining cup Chicken Concentrate and 1 cup water. Bring to boil. Add reserved pickle-ginger liquid.

Blend remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch with wine and stir into soup. Add Chinese pea pods, mushrooms, salt and white pepper. Bring to vigorous boil.

Add reserved chicken mixture. Mixture will float on top of soup like foam. Stir in sesame oil.

To serve, spoon into small bowls and garnish with tomato and parsley.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

126 calories; 1159 mg sodium; 24 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 15 grams protein; 0.88 grams fiber.

CHICKEN CONCENTRATE

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