IT WAS my late father who started our household tradition of celebrating the Chinese New Year despite the fact that we don’t have a single drop of Chinese blood flowing through our veins. He never heard us complain though since we are a family who comes up with varied reasons to celebrate, any excuse to cook up a feast.

However, long before this tradition was established, I already had a love affair with Chinese food.

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Thanks to the cook who first sparked my love for cooking shows long before Tyler Florence swept me off my feet – Stephen Yan.

Yan’s cooking show, Wok with Yan, aired every Saturday at 6 p.m. on RPN9, if my memory serves me right. I was six or seven years old. I always looked forward to his simple recipes and his showmanship that made the cooking show more than a cooking show; it was truly entertaining. I was amused by how he always put “wanda powda” in his recipes. Wanda powda is cornstarch which he often used to thicken his sauces.

I liked the man because he’s truly funny. (Who doesn’t love a funny man?) I remember his trademark aprons with his comical one-liners: Wok and Roll, Danger, Men at Wok, Wok’s up, Doc? to mention a few.

I believe it was through watching Yan that I told myself, “I have to learn how to cook.” So here I am, 20 or so years later (yes, decades. I’m 32 going on 33), still obsessed with cooking shows, and still very much obsessed over which brand of pancit bihon or sotanghon to buy. I always have a box of wanda powda in stock and I still get annoyed at how our wok got stolen right under our noses.

I miss the man and have often wondered if he still has a cooking show in some obscure channel that our local cable service provider doesn’t carry. Of course one click on the net would tell me that he had shows on BBC Travel and Living, confirming my suspicion that indeed, I don’t have this channel.

I guess then I’ll just have to be content with my memories of Stephen Yan. It is truly because of him that I have honed my skills with the knife and have found my rightful place in the kitchen. And in loving tribute to the man who ignited my passion for cooking (and cooking shows, I can’t get enough of cooking shows!) I share his recipe for basic fried rice.

Stephen Yan’s basic oriental fried rice:

* 6 cups rice, cooked, cold

* 4 tablespoons peanut oil, divided

* 2 large eggs, beaten with dash of salt

* 1/2 teaspoon salt

* 2 tablespoons soy sauce, dark

* 1 teaspoon Chinese cooking wine

* 2 green onions, stalks chopped fine

Into a hot wok, add one tablespoon of peanut oil.

When oil is hot, gently pour egg into wok and cook with medium-high heat for two minutes. Turn over to cook the other side of the egg. Cook for another two minutes and remove from wok to a cutting board and shred egg into slivers.

Using medium heat, add three tablespoons of peanut oil into wok until smoke begins to rise. Put in cooked rice, salt, wine, and dark soy sauce and stir until the rice is hot. Add egg slivers, and green onions. Stir for another minute and serve hot. (Maan Cacdac)