At Grace Choy’s Table in Tokyo, a Tantalizing Portal to Cantonese Cuisine

Owen Ziegler wrote . . . . . . . . .

Grace Choy’s kitchen is very small — about the size you’d expect in a studio apartment.

There’s enough room for Choy to walk the two or three steps from fridge to stovetop, but not much else. A humble array of premium Le Creuset cookware and high quality ovens accent the cooking area and dining room, but this is no industrial kitchen built to house a cadre of line cooks.

The layperson strolling through the backstreets of the Aobadai neighborhood of Meguro Ward might take a look through ChoyChoy Kitchen’s floor-to-ceiling window and consider it all yet another serviceable entry among Tokyo’s innumerable eateries. That would be a grave mistake — not only for the meal you’re robbing yourself of but also for the story you’re missing out on.

Choy has made sure everything here in this dining room tucked away almost as if it’s a carefully crafted secret has just enough for only one chef: herself.

Until early 2020, she was splitting her time between her native Hong Kong and Tokyo, where she served as the driving culinary force behind a Nishiazabu restaurant backed by a Tokyo-based restaurateur and event planning consortium. When her annual contract she’d signed the year before was up for renewal, Choy found herself faced with a difficult decision: continue working as a cog in a successful, larger culinary operation or reclaim everything for herself.

Choy opted to go back to basics. In March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic closed Japan’s borders for the next several years, she relocated here and opened up her private kitchen in Nakameguro — one she supplies, staffs and serves on her own all by hers.

“I wanted to cook like I did in Hong Kong,” says Choy, who designed the modest space and lodges on the second floor when she’s in Tokyo (she also owns a home in Shizuoka Prefecture). “At that moment, I wanted to focus on cooking instead of business — even now.”

Despite the magnitude of the decision, Choy was no amateur embarking out on her own. It had been years since she had left her previous career as an office worker behind to focus on cooking, and she already had much to show for it. Choy’s 2018 cookbook, “Grace’s 60 Recipes,” earned the Best Woman Chef Book designation by the Gourmand Awards the following year, and CNN once described her private kitchen back in Hong Kong as one of that city’s best kept hidden gems. She also partners with several premium culinary brands — an explanation for all her Le Creuset cookware she puts to great use.

Now, Choy continues on in Nakameguro, but beyond serving up succulent meals, what exactly is her goal? To hear her tell it, it’s a simple yet challenging one: Use the freshest ingredients available in Japan to bring authentic Cantonese cuisine to many who’ve likely never had it before.

A Cantonese journey

For too many Americans like myself, a critical step in appreciating your first authentic Cantonese meal is dissuading yourself of any of the notions picked up over years of consuming “Chinese” foods like orange chicken, crab rangoons and spare ribs. Only the willfully ignorant can convince themselves that these dishes represent anything in the same neighborhood as traditional Cantonese cuisine, yet that awareness only leaves you with an empty box, an unfurnished room you know exists yet can’t quite imagine what fills it.

In Japan, assumptions about Chinese cuisine are different, though — in Choy’s eyes — no less inaccurate. She often hears Japanese diners quip that Chinese chefs are capable of little variety and that dishes are oily and salty beyond reason. As in the United States, a belief persists among some in Japan that Cantonese and wider Chinese cuisine exists on the unrefined end of the culinary spectrum.

Choy considers it something of a mission of hers to dispel these mischaracterizations, and a few bites of her cooking not only helps you divorce yourself from such regionally adapted idiosyncrasies — it ushers you toward a new definition entirely.

Over an afternoon together, she puts together several dishes for me, chatting and cooking as if it was nothing. First comes a Hong Kong-style char siu pork made from Kagoshima-bred kurobuta pig (the Japanese version of the famous Berkshire), a delicate welcome of fresh flavors laid over a bed of fresh vegetables. Next, Choy chills jidori chicken from Tokushima Prefecture and drizzles over it a mixture of oyster sauce, mature vinegar and Sichuan pepper — not once did this topple over into overspicyness, a sterling example of balance.

From there, two heartier dishes follow: a Hong Kong-style soup with Shizuoka chicken, dried yam from China’s Henan Province, wolfberries and fish maw, all double boiled for four hours and finished in an earthen-brown tea pot; and grouper in a supremely moreish Hokkaido-grown, Shizuoka-fermented black bean and Aomori garlic sauce — it’s difficult to understate how truly inviting the next bite is.

Finally, dessert: a homemade apricot pudding served with almond slices and fresh strawberries. It’s a left turn in terms of flavors, to be sure, but it’s a welcome rerouting and almost a reminder that I’ve just been along for the ride, one Choy’s been navigating the whole time.

It’s a microcosm of a full-fledged dining experience at ChoyChoy Kitchen, which usually runs about ¥30,000 per person before tax for six or seven courses. There are, however, two wrinkles. One is negligible: Choy allows diners to bring their own wines and other preferred beverages with no corkage charge. The other — actually making a reservation — cuts to the heart of Choy’s entire cooking philosophy.

“I don’t accept same-day reservations,” she says. “If you emailed me today, I think it might take a few months before I could have you in for dinner.”

It’s not a matter of bandwidth, Choy explains, but of quality. It’d be no issue for her to walk into a Nakameguro supermarket and stock up on what ingredients they happen to have, but that would necessitate compromising dishes to a level she’s not comfortable with. The jidori chicken and kurobuta pork she sources are not just feathers in her cap — the quality these ingredients represent is a cornerstone of her menu.

Hastily made bookings, therefore, would likely leave both diner and chef alike wanting more. Moreover, a combination of a packed schedule and a lingering arm injury has forced Choy to close future bookings to close friends and acquaintances only.

“Normally, I would work Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Choy says of her limited availability for the foreseeable future. “This year, though, I’ll be focusing more on research and development — searching for new ingredients around Japan and testing new Chinese dishes in my kitchen.”

With more and more guest chef spots popping up on Choy’s calendar, including earlier this year at the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, and The Ritz-Carlton in Macau, seats at ChoyChoy Kitchen have become all but impossible to obtain. However, the chef remains committed to reaching as many would-be diners as possible — critically, through an upcoming series of contributions to The Japan Times.

“I want to write because I want more people — especially the people of Japan — to spread (authentic Cantonese) cooking style.”

Source: Japan Times

See selected recipes of Grace Choy . . . . .






Home-cooked Dinner for Two

The main dish is Deep-fried White Fish with Eggplant, Pepper and Grated Daikon in Dashi Broth.





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Scientists Get Closer to a Better PSA Test

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

The most common screening test for prostate cancer so often returns a false positive result that it’s no longer recommended for men older than 70, and it’s offered as a personal choice for younger men.

But researchers think they’ve found a way to make the blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) accurate enough to significantly reduce overdiagnosis and better predict dangerous cancers.

By calibrating PSA levels to each man’s genetics, doctors could control for other factors that might cause levels to be elevated, according to researchers at Stanford Medicine, in California.

The researchers envisioned combining the regular blood-based PSA test with an additional genetic analysis that detects inherited genetic variants that can affect PSA levels.

Elevated PSA levels can be a sign of prostate cancer, but levels can also be high due to other issues like inflammation, infection, an enlarged prostate or just old age, the study authors said in background notes.

“Some men have higher PSA levels due to their genetics,” senior researcher John Witte, a Stanford professor of epidemiology and population health, said in a university news release. “They don’t have cancer, but the higher PSA level leads to a cascade of unnecessary medical interventions like biopsy.”

By one estimate, less than one-third of men with elevated PSA levels were confirmed by a biopsy to have prostate cancer, the researchers reported. Moreover, 15% of men with normal PSA levels were later found to have prostate cancer.

But health experts are reluctant to write off the PSA test completely, given that prostate cancer rates are on the rise in the United States.

Prostate cancer rates rose by 3% a year between 2014 and 2019 after two decades of decline, and advanced prostate cancers increased by about 5% a year, the latest American Cancer Society statistics show.

The problem is that the signal delivered by current PSA screening — a man’s risk of prostate cancer — is too often mixed with background noise, the researchers explained.

“To improve the signal, which is the variation in PSA levels caused by a prostate tumor, we subtract out the noise, which in this case comes from genetics,” said lead researcher Linda Kachuri, an assistant professor of epidemiology and population health at Stanford.

For this study, the investigators looked at the genomes and PSA levels of nearly 96,000 men without prostate cancer to better understand the genetics behind normal variation in PSA levels. The data had been collected as part of earlier studies and included mostly men of European ancestry.

Through this analysis, the researchers estimated that 30% to 40% of the variation found in each man’s PSA levels constitutes “noise,” determined by genetic factors unrelated to cancer.

“Specifically, what we’re trying to capture are the genetic determinants of normal PSA variation,” Kachuri explained.

“This is different from our usual research deciphering the genetic basis of cancer,” Witte said. “We want to remove the non-cancer-related part that’s making PSA a less specific biomarker.”

The researchers identified 128 specific sites in the genome that can affect a man’s PSA level, and then developed a means to account for these normal genetic variations when calculating what they called a PSA polygenic score.

“A polygenic score is a quantitative way of summarizing someone’s genetic predisposition for a trait in a single value,” Kachuri said.

The researchers then tested their PSA polygenic score against data from a separate group of nearly 32,000 men without prostate cancer.

They found that the score could predict close to 10% of variation in PSA levels. However, it was much more effective among men of European ancestry than among men of East Asian or African ancestry.

Next, the researchers applied their score to a mixed group of men with and without prostate cancer, as confirmed by biopsy. The results showed that their PSA test could have spared roughly 30% of those men a biopsy.

The adjusted PSA levels particularly improved detection of the more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, although the benefit was noticeable only in men of European ancestry, according to the report.

“What we’re really worried about are those aggressive cases, so the fact that we’re able to show that genetically adjusted PSA is more predictive of aggressive disease is really promising,” Kachuri said.

Unfortunately, the adjusted PSA levels also would have missed approximately 9% of positive biopsies, the findings showed.

The majority of these missed cases were slow-growing tumors, which are not as dangerous and may not even require treatment. However, the misclassifications point to room for improving the score, the study authors said.

The team next plans a larger study that will include more men from diverse populations, to better improve the accuracy of the test.

“Ideally, we want to come up with a single score that works well for everybody, across the spectrum of ancestry,” Kachuri said.

Even a small improvement in screening could save lives, given that one in nine men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and one in 40 will die from it, the researchers said.

The new study was published in Nature Medicine.

Source: HealthDay





Lobster with Superior Broth and Noodle


1 lobster (about 1 kg)
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 cloves garlic
4 slices ginger
1 stalk white part of spring onion
2 pieces yee-fu noodle


1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup Water
1 tsp light soya sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
dash sesame oil and ground white pepper


  1. Rinse and clean lobster, chop into bite-sized pieces, crack the claws and leave to drain off excess moisture.
  2. Slice garlic, cut white part of the spring onion into sections, cut ginger into fancy shape.
  3. Bring 1/2 wok of water to the boil, parboil noodle in boiling water until just tender, remove and drain.
  4. Heat 1 cup oil in the wok, dust lobster pieces lightly with cornstarch, fry in medium hot oil until almost cooked, remove and drain well.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil, saute ginger, spring onion and garlic until fragrant, add sauce and bring to the boil.
  6. Add noodle to the sauce, top with lobster pieces, cover and cook for 1 minute until sauce has been absorbed. Remove to a serving plate and serve hot.

Source: Towngas Millennium Cookbook

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