Although Westerners rarely venture past plain steamed vegetables, the Chinese steam a wide range of foods. Wai composes complete main dishes on single plates; Chinese home cooks often use heat-resistant glass pie pans or shallow heatproof bowls. When the dishes emerge from their steam bath, they're plump with natural juices It's an easy technique with the right equipment.
In a matter of minutes, Wai creates a pretty dish of kabocha squash and scallops, and then fish on tender tofu. Eat these homestyle favorites as the Chinese do, with a bowl of hot rice and stir-fried greens. It's a simple, good-for-you meal.
INFO: Chef Wai ( $$; 111 E. Fourth Ave., San Mateo, CA; 650/342-8388)
Steamed Fish on Soft Tofu with Black-bean Sauce
Pieces of fish coated with pungent black-bean garlic sauce steam atop melt-in-your-mouth tofu pedestals.
Steamed Kabocha Squash with Scallops
Bright orange kabocha squash forms a sweet base for tender scallops, spiked with ginger and chile. The dish is also very good as a vegetarian version, without the scallops.