Ed Schoenfeld is one of America's most prominent pioneers for Chinese cuisine. But even he would admit it was an unlikely career path.
The Jewish, Brooklyn-born restaurateur didn't exactly grow up in a hotbed of dumplings and stir-fries. (Pastrami was more common at his house.) But when he took cooking classes with Grace Chu, the widow of a former Chinese diplomat to the U.S., in the 1960s, he became a champion for Chinese cuisine's rich history, complex flavors, and centuries-old techniques.
With dozens of household-status restaurants under his belt since, Schoenfeld is most recently recognized as the mastermind behind RedFarm and Decoy, two of New York City's most popular destinations for expertly crafted specialties like a divine Peking duck.
But Schoenfeld—along with dim sum impresario Joe Ng, the executive chef and partner of RedFarm and Decoy—isn't just a culinary historian of Chinese cooking. Together, they're proving that traditional Chinese dishes (like specialty dumplings) can fit into anyone's diet—even one that's gluten-free.
"Unlike Northern Chinese cooking, which uses primarily wheat-based wrappers for items like classic crescent-shaped pan-fried dumplings," Schoenfeld explains, "our kitchen is based on Cantonese cuisine." Cantonese dim sum wrappers are typically made from tapioca and potato starches, which don't contain any kind of wheat gluten.
It's a kitchen-wide commitment: "We keep gluten-free soy sauce on hand [at RedFarm], so if a guest wants us to cook a particular dish without gluten, we can substitute the gluten-free soy and still get a really good result," he says.
They also use it as a springboard for new ideas.
"For this year's [Chinese New Year] celebration, we're serving a handful of new-to-the-menu specialties, two of which are excellent gluten-free items," he adds.
Take one bite of the corn- and black truffle-dumplings or prawns with truffled egg white sauce, both of which have names that confer wealth or long life, and you'll never catch yourself bad-mouthing gluten-free food ever again.
Here are Schoenfeld's tips and tricks for preparing a gluten-free Chinese feast, along with a simple and celiac-friendly fried rice recipe.