Nom Nom Paleo’s gluten-free recipes (yes, potstickers!)

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Michelle Tam of Palo Alto has been described as an umami evangelist and Martha Stewart of Paleo. Both are true. But it is the Cantonese term wai sec that blogger and recipe developer Nom Nom Paleo says best describes her and her family. It means “live to eat”.

“Gluttony is another good translation,” says Tam, laughing. “And that’s pretty accurate, it goes back to my grandparents.”

At no time of the year does food get more celebrated and symbolic than the approaching Chinese New Year – or Lunar New Year. For the Year of the Tiger, beginning February 1, Tam and thousands of other Bay Area home cooks will be preparing family specialties for all those lucky foods, from dumplings and longevity pasta to fish.

“Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!” is the third volume by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong of Palo Alto. (Andrews McMeel)

If you follow a Paleo diet or avoid gluten, like Tam and her husband Henry Fong, you don’t have to miss out on a single holiday meal.

Her latest cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!, features 140 flavorful, protein- and plant-centric recipes, from Cantonese pipa duck with sunbutter hoisin sauce to chicken chow mein made with spiralized white sweet potatoes. The majority of the recipes are Whole30-compatible, and about half are keto-friendly, with vegan, vegetarian, and Instant Pot options.

Tam, a child of Hong Kong immigrants, grew up eating her grandmother’s whole poached chicken on the eve of every Chinese New Year. It’s always been smothered in a savory ginger and onion sauce, which Tam now puts on everything from poached chicken breasts during the week to white fish, traditionally eaten on holidays to promote prosperity.

But it’s their pork and shiitake potstickers that hold the most significance. While quick and easy recipes are her jam (especially when it comes to a sheet pan), Tam says the time she spent making these tricky purses of fried goodness with her mom and grandma is among her fondest memories.

“Homemade dumplings are the physical embodiment of Asian mothers’ love for their children,” says Tam, who makes her gluten-free batter with cassava flour and arrowroot powder, the same combination found in her Scallion Pancakes. “Sometimes you just have to work. It is worth it.”

It helps that all of Nom Nom Paleo’s content — the blog, the meal planning app, and all three cookbooks — is filled with Fong’s step-by-step photos, kid-friendly cartoons, and hackneyed jokes.

“We did it very consciously,” says Tam. “And we try to do it in a way that there’s no way you can mess up a dish.”

Palo Alto’s Michelle Tam and Henry Fong are the couple behind Nom Nom Paleo. (Oliver Fong)

Tam started blogging in 2010 after she and Fong went on a paleo diet and noticed improvements in their health. But Tam says they’re not paleo preachers, so go ahead and have some rice with those ginger fish fillets if you want. The couple just want families to come into the kitchen and believe that the healthiest meal is the one you make yourself.

And while the duo’s first two cookbooks focused on what they thought others wanted to cook, this latest collection, written and photographed during the pandemic, focuses on what they love to eat, from a simple Garden Pesto Scramble to to Shoyu Ramen and Shrimp Simmered at Green Mole.

“I think for a lot of people (the preparation and the food) sourdough was their comfort during that time,” says Tam. “But for me, home cooking is the Chinese and Mexican dishes that I grew up eating in the Bay Area, especially this.” my mother’s Chinese food.”

“Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!” is dedicated to her grandparents, who showed their affection with food rather than hugs and kisses, says Tam.

“We knew we were loved because of the food they prepared for us.”

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