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May 25, 2021
Chef Wendy Zeng, Winner of "Chopped 420": Best Thing I Ever Cooked While High

BY CHRISTINA WONG | Baking With Chickens | Photos by Dustin Hughes

From Carl Sagan to Lady Gaga, artists, thinkers, entrepreneurs, chefs, designers, writers, and countless others have long used cannabis to enhance creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Not only anecdotally—research has validated that cannabis use increases blood flow to the frontal lobe, which is known to stimulate the part of your brain associated with creativity. We all know cannabis also makes food taste acutely more delicious too, in part because THC enhances the natural mechanism in our brains that modulate taste and smell. In this Best Thing I Ever Cooked While High series, we're asking our favorite chefs how cannabis unlocks their creativity in the kitchen.

Chef Wendy Zeng, winner of Food Network’s Chopped 420 on Discovery Plus, is the owner of Drizzle Catering and a pioneering chef of Chinese Sichuan cuisine in the U.S. Born in Chengdu, with Memphis Southern BBQ roots, she says, "I realized that, similar to Sichuan cuisine, Southern food is about family, history, and the dishes that bring us together." Her favorite dish she ever cooked while high is a decadent passion fruit scallop crudo that she says "tastes like summer." Read on for her recipe and why she prefers live rosin from a dab rig (it's the same reason she keeps whole spices in her pantry).

 

Tell me about yourself as a chef, your business Drizzle Catering, and how you learned to cook?

I was born in the city of Chengdu, capital of the Sichuan province of China and started cooking in my grandfather’s kitchen when I was seven years old. Growing up immersed in the flavors and techniques of Sichuan cuisine, I’ve always had an affinity for how diverse ingredients can come together to build a complex flavor and textural experience. Building complex but balanced flavor profiles is a hallmark of mastering Sichuan cuisine.

At the age of 10, I moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where I discovered Southern BBQ and soul food. I realized that, similar to Sichuan cuisine, Southern food is about family, history, and the dishes that bring us together.

Drizzle Catering is all about weaving together the flavors and techniques of my familial roots with Los Angeles’ local influences. I try to bring the joy of cooking and eating from my childhood to every table, fostering community among cannabis and food lovers alike.

 

Wendy in Chengdu with her grandfather as a child.

What is the most delicious dish you've ever cooked while high on cannabis?

I love making crudos (Italian-style raw seafood dish) when I’m high. Most recently, I made a passion fruit scallop crudo that was to die for. I plan to serve it at multiple events throughout the summer.

What did it taste like? And why was it the best thing you ever cooked/ate?

It tastes like summer! Beautifully sweet diver scallops bathing in a refreshing pool of tropical tanginess with just the right amount of kick from thai chili and a hint of herbaceous pineapple sage oil.

How did you make it? Why did you choose those specific ingredients?

First, I let the scallops sit in salt and lime juice for 30 mins then I slice it up and arrange it on the serving plate. Then I pour the passion fruit coulis on top. Drizzle some pineapple sage oil on top and garnish with micro cilantro. I choose ingredients to produce a well-balanced flavor profile where each ingredient plays off of each other to enhance the overall taste and aesthetics.

 

How does cannabis enhance your creativity with cooking?

It's another ingredient I get to play with and I try to experiment with different ways of incorporating it. Cannabis lends itself to engaging all of our senses elevating the entire food experience. So with every meal, I try to make sure there are some elements of the experience that surprises and delights our sense of smell, sight, taste in both flavor and texture, and even touch and sound. One time, I went as literal as creating a five-course meal based on the theme of our five senses. 

What's your preferred way of enjoying cannabis?

Definitely smoking, there’s just something very therapeutic and ritualistic about the act. My favorite is using a nice live rosin from a dab rig. This method produces the most natural and intense flavor experience. Since rosin doesn’t use chemical solvents to make and dab rigs vaporize the concentrate instead of burning plant matter, the terpene profiles tastes much richer. It’s the same reason why I keep my spices whole and grind them fresh to use. You get so many more terpene notes than keeping a jar of ground up spices that ends up oxidizing faster over time.

Passion Fruit Scallop Crudo Recipe

Makes one appetizer, serves two

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 lb. large sea scallops, about 5 scallops

1/4 cup (2oz.) lime juice, about 2 limes

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

2-3 passion fruits (frozen or fresh)

Splash of fish sauce

1 teaspoon finely diced shallots

1-2 bird’s eye or thai chilis, thinly sliced

6 pineapple sage leaves (or substitute thai basil)

6 pineapple mint leaves (or substitute regular mint)

2 tablespoons oil (olive, grapeseed, or canola)

Handful of micro cilantro or regular cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS:

Prepare the Scallops: Rinse the sea scallops in cold water and pat dry. In a small bowl, marinate the whole scallops in ¼ cup lime juice and ¼ teaspoon coarse salt for 30 minutes in the fridge. While the scallops marinate, prepare the passion fruit coulis and pineapple sage oil.

Passion Fruit Coulis: Slice the passion fruits in half and scoop out the seeds and juice sacs into a small food processor. Puree the passionfruit and strain the juice into a small bowl through a sieve. Discard the seeds. In the small bowl, combine passion fruit puree, 4 drops of fish sauce, 1 teaspoon finely diced shallots, and thinly sliced birds eye chilis. Set aside.

Pineapple Sage Oil: In a small food processor, grind up pineapple sage and pineapple mint leaves (pineapple mint and pineapple sage are varieties of herbs, you can substitute with mint, regular sage and/or thai basil). Keep processing while adding oil until the herb and oil mixture come together.

Remove scallops from the fridge, discard the lime juice, and slice the scallops thin horizontally, about ¼ inch-thick slices. Arrange sliced scallops on a large serving plate. Pour the Passion Fruit Coulis on top of the scallops so they’re sitting in a pool of passionfruit. Evenly distribute the chilis and shallots. Drizzle herb oil over scallops, and top with micro cilantro or regular cilantro leaves. Serve chilled.


Recipe from Wendy Zeng, developed and adapted by Christina Wong.

Christina spent over a decade in the food & restaurant industry working with well-known chefs and restaurants in Los Angeles. A creator, baker, and creative consultant, her work won a Clio Cannabis Award in 2020. She bakes infused culinary cannabis creations at Baking With Chickens, and hosts a culinary cannabis cooking show "BAKED With Chickens" on YouTube.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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