Monday Meal Review: China

You might not believe me when I say this, but I love mean chefs.

The chef reputed to be one of the “meanest” at the Culinary Institute of America was my Cuisines of Asia chef. I was terrified at the thought of taking his class. After all, I was not an experienced sous chef, like many of the students. In fact, prior to the CIA, I was mostly just a book nerd who loved food history and experimenting in the kitchen.

However, in the three weeks I was in his class, I quickly learned that what students called “mean” was really just an unwaivering demand for excellence. He lost his temper when students were lazy, sloppy, and disinterested. However, he was the most kind, generous chef to those who cared about their studies. He went out of his way to demonstrate techniques to me because he could tell I really wanted to learn – despite my lack of experience. If that’s what it is to be mean, I’ll take it!

What can I say. I’m a front row kind of girl. And… shhh. Don’t pass me any notes. I’m trying to pay attention!

Moo Shu Pork [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

I enjoyed the salty-sweet contrast of this stir fry. The wood ear mushrooms were wonderful. The biggest surprise of all – Keith actually liked them. His comment: “They aren’t squishy like regular mushrooms.” Slicing them thinly probably helped, too.

What I liked least about this dish:

I added all of the “sauce” to the stir-fry and regretted it – the mixture became wet and quite salty. I suggest adding half the sauce and – once you taste it – decide if you would like more. Low sodium soy sauce would also be a great way to cut down on the saltiness.

Chinese Pancakes with Green Onion [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

I got a kick out of making these pancakes, especially the fact that you press two together and cook them at the same time. Perfect for a busy mom! The flavor was nice, especially with the addition of scallions and a bit of sesame oil.

What I liked least about this dish:

The pancakes are excellent right out of the pan, but get a little dry if you need to reheat them. You could always put them in a warm oven and spritz the oven with a bit of water to keep things moist… but, in general, I recommend eating them asap.

Sichuan Chinese Hot and Sour Soup [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Hot and sour soup is incredibly filling and satisfying on a cold day. I like that I could make it as spicy or as weak as I wanted, and still enjoy the flavor of the vegetables.

What I liked least about this dish:

There isn’t much negative to say about this dish. To quote Keith: “I liked it. Until I had the other stuff. Then I liked that better.” (he’s referring to the Mu Shoo pork). You may decide the soup is too thick, in which case add a cup or two more chicken broth or water.

Hot and Sour Cucumbers [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

I like  a “pickle” that can be eaten the same day it is made. The sugar and vinegar are a great contrast to the spicy heat. Add more if you can stand it! 🙂 Special thanks to Laura Kelley for sharing this recipe with me. It will be in her third volume of Silk Road Gourmet (volume one is already in print and available on Amazon). Check out her blog. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – she’s an incredible writer and cook!

What I liked least about this dish:

Make sure you cook this to desired level of crispness – if you like a little crunch, pull it a little sooner. If you like them super soft, keep on cooking!

Ava’s Corner



  1. Sharisse Steber says

    These daily postings give me so much to look forward to every day and Ava really is one of the cutest babies ever!

    • globaltable says

      Thanks Sharisse. I’m honored you spend your time here, on our little corner of the internet 🙂

    • globaltable says

      Thanks Sharisse. I’m honored you spend your time here, on our little corner of the internet 🙂

  2. Jessica Bennett says

    That soup looks wonderful! And a couple general questions:
    Do you wind up with leftover ingredients, and if so, what do you do with them?
    How elabourate are your meals during the rest of the week and what kinds of things do you make?

    • “How elabourate are your meals during the rest of the week and what kinds of things do you make?”

      Great question!
      I’d like to know the answer too!

      • globaltable says

        Hi ladies – good questions! I almost always have leftover ingredients 🙂

        When it comes to things like the Shaohsing wine and oyster sauce, it is no big deal – they can keep until I get a chance to make stir-fry again. Same thing with the ground egusi seeds from Africa. If there’s any doubt I freeze them.

        I almost never have leftover perishables because I only purchase what I need for that particular recipe. Once in a while I will have leftover banana leaves or something and those are hard to keep if not used right away, so I try to get as much made with them as I can.

        My meals during the week are fairly simple, although I often incorporate new seasoning or ingredient ideas thanks to this Adventure. Last night I made a homemade sauce with fresh basil from my garden, parsley, tomatoes, onion, and mushroom. We had that with spaghetti and asparagus. Pretty basic. I do a lot of lentils, beans, etc… We don’t eat meat all the time – maybe a few nights a week. When we do it is grilled chicken, stir-fry chicken, roasted salmon, steamed flounder, etc. I almost never buy red meat unless it is for this Adventure…

        And, of course, I still struggle with eating out. I’d like to only eat out once or twice a month, but it tends to be more like once or twice a week (a big improvement from pre-Adventure days nonetheless).

  3. Agreed that Ava is absolutely adorable! I love watching her enjoy everything.

    (My kids used to eat everything.. then they hit about 2 1/2 and got pickier. It’s annoying. I still offer, but they often refuse…)

    • globaltable says

      ha! I’m not ready for that struggle… although it is already harder than it was 9 months ago, when we started this!

  4. Collette Lemons says

    Ava always starts with no but changes her mind – I loved her moment of cuteness, like she only has a moment of cuteness – she oozes it, lol

  5. Barb Clough says

    Here I am, 7 years later working my way through GTA! Since Chinese food recipes are so abundant, I tried some different ones – Chinese Salt& Pepper Tofu (fried tofu with veggies), Kung pao shrimp, stir-fried Bok Choy with sesame seeds, General Tsao’s chicken and Chinese Almond cookies – all great!!

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