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Simple Servings

Asian cooking: Not your average takeout

Sharon Racine

(4/2016) I don’t know how well-acquainted the rest of you are with Chinese food, but it used to be something that I would only order as takeout and rarely concoct in my own kitchen. I’ve always been a fan of the variety of flavors and textures that Asian cuisine offers, but had never really attempted to create them on my own, save the meager combinations of rice and frozen vegetables that I tried to pass off as stir fry.

Perhaps the idea of cooking Asian never crossed my mind because really, why try to perfect the already-flawless delicacies that doubled as the ultimate hangover cure in college? General Tsao’s chicken was my go-to meal, made all the more delicious by a side of veggie fried rice. Of course these cheap dishes were all that I knew of Chinese food, but I loved them nonetheless. Yes, life was good with those white paper takeout containers of processed, gooey goodness.

I didn’t think that my extremely contented view of Chinese cuisine could possibly change, but it did, and for the better: last year, my boyfriend Dan surprised me with two tickets to an Asian cooking class for my birthday. I was very excited to get up close and personal with one of my favorite types of food.

The small class environment was very beneficial, and working with a partner made the chopping and frying actually quite enjoyable. The instructor taught us some valuable knife tricks, such as to cut away from the body, to not lift the knife tip off of the cutting board while slicing, and to use the side opposite the blade to scrape chopped veggies into a wok or pan. We learned some interesting cooking techniques as well, but the instructor put an end to those when a classmate’s attempt to toss veggies in the pan while stir-frying ended up on the linoleum floor.

Many of the ingredients that we cooked with during the class were new to me, such as bok choy and bamboo sprouts. While we benefited from the availability of these odd ingredients during class, I wondered where I could buy them locally when I wanted to create the recipes again. The class instructor immediately quelled my concerns when she informed us that all of the ingredients in her recipes could be purchased from any specialty or gourmet grocery store.

After three hours of full-fledged chopping, frying and tasting, I left the class well-informed and approximately five pounds heavier. Don’t get me wrong - the recipes that created were on the healthier side; it was the moderation that I hadn’t quite mastered. I promise that they are healthier (and more delicious!) than takeout.

Egg Rolls


  • One package egg roll wrappers
  • 2 cups shredded napa
  • 1 cup shredded bamboo shoots
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup shredded pork loin (optional)
  • 4-5 pieces dry black mushrooms (soaked and sliced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 slices ginger root
  • 3 cups peanut oil (for frying)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce

Marinade for pork:

  • ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp soy sauce


Marinate shredded pork with sauce for 5-10 minutes. Heat 1 tbsp oil in wok. Add garlic and ginger, then stir-fry mushrooms and napa for 5 minutes. Add bamboo shoots and bean sprouts and cook for one more minute. Remove mixture from wok and set aside. Stir-fry pork mixture in a tablespoon of oil for about 5 minutes or until done. Combine all ingredients in the wok and add salt, pepper, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Remove from heat and let cool.

Once mixture is cool, wrap 3 tbsp of filling in egg roll skin. Lightly dab all corners of the wrapper with water, then roll up. Deep fry in a pan filled with about one inch of peanut or canola oil on all sides until golden brown. Drain egg rolls on paper towels and serve with soy or duck sauce.

Vegetable Lo Mein


  • 1 lb fresh soft noodles
  • 1 red pepper, sliced very thin
  • 2 large carrots, shredded into thin strips
  • 2 cups snow peas, cut in angular strips
  • 1 bunch of chopped scallions
  • 1 small bok choy, shredded
  • ½ lb bean sprouts
  • 1 can of water chestnuts
  • 10 black mushrooms (soaked and cut in strips)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp peanut or canola oil
  • Cornstarch solution (1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water)


Boil the noodles until cooked, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp peanut or canola oil in the wok. Add mushrooms and garlic, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add bok choy, peppers, and carrots. Stir-fry on high heat for about 3 minutes. Add noodles, bean sprouts, water chestnuts and scallions. Mix well in wok, adding 1 cup hot water (or vegetable or chicken stock). Add soy sauce, oyster sauce and cornstarch solution. Toss, and cook on high for 3 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Chicken & Asparagus with Black Bean Sauce


  • 1 pound chicken breast
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • ½ bunch scallions, chopped
  • 6 slices fresh ginger, chopped
  • 3 tbsp sherry
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp peanut or canola oil
  • Sauce:
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 tbsp fermented black beans
  • 4 tbsp chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Cornstarch solution (1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce


Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Slice raw chicken into ½-inch slivers and place in a bowl with half of the scallions, the ginger, sherry and cornstarch.

Prepare sauce: rinse the black beans, then soak in cold water for about 5 minutes (to make them less saline). Drain the beans and mash with a fork.

In a wok, heat about 2 tbsp canola or peanut oil on high heat. Add the asparagus and stir-fry for about 3-4 minutes, or until tender. Remove from wok. Add another tablespoon of oil and heat on high then stir-fry the chicken in small batches until light golden brown. Remove each batch as it is completed and place into bowl with sliced asparagus.

After chicken has completed cooking, heat wok again, adding 1 tablespoon oil, black beans, scallions and garlic. Cook for about one minute, and then add the remaining sauce ingredients along with the cooked chicken and asparagus. Cook for three minutes and stir until mixture begins to bubble. Serve with rice.

Read other articles by Sharon Racine