By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
Now that we’re in full-swing of the semester, it’s time to get our serious nosh on. And while the food in and of itself is great, there is nothing better than standing back to watch our students receive accolades for the various foods that they are preparing and sharing with others.
There is no truer judge than a fellow student. But, at least the students are learning, right? Rare is the negative comment, and even I must admit that I’m more than moderately impressed with the quality of foods that are regularly coming out of our kitchen.
The new program is broken down into various cuisines, and a class that just started in January is International – Asia. What’s nice about this 13-week course is that we can spend four full classes looking at the foods of China, as opposed to “studying” China and Korea in a four-hour class, as we used to in the old curriculum. It just wasn’t where we thought it should be in lining up in compliance with our accreditation board.
In addition to the fact that students get further enmeshed in various cultures, they are also able to work with a lot more proteins from fish to meats to tofu and kofu. They can identify foods from Northern China as opposed to foods out of the West such as Szechuan-style dishes and broaden their horizons, explaining why there isn’t much in the way of rice in Northern Chinese foods.
Of course, one could spend a lifetime teaching Chinese food alone, and I certainly do not pretend to be an expert, but with each passing class and each subsequent semester, we grow and expand our repertoires a little more. It can be truly inspiring.
I truly enjoy learning about the myriad flavors that introduce themselves to us from across the Pacific Pond. From Szechuan hot bean paste to fish sauces and Kimchi, Asian foods afford us the ability to greatly diversify any menu that we might be preparing.
It is a rare occasion that I share a recipe from someone else, but today’s is a very close variation to the textbook recipe from Wiley’s International Cuisine from the Arts Institute, a fantastic, broad-subject book that covers a ridiculous amount of worldly foods in a seemingly short tome. I would be remiss if I didn’t cite the source, and if you like studying food, it is a good read.
This is my second-favorite book to teach out of besides Maricel Presilla’s Gran Cocina Latina, hands-down the best for my line of work. Throughout our courses, we try to build a library that we can encourage our students to keep for years to come.
I remember not-so-fondly having to spend $470 on a Corporate Financial Accounting book for my MBA that was worth nothing, nada, zip as soon as the term ended. That still stings quite a bit.
As such, I really put effort into honing our library so that students can jump out on their own and already have a decent bookshelf. I guess you could say that I’m a nerd, but it’s hard to learn if you’re not, well, learning, and reading is one of the greatest pastimes in which we can partake to hone our skills, perfect logical sequences and stave ennui. But I digress.
Cooked by three of our students (Rob, Sue and Tyler), these stuffed eggplants were the belle of the ball. Adding to the neighboring platter of braised Szechuan pork belly et al, I guess you could say the gestalt was the perfect blend of organized chaos with great food thrown in. Time to eat.
Stuffed Szechuan Eggplant
Makes about a dozen nice bites
2 ea. Japanese eggplants
8 oz. Ground pork shoulder
1 Tbsp. Soy sauce
1 tsp. Shaoxing Wine or Sherry
1 tsp. Granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. Fresh, minced ginger
1 clove Minced garlic
1 tsp. Sesame oil
flour, as needed
Batter, as needed (recipe below)
Glaze, as needed (recipe below)
1. Combine all of the ingredients up to and including the sesame oil.
2. Mash it together while keeping it cold to help form a forcemeat.
3. Cut the eggplant into 1 ½ “ slices, on the bias so that they are like little leaning tubes with skin all the way around.
4. Slice the skin and cut through most of each slice, making sure to keep them attached on the back. It should open like a little ‘Pac-Man’ when you squeeze on the sides.
5. Stuff each little piece of eggplant with the sausage and chill.
6. Heat a fryer to 350F.
7. Dust each piece in the flour, dip in the batter, and fry until golden brown, ensuring that the sausage is cooked through.
Serve with scallions and some glaze. Super easy but definitely the dish of the day.
1 c. AP Flour
1 c. Rice flour
Salt as needed
Soda water to make a loose batter
1. Combine all ingredients until the batter is looser than a pancake batter. Think thin when it comes to this coating!
1/2 c. Chicken stock
1 Tbsp. Hot bean paste
1 Tbsp. Soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Brown sugar
1. Combine ingredients and reduce slowly in a warm pan until thickened. Remember, go slow and low.
2. When reduced, cool and set aside until ready to use.
—Paul Suplee is a Professor of Culinary Arts at
Wor-Wic Community College and owner of
boxcar40 and boxcar on main.
Visit him at www.boxcar40.com;