Real Cooking

Finally, I had the television to myself…mistress of the airwaves, ruler of the remote. I didn?t have to share time with ?Ed, Edd or Eddy? nor meteorologist Paul Emmett on the Weather Channel.

No more ESPN or Nickelodeon. No more Bloomberg and Disney. The television was mine, mine, mine…and I wasn?t going to give it up.

At least not until the next day, when my family would get out of bed.

Everyone else had gone to sleep a little earlier than usual when I flopped down on the couch to enjoy some time by myself. I began channel surfing through the stations we receive via our satellite dish.

Home and Garden, Discovery, The Learning Channel…not tonight. A&E, NBC, CNN…nope. Pay per view movie? The selections didn?t arouse any interest on my part.

?Could it be,? I mused, ?that on the one night when I can afford to stay up late, when I have no distractions, when I can choose for myself -by myself?that there isn?t anything decent to watch??

I tried some of the other channels. MTV was covering spring break in Florida. Been there, done that, don?t want to relive it.

TNT (or was it TBS, TNN or TBN?) featured wrestling. No thank you.

USA… ?Le Femme Nakita.? Is that show always on or is it just my imagination?

I decided to try TRIO, a channel that I always seem to forget we have. I hit a gold mine, for beginning in just a few minutes was a film I had always wanted to see.

?Eat, Drink, Man, Woman? is a movie by famed Taiwanese director Ang Lee. The story takes place in the city of Taipei on the island of Taiwan and centers around Mr. Chu, the master chef at a major hotel, and his three adult daughters. The plot is interesting enough, the acting is skillful, but the cooking sequences are incredible.

The film opens with Chu preparing a Sunday, at-home dinner for his family. The camera follows him around the kitchen, where frogs hop on the counter unknowingly awaiting their time of execution.

But first there are vegetables to be expertly chopped, filled dumplings to be made, layered dishes of meats and vegetables to be cooked in the bamboo steamer.

One of my favorite scenes is when Chu reaches into a large ceramic pot and selects a carp some 18 inches long. He then places a stick in its mouth and with one sharp whack dispatches the fish to that tranquil pond located somewhere in the Great Beyond.

Then with a few runs of what must be the sharpest knife in the world, the fish is gutted, scaled and filleted.

It?s a work of art.

I won?t go on and on about the film; I?ll leave the movie reviews to Bob Wade. But if you are interested in cooking or China…or Chinese cooking…this movie is a must see.

The cooking sequences are given as much importance in this film as the dialog and the viewer not only gets an over-the-shoulder cooking lesson in Chu?s home, but at the vast hotel kitchen where he is the master.

Scenes from a school lunch room, an alfresco noodle stand and a Wendy?s hamburger joint give a full view of eating in Taiwan.

It?s a veritable compendium of Chinese food.

In 1985, my husband and I had the privilege to spend about a month between the People?s Republic of China and the city of Hong Kong.

We brought back wonderful memories of the people we met and the sights we saw, but I must say that the food we ate, the restaurants we visited and the open-air markets we strolled still bring back the strongest reminiscences. (Someday I?ll tell you about the turtle soup…I got the foot).

Maybe this is why ?Eat, Drink, Man, Woman? appeals to me so.

Nah…it?s just a good movie. You gotta see what Chu does to the duck.

* * *

This recipe was voted one of the top 10 restaurant dishes in Columbus, Ohio, by the Columbus Monthly Magazine.

Siam Oriental Restaurant?s

General Tso?s Chicken


1/2 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup water

11/2 tsp. minced garlic

11/2 tsp. minced ginger

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup white vinegar

11/2 cups hot chicken broth


3 lbs. dark deboned chicken meat cut into large chunks

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tsp. pepper

1 egg

1 cup cornstarch

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups scallions, diced

16 small dried hot peppers (not green pepper!)

To make sauce: Mix cornstarch and water together and then add the rest of the sauce ingredients, stirring to dissolve sugar. Refrigerate until needed.

Mix chicken, soy sauce and pepper. Stir in egg. Dredge chicken in cornstarch and deep-fry in oil at 350 until crispy. Drain on paper towel. Place small amount of oil in pan or wok and stir-fry scallions and peppers. Stir in sauce. Place chicken in sauce and cook until sauce is thick and hot. Add either cornstarch or water as needed.

Serves six to eight.

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