Phil's International Flair

Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair! This month I have decided to discuss Chinese cooking methods once again. Chinese cooking is more of a style or method of cooking than an assortment of recipes. Basically, Chinese cooking is very simple and stir fry is one of the more popular methods of preparing Chinese dishes. Virtually any type of vegetable and meat, fowl or fish may be cooked in the Chinese style.

Most of the work in preparing a Chinese meal is in the preparation before cooking. The cooking itself typically only takes only a few minutes. The preparation however, may take up to an hour or more, depending on the dish. The Chinese way of cooking often expresses contrast. By this, I mean that there may be a contrast of flavors, like sweet and sour, or there may be a contrast in textures like soft and crunchy. This is one quality that gives Chinese food its unique character. There are a few things that the Chinese practically never cook with. One of these items is cheese. It is quite obvious that cheese does not lend itself to stir fry unless one likes trying to scrape melted cheese out of their wok! Most vegetables, meats, fish and fowl do lend themselves to a variety of Chinese cooking.

This month, I will share a few more of my favorite recipes cooked in the Chinese style. Try them out for your own family before trying them on guests. In this way, you can tailor the recipes to your own tastes by being a little creative and taking advantage of the freshest vegetables that are available in your region. Enjoy, and good cooking!

The recipes presented this month are from my yet to be published cookbook, Phil's Family and Friends Cookbook. Feel free to email me at with your comments and requests. Be well, and good eating!

Now, on to the recipes!

The Chinese Way

Sizzling Rice Soup

This is a wonderful and elegant soup to make for those special occasions. Those who are fond of seafood will really enjoy this dish. This is sometimes called "singing rice soup" because of the sound the rice makes when added to the broth. This ritual is always performed at the table just prior to serving. The presentation of this soup is what really makes it a special dish.
  • 2 cans chicken broth plus 2 cans of water
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • ½ can water chestnuts
  • ¼ lb. medium raw shrimp, shelled and cut into ½ inch lengths
  • ¼ lb. squid steak (calamari), cut into 3/4 inch squares
  • ¼ lb. pork, cut into thin strips (roast pork may be used)
  • 1½ cup steamed rice
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ½ carrot, sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup Chinese peas
  • 1 small can straw mushrooms
  • 1 chopped green onion

The rice for this dish may be prepared ahead of time by placing steamed rice patties in a pan and placing them in the oven for about 8 hours at 250°. Alternately, heat a skillet with a little oil and fry the rice patties on both sides until very hot and slightly browned.

Heat the broth and water in a pot to a simmer and add the pork, carrots, chestnuts, soy sauce and sesame oil. After the soup has simmered for a total of 10 minutes, add the squid, shrimp and other ingredients. Finally, place the soup on the serving table and drop the hot rice patties into the soup. Stir gently and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Butterfly Prawns

In most Chinese restaurants, if you order butterfly prawns, you will receive prawns which have been dipped in a batter and deep-fried. This recipe is most different. It is best to select fresh large or jumbo size prawns for this dish.
  • 1 lb. large or jumbo prawns
  • Bacon slices cut in half (one for each prawn)
  • Bacon grease for frying
  • Sesame oil
  • Sherry
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. cornstarch or flour
  • Garnish, either Chinese parsley or chopped green onion

First, begin by cutting the bacon slices in half and place into a skillet to fry over medium heat. Meanwhile, shell the prawns and remove the tails. Fry the bacon, turning frequently, until it just begins to get crisp.

Prepare the prawns as follows: from the inside curve of the prawns, cut the meat most of the way through, leaving the thin layer on the back to hold the two sides together. Fold the prawns open so as to appear like a butterfly. When the bacon is ready, place one half of a slice onto the center of each prawn.

Drain most of the bacon grease from the skillet and add about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Prepare the egg and cornstarch in a bowl by mixing. Dip each of the prawns with bacon into the egg mixture and place into the hot oil in the skillet, bacon side down. Fry the prawns until they just begin to curl, then carefully turn them over to complete the cooking process. Do not overcook. The prawns will be done when they have turned pink, and when the egg has become firm. Remove each of the prawns in turn as they are done and set aside on a plate.

After all of the prawns are cooked, return them to the skillet and pour in about 4 to 6 tablespoons sherry. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 2 minutes. Garnish with chopped green onion or Chinese parsley.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Seasonal Stir Fry

Here is a recipe in which you can be creative. Select an assortment of the freshest vegetables that you can find or have grown, slice them into bite sized pieces, and set them aside in preparation for the stir fry.
  • Assorted fresh vegetables, sliced into bite sized pieces
  • Sesame oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp. slivered ginger
  • 2 cups boiled egg noodles
  • 1 can chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp. corn starch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 slivered scallion

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat and add the chopped garlic clove and slivered ginger.  When the garlic begins to brown, add the egg noodles and stir constantly for 2 minutes.  Add the vegetables, hard ones first and soft ones last, stirring constantly. Add a pinch of salt.  Dissolve the corn starch in the chicken broth and pour over the mixture, stirring constantly.  When the sauce begins to thicken, turn off the heat and garnish with the slivered scallion before serving.

Suggestions:  For vegetables, try using green and yellow squash, asparagus, Swiss chard, watercress, red, yellow or green peppers, sliced carrots, celery, or sliced tomatoes and bean sprouts.  A dash of sherry or mirin wine will add a little sweetness to the dish.  Coriander also makes a nice addition to the garnish.  Be creative!  It's difficult to go wrong with this dish. 

For a different appearance, stir fry the noodles and remove them to a serving dish before cooking the veggies.  When the veggies are done, serve them on top of the bed of noodles.  As an alternate, you can leave out the chicken broth and corn starch and simply stir fry the veggies in a little sesame oil.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Mongolian Beef

This is one of my favorite dishes to order when visiting a Chinese restaurant. Each chef will prepare this dish a little differently. I have combined the best aspects from various restaurants to produce my own version of this recipe. You can spice this dish up by using more red pepper flakes or keep it milder by using less.
  • 1 lb. thinly sliced beef (I prefer to use sirloin), cut against grain
  • ½ cup boiled rice noodles (rice vermicelli)
  • 4 Scallions, French cut (cut diagonally to release the flavor)
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 T. sherry
  • 3 T. hoisin sauce
  • 1 T. oyster sauce
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • ½ tsp. dry red pepper flakes
  • 3 T. peanut oil
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • ½ tsp. chopped garlic
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper

Prepare the rice noodles by boiling in a quart of water for about 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Once cooked, heat the wok, add the oil and wait until the oil is very hot. Carefully toss in the rice noodles. The noodles will expand very quickly. Stir them quickly so that they become crispy. Remove the noodles from the wok and set aside in a serving dish.

Have the meat prepared by cutting across grain into strips about 2 inches long and very thin. Add the sugar, sherry, chicken broth and soy sauce to the Hoisin and Oyster sauce, mix and set aside. Put the garlic and meat into the wok and stir constantly until the meat is browned, about 2 minutes. Finally, add the Hoisin and broth mixture, pepper flakes and scallions. Continue stirring for about 1 additional minute. Add a little more sherry if desired and a little black pepper. Serve the meat on top of the crispy noodles and serve.


  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

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