%3Fxml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"%3F>
In Hawaii, I was able to procure green onion, salt, vegetable oil, and I also got some Chinese cooking wine from Honolulu’s Chinatown. Additionally, I added Morri’s favorite sauce from Hong Kong called the “Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand Oyster Flavored Sauce”.
After I prepared all the materials, I started making the authentic Yangzhou Chowfan. After classes ended that day, I went to the cafeteria filled with excitement. I saw that Craig was writing the day’s menu on a blackboard. Morri saw me walk in and greeted me with a smile, “Today, you are the chef! We will be your helpers.”
I said, “No way, you guys are still my bosses”.
As I talked to Morri, I saw what Craig wrote on the blackboard. Hah! He already wrote “Original Yangzhou Fried Rice”, and to emphasize the authenticity he added the line, “cooked by a chef from Yangzhou, China” on the bottom.
After I saw this advertisement I felt that I had a tremendous responsibility to create the best fried rice today to showcase the culinary arts of my hometown and country.
I immediately jumped into the hectic cooking process. First, the main ingredient of rice must be prepared correctly. Yangzhou Fried Rice isn’t exactly one single dish, but it is a dish mixed with the staple food of rice. In China the best kind of rice to use for this is called Yangshan Rice. It is a long grained rice that is not sticky after being cooked, and that is the best type of rice for frying. Hawaii didn’t have this type of rice so I used Thai Jasmine Rice. The Thai rice grains are rounder and smaller and gave off a pleasing scent after being cooked. The most important thing about making the rice is putting in the correct amount of water. If too much water was used then the rice would be soggy and not suitable for frying. However, if there is too little water then the rice would be raw and uncooked. At that time, we had a giant rice cooker and put in about ten pounds of rice. Then, I put in water that rose about 5 to 6 centimeters above the rice, and started cooking.
While the rice was cooking, I started to prepare the other materials. First I chopped the chicken leg meat and lean pork into tiny squares, and then I chopped up the shrimp. Hawaii didn’t have the small river shrimps we usually used in China, but they had giant prawns from the ocean. In order to make these ingredients tender in the rice, I added some cornstarch and a little bit of salt and cooking wine. In China, we would also add some MSG, but in America MSG is considered bad for health. Even though you could buy the best Japanese manufactured MSG for very little money, many restaurants in America would post a message in their menus that say, “No MSG”. So I also followed the local customs and stopped using MSG in our cooking. Now we haven’t purchased MSG for over ten years.
After all the materials were chopped and mixed, I asked Morri to light the kitchen’s large furnace. The cafeteria has a gas furnace that made a loud ping when it was lighted. I used a small frying pan first and put in some oil and fried the chicken,pork, prawns, and snow peas for about three minutes and then took them out. Since these materials will go back in the pot with the rice later they do not need to be cooked completely. If they are cooked completely and then cooked again they would not be as tender and would not taste as good.
Now the rice was cooked, so I told Morri to take all the rice out and put it in a large flat pan to cool a little bit. Also, I asked her to break the large clumps into smaller pieces so the grains could dry a little bit and be better for frying.
Five minutes later, I put a very large wok on the furnace and added vegetable oil. Then I poured in the scrambled egg mix with some chopped green onion. The eggs sizzled and jumped in the wok and many white and yellow bubbles started to pop with oil. The sizzling paired with the howling of the fans and sounded like a kitchen orchestra.
The rice must be put into the pot not long after the eggs are in. This is so that the eggs can be cooked and mixed evenly with the rice. Then the other materials can be added with a little bit of oyster sauce and sesame oil. It would be ready after a few more minutes of mixing. This fried rice contains the yellow of the eggs, green of the onions, red of the various meats, and the white of the rice. Additionally, the sweet smell of the jasmine rice and the flavor of the oyster sauce made it a perfect dish full of color, scent, and flavor. Morri immediately ate two bowls and said that it was delicious. She also bought some additional bowls for her family.
That day lines were forming before I even finished cooking my rice. Since it was a student cafeteria, the price couldn’t be very high so they decided that they would sell my dish for $4.00 per bowl. After I was done cooking, Morri and another student helper scooped the rice into plastic bowls and passed them to students to teachers as Jane and I collected the cash. The ten pounds of rice were sold extremely quickly and by popular demand I cooked another batch, and similarly it was sold quickly.
Later, Jane did a bit of a cost/profit analysis and found that authentic Yangzhou Fried Rice may not be very profitable. Even though the main ingredients are not very expensive, a lot of man hours were put into chopping up and preparing the dish. Nevertheless, I brought the dish to the student cafeteria for one day, and Morri called me “chef” since then.
To be continued!
Related Articles at The Baglady:
In the previous chapter I mentioned that I really wanted to bring the authentic Yangzhou Fried Rice to the school cafeteria. The reason for this is that in America Yangzhou Fried Rice is a dish in almost every Chinese restaurant. I tasted a couple and it seems that none of them are authentic.
One day at work I told Morri that I am from Yangzhou and I knew how to make authentic “Yangzhou Fried Rice”. I said to her, “If you try my Yangzhou Fried Rice, then you would know how good the real Yangzhou Fried Rice is.”
Morri listened to what I said and sounded a bit doubtful, “Are you sure?” She said to me. I confidently told her that there is no doubt that I could make it. I asked her to agree to one term, which is that I get to pick the ingredients I want and she needs to get all the ingredients for me. Morri couldn’t agree to that so she brought the proposal to the head chef Craig. Craig is also a Hawaiian. He is sturdily built, not very tall, and sported a thick mustache. He spoke pidgin and was a graduate of a famous culinary academy in New York. He chose Kapiolani Community College after he graduated because the college has a very strong culinary program. Craig is not only the chef of the cafeteria but also did demonstrations for culinary students. When I was working there I often saw Craig work with a gaggle of students wearing chef hats and aprons. Craig and another professor named Kent often had a myriad of sauces and containers and did various lessons. At that time, I admired those classes quite a bit. I thought to myself, if I were 15 to 20 years younger, I should also major in cooking and maybe I could have gone back to China and opened a restaurant featuring western cuisine. Perhaps my restaurant could have been quite popular. Recently, I received an alumni magazine from the University of Hawaii and there was an article about the Chinese Ministry of Education visiting Kapiolani’s Culinary Arts department. The goal was to speak about educating more Chinese people in western cuisine.
Morri told Craig that I wanted to bring Yangzhou Fried Rice to the students and staff of Kapiolani. Craig is a person who is very open to new ideas and suggestions. He loves to cook food from different countries such as France, Italy, and Korea. One particular dish I thought was quite interesting was a Hawaiian dish called Laulau. Craig would take some ti leaf and wrap pork in it, and then the package is roasted until the pork is so cooked that it falls apart. After it is cooked the leaves would be removed and its aroma would flood the room. Honestly, I thought that it tasted pretty good, but the presentation was quite ghastly.
Craig heard that I want to make some Yangzhou fried rice and he agreed heartily. He told me to make a list of the ingredients and I thought about the things my neighbor taught me about Yangzhou Fried Rice.
Yangzhou Fried Rice is also called Yangzhou Egg Fried Rice, and legend has it that it is the favorite dish of Yang Su of the Sui Dynasty. It was called “Broken Gold Rice”. When the emperor of Sui was touring Yangzhou, he brought the dish to the city, and it was further enhanced by chefs of many generations. The Huaiyang cooking school has an emphasis on “seriousness in choosing ingredients, expertise and care in preparation, exactness in portion and color, and preservation of original taste and juices”. Eventually, Yangzhou fried rice became one of the most famous dishes of Huaiyang cuisine.
Authentic Yangzhou fried rice has the following main ingredients: Chinese rice and eggs from grass fed hens. Side ingredients include sea cucumber, grass fed chicken meat, Chinese sausage, scallop, fresh water shrimp, mushrooms, fresh cooked bamboo shoots, and snow peas. Additionally you would add diced green onions, salt, cooking wine, chicken broth, and vegetable oil.
At that time in Hawaii we didn’t have so many Chinese ingredients.So we used Thai jasmine rice and cooked it with a bit less water than usual. That makes the rice stiff and better for frying. We also didn’t have eggs from grass fed hens because all eggs in America were produced in large scale chicken farms and shipped in cartons. This worked just fine and I also added chicken meat, lean pork, shrimp, and snow peas.
To be continued!
Related Articles at The Baglady:
I told Jane that I was familiar with work in the kitchen. She asked me if I had guaranteed hours for working and I told her that I was a student at the college and I can guarantee that I would work 2 hours a day and 10 hours a week. Later I found out that the cafeteria is extremely busy during the lunch hours and they must have people that get there on time and guarantee the smooth operation of the cafeteria.
After listening to me Jane handed me an application, and told me to fill it out and bring it back. Additionally, she asked for a copy of my last health checkup. I think that is because I would be handling food and they need to guarantee that I am not diseased.
The next day I brought the finished application form and a copy of my health check to Jane. She brought me to the kitchen’s grill. There I saw a very muscular and tanned woman grilling many pieces of hamburger meat. As she flipped the meat the oils that seeped out sizzled on the grill.
Jane said to that woman, “Morri, I found you a student helper! His name is Jian, and now he is yours.” Morri is one of the cafeteria’s chefs, and she was my supervisor. Her supervisor is named Craig, and they’re both native Hawaiians and are both tall and large. They’re both very nice and humble people. Later I heard that Morri is actually 1/8th Chinese. I guess most people in Hawaii are very mixed and a couple of her great grandparents were Chinese. However, she didn’t look Chinese at all.
Since I kept my promise and always came to work on time no matter how busy I was, Morri liked me and treated me very well. Even though I told Jane that I know how to cook, but I never worked in a kitchen that served hundreds to thousands of people before.
After I was hired by the student cafeteria, I would work there two hours a day, and I usually served lunch so I got there at 11am. After I finished class, I would go straight to the cafeteria. My main job was to help Morri make hamburgers. Even though making hamburgers looks easy, it took a bit of practice for me to make them efficiently.
For example, the tomato slices in each hamburger must be even. It is not good to have some thick pieces and some thin pieces. At first, I was not good at balancing the tomatoes and my hamburgers looked lopsided. Additionally, it is important for a hamburger to be cooked to the right temperature. At that time the cafeteria made three types of hamburgers: beef, fish, and vegetarian. Each type required a different cooking temperature and time. The beef needed to be cooked the longest and at the highest temperature to kill the germs in the meat. However, you couldn’t cook for too long because if all the juices are evaporated then it would be dry and tasteless. If it was cooked for too short a time the meat would be raw and the consumers could be seriously sick.
The fish and vegetarian burgers were different. First, these two types didn’t ooze oil like the beef so they didn’t create big oil flames on the grill. They were quite easy to cook. Finally, there was quite a bit of skill involved in wrapping these burgers after they were cooked. At first, I wrapped them extremely slowly and my products were quite ugly and the wrappings fell off easily. After quite a bit of practice, the hamburgers I wrapped finally had the right shape.
Each day when I went to work, I would cut up the tomatoes first, and then prepare the lettuce. Then, while I cooked the patties, I would lay out pieces of the wrapping paper and split the buns. On each sheet of paper I would prepare the buns and place the tomatoes and cheese. At the same time I would flip the patties. After the patties were done I would put them on each of the buns and start wrapping. When the students start to come in it gets extremely busy and my hands and feet were constantly moving.
Besides making hamburgers, I would sometimes help with frying the French fries and onion rings. The hot oil often splashed onto my hands and body and it hurt like needles. However, this bit of oil is really small potatoes compared to the heat I experienced in the steel factory I worked for during the Cultural Revolution. At that time, I was only 15 and I lifted molten steel measuring thousands of degrees and passed many months chanting the mantra of “defeating heat and compete for the highest production”. In that seven years of physical labor and training, I lost a lot of time for education, but in that environment of “thousands of hammers and hundreds of purifications” I acquired an extremely strong will. Another slogan that the Communists often taught was that “people need a bit of spirit”. This will or spirit is what gave me the power to conquer the trials of starting over again.
After one month, I became a hamburger making expert. However, I really wanted to bring the real “Yangzhou Fried Rice” to the cafeteria.
Related Articles at The Baglady:
When I meet students from China these days, most of them are financed by their families, and almost none of them work in restaurants now. Near my house there is a Chinese restaurant that I visit quite often. In the end of the last century I could still meet a few students from China working there, but lately there are no longer any Chinese students. Instead, all the workers are either Mexican or Chinese immigrants not here for school. When I think about this I think Chinese parents should learn from the Americans and let their children work in addition to going to school. My daughter started a blog a month after reading my blog. Her main goal is to educate her generation and popularize the idea of living beneath one’s means. In about two months she wrote about sixty blog posts and one particular post is titled, Those of you young people who can read English might as well head over and read her post.
She wrote about how she used different methods such as working at school, contracting, selling books, and entering sweepstakes to earn money. I am very glad that she inherited the Chinese traditions of diligence and frugality. At the same time she learned a lot from the Americans. For example, she donates a good amount of her income and volunteers. I thought to myself, when we were in Hawaii we experienced quite a bit from working in America, and the hardships of that time is quite worthwhile.
In January of 1993, I became a full time student at Kapiolani, so I no longer had time to work at . On my first day at school, I went to the library to borrow books and I passed by the student cafeteria. At the door of the cafeteria I saw a wanted ad that read, “The cafeteria needs three student workers to help the chefs prepare lunch. The pay is $6.75 per hour and lunch is free.”
When I saw this ad I was quite happy, because I figured that I can solve my problem of losing my job and spending money for tuition. This job has fairly flexible hours and I can work there for two hours after my morning classes and also get a free meal. I no longer needed to pack lunch, and this was awesome. Packing lunch may seem like a joke to modern day international students, but at that time I remember we would always spend three dollars to buy a 10 pound pack of chicken drumsticks. After we cook it with soy sauce, we would make chicken sandwiches with some bread and tomatoes. We ate like this for several years. After that, I didn’t want to touch chicken drumsticks anymore because I have eaten way too many of them.
Related Articles at The Baglady:
In addition to “Introduction to American Economics” and “Mathematics for Business”, I also chose “English” and “Basic Accounting”. At that time the college had an English requirement. Every student must pass “English 100″ to get a diploma. I’m not sure what level of English this is equivalent to in China, but at that time I only scored 540 on the TOEFL and I did not qualify for “English 100″, yet. Under “English 100″ there were “English 10″, “English 20″, and “English 25″. After I took a placement test, my student advisor suggested that I should take “English 25″, which is Basic English Writing.
The professor of Basic English Writing was a tall and slender British woman named Cary. She was a bit over 30 and spoke with a heavy British accent. When I learned English in China my professor had a Russian background, and did not speak with a standard accent. Additionally, my college class was the first class after the end of The Cultural Revolution, and we did not have a lot of great educational materials. Additionally, since my major was agricultural economics in college, I had to learn a lot of Marxist political and economic theory. At that time I bought a full set of “Das Kapital” and read it through, so I didn’t have time to learn English. After I moved to America, I realized that British English sounds different from American English. When I worked in Duke’s Lane, I could distinguish different English accents such as Australian, New Zealander, and Singaporean.
Cary is very strict with her students. Every time I received my papers back I would see her edits blooming like red flowers. Behind each paper she would write very detailed and helpful comments. I remember I wrote an essay titled “My Daughter Xin”. The essay chronicled how Xin started to learn Chinese at age two and how she was able to read at age three. When she was nine I brought her to America, and when she just came she did not know any English so we let her stay back one grade in school and repeat fourth grade. After half a year, she managed to catch up to her classmates. Additionally I wrote about her hobbies such as collecting coins and stamps. Finally, I wrote that my wife and I wished that Xin would have a bright future. I think Cary was also a mother because she really loved this essay. After some edits, she sent my essay to the school’s English magazine and published it. Unfortunately, I no longer have a copy of the magazine, but my wish for my daughter to have a bright future has been realized.
In a blog post I wrote on 7/27/07 titled “When can parents let go?” I wrote, “If someone asks me what the greatest benefit of leaving China is, I would say that we have found a place where children can freely develop.”
Basic Accounting was a course that related to my future job. I had an excellent professor named Rose Kar. She was a little over 30, and already had an PhD in Accounting from the University of Texas. She taught at Kapiolani and also the business school of The University of Hawaii at Manoa. After my wife Helen switched to the business school she was also a student of Rose.
Rose Kar’s teaching style is very focused and logical. She also built upon the material like links upon links of a chain. Another thing I noticed is that she likes to save time. When you listen to her lectures, you must be very focused. From the beginning of the lecture to the end, she would start from the left side of the blackboard and work on one problem. After the lecture is done the entire board would be covered and the problem is done. When she is demonstrating a problem she would welcome questions from students. I remember that I liked to ask some weird questions. For example, in several different types of transactions, how would you balance several depreciation methods and find the best method?
A Chinese proverb says, “professionals watch for special techniques, and amateurs watch for entertainment”. Since I was a professor, I felt that I gained quite a bit from Rose Kar’s class. Her class definitely gave me a great foundation in accounting, and that helped me in my future job immensely. Rose Kar also liked a student like me who liked to ask questions and challenge the professor. After one semester, I received an A in the class, and she recommended that I should become a tutor at the student learning center and tutor other students in accounting.
After one semester, I received an A in all four of my courses. In the second semester the school gave me the coveted Pacific Scholarship, and that waived all of my tuition. That was a great boost to my confidence and life.
Related Articles at The Baglady: