Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Forgotten Chapter (Plus Bonus Recipe!)

Back in 2011, as the progress of my book continued, there was one chef I was super delighted to work with. Her name was Annie Chiu, chef/owner of Sun Luck Garden in Cleveland Heights.

As soon as I met Annie, I knew I would like her. A lot. She was sweet, feisty, cordial, and kind -- all rolled into one wonderfully talented woman. And boy, did she have a story to tell!

Anyway, after I interviewed her, wrote her chapter, tested her recipes, and photographed her and her food, she dropped a bombshell on me. "I'm so sorry," she said. "I won't be able to participate in your book after all." You see, Annie was uncomfortable with any additional attention my book would bring to her and her restaurant. She was battling health issues at the time, and how can you argue that? I had to say, "I completely understand." The truth was, I was totally crushed.

Annie's recipes were freshly unique and a cuisine I knew my readers would want. But I had to honor Annie's wishes and forge ahead.

However... I decided I would finally like to share Annie's dishes with you. They are just too valuable to leave in an unfinished file folder any longer. I'm sure you'll agree.

So here, my dear readers, is the menu Annie would have showcased in my book. I'm including the main entrée recipe below for your enjoyment. If you'd like the rest, please feel free to leave a comment below with your email address and I'll be sure to send them your way!

Seaweed Soup
Lotus Root Stir Fry
Shrimp-Specked Noodles
Salt-Boiled Edamame
Asian Pear Tart

Wine Pairings:
Austria: Any Region - Grüner Veltliner
Italy: Piedmont - Moscato d'Asti
New Zealand: Marlborough - Sauvignon Blanc
USA: California - Pinot Grigio

4 servings

This is a creative dish Annie says can feature whatever vegetables you have in the refrigerator. Instead of the ones listed in this recipe, try substituting red peppers, baby corn, and broccoli. But you may really want to give lotus root a try first. A popular starchy vegetable throughout southern and eastern Asia, it is actually an edible rhizome (not a root) found underwater beneath lilies. It’s long, cylindrical, reddish brown on the outside, white on the inside, and full of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. When sliced, the lotus root reveals a lovely lacy pattern of holes. Its meat, which is slightly crunchy and faintly sweet, can also be eaten raw.

2 ounces dried wood ear fungus (can substitute other dried mushroom)
8 dried shiitake mushrooms (can substitute other dried mushroom)
1 (4-ounce) piece lotus root (can substitute water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, or bok choy)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 small sweet onion, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable stock
Couple drops of soy sauce
Salt and pepper 


  1. Put the wood ear fungus in a small bowl. Add warm water to cover. Let soak for 5-10 minutes. Strain and set aside.
  2. Put the dried shiitake mushrooms in another small bowl. Add very hot (not boiling) water to cover. Soak for about 15 minutes. Strain and set aside.
  3. Peel the lotus root. Rinse under cold water. Cut horizontally into ¼-inch round slices. They will look similar to pinwheels. Cut each round slice in half (or quarters, if desired). Set aside.
  4. Heat a dry wok (or deep skillet) on medium-high heat. When hot, pour in the oil. Immediately add the ginger and garlic. Stir very quickly until aromatic (about 3-5 minutes).
  5. Add the lotus root, celery, and onion. Stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, soy sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until well combined.
  6. When the vegetables are crunchy to your desired taste (about 10 minutes), the dish is ready to serve.