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Chop, Wok, & Talk cooking school focuses on Asian cuisine

| Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005

"Faster, faster, faster!" Dorothy Teague barks.

Fingers are flying as cooking students line up at a stainless-steel table fold meat filling into won ton wraps to make soup. Someone among the crowd wails, "Wait, you're going too fast!"

Teague, director of Chop, Wok and Talk Chinese cooking school in Bloomfield, knows students will get the hang of the envelope-style wrapping technique the more they practice. But they don't have much time this evening -- in three hours, they will make Won Ton Soup, Pan Fried Won Tons, Shrimp "Swallows" with Sweet and Sour Cherry Lemon Dipping Sauce, Coconut Shrimp, Lemon Chicken, Kan Shaw Pork and rice.

And they get to eat it all, too.

Chop, Wok and Talk is Pittsburgh's only Chinese cooking school. Teague, who studied under former restaurateur and chef Anna Kao -- Kao owned a popular eatery along Freeport Road near Fox Chapel for many years -- is sharing what she learned from taking more than 50 classes from Kao, who has retired.

"Once you got into her classes, no one left," says Teague, a former vocal music teacher for the Shaler Area School District who founded Chop, Wok and Talk three years ago. When space ran out at their home, they converted an apartment over another business that she and her husband, Paul, own.

A former part-time beautician, Tague says the school is the "cooking portion of my life." And it's all for fun. She gets to use her teaching skills as well as delve into catering, offering party platters to full meals at the school, at Penn and Aiken avenues, or in private homes. Another retired teacher, Judy Jordan, who worked for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, assists her in prepping for the classes and cleaning up.

Tonight, Tague is orchestrating the second of three classes in a series that will offer hands-on training -- cleavers, hot oil and all. Students already made Lettuce Wraps, Hot and Sour Soup, Sweet and Sour Shrimp, and Fried Rice the week before. They drank plum tea; this week, it's lychee.

Teague offers three-class sessions as long as she has students. Eight is her limit because of space and her desire to do as much one-on-one instruction as possible.

Most students come to learn how to make sauces as well as the general techniques of Chinese cooking, she says.

Lonnie Barton, of Stowe, is one of them.

"I love Chinese cooking," says Barton, a corporate planner who enjoys entertaining at home. "I want the sauces and to learn the nuances."

Mike Berdar, of West Mifflin, received his classes as a Father's Day gift.

"I'm here to learn the techniques," he says. "I cooked some Chinese things that didn't come out."

Although Diana Williams, of the North Side, lived in Thailand for 7 1/2 years and studied that culture's fare firsthand, she's here to garner recipes from its northern neighbor. This is her second session. After the first classes, she cooked four appetizers and five main courses for family and friends.

Most of the recipes that Teague shares came from or were inspired by Anna Kao, who has influenced other area Chinese cooking teachers. They include:

  • Chef Susan Woolridge, who has taught classes in the culinary arts program at Westmoreland County Community College;

  • Rita Wasilowski of Natrona Heights, who taught classes at Polly's Pantry in Sarver;

  • Area restaurateur Richard Lee, who worked for Kao at her restaurant;

  • And Kathy Yee, owner of Ya Fei Chinese Cuisine in Robinson Town Centre, also a former employee.

    Teague also studied classical cooking at the former Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, now the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. She offers private classes and teaches Chinese cooking and dim sum for the Community College of Allegheny County.

    Chop, Wok and Talk was born "through a fluke," she says. Tenants from San Francisco who were renting an apartment from the Teagues had complained that they couldn't find good Chinese food in Pittsburgh. Teague offered to teach them if they bought the ingredients -- word spread, and soon people were paying for the privilege, she says.

    "I thought they were being polite when they said they loved the classes," she says, laughing.

    The best part is that profits are her "pin money," she says. "I don't have to do it. I enjoy it."


    Dorothy Teague, director of Chop Wok & Talk cooking school in Bloomfield, shared these recipes from a recent class. They were created by former restaurateur Anna Kao, who spent many years teaching Chinese cooking classes in her home and at area cooking schools, including Crate in Green Tree.

    Won Ton Soup

    The won tons also can be pan-fried after they are assembled. Use thin store-bought won ton wrappers; if frozen, follow the package directions to thaw.

    • 60 won ton wrappers (3- by 3-inch square)
    • 1/2 cup cold water, to seal the wrappers
    • Boiling water, to cook the won tons

    For the filling:

    • 1/2 pound ground veal, chuck, pork, chicken or shrimp
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 green onions, minced
    • 1/4 cup minced water chestnuts
    • Pinch of ground white pepper

    For the broth:

    • 3 cups chicken or beef broth (homemade or canned)
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
    • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste

    To serve:

    • Sesame oil
    • Minced green onions

    Combine the filling ingredients, mixing as you would for a meatloaf.

    Remove the won ton wrappers from their package and place them on a counter. Cover with a damp cloth or paper towel to keep them from drying out.

    Working with 1 won ton wrapper at a time, place a wrapper on a clean work surface and put 1 teaspoon of the filling mixture just below the center at one corner. Wet the near edges lightly with a dab of the cold water and bring the corner up over the filling. "Glue" the point of the corner to the center of the won ton skin with another dab of water. Press on either side of the filling to seal, then fold in the two side corners. Twist the dumpling backward toward you and pinch the ends together.

    Place the won ton on a tray and cover with a dry towel until ready to cook. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

    Makes 5 dozen won tons. At this point, the tray -- uncovered -- can be put into the freezer. When the won tons are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag.

    To boil the won tons: If the dumplings are freshly made, drop into boiling water for 2 minutes, a little longer if using pork. They will float when they are done.

    If frozen, place the dumplings into boiling water. When the water boils again, add 1/2 cup cold water to stop the boiling, then bring the pot back to a boil. Add another 1/2 cup cold water the second time; when it comes to the boil for the third time, the won tons are cooked. They will float.

    For the soup: Combine the broth and soy sauce. Taste and add salt as needed.

    To serve: Place 4 soup bowls on a counter. Pour 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil into the bottom of each bowl. Add 1/4 cup minced green onions per bowl. Place 3 to 5 won tons in the bowls, depending on size, and divide the broth among the bowls.

    Makes 4 servings.

    Shrimp Swallows

    • Sweet and Sour Cherry Lemon Dipping Sauce ( recipe follows )
    • 48 won ton wrappers (3- by 3-inch square)
    • All-purpose flour
    • Cold water, for "glue"
    • Vegetable oil for deep-frying, such as canola

    For the filling:

    • 1/2 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 1/2 pound ground lean beef
    • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
    • Dash ground white pepper
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
    • 2 green onions, minced

    Prepare the Sweet and Sour Cherry Lemon Dipping Sauce. It can be refrigerated in a closed container for several weeks.

    In a mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients, mixing as you would for meatloaf.

    Remove the won ton wrappers from their package and place them on a counter. Cover with a damp cloth or paper towel to keep them from drying out. Lightly dust a baking tray with flour.

    Moisten the edge of 1 wrapper with water. Place 1 teaspoon filling in the middle. Bring up the sides of the wrapper around the filling -- like an envelope fold -- and crimp the edges together to seal. Place the dumpling on the prepared tray. Continue with the remaining wrappers, moving them to the tray and arranging so they do not touch.

    In a wok or skillet, heat 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees. Fry a few swallows at a time for 1 to 2 minutes or until light brown, turning occasionally. Drain on paper towels. Serve with the dipping sauce.

    Makes 4 dozen dumplings.

    To prepare ahead: Make and fry the swallows, let cool, then freeze on a baking tray until solid. Transfer to a freezer bag and return to the freezer. When ready to serve, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Place a rack on the baking tray and top with the frozen swallows. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until crispy and golden brown.

    Sweet and Sour Cherry Lemon Dipping Sauce

    • 3 tablespoons honey
    • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 teaspoons minced lemon pulp
    • 4 tablespoons cherry jelly or preserves
    • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

    Combine all ingredients.

    Coconut Shrimp

    • Ginger Sauce ( recipe follows )
    • 1 pound medium-size raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, for coating shrimp
    • 2 cups flaked or shredded coconut (half sweetened, half unsweetened)
    • Vegetable oil, for frying

    For the marinade:

    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
    • 1 teaspoon salt

    For the batter:

    • 3/4 cup cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water
    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 cup beer
    • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

    Prepare the Ginger Sauce. It can be refrigerated in a closed container for about 1 month.

    Combine the Marinade ingredients. Clean the shrimp and dry well, using paper towels. Butterfly the shrimp, cutting from the bottom of the shrimp lengthwise from tail to head, but not cutting all the way through. Place the shrimp in the marinade for 15 minutes.

    Combine the Batter ingredients until free of lumps. Toss the shrimp with 1/4 cup flour in a plastic bag until coated. Shake off the excess flour and place the shrimp on a cookie sheet so they do not touch.

    Spread the coconut on a plate or in a shallow container. Holding a shrimp by the tail, dip it into the batter, then into the coconut to coat. Place back on the cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.

    Heat 2 inches of oil in a wok or skillet to 275 degrees -- be careful about the oil temperature, because the coconut burns quickly. Deep-fry the shrimp until light brown, for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and drain. Refry before serving to make the shrimp crispy.

    Serve immediately with Ginger Sauce.

    Makes about 3 dozen.

    To prepare ahead: Prepare the shrimp and deep-fry once the day before, until pale brown. Refrigerate, then refry before serving.

    Ginger Sauce

    • 12 ounces fruit preserves, such as apricot, orange, plum, fig, blackberry or seedless raspberry
    • 1/4 cup dried crystallized ginger, minced
    • 3 dried hot chile peppers
    • 1 cup cider vinegar
    • 3 tablespoons honey
    Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

    Lemon Chicken

    If desired, substitute sea bass or any thick boneless white fish for the chicken. For a thin coating, substitute a mixture of equal parts cornstarch and all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup each) for the batter. Shake the chicken in the mixture to coat, then tap off the excess.

    • 1 pound boneless chicken breasts
    • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce
    • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
    • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish (optional)

    For the marinade:

    • 2 tablespoons sherry
    • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
    • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
    • Generous dash ground white pepper

    For the lemon sauce:

    • 1/2 cup chicken broth
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
    • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • Dash ground white pepper
    • Finely shredded or grated zest of 1 or 2 lemons, to taste
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) cold water
    • Chicken broth or water, if needed
    • Additional cornstarch dissolved in cold water, if needed

    For the batter:

    • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

    Cut the chicken into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Butterfly the thicker parts of the breast piece so the chicken is about 1/2-inch thick all over so it cooks quickly.

    Combine the marinade ingredients. Toss the chicken in the marinade to coat and marinate for 30 minutes.

    Using a knife, shred the lettuce as you would for coleslaw. Place onto a serving platter and refrigerate it to keep it crisp.

    Mix the lemon sauce ingredients in a saucepot, bring to a boil to thicken and reduce the heat to low to keep warm. Once thickened, do not continue to boil the sauce because it will become thin. The sauce should have a honey/corn syrup consistency. Adjust by adding a little water or chicken broth if it's too thick or a little more cornstarch slurry if its too thin.

    Combine the batter ingredients until well mixed. Stir in all of the chicken pieces until coated.

    Pour 2 inches of vegetable oil into a wok or deep skillet and heat to 350 degrees. Fry the chicken pieces in batches for about 3 minutes, then remove and let drain. Increase the oil temperature to 375 to 400 degrees and re-fry the chicken all at one time, until golden brown, for about 1 minute.

    Remove the chicken, let drain and place atop the cold lettuce. Pour the warm sauce over the fish. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired, and serve immediately.

    Makes 4 servings.

    To prepare ahead: Marinate the chicken, coat with batter and fry one time the day before. Refrigerate. Also, make the sauce.

    At serving time, shred the lettuce, heat the sauce and refry the chicken the second time. Garnish, if desired, and serve.

    Kan Shaw Pork

    Teague says to cut the pork into pieces resembling "Scrabble squares."

    • 1 pound thick-cut boneless pork chops, center cut, cut into 1- by 1/3-inch pieces
    • 1 sweet green pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
    • 1 sweet red pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
    • 1 sweet yellow or orange pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks; or 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts

    For the marinade:

    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water

    For the seasoning sauce:

    • 2 teaspoons hot chile sauce
    • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 2 tablespoons soybean paste (from a jar)
    • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
    • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
    • 1/2 cup chicken broth

    The pork should be cut into the same sizes as the sweet peppers. Combine the marinade ingredients, toss in the pork to coat, cover and chill for 1 hour.

    Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for the seasoning sauce.

    Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Stir-fry the pork for 1 minute; remove from the wok and let drain. Remove all but 2 tablespoons oil from the wok. Reheat to smoking and stir-fry the sweet peppers for 1 minute. Push the sweet peppers to the edges and pour the seasoning sauce in the middle of the wok. Cook until it thickens. Return the pork to the wok. Stir-fry until heated through.

    To plate the dish: Turn the mixture onto a platter and garnish with the roasted peanuts.

    Makes 4 to 6 servings.

    To prepare ahead: Make the seasoning sauce a few days in advance; place in a closed container and refrigerate. Marinate the pork overnight. Prep and bag the vegetables together the day before.

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