By Sondra Katkin
Come with me to the days of yesteryear, circa 1970. Do you remember when a Chinese restaurant was a “rara avis,” — a much sought after oddity? Susanna Wong Burgess, doyenne of the Wong restaurant family and manager of Oriental Wok at the Regency, explained, “Chinese cooking was such a mystery then, my dad started giving cooking classes. Mom invited neighbors and friends in Mason”… to taste the “exotic” cuisine. In that same family tradition, to facilitate cooking gourmet Asian entrees at home (your own facility), Susanna and her husband, executive chef Guy Burgess, began selling their most popular sauces, now available at Kroger, Jungle Jim’s and Remke biggs. Susanna recommends a two-step process that’s guaranteed to service the nervous or neophyte cooks, making many wonderful meals accessible to everyone. “Come and experience the sauces at the source; then buy and prepare them at home.” A sure recipe to give your food a “gourmasian” flair.
They are both very enthusiastic about the new products. Guy explained that the idea began when a customer was praising the sweet and sour sauce and lamenting his inability to find anything like it. I sampled it with a crispy, crunchy spring roll. I mixed the fruity sauce with their new vibrant Hot Chinese Mustard Sauce—biting and tasty with just the right heat to be able to retain its full flavor when combined with the Sweet and Sour Sauce. Guy noted, “It’s not for the faint of heart but it can be adjusted by how much sweet sauce is added.” I was surprised to find the “sweet” was not the usual cloying, boring mix, but modestly sweet with an authentic fruity flavor. They use the pressings from apple cider, locally grown tomatoes, oranges, lemons and beet or cane sugar — no high fructose corn syrup. Each sauce has a recipe suggestion on the jar and additional recipes are available.
The following is a recipe using Oriental Wok Sweet and Sour Sauce:
8 oz. ground chicken
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 lbs. julienne cabbage
8 oz. julienne celery
1 tb. salt
2 tb. sesame oil
2 ts. 5 spice powder
8 oz. julienne carrots
Blanch veggies for 2 mins. Remove from water, cool and drain. Mix peanut butter, 5 spice powder, salt and sesame oil and whisk until smooth and uniform. For the egg rolls to properly cook in hot oil, the excess water must be removed from the veggies. You can use a tea towel, adding veggies in small batches and wringing (but not till overwrought) to remove excess water. Combine the chicken, veggies and peanut butter mix and stir until evenly distributed. Wrap in 7” x 7” egg roll wrappers and fry in 350 F oil, until golden brown. Serve with Oriental Wok Sweet & Sour Sauce and (O.W.) Hot Mustard Sauce.
My “saucy” interview and tasting continued with General Wong’s Chicken, made with Oriental Wok’s General Wong’s Spicy Sauce. The white meat chunks of moist chicken, flavored with the savory sauce and surrounded by the onion, baby corn, water chestnuts and mushrooms were excellent with a balance of spicy, salty and sweet. When I mentioned that the vegetables retained their crunch, Susanna noted, “That’s the advantage of wok cooking.” Another use for the sauce is the spicy Asian burger. Slightly larger than a slider, the grilled patty is juicy with the tangy sauce, covered with onions sautéed in the sauce — a double whammy of yummy! This would make a popular party item. No pity, patty party here. The recipes follow:
General Wong’s Chicken
1 lb chicken breast cubed
1/2 cup red bell peppers
1/2 cup snow peas
1/2 cup baby corn
1 cup General Wong’s Sauce
Cook chicken in wok or skillet until done. Add veggies. Cook about two minutes. Add General Wong’s sauce. Coat evenly. Enjoy.
General Wong’s Spicy
Mix 1/4 cup General Wong’s sauce into 1 lb ground beef. Form 4 quarter pound patties. Grill or pan fry burgers until desired temperature. Stir-fry 1 cup onions in 1/2 cup General Wong’s sauce, top burger and serve on bun.
Other Oriental Wok sauces include Perfect Fried Rice, Sesame Stir-Fry, Volcano and Thai Peanut. All the recipes are enticing and I plan to try the Sesame glazed salmon soon. It looks very simple and tasty. The Burgess’s agree, “People are busy now and don’t want to make their sauces from scratch.” Graeters and Skyline Chili had better make room, here comes another Cincinnati specialty going countrywide. Guy reported that their biggest market is Denver, Colo.—smart people!
Each time I visit, the classy decor impresses me anew. I asked Guy, the former nuclear physicist (and no it doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to cook their signature dishes, but it doesn’t hurt) if Susanna had training as an interior designer. While she has not, the artistic warm colors, authentic Asian accents — carved arches, tables inlaid with enameled treasures, booths with pillows, tables and chairs arranged with a clear consideration for comfort, separate dining rooms, high ceilings, a baby grand, soft lighting and myriad other details all lend themselves to a pleasing, harmonious ambiance. Burgess, who trained at the restaurant, became so accomplished, his cooking classes are well received and he teaches at Midwest Culinary Institute.
Oriental Wok has many popular Asian specialties redolent with Eastern flavors and fragrances, where sugary, savory and fiery notes mingle. A full bar, including a banquette with soft pillows, features happy hours, Tuesday to Friday, 4 to 6:30 p.m. with discounted drinks and appetizers. There is a children’s menu and a large catering menu. Private rooms are available. They serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., dinner Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday from 4 to 9:30 p.m., on Friday and Saturday from 4 to 11 p.m.
2444 Madison Rd.
Cincinnati, OH 45208