Eastern Promise

Produced by Mindi Shapiro Levine; written by Brett Levine; food styling by Lily Plauche; photography by Alison Miksch

Chinese food is a study in subtleties and sophistications. Spices like Chinese dried peppers and Sichuan peppercorns add their distinctive flavors to these dishes, combining with classics like garlic, ginger, Hoisin sauce and sesame oil. In Sautéed Baby Bok Choy and Mushrooms, vegetables are cooked to crisp-tender in a combination of spices and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Pork Wontons in Chili Oil are wontons topped with the spicy heat of a chili oil that is packed with peppers and peppercorns, then tempered with chopped green onions and cilantro. For a perfect dinner dish, try the Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry, with Chinese broccoli, carrots, peppers, and snow peas, topped with roasted, chopped peanuts for extra flavor, texture, and crunch. These takes on traditional classics bring the fresh flavors of Chinese food to the table in ways that are simple and savory.


Pork Wontons in Chili Oil

Makes: 30 wontons


1 cup ground pork

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 green onion, finely chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

4 whole small Chinese dried peppers

2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

2 tablespoons black vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

30 square wonton wrappers

1 green onion, sliced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


  1. To make filling, combine ground pork, salt, ginger, chopped green onion, egg, and hoisin. Cover and chill while preparing chili oil.
  2. Remove stems from peppers. Toast peppers and peppercorns in a medium skillet over medium high heat 15 seconds or until warmed and aromatic. Place in mini food processor or mortar and pestle; crush until finely crumbled. Place in a small bowl.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a small saucepan until shimmering. Pour over chili mixture.
  4. Whisk together sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and garlic. Gradually whisk vinegar mixture into chili oil. Let stand until ready to serve.
  5. To make wontons, spoon 2 teaspoons pork mixture in center of a wonton wrapper. Lightly moisten the edges of wonton with water and fold one corner over the filling to meet the corner on the opposite side, forming a triangle and pressing out as much air as possible. Bring two corners that are farthest apart together, pinching to seal. Repeat with remaining wonton wrappers and filling.
  6. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add half of wontons; cook 4 minutes or until cooked through. Drain. Repeat with remaining wontons.
  7. Place wontons in a large bowl and top with chili oil, sliced green onion, and cilantro. Serve immediately.


Sautéed Baby Bok Choy and Mushrooms

Serves: 4

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 pound baby bok choy, halved

3 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high. Add garlic and ginger; cook 30 seconds. Add bok choy, mushrooms, soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover and cook 1-2 minutes or until crisp tender. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.


Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry

Serves: 4

1 (14 oz) package extra-firm tofu, drained

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 ½ teaspoons cornstarch, divided

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger

3 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces

½ small red bell pepper, seeded, cut into strips

2 large carrots, peeled, cut into matchsticks

1 cup snow peas, trimmed

2 cups chopped Chinese broccoli

⅓ cup vegetable broth

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

¼ cup roasted peanuts, chopped

1 lime, cut into wedges

Cooked white rice, for serving


  1. Cut tofu lengthwise into 4 equal pieces; cut each piece into ½ inch squares. Place tofu between several layers of paper towels on a baking sheet. Place 2nd baking sheet on top of paper towel covered tofu; let stand 30 minutes.
  2. Toss together tofu, pepper, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a medium bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large wok or nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add tofu and cook 6-8 minutes or until well browned on all sides. Remove from pan. Add garlic, ginger, and green onion to wok; cook 30 seconds. Add to tofu.
  3. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; add bell pepper, carrot, snow peas, and broccoli and cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Add tofu mixture back to pan.
  4. Whisk together vegetable broth, remaining 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch, soy sauce, hoisin, and dark sesame oil in a small bowl. Add to tofu and vegetable mixture and cook 1 minute or until slightly thickened.
  5. Serve stir fry over rice with peanuts and lime wedges.

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