Jan/Feb
2019

Celebrate Chinese New Year: Right here in Rochester

Written by Cindy Mennenga
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Rochester has a vast international dining scene given its size. There are numerous fantastic Asian restaurants in town—some are trendy and upscale presenting new twists on classic dishes, while others are traditional and beloved by visitors and locals alike.  

In honor of Chinese New Year (February 5, 2019), my husband and I wanted to explore a sampling of new and established Asian restaurants in Rochester. There are several excellent Asian eateries, but we chose to visit Hunan Garden and Asia Fusion. 

 

HUNAN GARDEN

Hunan Garden is well-known around Rochester as a popular Chinese restaurant, and we were definitely pleased with our meals. We started off with a tasty wonton soup: The broth was flavorful and the wontons were tender, making for a perfect beginning to our meal. For entrees, we enjoyed cashew shrimp and sizzling steak with shrimp.

The cashew shrimp included jumbo shrimp and lots of perfectly cooked, crisp-tender vegetables. It was delicious. The sizzling steak had a generous portion of steak and jumbo shrimp with lots of veggies. Both meals were large portions, and we ended up with leftovers that made for a fantastic lunch for two the following day. 

The ambiance at Hunan Garden is very welcoming, and we will plan to visit again soon.

ASIA FUSION

Asia Fusion surprised us, because from the outside, it looks like just any other small restaurant, but upon entering, it was like we were transported to another world. Asia Fusion’s unique decor is a mix of industrial-chic-meets-classic-Asian influences. 

We ordered crispy chicken walnut and chicken satay. The crispy chicken walnut was what you’d expect: crispy chicken with walnuts and expertly prepared veggies with peanut sauce and rice. It tasted great, and the serving size was perfect. But the star of the show was the chicken satay. The entree was served in a huge bowl over a bed of rice. The chicken was marinated and cooked to perfection, tossed with a peanut sauce, cilantro, cucumber and red onion. It was an explosion of flavors, and it was absolutely our favorite entree. Asia Fusion is a delightful restaurant, and we will most certainly dine there again in the near future. 

MAKING CHICKEN SATAY AT HOME

Since our evening at Asia Fusion, I’ve been experimenting with chicken satay recipes because it’s now one of our favorite meals. The key is to marinate the chicken and let it absorb the flavors of the marinade. When it comes time to cook the chicken, be sure the meat is cooked through, but don’t overcook it because it will become dry and chewy. The original recipe recommends grilling the chicken, which you can do, but I find the hassle of getting the grill going a deterrent, so I cook the chicken slowly in a skillet. It saves time and is more convenient. Another short cut I like to take because I am usually in a hurry and don’t always have all of the ingredients on-hand: I use store-bought peanut sauce rather than make my own. I’m sure you purists out there are aghast at the thought, but I don’t see any harm in simplifying recipes if it makes them more approachable and increases the likelihood of cooking a favorite meal at home. 

Both restaurants we visited were wonderful, and we had great meals at each place. I highly recommend Asia Fusion’s chicken satay, and really, the best way to truly understand how unique it is, is to try it yourself. In the meantime, try making chicken satay at home following this recipe.

 

 

Cindy Mennenga, owner of MedCity WordCraft, LLC is a freelance writer and editor based in Rochester.

 

Chinese New Year is a festival celebrating the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year 2019 falls on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, beginning a year of the Pig. China's public holiday will be February 4–10, 2019.

 

Chicken Satay

Prep time: 15 min. (Prep time does not include marinating time.)
Cook time: 10 min. Total time: 25 min. Serves: 4

Chicken mixture

1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (or chicken thighs)
cubed into bite-size pieces

½ cup coconut milk

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. ginger, minced

1 Tbsp. fish sauce

1 Tbsp. red curry paste

3 Tbsp. light brown sugar

3 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

½ tsp. ground turmeric

½ tsp. cumin

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped

2 Tbsp. cucumber, chopped

1 Tbsp. red onion, chopped 

Lime wedges for garnish, if desired

1 cup rice, cooked

Peanut sauce, recipe below

 

Add first 10 ingredients (above) to a plastic container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to cook, add olive oil in large skillet. Preheat to medium high heat. Cook chicken mixture 4 - 5 minutes on each side, stirring frequently until thoroughly cooked. Remove from heat, toss with peanut sauce, cilantro, cucumbers and red onion. Serve over rice with lime wedges and extra cilantro for garnish, if desired. 

 

Peanut sauce

½ cup creamy peanut butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. ginger, minced

2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp. light brown sugar

1 whole lime, juiced

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. red curry paste

1 tsp. sriracha

2 Tbsp. water


Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until combined. Alternately, mix ingredients in a medium bowl until combined (or use store-bought peanut sauce). Set aside until ready to add to chicken mixture.

 

Recipe adapted from ChefSavvy.com.

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