Pork Amandine; Never piss off a chef

Did I ever tell you about the time I was chased out of a restaurant by a really pissed off Chinese chef brandishing his favorite, very large, very sharp, cleaver?

I ran across this post when I was reorganizing the Recipe Index… Thought I'd share again….

The setting:

I was installing a computerized ordering system in the old Nankin, downtown Minneapolis.  (It's no longer there, so I can name names….)

This was a classic Chinese restaurant:  high vaulted ceilings; the walls a vivid red with gold trim; pagodas, gold lions, and dragons lurking everywhere.  There was a balcony at one end with a wide staircase, wood banisters and railings.

And, at this time it was owned by a group of Jewish guys which I (and they) thought rather hilarious – much longer story.

I spent a lot of time there, just being 'on call' so I was given the cook's tour.  Underneath the restaurant was a cavernous maze of store rooms and prep rooms that covered at least a city block… much larger than the restaurant.  There were rooms for growing mushrooms and rooms for chopping celery; rooms for cooking rice and rooms for butchering chickens.  It was a dark, dank and rather scary place.

The restaurant sat well over 100 people and during the lunch hour, tables were 'turned' every 20 minutes, with 4 – 5 seatings per table.  It was busier at night, well past the usual Minneapolis closing time of 10:00pm.  There was a bar on one side that was equally popular.

In the kitchen was one long wall with huge woks over open flames; each with it's own cook and the head chef overseeing all.  It was at best controlled chaos with everyone shouting in English and Chinese; food being slammed on counters, flipped out of the woks; plates and people everywhere.

The incident:

The system I installed had terminals at all of the server stations where orders were entered.  The orders were printed out at the appropriate station in the kitchen. ( I know, they're everywhere now, but this was one of the first)  The server's union didn't like the idea of "all this computer stuff".  Some of the people were convinced that the Nankin owners were trying to become more efficient (huh?) and, perhaps, eliminate some staff.

About 4 days into the installation, everything seemed to be going smoothly.  One of the owners and I stepped into the kitchen.  The head chef took one look at us, grabbed his cleaver and started running.  He ignored Joel; only had eyes for me… Very scary, glassy  eyes.  I took off, wrongly thinking Joel would stop him. He couldn't. 

I ran through the restaurant, weaving between the tables; up and around the balcony; through the bar,  shoving customers out of my way; back through the restaurant and, finally, out into the parking lot.  Right behind me was this angry, crazy guy waving his cleaver and cursing at me in Chinese.

Finally some of the staff realized that, just maybe, I could use some help, and tackled him.

The problem:

Two of the servers had decided to sabotage the new system.  The most expensive item on the menu was Lobster Lo Mein.  Every 15 minutes, one of them ordered it.  By the time we had walked into the kitchen there were 9 Lobster Lo Mein's sitting on the counter which no server would acknowledge.  The chef's costs were going to hell in a hand basket and it HAD to be the computer's fault; therefore, my fault because it was my computer. 

I've always had great respect for cleavers.

And I still love Chinese food.

But I miss the Nankin….

This is my version of one of the classic dishes on their menu. I have added a bit more pork and some fresh ginger and serve it over brown rice rather than crunchy noodles.

Pork Amandine
Pork Amandine

10oz (300gr) pork tenderloin or boneless chops
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
3 ribs celery about 1 1/2 cups
2/3 green pepper
1 medium carrot
4oz (125gr) mushrooms
1/2 cup almonds whole, sliced or slivered
1 tbs olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbs sherry (optional)
1 tbs cornstarch (Maizena, corn flour) dissolved in
1 tbs soy sauce plus 1 tbs water

Thinly slice onion. Mince garlic. Mince ginger (peel first). Julienne the pepper and carrot (techniques). Trim and slice mushrooms. Slice celery on the diagonal. Cut the pork into large bite-size pieces.
Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to skillet and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and stir-fry another 2 minutes. Remove onions/garlic from pan and set aside. Add pork and stir-fry 3 – 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove and put with onions. Add carrots, mushrooms, peppers to skillet and stir-fry 5 minutes. Return pork, onions, garlic and ginger to pan. Add chicken stock, sherry, soy sauce and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove cover, add cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened. Stir in almonds and serve over rice. Add more soy sauce if desired, according to taste.  Serve over Brown Rice.

In addition to this, for the week of November 12 we have Shrimp with Garlic and Prosciutto, Veal Marsala, Turkey and Pepper Risotto, Spicy Beef Enchiladas….

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4 thoughts on “Pork Amandine; Never piss off a chef”

  1. I am old enough to remember the Nankin — I don’t think I ever ate there, but I do believe my sister did. SO cool to hear about the storage/prep space underneath! How many restaurants do you think grow their own mushrooms any more? 😀 Kind of neat to hear stories about a Mpls. landmark on a food blog written by a Minnesota woman living in France. 🙂 Who’d a thunk?
    Oh, and the recipe sounds good, too. 😉

  2. Great story and I don’t have one to match it but a waiter did once tell me NOT TO PLAY WITH MY FOOD when I waved a rather large chive that came adorning some poached eggs !!!

  3. Val, hope you like it…. It’s funny…. now ;-))
    Laurie, it was huge down there – and kind of scary.
    manningroad, some waiters have no sense of humor!

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