The restaurant business is in my family. When I was in high school, I lived with my cousin in Scotland, and he taught me how to cook. My parents were living in Hong Kong at the time, and then moved to Washington, DC, where we joined them. After working in a few kitchens in Maryland, my cousin and I decided to open our own restaurant. We thought about L.A. but it was too diverse and we weren’t sure where we could be successful. Then one day, I drove down to San Diego and found it to be very pretty. Soon after, we opened up Szechuan Mandarin in Mission Gorge.
San Diego in the 1970s was decades behind the East Coast. At the time, no one even knew how to pronounce “Szechuan.” We had a tough time trying to introduce spicy, northern Chinese cuisine to San Diego locals, and it took five or six years to get the restaurant going. However, after a few years of good press and adventurous eaters, we became busy all the time.
It was hard work. There is nothing glamorous about the restaurant business. You want to get your blood pressure up? Work in a kitchen. It’s long hours, messy, and things always break at the worst possible time.
9350 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Suite F, Kearny Mesa
Twenty-two years after I opened Szechuan Mandarin, I sold it. I quit because of my frustration. But after 18 months, I realized that sitting at home on a Friday night doesn’t interest me. I found out that the world isn’t any better without a restaurant, so I decided to go back into it and just learn to deal with the difficulties. I opened up Khan’s Cave, which is an Asian-fusion restaurant, and despite the economic conditions, we are doing really well.
I rarely cook at home. I like simple things, like a bowl of noodles. I don’t like sweet dishes, but I love Vietnamese and Korean dishes.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 12 oz. ground or diced pork
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 slice of sun-dried tofu, diced (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
- 2 oz sherry
- 1/4 cup soybean paste (available in Asian markets or can substitute miso paste)
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup chicken broth
- shredded cucumber and chopped scallions for garnish
HOW TO DO IT
Heat wok or skillet, add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Sauté pork and onion until brown. Add tofu and cook until golden. Next add ginger, cooking wine, soybean paste, and hoisin sauce.
Continue to sauté for 2 or 3 more minutes, then add water and chicken broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes or until liquid is reduced to about a quarter of the original volume.
While the sauce is simmering, cook the noodles of your choice. When the sauce is finished, cover noodles and garnish with cucumber and scallions.