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For the first elimination test of the season, contestants were asked to produce a Chinese-themed dish including mandarin oranges (the ingredient selected by last challenge’s winner, Whitney) in just one hour. Most of the contestants stuck to the cliched, americanized version of “Chinese” stir-fry and things shook out like this:
Faruq (Stuffed Chicken), Avis (Orange Chicken), and Sheena (Warm Mandarin Salad) were in the bottom three.
And Sharone (Crispy Sesame Chicken), Tracy (Ginger Madarin Chicken), and Mike (Nutty Orange Chicken), were in the top three.
In the end, Avis and Sheena were eliminated and Mike was declared the winner.
For my rendition of the challenge, I was determined to do more than just a stir-fry, but having been to China just last year, the only food I remembered that would not qualify as such was peking duck, dim sum and hot pot – all of which did not exactly fit into the challenge. So I decided to do a spin on one of my favorite dishes: Lettuce Wraps. When I’ve done this recipe before, I’ve used this tasty and simple recipe: Asian Lettuce Wraps. But I knew I wanted to try something a little bit different so I decided to do some orange-sesame chicken lettuce wraps with coconut-infused jasmine rice.
To create the lettuce wrap filling (enough for 2-3 servings), I used the following ingredients:
- 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
- 3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
- 2 Green Onions, Chopped (I used a third one for garnish so I went ahead and chopped all three at the same time and just saved some for later)
- 4-ounce Can of Water Chestnuts, Minced (I had to mince them by hand but you can usually find cans where they are already minced for you)
- 5 Ounces of Shitake Mushrooms, Coarsely Chopped
- 1/4 Cup of Chopped Yellow Onions
- 1/2 of a Green Bell Pepper
- 30 Slices of Mandarin Oranges, Chopped (I unfortunately had to use canned mandarin oranges but definitely use fresh if you can)
- 2 Chicken Breasts, Cut into Small Chunks
- 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
- 3 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Duck Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
- 2 Teaspoons Dark Sesame Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame seeds
- 1 Teaspoon of Ground Ginger
- Pinch each of Anise, Cinnamon, Cloves
- 1 Teaspoon Sambal Oelek or your choice of Chili Paste (This will make the dish a medium-level of spicy. Use more or less depending on your preferred level of spiciness)
- Salt and pepper to taste
I just threw all of this in a wok and cooked until it was finished. It only took about 10-15 minutes to cook (See Before and After pictures below). The majority of the work with this is definitely in the prep stage.
For the coconut rice, I used:
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of coconut milk
- Juice of 1/4 Orange (I had to use a regular orange for this because my grocery store does not sell fresh mandarin oranges, but if you can get them, use that)
- Pinch of Coarse Sale
- 1 cup of jasmine rice
After completing the prep work involved in the filling, I filled a pot with the water, coconut milk, orange juice, and salt. I brought that to a boil, then stirred in the jasmine rice. Then, I just covered the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes. (This is when I started cooking the chicken filling). After 20 minutes, I took the pot (still covered) off the heat and let it rest 5 more minutes.
Then, everything was ready to plate. I placed the lettuce leaves on the serving dish (I used Romaine but you can use whatever your favorite lettuce is). Then, I put a layer of coconut rice followed by the orange-chicken. Finally, I garnished the dish with mandarin oranges, green onions and toasted sesame seeds.
Even though I tried to avoid making a stir-fry, that’s actually exactly what I did – just dressed up a little differently. It took me just about an hour and it tasted delicious – probably my favorite thing I have made so far. Given that most people received negative feedback in the challenge, I think this dish would have fared pretty well. I’ll have another dish tomorrow so be sure to come back then to see what happens next!