Asian dishes you can make at home

“Chinese Virus.” 

Early in March, those are the words President Donald Trump used in reference to the current coronavirus outbreak. After hearing the term, many government officials, Chinese and otherwise, were heartbroken, and for good reason. 

Experts say that labeling the virus as such is not only racist, but it also raises tensions between the two countries and invites xenophobia within the United States. 

Li Jin, associate professor of Chinese Studies, program director of Global Asian Studies and applied linguist at DePaul University noted how language not only reflects how we think but also how we behave.

“Some words can invoke deep and strong feelings, and others can invoke violent actions,” Jin said over email. “When terms are associated with racial stereotypes, they can easily invigorate racist behaviors.”

In the wake of Trump’s remarks, many Chinese and Asian Americans alike have been on the receiving end of racial attacks, both physical and verbal. 

Trump pointed to other viruses being named after places, like Ebola Virus and West Nile, as an excuse for why using language like “Chinese Virus” or “Wuhan Virus” is okay. 

“Language such as those can easily make people come to a misleading conclusion that this is a virus carried by a Chinese person, therefore all Chinese people should be avoided and blamed,” Jin said. “This epitomizes the power of language: it could destroy our communities. As a mindful and compassionate human being, we should understand that a virus doesn’t prefer one race over another.”

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) implemented updated practices for naming new infections, syndromes and diseases. 

The WHO website states that “terms that should be avoided in disease names include geographic locations (e.g. Spanish Flu), people’s names (e.g. Chagas Disease), species of animal or food (e.g. swine flu), cultural, population, industry or occupational references (e.g. legionnaires) and terms that incite undue fear (e.g. unknown, fatal).” 

Rather, disease names should consist of the symptom (e.g. respiratory disease), pathogen (e.g. coronavirus), or season (e.g. winter) it is caused by. 

“The virus might originate from Wuhan,” Jin said, “but the vast majority of Chinese people had nothing to do with this virus and have suffered severe interruption of work and life.”

As many businesses have suffered due to COVID-19, Chinese-owned ones have dealt with a decrease in sales on top of the racial discrimination they’ve been experiencing. 

All non-essential businesses, Chinese-owned or otherwise, have been closed in Illinois since March 16. Asia on Argyle, a predominantly Asian neighborhood in Uptown, boasts various restaurants, shops, salons, banks and grocery stores, all owned by Asian Americans and Asian immigrants. 

Tai Nam Food Market located at 4925 N. Broadway is a hub for those looking for ingredients to flex their culinary skills. Pick up anything from Tai Nam and a dish instantly becomes restaurant-worthy.

Another reason to shop there right now, or any local Asian market for that matter, is to support the Asian community.

In an interview over the phone, the general manager at Tai Nam, who wished to remain anonymous, said that sales have slowly decreased in the past month.

“The sales increased before the lockdown,” the GM said. “Then went down 50-60 percent.” 

Tai Nam’s main customer base is restaurant owners, so it follows suit that sales decreased as much as they did in succession with the restaurant restriction. 

Tai Nam also sees a lot of Asian households and families who live in the neighborhood and have been shopping there for years. These shoppers are staying loyal during the pandemic and Tai Nam has been taking safety precautions seriously.

“All of our employees wear masks and gloves,” the GM said, “and we sanitize every day, three times [per] day. We’re doing everything we can.”

Supporting local businesses is at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds, yet few of us have the means to buy anything other than groceries right now. Shopping at local grocery stores is a perfect way to have both of those needs met. Plus, if you’re craving your favorite take out, an Asian grocer will have the ingredients you need to whip it up.

Chef Sara Salzinski at The Chopping Block, located at 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza suite 107 and in Lincoln Square at 4747 N Lincoln Ave., recommends a handful of ingredients essential to have on hand for any Asian dish, many of which are sauces. 

“Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, oyster sauce, sweet chili dipping sauce, mirin, sriracha, ginger, garlic and scallions are the staples we always have in our kitchen,” Salzinski said in an email.

Most of those items you can find at a regular grocery store, however Asian markets sell them in higher quantities at much lower prices. 

Once you stock up on the basics, it all boils down (pun intended) to how to best use them to achieve a restaurant-worthy meal that’s better than take-out. Salzinski noted that it’s all about balancing flavors, using proper cookware and practicing. 

“To get the best taste, think about layering sweet, salty, sour and spicy,” Salzinski said. “By balancing these tastes, you’ll end up with a complex layer of flavors throughout your dish.”

Chef Trina Sheridan at The Wooden Spoon, located in Andersonville at 5047 N. Clark St, not far from Asia on Argyle, mentioned the importance of doing your mise en place, which means everything in its place, before you start cooking.

“Cut up your vegetables, measure all your ingredients, get out the equipment you need,” Sheridan said over email. “Asian cooking can be fast, especially stir fries, so you need to have everything ready to go when it is needed.”

While most home cooks don’t have a cast iron wok, a deep pan used in most Asian kitchens, a regular sauté pan can achieve the same effects.

“The combination of using correct cookware and high heat produces a charred and caramelized effect,” Salzinski said. “You may need to cook your food in batches to prevent overcrowding the pan, as this will lower the heat in your pan and steam your food instead of caramelizing it.”

In times like these, we have to come together, keeping in mind how essential it is to support local businesses and those in the Asian communities. 

The next time you can stop by one of the stocked stores above, you can get everything you need to make these three delicious recipes. 

Chinese Fried Rice

Carly Travis | The DePaulia
Chinese Fried rice.

Serves 1


  • ½ cup cooked rice (any type works. Quinoa works as well)
  • 3 tablespoons neutral flavored oil (canola, safflower or grapeseed oil work great)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ a carrot, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ cup mushrooms, cut into small pieces, similar in size to the carrots
  • 1 egg
  • 2 scallions plus some for garnish, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat a large skillet with 3 tablespoons neutral flavored oil. Once hot, add garlic, carrots and mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add peas and scallions and continue sautéing for another minute.

Add rice along with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and one tablespoon rice wine vinegar. Stir to combine.

As rice crisps up, heat up a separate pan to fry the egg sunny side up. 

Once the egg is fried, place the fried rice on a plate or bowl, top with the egg and sprinkle with scallion and crushed red pepper.

*Note: the beauty of fried rice is you can really put anything you want in it. Try protein like chicken, ham or tofu. Edamame can replace frozen peas. The egg can be scrambled instead of fried. Be creative!*


Japanese Soba Noodle Salad with Miso Dressing (adapted from Goop)

Carly Travis | The DePaulia
Soba noodle salad.

Serves 2


For the dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter of choice (peanut, almond and soy nut butter work great)
  • Juice from 1 large lime
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 small garlic glove, grated
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons or sugar, honey, agave or maple syrup

For the salad:

  • 2 cups of soba noodles (rice noodles, ramen noodles or spaghetti work great here too)
  • Two bundles of bok choy, sliced
  • ½ a carrot, cucumber or bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup frozen, shelled edamame
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, putting the ingredients in a mason jar and shaking it up to combine works just as well. Set aside.

To make the salad, cook the soba noodles according to the package. Reserve some cooking water to defrost the edamame with. 

Drain and rinse the soba noodles with cold water and add to a large mixing bowl. 

Thinly slice the bok choy, carrots/cucumber and scallion and add to the soba noodles. Set aside some scallion for garnish.

Drain the defrosted edamame and add to the mixing bowl.

Toss the salad with the dressing, sprinkle with scallion garnish and you’re ready to eat!

*Note: this salad is best served cold or room temperature*


Chicken and Broccoli Pad Thai (adapted from My Recipes)

Carly Travis | The DePaulia
Chicken and broccoli Pad Thai.

Serves 4


For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Juice from ½ a lime
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the Pad Thai:

  • 3 tablespoons neutral flavored oil (vegetable, grapeseed and safflower oil work great)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 6 ounces rice noodles, cooked according to package
  • 1-pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly cut
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into medium sized chunks
  • 1 egg
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Lime wedges
  • ¼ chopped, roasted peanuts (optional)

To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Heat a large skillet with oil. Once hot, add sliced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, add chicken. Cook chicken until cooked through, roughly 5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. 

Add broccoli to the pan and stir fry until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. To steam the broccoli and ensure it isn’t raw, add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan and cover for 3 minutes. 

Add the chicken back into the pan.

Move the chicken and broccoli to the outside edges of the pan, creating a hole in the middle. Crack the egg in the center of the pan and scramble until cooked.

Add the cooked noodles into the pan along with the sauce. Toss everything to combine.

To serve, sprinkle with scallions, peanuts and a squeeze of lime.