An attorney from Denver. A physical therapist from Connecticut. An engineer from Kansas. And nine more women and men of varied backgrounds and geography, including me. We were a diverse group with one thing in common: We love to eat.


Or, as the Culinary Institute of America puts it, we are food enthusiasts. Enthusiastic enough to gather on its Hyde Park, N.Y., campus for five days of slicing, dicing, baking, braising, sautéing and woking during Asian Boot Camp.


Boot camp at the CIA (the college's nickname) ran from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., so even on this spiced-up vacation, there was more than food on the menu. I had plenty of time to tour the historic Hudson River Valley, including the homes of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.


The CIA's 170 acres are gorgeous and its student union, The Egg, fronts the Hudson River. There's lots of whimsy to spare. The mascot of The Egg is Al, short for albumin, the scientific name for the white of an egg. The pedestrian crossings throughout campus show figures in chef uniforms. A sign at the exit exhorts the 3,000 undergraduates, "Eat Your Vegetables."


The culinary collection in the school's library is second only to the Library of Congress. Assembled over decades, 30,000 menus illustrate the history of dining in America and abroad, with bills of fare from every state and 80 countries as well as transportation, including ship, train and air. A selection, dating to the 1850s, is searchable online at library.culinary.edu/menus.


Archivist Nicole Semenchuk spent time going through the physical collection with me, and found menus from the shuttered Villa Téo, an innovative-for-its-time Italian restaurant in Chapel Hill; the closed Saddle and Fox, established in 1946 in Durham; and the still legendary Angus Barn in Raleigh.


An easy, 10-minute drive from the school leads to the Holiday Inn Express of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., my home away from home for the week. The newly remodeled property is the smart choice in the area. An outdoor pool and 24-hour fitness center with new equipment gave me plenty of chances to work off my indulgences. Its modern guestrooms are outfitted with a refrigerator and microwave – ideal for CIA leftovers.


Indulgences? Leftovers? Yes! At boot camp, we were broken up into four groups, each of which created a complete meal from a different country every day. To reward our labor, all 12 of us sat down to a daily grand buffet featuring everything all the groups had prepared.


On the first day, when the focus was on Thailand's cuisine, my group made fish cakes with spicy cucumber salad, tofu with red curry sauce and bok choy with lime dressing.


On day two, we learned about the dishes of Vietnam, and my group created fisherman's soup with shrimp and fresh herbs, lotus root salad and chicken curry with sweet potatoes.
As we looked at India on the third day, my group delivered deep-fried potato balls, mint chutney and beef vindaloo.


Surveying Korea and Japan next, we turned out instant cucumber kim chi, spicy kim chi stew with pork, pan-fried scallions with dipping sauces and steamed rice.


For the final hurrah, my group pulled off dishes from China, including hot and sour soup, red cooked pork belly and fried rice with Chinese sausage (recipe follows).


Our instructor was David J. Bruno, associate professor of the culinary arts at the CIA, who taught us about the foodways of various cultures as well as how to work with spice and layer flavors. For the past decade, Bruno, a graduate of the school, has worked in the continuing education department, which focuses on classes not just for food enthusiasts but for professionals all over the world.


Here are some of Bruno's favorite Asian recipes. If you have trouble finding any of the ingredients, shop at Asian markets in the Triangle.



Fried Rice With Chinese Sausage


Yield: 6 portions

Vegetable oil – 3 tablespoons
Eggs, beaten – 3
Chinese sausage, small dice – 1/2 pound
Yellow onions, 1/4-inch diced – 1
Garlic, minced – 1/4 cup
Scallions, sliced – 4
Shiitake mushrooms, medium dice – 1/4 pound
Carrots, medium dice, blanched – 1/4 pound
Long-grained white rice, cooked – 6 cups
Green bell peppers, small dice – 1
Kosher salt – 1 tablespoon
Ground black pepper – 1 teaspoon


1. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the beaten eggs and cook until done, breaking the eggs apart with a spatula throughout cooking. Remove from the pan and reserve.


2. Add the diced sausage to the wok and cook to melt out the fat. Add the onions, garlic and scallions, and stir-fry in the rendered fat until aromatic.


3. Add the mushrooms and peppers and cook until tender, then add the blanched carrots and cooked rice.


4. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and stir-fry until rice is hot and begins to turn golden brown.


5. Return the cooked eggs to the wok and toss to combine.




Pan Seared Sesame Salmon
on Chinese Black Bean Rice
Cakes With Baby Bok Choy, Scallion-Garlic Salad and Shiitake Ketchup


Yield: 10 portions

Rice cakes

Sushi rice – 1 pound
Water – as needed
Ginger slice – 2
Fermented black beans – 1/2 cup
Rice wine vinegar – 1/2 cup
Green onions – 1/2 bunch
Salt – 1 tablespoon
Flour – as needed
Egg wash – 1-1/2 cups or as needed
Panko bread crumbs – 1 pound
Salmon – 4 pounds
White sesame seeds – 1/4 cup
Black sesame seeds – 1/4 cup
Pepper – to taste
Salt – to taste
Shiitake Ketchup Recipe follows
Soy Glaze
Soy sauce – 1 cup
Brown sugar – 1/2 cup
Scallion Salad
Green onions, sliced thin – 4 bunches
Cilantro, chopped – 1/4 bunch
Garlic, blanched & sliced thin – 1 head
Korean red pepper paste – 3 tablespoons
Rice wine vinegar – 3 tablespoons
Peanut oil – 2 tablespoons
Sautéed Bok Choy
Peanut oil – as needed
Baby bok choy, separated into leaves – 10
Ginger, minced – 2 tablespoons
Salt – to taste
Pepper – to taste
Sesame oil – 1 tablespoon


1. Wash the rice three times, changing the water each time. Cook the rice using enough water, adding the slices of ginger. When cooked, season the rice with the vinegar and salt. Fold in the green onion and soaked black beans, and cool slightly before molding into cake. To form the cakes, portion the rice mixture into 1-ounce balls and form into mini cakes 1 inch high by 1-1/2 inches wide. Cool the cakes. When the cakes are cool, process them through the standard breading procedure.* Refrigerate until needed.


2. Portion the salmon into 6-ounce pieces. Coat the salmon with the sesame seeds and season with salt and pepper.


3. Make the ketchup and reserve until needed.


4. Add the soy sauce and brown sugar to a sauce pot and reduce until a syrup has been formed. Cool this mixture and place in a squeeze bottle for service.


5.Add all the ingredients together for the scallion salad and reserve.


6. Heat the oil in a sauté pan, add ginger and sauté until tender. Add the bok choy and continue sautéing until tender, season the vegetables and finish with the sesame oil.


*Note: The standard breading procedure includes three steps, which are dredging in flour, moistening in egg wash (beaten egg plus a tablespoon or two of water or milk), then coating in crispy breadcrumbs like Panko.



Grilled Shiitake Mushroom Ketchup


Yield: 1 pint

Shiitake mushrooms – 1 pound
Onion, 1-inch slices – 1
Olive oil – 2 tablespoons
Salt – to taste
Ground black pepper – to taste
Balsamic vinegar – 1/4 cup
Soy sauce – 1/4 cup
Garlic, minced – 1 teaspoon
Molasses – 5 tablespoons
Cilantro chiffonade – 2 tablespoons


1. Toss the mushrooms and onions in the olive oil.


2. Grill the vegetables until tender.


3. Combine the grilled mushrooms and onions as well as the remaining ingredients in food processor. Pulse until combined but still chunky in consistency.



Thai Green Papaya Salad


Yield: 6 portions

Garlic cloves, roughly chopped – 8
Thai bird's eye chilies, stems removed, roughly chopped – 3
Dried shrimp, small – 3 tablespoons
Tamarind juice – 1/4 cup
Lime juice, fresh – 1/4 cup
Thai fish sauce – 6 tablespoons
Palm sugar – 3 tablespoons
Long beans, cut in 1-1/2-inch lengths – 2 cups cooked
Green (unripe) papaya, grated – 1
Carrots, grated – 2
Cherry tomatoes, cut in half – 12
Peanuts, pan-toasted, roughly chopped – 1 cup

1.To make the dressing, combine the garlic and Thai chilies together in a large stainless-steel bowl. Chop the dried shrimp to break them up and add to the garlic and chilies. Add the tamarind, lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar. Stir to mix.


2. Bruise (partially crush) the cooked beans with your hands, and then add to the dressing.


3. Add the grated green papaya and carrots to the dressing and beans, and toss until well combined.


4. Once everything is mixed, add the tomato pieces, bruise them lightly, and toss to incorporate.


5. Stir in the peanuts. Taste and adjust flavorings as needed by adding more fish sauce, lime juice or palm sugar.



Sautéed Bok Choy With Tofu and Hoisin Sauce


Yield: 6 portions

Baby bok choy – 1-1/2 pounds
Vegetable oil – 4 tablespoons
Onion, sliced – 1/2
Garlic cloves, sliced – 4
Firm tofu, 1-inch dice – 1 pound
Hoisin sauce – 1/4 cup
Salt – to taste

1. Separate the bok choy into its individual leaves and remove the tough core. Wash, dry and reserve for later use.


2. In a wok or large skillet, heat half the oil. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes.


3. Add the garlic and continue to cook over moderate heat until it becomes aromatic.


4. Increase the heat, add the tofu and stir-fry until heated through.


5. Remove ingredients from the pan or wok and hold warm.


6. Reheat the pan or wok, add the second half of the oil and stir-fry the bok choy until it starts to wilt.


7. Return the cooked tofu mixture to the pan. Add the hoisin sauce and toss gently to coat the tofu and bok choy with the sauce. Adjust seasonings with salt to taste.


8. Serve warm.




Crispy Duck Spring Rolls


Yield: 10

Oil – 3 tablespoons
Ginger, minced – 2 tablespoons
Garlic, minced – 1 teaspoon
Onions, julienne – 1/4 cup
Carrots, julienne – 3
Napa cabbage, julienne – 1 cup
Snow peas, julienne – 1/2 cup
Shiitake mushrooms, julienne – 1/2 cup
Scallions, sliced thin – 1/4 cup
Duck confit legs, shredded – 2
Cilantro, minced – 1/4 cup
Hoisin sauce – 1/4 cup
Black pepper – to taste
Spring roll wrappers – 10
Wrapper Glue
Flour – 1/4 cup
Water – as needed

1. Add the oil to a sauté pan, and sweat the ginger, garlic and onions until tender.


2. Add all the other vegetables and sauté until tender. Cool this mixture; when cold, squeeze out excess moisture.


3. Fold the duck, cilantro, pepper and hoisin sauce into the vegetable mixture.


4. Divide the spring roll mixture into 10 portions.


5. Wrap the vegetable mixture into the spring roll wrappers, using the flour glue to hold the wrappers closed.