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Dining chat from the kitchen of Mandarin House, a pioneering Hoover restaurant (Dishing With)
Mulan Zou of Mandarin House

By Lynn Grisard Fullman

Dishing With Mulan Zou, cook and server at Mandarin House, 1550-O Montgomery Highway, Hoover, 205-822-1761.

Restaurant's specialty: Chinese food.

What sets this restaurant apart from others? We don t use MSG. We always serve fresh, healthy food and always cook with 100 percent vegetable oil.

Restaurant's most popular entr es: Sesame chicken, Mongolian beef, Mandarin combo, orange chicken and General Tso s chicken.

Most popular side: Our homemade egg rolls.

Most popular dessert: Sugar donuts.

Do you have lunch specials? Yes, we have 24. Served with fried rice, egg roll and a choice of soup, the specials range from .25 to .

When did the restaurant open: In 1976.

Distinction: The restaurant was the first Chinese restaurant in Hoover.

What's new? We have given out discount coupons through ValPak and Clipper Magazine. Next year, we plan to do some remodeling.

Job you'd have if not a cook: I would be a server. I think that I will never get out of the restaurant business. I have grown up in the restaurant business, and a lot of customers are just like my family. I see them a lot, and they are so nice.

Who inspired your love for cooking? Many members of my family are chefs; but the greatest inspiration has come from my father; he always cooks the best food.

Best advice you were ever given: Try your very best to reach perfection.

Your first cooking memory: When I was 9-years-old, I helped my mom make about 500 dumplings for the family celebrating the Chinese New Year.

Your worst cooking disaster: One day, when I was 12-years-old and cooking at home, I forgot to turn off the stove after cooking. My kitchen caught on fire. I will never forget that.

Restaurant-related thing you're proudest of: Believing this one truth: happy in, happy out.

Favorite type food to prepare: Soups. You cannot find anywhere fresh chicken broth like we make here at the restaurant.

Favorite food to eat: Chinese.

What would you choose for your final meal? Princess chicken; it is my favorite entr e.

Favorite restaurant (other than where you work): I don t really have a favorite one but I like to eat at Japanese restaurants that serve good sushi.

Chef you most admire: I admire any chef who consistently cooks good food and never complains.

Kitchen gadget you couldn't work without: A fire wok. You cannot cook the best Chinese food without a super fire wok.

Strangest occurrence in your restaurant's dining room: It is not really strange, but I like remembering the old-fashion Chinese restaurants with all the laughter and good times when friends and family gathered to eat.

Food/restaurant-related pet peeve: Poor service.

Worst mistake most cooks make: They rush and do not cook the food well enough.

Advice for pulling off a last-minute meal: Come by the Mandarin House and get some of the best, healthy Chinese food.

Your best cooking tip: Take time to do the best job possible.

Where will you be in 10 years: I am sure I will still be right here.

Any final words or thoughts: Eat at the Mandarin House where we always serve you the best food and provide the best service.

What are the restaurant s hours? We are open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Have a chef or cook to suggest? E-mail Lynn Grisard Fullman at LGFullman@aol.com. Follow her on Twitter @lynnfullman

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