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Farewell, Richard Wing

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When Arianne Wing sent me an e-mail about her Uncle Richard’s death, I was transported back to a cold afternoon at Imperial Dynasty, his Hanford restaurant.

It was shortly before the restaurant’s 2006 closure, and the dining room bore the weight of history. Arianne pointed out the missing tassels on the lanterns, swiped as keepsakes by sad patrons. She waved at numerous food-and-wine awards on the walls. And she told me how her uncle traveled the world as a personal aide and food taster to Gen. George C. Marshall in the mid-1940s — an experience that shaped his cooking.

Soon came the escargots, his signature dish. After devouring them all, I understood why celebrities, winemakers and chefs traveled from as far away as Italy and Japan for a taste of Richard’s French-Chinese style. From the deep-fried escargot shells to the addition of ginger in the traditional butter-garlic sauce, it was a delicious blend of French cuisine and Chinese cooking techniques.

If you haven’t had the chance to try them, I feel sorry for you.

Ambitious cooks can try to make them at home. In my column about Richard, I promised his recipes for escargots, egg foo yung and curry sauce. (You’ll find them after the jump.)

And if you have memories of Richard or the Imperial Dynasty, please share them in the comments. (Sherrill Harris, Jennifer Wing, Leilani Wing-Shimizu and Ernie Wing — I hope to hear from you. Arianne says you have “a billion and one stories to share.” But I’ll settle for a few of them.)

[Photo of Richard Wing with his nieces. Photo credit: Tomas Ovalle, The Fresno Bee]

Egg foo yung
Makes 6-8 servings

3 strips bacon
1/4 pound bean sprouts
1/4 pound cooked shrimp (not canned)
1/2 cup barbecued pork, diced (see note)
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 stalk green onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Cut bacon into thin strips. Wash and drain bean sprouts. Set aside.

Heat a wok. When wok is hot, add bacon, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add shrimp and barbecued pork, then stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add bean sprouts, and stir-fry for 1 more minute. Set aside.

Mix all ingredients (except oil) into beaten eggs.

Heat a large skillet. When skillet is hot, coat with the vegetable oil. Ladle 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of egg mixture into skillet, and brown both sides.

Repeat until all the egg mixture is used.

Notes: Chinese-style barbecued pork is available from Asian stores such as R-N Market at Herndon and Cedar avenues in Fresno. You also can order the barbecued pork from any Chinese restaurant.

You can substitute other ingredients for the vegetables and meat. Vegetable substitutions are bamboo shoots, chopped onions, water chestnuts and diced celery. Meat substitutions are chicken, crab and ham.
– Richard Wing, Imperial Dynasty

Curry sauce a la Richard Wing
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 slice Virginia ham, minced
1 ounce ground pork sausage
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small onion, minced
8 button mushrooms, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup coconut milk
1 bay leaf
Dash of each: mace, nutmeg, and paprika
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup cream
1 ounce apple brandy

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium-size pan. Add ham, sausage, garlic, onion, mushrooms and curry powder, and sauté until onions and mushrooms begin to get soft. Set aside.

In another pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter, and blend in flour. Add chicken stock, and stir constantly over low fire until thick and creamy. Add this sauce to the sautéed ham-and-mushroom mixture, then add all other ingredients except cream and brandy. Simmer until sauce is reduced to half its volume.

Correct seasoning, and run through a sieve or blender. Heat before serving; at the last moment, add cream and brandy.

Serve this curry sauce over egg foo yung.
– Richard Wing, Imperial Dynasty

Escargots à la Imperial Dynasty
Makes 6-8 servings as an appetizer

For the snails:
48 empty imported snail shells
Peanut oil
Garlic salt, to taste
48 imported French snails (canned)

For the sauce:
1 1/2 cups butter
4 cloves garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
4 slices ginger root, mashed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon cashew butter (peanut butter may be substituted)
2 tablespoons purée of Cornish game hen
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 fresh lime

For the garnish:
2 medium-size onions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and clean the shells in a wire basket, then parboil them in boiling water with 1 table- spoon baking soda. Rinse and drain. Deep fry the shells in hot peanut oil (350 degrees) for 1 minute. (Afterward, keep the peanut oil hot.) Drain and sprinkle the insides of the shells with garlic salt. Place shells on a baking sheet, and bake for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Remove the snails from the can, and place in the wire basket. Lower into boiling water for 10 seconds, and drain. Plunge into the hot peanut oil for 5 seconds. Drain and set aside.

Heat the butter in a wok or skillet, and stir-fry the garlic, shallots and ginger root. Be careful not to brown these aromatics. Add all the other ingredients for the sauce, and stir until the mixture bubbles. Add the snails, but do not let the mixture reach the boiling point.

With a pair of chopsticks or a small cocktail fork, stuff each snail into a shell, inserting the soft part first. Then fill each shell with the butter sauce, and put onto small snail plates. Drape sliced onion over the top.

When ready to serve, bake at 450 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until the sauce bubbles. Serve very hot with plenty of crusty French bread for dunking.
– Richard Wing, Imperial Dynasty

Responses to "Farewell, Richard Wing"

Melanie Baker says:

In 2005 Richard got really sick and ended up at Central Valley Hospital. I was working as a pharmacist and that Thursday night the physician ordered the only substance that would help save Richard’s life. We had enough to start at the pharmacy but not enough to finish the series and it was a holiday weekend. Holidays are for drug companies and suppliers. The physician had the medication at his office. I had a technician go pick it up – and thus Richard survived that close call.

Thank you for the memories! M

david fansler says:

Hi Joan…nice artice on Richard Wing. What incredible vision he had to build the Imperial Dynasty the way and where he did. One time when I was there for dinner in the early 80′s, he was sitting next to me in the lounge…he heard what I ordered for appetizer and told me I should have that with a chataneuf da pape, which I knew nothing about. He personally took me down to the wine cellar to select one….the wine and memory were great. I’m gonna have Justin make those recipes and I’ll let you know when we are serfving them. He was a great chef and those recipes are a lasting gift to the community.
Thanks for sharing. best regards, dave fansler

John Wallace says:

Nice story, David.

The entire Wing family is a Valley jewel. The Dynasty had the absolute best food and ambience around. My wife and I would dine there at least twice a month.
I even shared a few cold ones with Steve Perry in that red and black lounge area. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

RIP, Mr. Wing. And God bless the Wing family.

RIP, Richard Wing. You transformed my growing-up years in Hanford by showing me, by example, that there are no limits to the imagination.

The Dynasty was the first place I ate crabcakes, which Richard served before the main course. They were complemented with a white wine sauce I’ve never been able to replicate. When I became engaged in 1964, Richard catered my engagement party. I asked him to add one really unusual dish to the exotic offerings, so I had no one but myself to blame when he provided chocolate-covered grasshoppers.

My condolences to his family. May the Dynasty live on.

Gloria Belezzuoli Pettigrew says:

Birthdays, Anniversaries, Weddings, Friday nights, Saturday nights… with my dad and my mom, with friends, with my husband, with my niece and nephews…with my uncles and aunts…with my brother and sister in law… SO MANY occasions to remember at the Dynasty!!! Richard Wing and his family made Hanford special for everyone… every Wing family member from the youngest to the oldest were and are talented and respected for their contributions to the Dynasty and the community! May Richard Wing’s dream live on through his family! THANK YOU!!!

Vicki Stanfield says:

Richard Wing and the Dynasty served many loyal patrons over the years. Summers Engineering Christmas dinners were an event to remember, and Richard always came out to greet the guests and inquire about the impeccable service and delicious eight course meal. I can still see Richard coming from the kitchen to measure the silverware and make sure they were all properly set! Thank you to the Dynasty and the Wing family for many special memories and for their years of providing exceptional food and dining in Hanford!

Over the years, I made the trek from Southern California to eat the gourmet dinner at the Imperial Dynasty at least three times a year. I have kept every hand-written menu from every dinner I had the Imperial Dynasty. I must have brought at least fifty other people to dine there at one time or another because I felt that had to experience Wing’s cuisine at least once in their life. My favorite memories were sitting with Richard after dinner, often late into the night, sampling a wine of interest he had pulled from his incredible cellar, as he recounted the many interesting stories in his life. He was a great story teller and ended most of his tales with a belly laugh that brought everyone around him joy. He told me that he was invited to cook escargot for President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, but declined because he felt he could not leave his restaurant. His escargot was clearly the best modern interpretation of this classic French dish, and the Imperial Dynasty sold more escargot than any other restaurant in North America. Today it is commonplace in restaurants to dine on Chinois cuisine (French-Chinese fusion), but Richard, if not the father of Chinois cooking, was at the least a master of that style of cooking. Richard was an amazingly gifted man who will always be dear to my heart (and stomach!).

Amy Roberts says:

I was very sad to read of Richard’s passing, which brought back a flood of memories. One of the greatest joys of living in Hanford was being minutes from the Imperial Dynasty.
When we celebrated special occasions or just wanted appetizers and drinks, this was where we headed. However, one memory really stands out.
One day our son came home from 4th grade and said his teacher had mentioned Escargot and he wanted to know what it tasted like. About 15 minutes later we were seated in the restaurant awaiting our delicious treat. After tasting it, I asked John to rate it. While savoring another one, he pronounced it a solid seven.
During our last visit I was presented with a menu to keep. Of my vast matchbook collection, I highly prize one my mom collected from the restaurant years before. Its distinctive gold and red cover highlights 4 blocks of Chinese characters (I wonder what it says?) and includes the Chinese Pagoda name and two phone numbers that begin with LUdlow 2-0087 and 2-0196.
I keep hoping for the day family members decide to reopen!

Steve Banister says:

Amy,

The first panel translates to “Peace, prosperity and good will towards mankind”

The second panel reads ” Best wishes and best of health and a happy (Chinese) new year to everyone.”

Amy Roberts says:

Thanks Steve!

John Suen says:

We moved to Fresno in 1990 from New York. A colleague in Berkeley told me about one of the most acclaimed restaurants and wine collections in California called Imperial Dynasty located in a small town called Hanford. My wife and I were curious, and so one evening, we ventured to Hanford to find out. It was an incredible gastronomic experience. Since then, we went back many times, especially for the escargot.
In 2006, we were saddened by the closing of the restaurant. Now, we are saddened again to learn that Mr. Wing has passed away. We still hope that someday, one of Mr. Wing’s relatives would continue his legacy.
Condolences to the Wing family.

Steve says:

Mr. Gaffney, I would love to get scans of anything you have related to Mr. Wing. I may have some scans to trade. Please contact me at hanfordsteve@yahoo.com