Wu Wows at Wanda’s Harvest Moon

It was a great party! One of the most unusual culinary experiences I’ve ever had. And I shared it with fun-loving Tucson transplants from around the world.

The Celebration, at least for me, had its genesis when my friend Charles Hedgepeth announced, “Wanda Zhang is hosting a Man Han Imperial Feast at her Oro Valley Harvest Moon Restaurant on October 7 and I’d like you to join me.” This Feast had its origin in China a long time ago and was known as the grandest of all meals. Originally, it lasted for three days and consisted of over 100 eye-appealing mouth-watering dishes from every region in China. “Wanda will downsize it for Tucson,” Charley said, “but an 8-course meal orchestrated by world-class chef Yongdong (Tony) Wu, should be enough to wow you.”

Tony Wu has impressive credentials as he’s served as the executive chef at China’s Imperial Palace, has six Guinness World records, 33 gold medals and the world record for making 16,000 hand-pulled noodles in 60 seconds.

So it was with high expectations that my wife, Helen, Charles and his wife Barbara and I arrived at the Harvest Moon. We were greeted by the vivacious host, Wanda, who wore a stunning smile and a lemon-yellow silk dress fit for an empress. She escorted us to our assigned table where she introduced us to our tablemates, Bengt and Joy Carlson and Andy and Ramona Pereira. All four of them were born and raised outside the U.S.—Sweden, the Philippines, England and Canada and as lively and interesting a group of foodies as you will ever meet.

For the next three hours, we were dazzled and indulged with the best of Chinese cuisine. The show-stopping dishes for Helen and me were the Tai Chi Seafood Pumpkin Soup and Royal Mixed Vegetables.

Lobster Spectacular

Bengt claimed the Smoked Oolong Peking Duck was the best he’d ever had while his wife Joy raved about the Lobster Spectacular. Barbara’s said the Honey Pepper Australian Rack of Lamb was her favorite. Charles could not remember having a better dessert than the Dim Sum Imperial Palace which was a combination plate of pastry-like noodles topped with a thick blueberry sauce, rich custard and a big, sweet sugar noodle.

Each food dish was matched with a fine wine. And when Tony wasn’t cooking he would entertain us with his high-speed radish whittling to create lovely white roses for the ladies, cutting meat blindfolded or whirling long sheets of dough into delicious tasting noodles. It was truly a memorable feast—the best of times—as Wu and Wanda wooed our palates and eyes with the best of China.


  1. Chi Newman says:

    Thank you, Dick, for the article and the photos that followed. It brought me back memories of my childhood. When I wrote my memoir, “Farewell My Beijing,” I tried to go back to the days when my parents hosted mahjong games in the guest courtyard. Our chef and soux chef would work for days on the four cold dishes, then each hot dish that followed separately so it could be slowly savored. Toast followed toast to celebrate each masterpiece. How I hoard these memories of taste, textures and color combinations, always in accord with the “Yin Yang” philosophy of balance and opposites. Names like Golden Moon on a Silver Sea, Duck with eight precious stuffings, Green Jade and Red Corral, Gold Coin and Lion’s Head, Singing Rice, Roast Suckling Pig and Condiments and Pink Shrimp and Green Peas, just to name a few. Expense-be-damned offerings of special delicacies for the honored guests. The Chinese reserve the magic of cutlery for the privacy of the kitchen, slicing, chopping, and shredding is the chef’s work; guests simply enjoy the tastes, aromas, textures and colors of dishes set before them.
    Our chef cooked only on banquet days. The other meals called “Shia Fan” dishes, “Shia Fan”, means “make the rice go down”, this were left for the soux chef to prepare.
    “Shia Fan” dishes were even more delicious than banquet dishes because they included many wheat dishes called “Dim Sum” or “Pieces of the Heart”. These included steamed pork buns, pot stickers, fried noodles, steamed baby spare ribs, fried sesame balls and on and on.
    I remember when my twin sister Lu and I were ten years old, the chef cooked us a special meal. Each bowl of soup had a perfect little rose, cut out of a carrot, followed by long life noodles for longevity, then our favorite, Pearl Balls. These are plump little meat balls with a special coating of glutinous rice. During steaming, the rice becomes translucent and pearl-like. Then for desert, mashed chestnuts, folded with whip cream, served in a fruit basket.
    Two years ago, I visited my older sister, Amy, in Taipei, Taiwan. She treated me as an honored guest and I was invited by her and her friends to many banquets. For two weeks I ate the food of my childhood and lived in gourmet paradise.
    In my second book, “My China, My World,” I will include some Shia Fan dishes that are easy to prepare.
    In spite of my love for Chinese food, when I am really hungry I go back to the days when I was a boarder at the French School, “Sacre Coeur.” A slice of good French bread with lots of butter, Brie Cheese or a generous helping of chocolate mousse with whipped cream were my favorites.
    Dick, I hope you won’t mind if I pass your article on to some of my friends.

    In closing, I will say”Shieh Shieh Ni,” which means “Thank You.”
    Chi Newman

  2. Richard Kelly says:

    Chi, what a delightful and informative post. I’m glad that my experience triggered such wonderful memories. We all look forward to reading your new book as your writing skills have blossomed.

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