Where do you go when you are hungry for hibachi or sushi? I head straight for Hardin Valley’s own Chef’s Asian Cuisine. I sat down with co-owner, Echo Yaling, to get to know more about her family owned business. She is a busy mother of two who works in the management and service side of the restaurant. Echo leaves the kitchen to her husband and father in law.
Adam: How long has this restaurant been in 37932?
Echo: Chef’s Asian Cuisine has been in Hardin Valley for approximately 3 years, 2 years under a previous owner. My family purchased it from my father in law’s friend last January.
Adam: Is this your first venture into the restaurant world?
Echo: Oh no. We owned another restaurant in Maynardville, TN for 2 years prior to coming to Hardin Valley. Before that, I lived and worked in New York.
Adam: Are you from New York?
Echo: No. I was born in Futian, which is in Southeast China. I moved to America when I was 18 to study English at George Mason University in Virginia. After school, I moved to New York.
Adam: How authentic is the food you serve at Chef’s Asian Cuisine?
Echo: We have Americanized the menu. We want the customer to be happy when they eat here so we prepare the food the way they like it. Americans tend to prefer their Chinese food with a lot of sauce so that everything is juicy.
Adam: What is a more traditional Chinese dish like?
Echo: In China, a traditional dish might be to just stir fry the food and then add salt and pepper. It’s totally different.
Adam: Do you prefer traditional Chinese dishes?
Echo: I like both. I will come in for lunch, pick a dish on the menu and my husband will prepare it for me. So I do like all of our food too.
Adam: Who cooks at home; you or your husband?
Echo: My husband! I am not a good cook, not at all. I cook everything using boiling water.
Adam: Why did you decide that Hardin Valley was the right location for you?
Echo: When my husband had a day off, we would drive an hour in from Maynardville to go shopping. We wanted to be much closer to the city. With Hardin Valley, we saw the growth and development, which we thought would be a good opportunity for our restaurant. And the people are so nice here too. Also, we thought about our family and how this would be a good area to settle down in.
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Adam: I feel like Chef’s Asian Cuisine is still a bit of an undiscovered gem, how busy do you stay?
Echo: Business is actually good and customers come in at a steady pace but there’s always room for more! We have several regulars that we see often. When someone eats here for the first time, we like hearing that they enjoyed their meal but even more than that, we love to see them the second, third time because then we know that they really do like it!
Adam: What is your favorite thing to eat on the menu?
Echo: I kind of like spicy so I want spicy red curry on chicken or really any meat. The red curry sauce is so good on top of angel hair.
Adam: What are your most popular dishes?
Echo: Lots of customers come in and ask for General Tso’s chicken. The Hibachi is really good too so a lot customers ask for that.
Adam: That is actually what I chose the first time I came in. I went with half chicken and steak Hibachi. The best way to describe it is fresh and the sauce was just right. In fact, I plan to get that again for lunch after this interview! (update: It was just as delicious as the first time!)
Echo: The reason fresh comes to your mind is that we only make food when it is ordered so that is why it tastes so fresh. We don’t serve reheated, prepared meals.
Echo: I also like sushi. Especially after having my last baby and wanting to lose my pregnancy weight, I think about drinking green tea and eating sushi. Healthy and delicious!
Adam: Did they previous owner offer sushi or is that something that your family added?
Echo: They did offer sushi and it was so well liked that we not only continued to offer it but we kept the same sushi chef. It’s so yummy.
Adam: What is something delicious on menu that isn’t ordered often enough, something customers need to try and enjoy?
Echo: It’s actually a new item, the Jalapeño Beef or Jalapeño Chicken. The customers who try it, keep coming back and ordering it. It is spicy but not too spicy and they really like it. We serve it with a side of white rice; it’s very good.
There’s also the spicy curried Singapore Angel Hair noodles I mentioned earlier…I don’t know why I always think about spicy dishes! I love them.
For seafood eaters, we have a very good Chef’s special. It is a seafood platter with vegetables and white rice.
Adam: Are you considering adding any new dishes?
Echo: Yes, I am talking to my husband and father-in-law about that. We have owned for almost a year now and we wanted to keep everything stable at first but now we will start to introduce new dishes to customers that we think they will really like. The Jalapeño Chicken and Beef is actually one of the new items that we rolled out.
We are thinking about adding Peking duck. Do you think people in Hardin Valley would like that?
Adam: That’s a good question. I have never had duck before but I will try it if you do. I am going to rely on our readers to let you know when they come in if they would like Peking duck added to the menu. Hopefully they will voice their opinion one way or another.
One thing I would like to see you add is called Mala Chicken. It is a simple dish with chicken and mushrooms in a brown sauce.
Echo: Is it spicy?
Adam: Ha! No, it is a mild dish.
Echo: In all fairness, in Chinese, mala means dry and spicy.
Adam: I will give you a pass then but it is not spicy at all.
Adam: Do you like white rice, fried rice or lo mein the best?
Echo: I like white rice. In China, we would eat white rice with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes we might have fried rice, but mostly white rice. Americans seem to like fried rice more.
Adam: I like lo mein the best.
Adam: What are some things you would like for our neighbors in Hardin Valley to know about the restaurant?
Echo: We think our food is delicious but Chef’s Asian Cuisine is still a little unknown in the community. Come try us the next time you want Chinese food or sushi. Or if you can’t ever agree on where to eat, then Chef’s Asian Cuisine can be the default restaurant. We are putting coupons in this article so no excuse not to come try us now!
Chef’s Asian Cuisine is located at 10612 Hardin Valley Road in 37932. Their doors are open Monday through Saturday from 10:30AM – 9:30PM and 12PM-9PM on Sundays. If you prefer take out, call 865-693-8688 or order online at https://www.chefsasiancuisine.com/