I am less than three months away from finishing my fifth year of teaching. Goodness gracious, where has the time gone?? It feels like just yesterday I was stressing out because there were so few high school job listings back in the summer of 2009. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to secure a position, which actually happened to a few people I knew. Not good! As luck would have it, I was called in for an interview at 11:30 AM on the first day of school and offered the position three hours later. Phew!
Toward the end of my first year of teaching, our then principal (I’ve had four different principals now) came up with the idea to include more electives in our course offerings. I work at an alternative/continuation high school, and for those who are unfamiliar (as I was before I took this position), continuation schools house mostly at-risk students who have been (for the most part) involuntarily transferred from their original comprehensive school sites for a variety of reasons, including behavior, grades, and attendance. Because of the circumstances and unique needs of our student population, our class sizes are smaller and are supposed to max out around 20-22. We focus on core classes (math, English–that’s me!, history, science, PE) and have little room and resources for electives. Since we were in the process of restructuring our schedule and classes, we held meetings and discussed how we could incorporate non-core classes for our students. Long story short, somebody suggested a foreign language class, I happen to know Vietnamese, we created the course, and now I’ve been teaching Conversational Vietnamese for four years. It is one of my all-time favorite classes to teach. I just love it! It’s a ton of fun, the students respond incredibly well to it, and we even get to cook!
Here’s a short back story on how I was able to add a culinary component to the course:
My current site used to be an elementary school. One of the rooms is equipped with a fully functioning kitchen. When my high school moved in, the room became a computer lab and I didn’t know it existed until the end of my second year (which was my first year of teaching Conversational Vietnamese). I used to take my students to the main computer lab in the portable and never had a reason to poke my head into Room 9. Well, one day I did, saw the kitchen, and all the wheels in my head started spinning at max speed. I asked my principal (my second one at the time) if I could pretty please switch rooms so I could infuse a stronger cultural element to the Vietnamese class by teaching the students how to prepare simple Vietnamese dishes. He said absolutely (he was an avid foodie himself) and the rest is history! So when the course is taught during the spring semester, we whip up culinary delights every few weeks and not only do the students get to chow down, they learn how to work together to get the job done. Now if that isn’t Common Core aligned, then I don’t know what is. 🙂
This week we made my mom’s panko breaded shrimp. Some of the students don’t like seafood, so we also did a chicken version. The recipe is super simple and a hit with family, staff, and students. My mom makes a homemade tomato dipping sauce to accompany the fried shrimp, but in the interest of time (we only have 68 minutes) I buy bottled sweet and sour or sweet chili sauce for kids. This is delicious with steamed jasmine rice or by itself as an appetizer.
Mom’s Panko Breaded Shrimp
As with all of my mom’s recipes, there are no exact measurements. She eyeballs everything. However, this recipe is foolproof and does not require any measurements whatsoever. All you do is dip, dip, dip, then fry. Ta da!
- shrimp, chicken, assorted vegetables, or all of the above (amount varies depending on how many you’re serving/how hungry you are)
- tempura batter mix (this is my mom’s secret: DO NOT make the batter; dip your protein/veggie directly into the flour)
- eggs, 1-2 depending how much you’re making
- panko bread crumbs
Set up your assembly line:
Pour the contents of the tempura batter mix into a bowl or shallow plate. Set aside. Remember, DO NOT follow the instructions on the box. We are using this as a dry coating.
Beat the egg(s) in a separate bowl/shallow plate. Set aside.
Pour the panko bread crumbs in a third bowl/shallow plate. Set aside.
Dip your protein or veggies in the following order:
dry tempura mix —-> egg —-> panko bread crumbs
*Note: Make sure every layer is well coated, especially the bread crumbs–I like to apply a light pressure to make sure the crumbs have completely adhered and won’t fall off in the hot oil.
Next, fry in small batches until golden brown. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!