Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Two Great Chinese Cookbooks

When I was first out of college and had that heady experience of running the kitchen for myself, I'd never really had any Chinese food. My gourmet parents didn't cotton to all the chopping that they'd have to do for any sort of Asian cooking. All I needed was one time at a fairly authentic Chinese restaurant and I was hooked. Naturally, I turned to books...

Irene Kuo has been called the Julia Child of Chinese cooking and she deserves the title. This is the cookbook I used to teach myself Chinese cooking and it has every technique I have ever seen mentioned in any other Asian cookbook. Kuo writes so clearly that there is not much need for illustration, although there are some when describing cutting techniques and ingredients. More importantly, she has a love for her craft that comes through clearly and makes you understand why various techniques even matter. There is a plethora of recipes, many of which are amazingly simple to yield such authentic results. She rightly points out that there is much more than stir-frying to Chinese food and proceeds to instruct in red-cooking, shallow frying, and much more that adds timing flexibility many may not expect from Chinese cooking. Many of the recipes are very simple but the flavor is authentic. If you've ever been interested in Chinese cooking this is the only cookbook you'll ever need.

This is another favorite that shows how simple and easy Chinese cooking can be. Ken Hom gives some of the recipes that his working mother used to put together 4-course meals in an hour, night after night when he was growing up in Chicago's Chinatown. He worked in his uncle's restaurant and also gives us a lot of recipes for those long-time American favorites ... both the restaurant menu version (for Americans) and the "secret menu" version (for Chinese patrons). Hom has been teaching cooking for a long time and it shows. These are very accessible and will please everyone in your family. Believe me, if Hannah likes these meals, then anyone will!

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