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Helen Chen's Chinese Home Cooking

by Helen Chen

New York: Hearst Books, 1994

Helen Chen learned to cook, as many women do, as her mother's side. There was a major difference though because hers was a famous culinary mom named Joyce Chen. From her, she acquired refined Shanghai taste and Beijing sophistication; both prevail and permeate this volume's recipes, many from her mom's famous restaurant. Years ago, many of us were fortunate to make pilgrimages to that Boston castle of culinary enlightenment, myself included. Happily, now everyone can sample those delicious offerings at home.

Helen writes and cooks well, dominates the family business, and designs Chinese and other Asian cookery equipment. This, her first hardbound, has delectable recipes. They follow a glossary with food names always in Chinese and English. While the translitera-tions indicate the dialect, they also indicate inconsistency as they are sometimes in Mandarin and Cantonese, sometimes Manda-rin and Japanese, and sometimes just Manda-rin. Never mind, just cook the wonderful recipes and pay attention to the details about equipment, cutting, and cooking that follow.

The strength of the book is the 150 or so recipes that include old Chen favorites such as Chinese Steamed Bread, Beef with Broccoli, Lion's Head, Lamb with Scallions and Bamboo Shoots, and Lemon Chicken. Try them or the newer delights of Steamed Salmon with Black Beans, Turkey Wontons, and Ginger-Glazed Carrots and Parsnips.

Helen inherited her mom's taste buds and good taste; these are seen in each recipe beginning with Chinese ideograph cleverly water-marked under the English name and in some valuable culinary or family-recommended ideas or suggestions. The set of recipes end with equal taste as they detail a simple Emperor's Nectar cool soup-dessert and a scrumptious Poached Pears in Spiced Ginger Sauce.

To easily plan and make a simple but elegant Chinese meal at home, do as I did and in-clude one of her new Sichuan salad sugges-tions such as Chicken with Cashew Nuts. To that, add Shanghai Golden Fried Rice, Jellied Lamb Loaf, Sliced Cucumbers with Spicy Pea-nut Dressing, and Lychees with Sweet Ginger Sauce. The result, a delightful meal that wins praise from every guest.

In addition to the salads, Chen augments the regular dishes with a potpourri of "Small Eats" and "Table Dips" to enhance any meal selected from what she calls "home kitchen real Chinese food." And, for those with trouble mixing and matching Chinese dishes, there are four menu suggestions, two each for four and six persons.

For everyone, sample her favorites and enjoy their variety of tastes, textures, and colors. Also enjoy learning how to pair wines with Chinese foods and how to have Helen's mom by your side as you prepare recipes that are part of the Chen family heritage.

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