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Chinese Immigrant Cooking

by Mary Tsui Ping Yee

Cobb CA: First Glance Books, 1998, $29.95

Hardbound, ISBN 1-885440-32-4

Growing up in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, the author adores the Cantonese cooking her mother prepares for the family and shares it adapted with produce from America. The book mixes these with spirit and wisdom gleaned from multiple travels to China, once as leader of a study trip for the Smithsonian. In this, Chinese Immigrant Cooking, a second book in the First Glance Immigrant Cookbook series, you'll enjoy more than 130 of her favorite recipes. They come with meal planning menus for several holidays including Mid-Autumn Moon Festival Banquet, Christmas Dinner, and a traditional Chinese New Year's Festival Banquet.

Recipes are in Noodles and Rice, Soups, Pork Beef and Lamb, and other food sections and each has a Cantonese transliteration. Most also have a color photograph to visualize the final product. All follow a four-page foreword by her daughter Melinda and an eight-page introduction by Mary, both with family photographs. Before each section and with each recipe learn about family, cultural milieu, and what makes for terrific tastes.

Try Mustard Green Soup, it is a must, as is the Dried Oyster, Dried Bok Choy, and Dried Tofu Soup. Both are rarely found in cookbooks but often found on Chinese immigrant family tables. They are there along with the more common Won Ton Soup and a Sour and Hot Soup, both better than most because they are loaded with wonderful ingredients, fresh and dried.

Anyone's Chinese meals will go better with Mrs. Yee's Homemade Cantonese Pickles, her sister Jennie's Roast Spareribs, the family's familiar yet simple standby of Steamed Meat Patty or their more complicated Lotus Leaf Buns. All should be tasted as should the Pickled Pigs Feet with Ginger, the Spicy Lamb Stew, her sister's poultry recipe called Ann's Steamed Chicken, Braised Mushrooms made with mushroom-flavored soy sauce, and a wonderful Cellophane Noodle Salad.

The author recommends a Chinese New Year's Banquet of Eight Delicacies Appetizer Platter, Tea Eggs, the above listed mushrooms, Braised Beef, Phoenix Tail Shrimp, Eight Treasures Stuffed Duck, and Snack Walnuts, and more. All the recipes are in the book; I recommend them to you to usher in the Year of the Rabbit on January 25th. They come with wonderful information and will enrich your holiday celebration.

There are wonderful color and black and white family pictures scattered throughout in addition to those at the book's beginning, a recipe index, and a general index. Unfortunately, for those not familiar with lesser known ingredients, there is no glossary of ingredients but there is a clear recipe for White Rice. Details enable your making this basic southern grain staple to your liking, soft or firm.

The book ends with a recipe for the tastiest taro-stuffed dumplings ever. They are loaded with dry shrimp and dry mushrooms, both soaked and softened, and chopped meat (I recommend a mixture of chicken, pork, and beef) and soy and oyster sauces. Not every recipe is great or clearly presented but try to figure them out. When I did as in that very last recipe, I read one ingredient listed only "1 tablespoon" so I made it one of cornstarch and the results rewarded as it worked out beautifully and tasted terrific.

The recipes and the color photographs are so tempting and the errors so few, that I recommend learning and loving her mostly Cantonese recipes. Even the Americanized ones are worth trying including the Peking Duck, made as I have--drying the skin with an electric fan. A must is also the Snack Walnuts: Reduced Fat Method. They allow for many more indulgences so that you can devour the Barbecued Steak, Chinese style, with dry sherry, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, and oyster sauce. Be assured the proportions are great and could go with other meats, too..

The book uses ingredients relatively new to this country such as pea shoots, Three-Colored Steamed Eggs with both duck and thousand-year eggs, mushroom soy already mentioned, young ginger root, rock sugar, and more. It also allows use of tropical fruits. The Mango Beef should be first on anyone's list, its recipe follows these book reviews.

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