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Essentials of Asian Cuisine

by: Corinne Trang

New York NY: Simon and Schuster 2003, $40.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-7432-0312-7


Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2003 Issue: 10(4) page(s): 27 and 28

As knowledge about Asian cuisines and Asian cultures rise, a single source offering comprehensive explorations can be an entry into many of them. This book explores eight major national cuisines through fundamentals and favorite recipes.

Trang carefully explains why Chinese cuisine is at the root of them all. She describes them in general, details their techniques and ingredients, and brings together recipes and reality. After exploring the Asian pantry, equipment basics, fundamentals, and condiments follow. All of these take some hundred pages, truly quite complete, then the half dozen food chapters follow.

Each recipe begins with a tale that educates. It can be about a main ingredient or one or more other foods, or touting some general information. The recipes are clear and concise. One gripe is that most of them are in but three steps, a half dozen sentences comprising a single preparation step. Losing my place happened all too often.

Colored pictures are grouped in quite a few sections, and there are many gray and white ones. Following the recipe chapters come others about food rituals and sample menus, mail-order sources, a selected bibliography, a table of equivalents, and an index. All these in this nearly six hundred page book, that except for the small gripe, is a winner.

No wonder, Trang is an award-winning author (of a Vietnamese cookbook), a magazine contributor, frequent radio and TV talk show guest, and a faculty member at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Her book teaches and the reader never catches they have learned so much as they read it. And, they learn more when cooking from it.

It is, as Grace Young has said, a remarkable cookbook packed with information and tempting recipes. Martin Yan said the book captures not only the basic essentials of Asian cuisine, but its very essence. We say, get it now and get the scoop on Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese food, and the philosophy behind each of them. As a bonus, you get almost three hundred recipes, many that will join your 'I will make it frequently' list.
Shanghainese Cold Egg Noodles
Ingredients:
2 cubes fermented bean curd
2 Tablespoons of the brine from the fermented bean curd
2 scallions, washed and trimmed and sliced
1 cup mung bean sprouts, root ends removed
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup fermented black bean and garlic sauce
1/3 cup thin soy sauce
1/4 cup white rice vinegar
1/4 cup hot chili oil
1 pound fresh thin round egg noodles
Preparation:
1. Mash fermented bean curd and their brine.
2. Put scallions, mung bean sprouts, peanuts, black bean sauce, soy sauce, vinegar sesame oil, and hot chili oil into individual bowls, each with a serving spoon.
3. Bring six quarts of water to the boil and add the noodles. Reduce the heat just a bit so that the water in the pot does not boil over, yet still keep it boiling. Cook the noodles three minutes, drain and rinse quickly under cold running water.
4. Divide the noodles into six to eight individual bowls and serve. Have guests add whatever items they prefer or some of each of the condiments and toss them with the noodles, and enjoy.

                                                                                                                                                       
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