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Life is a Banquet

by: Belinda Wong

Hong Kong China: Enrich Publishing Ltd. 2006, Paperback
ISBN: 988-992923-5


Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2007 Issue: 14(4) page(s): 22 and 23

Invited to be on TV and honored by David Tang the founder of the China Club and Shanghai Tang, this book's author is a lawyer and financial analyst by training who gratefully moved to the food field. We are all the richer.

The recipes are set out by season and come with family history, love, and understanding. The banquet recipes are said to bring luck and good fortune. All incorporate wonderful tastes to any table; and can be had at yours. Upon her grandfather's death, the house they were first enjoyed in was willed to the Saletians. They set up a school in his name, the Hong Kong Tang King Po College. He and her mother were inspirational and passionate about food. The author inherited this love and seems to have inhaled their abilities.

Though a book about banquet food most often eaten in restaurants, Belinda Wong believes the best of them should be prepared and eaten at home. Her grandfather loved them, her mother perfected them, and now she writes about them so you can prepare them. She believes life is a banquet, try her banquet recipes and enjoy her dishes alone or part of one.

Some of the recipes are simple though she makes them with special ingredients, as she does for the Shiitake Mushrooms in Soy Sauce. She recommends Lo Kuang condensed soy paste, Tainan Xin Gao soy sauce, etc. We could locate neither but made a magnificent dish without a fifty-year-old black bean cottage-industry bottle. Others are more complex and richer as is Black Truffle Duck Foie Gras Cold Jelly. All have specific brands recommended; but can be made with those found on the shelves of any local Chinese supermarket.

Preparing them is often not simple. After all, they are banquet dishes. They do list utensils needed, have several paragraphs of suggestions, and two or more pictures of ingredients and a couple of steps in their preparation.

The Shiitake Mushrooms with Minced Prawns use two non-Chinese ingredients, walnut oil and goose fat. We made them with Chinese-replacements and they were 'magnifique.' Loved their fantastic fragrance and terrific taste and ate them at an ordinary home meal that became a banquet.
Shiitake Mushrooms with Prawns
Ingredients:
1/3 pound dry scallops, one tablespoon wine, and a few pieces of ginseng
8 dry Chinese black mushrooms, large flower ones recommended
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon goose fat
1/4 pound shrimp, shelled
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon maltose
1 teaspoon ginseng liquor
1 teaspoon walnut oil
1 teaspoon shrimp roe
Preparation:
1. Make a stock cooking the scallops, wine, and ginseng roots and three quarts of boiling water. Simmer for five minutes, turn off the heat, and allow to cool. Then mash the scallops and simmer for two hours, then strain and discard the solids.
2. Soak mushrooms for two days in cold water, changing the water every twelve hours. Drain them, remove their stems, rub them with the cornstarch, and rinse them.
3. Put goose fat in a casserole, add the mushrooms and three cups of water. Simmer on the lowest possible heat for eight hours, adding more water as needed. When done, drain and reserve both mushrooms and their liquid separately.
4. Pound or mince the shrimp, then mix them with the salt and stuff the underside of the mushrooms.
5. Make a sauce using one-quarter of the scallop stock (freeze the rest in one-quarter cup amounts for other uses), with the mushroom water, sugar, maltose and liquor. Simmer until volume is reduced to less than half.
6. Heat walnut oil, and fry stuffed mushrooms, prawn side down for up to one minute. Then remove them and arrange on a plate, shrimp side up. Decor with a small amount of shrimp roe on each, pour scallop-mushroom sauce in top, and serve.

                                                                                                                                                       
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