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Hunan

by: Y.S. Peng
Qin Xie

London UK: Preface Publishing 2014, $25.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-1-848-09434-5


Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2016 Issue: 23(3) page(s): 21

The fifty-nine recipes are in a book that looks hand sewn. It is written in standard style in chapters titled: Poultry; Pork; Lamb; Beef; Offal; Seafood; Fish; Vegetables; and Sauces. Before them, six pages are by Chef Peng, who Giles Coren says on the book’s cover, "may have the best Chinese restaurant in the world.” They come with many professional color photographs by Paul Winch-Furness and are followed by others by his son Michael, and still others about critical cooking temperatures called wei hou, zhong huo, and da hou; and still others about the wok, steamer, vinegar, and oils, and twenty-eight foods in the Chinese cupboard. These are in fresh, fermented, wet, and dried sections; each titled in English and Chinese.

Accompanied by more color photographs, this book is subtitled: A Lifetime of Secrets from Mr. Peng’s Chinese Kitchen. He and his son Michael write introductory material, and Michael calls his Dad "focused, creative, tireless, an uncompromising traditionalist, a man of few words, and someone who does not do change well." However, he no longer serves only Hunan dishes as he did when the restaurant first opened in 1982. Michael tells us the chefs here have changed little over the years. However, there is one change, the restaurant is now open six days a week instead of seven. His Dad is still there all of them, and its menu is rarely used because most patrons like what Chef Peng selects for them instead of their choosing their own dishes.

The culmination of Chef Peng’s work is shared and is his flavors, ingredients, and learning from his wonderful recipes shown in this book with gorgeous pictures. They beg consumption. The rear cover tells us that Zagat, in 2013, says his is “the best Chinese restaurant in London.” A review from Harden says it is “Simply the best Chinese Restaurant in town.’ Time Out says it is “held in high esteem.....under the radar...anything but ordinary.” Snipits of these reviews appear on the rear cover, too, so do read them all.

From Michael one learns Mr. Peng is a staunch believer in what he does, had many opportunities to expand but did not, and folks do keep coming back to enjoy his great food. Readers can enjoy his thoughts about it in this volume. Those ‘across the pond’ can make and love his dishes, find his recipes in the index or in the alphabetized listing by main ingredient.

This book’s food and drink are written in cooperation with food, drink, and travel journalist, Qin Xie who helps put them together with those gorgeous color photographs. Note that Chef Peng’s eatery honors the chap who trained him, and that, too, is a fascinating story.

The recipes are easy to prepare, one does get hooked making and eating them, and one can learn what makes this restaurant great. The single recipe that follows tells that marinating the meat tenderizes it and allows it to absorb flavors more easily. It reminds readers to dress it at the last minute so it will be crispy when eaten. We love the ease and deliciousness of every recipe.
Pork with Chili Sauce
Ingredients:
1 pork chop
3 Tablespoons garlic juice
1 teaspoon Shao Xing wine
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 Tablespoon cornstarch for coating the meat
1 cup vegetable oil
1 red chili, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 scallion, cut into medallions
salt and crushed Sichuan peppercorns, to taste
½ teaspoon Sichuan chili sauce, see Note below
Preparation:
1. Cut the pork into strips, put in a bowl, and pour the garlic juice, wine, vinegar, and Chinese five-spice powder over the meat and marinate for about ten minutes, then remove pork from this marinade and coat with the cornstarch.
2. Heat oil in wok or deep pan and fry the pork until golden, remove most of the oil and drain the pork on paper towels.
3. Stir-fry the chili, minced garlic, and scallion pieces for a minute, then return pork to the pan, and season with the salt and Sichuan peppercorns.
4. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the Sichuan chili sauce, and serve.
NOTE: To make the chili sauce, ingredients needed are: 2 Tablespoons crushed Sichuan peppercorns; 4 Tablespoons chili flakes; 2 teaspoons tian mian jiang; 2 teaspoons tomato puree; 7 Tablespoons oil; 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar; and 6 Tablespoons chicken stock. Heat one tablespoon oil in a wok, add chili flakes and stir making a paste. Add more oil as needed. Then add the crushed Sichuan peppercorns and remove the wok from the heat, and add half the stock stirring well. Return the wok or pan to the heat source and immediately add the tian mian jiang, the tomato puree, and the remaining stock, salt, and sugar stirring then adding the wine vinegar. Refrigerate leftovers in a glass jar.

                                                                                                                                                       
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