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Kylie Kwong's Cookbooks

by Jacqueline M. Newman


Winter Volume: 2007 Issue: 14(4) page(s): 25 and 31

As readers already know, from the interview in the last issue, Kylie Kwong has three books to her credit, two TV cooking series, probably hundreds of personal appearances, interviews on radio and elsewhere, and so much more. How she manages these and operates a successful Chinese restaurant makes one realize this young lady has tons of energy. Would that she would share some. Readers did share wanting to know more about her three books, hence the additional information in this short article.

The books are: Kylie Kwong Heart and Soul published in 2003 as was Kylie Kwong Recipes and Stories. Kylie Kwong Simple Chinese Cooking, the third, was published in 2006. They have a total of six hundred ninety-five pages of print, seventy-four, seventy-eight, and one hundred twenty-three recipes, respectfully; and their ISBN numbers are, in order: ISBN 0-670-91118-6, ISBN 0-670-91118-6, and ISBN 1-920989-33-1.

The first two books are not only Chinese recipes. They include dishes made by family members and dishes prepared in her restaurant, which is called: Billy Kwong. The Heart and Soul book includes items seen on her television program; and they are for foods from around the world. Reading that volume and cooking from it educates the reader to this lady's multi-cultural culinary talents. The book tout was reviewed in this magazine's Volume 10(4) on page 24 and tells tales about her great-grandfather who came to Australia, and about his many descendants. In her most recent book: Simple Chinese Cooking, when writing it Kwong calculated he spawned seven hundred eighty descendants. Reading about him and them in any of the books is learning about a fascinating family.

Kwong believes hers is the largest Chinese family 'down under' in Australia. She is the first daughter of the fifth son of the first son of the third wife of her grandfather. His name is Kwong Sue Dok, and he had four wives and twenty-four children. For those that follow genealogy, she says she is a 29th-generation Kwong. You can check that out in greater detail by reading Volume 3 of The Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography published in 1996 by NTU Press.

Kwong's great-grandfather Kwing Sue Duk was born in the Guangdong Province of China where he studied traditional Chinese medicine and married his first wife at age twenty-one. He was lured by gold fever to Australia, later became a businessman and later still, a real estate tycoon. He died at age seventy-six in 1929.

Kylie Kwong began her culinary career at a Sydney noodle bar and restaurant. She also worked at a couple of other places. During a two-week trip to China, she visited a traditional tea house in Shanghai and was inspired to open her own restaurant. She did soon after returning to Sydney. This dinner only small emporium, opened in 2000, has garnered positive press and crowds of diners who love her food. Called: Billy Kwong, it is sometimes spelled with no capital letters.

The three books and the one eatery are but a few of her accomplishments. She has completed two very popular TV series; her last book intended to accompany the second of them. This book and TV series imbue enthusiasm for the foods of her Cantonese heritage. In books, on TV, and in her restaurant, she uses fresh produce and teaches about eating foods with fine flavors. Her most recent one is more a coffee table volume due to its hefty size. Nonetheless, it inspires many trips to the kitchen to satisfy overactive salivary glands. So do Earl Carter's photographs that truly seem edible. Kwong's recipes shares her heritage and make great food. Many of those in this most recent book have clever twists. They keep her making foods her Mum made and you will, too. For example, the Stir-fried Chinese Cabbage with Oyster Sauce is simple yet savory. The Stir-fried Duck Breasts with Honey and Ginger are quicker than any good duck recipe we know of. The Deep-fried Tofu with Black Bean and Chilli Sauce is robust and substantial. And, the Sichuan Chicken Salad is hot and heavenly. The Steamed Fish Cakes are aromatic and colorful and sit on a salad of carrots and cucumber. They are refreshing and healthy.

We have photocopied quite a collection from this book to make then easy to use. Already, they are well-stained and our stomachs and hearts well-seasoned. Frankly, we can not wait to visit Australia and eat at her restaurant. Will report back next year, after we do. In the meantime, enjoy her fish cakes, with or without their accompanying salad. They are so loved, that most folks tell us they feed up to four and no more.
Steamed Fish Cakes
1 pound firm white-fleshed fish fillets, finely diced
2 Tablespoons Chinese black mushrooms, soaked, stems discarded, and sliced very thin
2 Tablespoons fresh coriander leaves and stems, minced
1 small carrot, finely slivered, then divided into two batches
6 scallions, finely slivered, then divided into two batches
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 Tablespoon shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 medium-size cucumber, peeled, cut in half, and slivered
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 red chili, seeded and slivered
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Mix fish, mushrooms, minced coriander, half the carrot and scallion slivers, and the corn starch, soy sauce, wine, sugar, oyster sauce, and the quarter teaspoon sesame oil and take one-quarter cup of this mixture and make it into a fish cake. Place on a heat-proof plate. Repeat until all are made. You will need two large plates, one each to be put on a steamer basket/layer.
2. Steam the fish cakes over rapidly boiling water for five or six minutes. If there is not enough steam circulating around these plates, switch the layers top to bottom.
3. While they are steaming, toss cucumber and the remaining carrot and scallion slivers, and put this mixture on a large serving platter.
4. When fish cakes are done, place them on the cucumber mixture, and top with the coriander leaves, sesame seeds, and the chili pepper pieces. Sprinkle the sesame oil, and serve.

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