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Chinese Kitchen, The (by Hsiung)

by: Deh-Ta Hsiung

New York NY: St. Martins Press 1999, $26.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-312-24699-4

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2000 Issue: 7(2) page(s): 16

This book discusses essential ingredients and offers more than two hundred 'easy and authentic recipes' for most of them. The first chapter titled: Grains and Staple Foods, follows a forward by Ken Hom and a twelve-page introduction by the author. In the book's opening pages, there is a mite about food history, a bit on Chinese meals and their components, a little on philosophic yin/yang balancing, two paragraphs about Chinese regional cooking, and several pages on cooking techniques; and there is more. They set the stage for what follows. The techniques, from pre-preparation to presentation come with, as does the entire book, fantastic photographs unique to this cuisine at the country of origin. After reading and seeing them, you are ready to salivate and fill any voids or previous misunderstandings about Chinese cuisine.

For example, in the that chapter Hsiung discusses regular and glutinous rice, rice flours and noodles, wheat flour, steamed buns, pancakes, spring rolls, dumplings, noodles, wonton, bean threads, sweet potato, taro, yam, and waterchestnut flours, and millet and other grains. Each of these and every item begins with large ideographs and Mandarin transliterations. This chef/author provides information about growth and/or manufacture, appearance and taste, buying and storing suggestions, general culinary uses, sometimes medicinal uses, and often a recipe or two.

One can digest the information easily and its totality is a tasty treat. This book is a delight for novice or knowledgeable alike. Rare is the person who will not increase understandings after perusing words and visuals, the latter mostly thanks to Julie Dixon whose culinary photographs deserve the bulk of the credit. As to the recipes, they are authentic but many are far from easy because they have more than ten ingredients and half that or more steps in their preparation. Never mind that, they are treats written by a Beijing-born chef.

Try the Toban Fish and the sauce of the same name; both will be appreciated for their hot and sour savoriness. Parboil bean or soy sprouts (or both) and do make the Soybean Sprout Salad. They go well with it and pork and thousand year eggs found in a dish titled Stir-fried Pine-flower Eggs. If desserts are a must at your place, serve the Chinese Fruit Salad of lychees, longans, mango, papaya, and other tropical delights. Its photograph features this luscious mixture sitting in a small carved watermelon.

I adored the Stir-fried Shrimp with Chinese Chives and the Chinese Pork Chops made with fermented bean curd. They were the best renditions of these classic dishes ever had. With a grandson who adores this dish and orders it every time we eat in a Chinese restaurant, I do need to make it for him and see if he agrees.

Deh-ta Hsiung is a prolific cookbook contributor and author, he is a name to know when looking for this must-see must-read volume and others. This book is comprehensive, orderly, and accurate from Abalone to zongzi (those aromatic tasting bundles of rice used to celebrate Chu Yuan, the poet-statesman who drowned himself in 295 BCE).

Go drown yourself in this books visual delights. Read about the more than one hundred ingredients. Overdose on the more than two hundred familiar to exotic recipes. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Feed upon the photographs. Prepare and consume Hsiung’s wonderful food. You’ll de delighted you did.
Steamed Scallops with Black Bean Sauce
12 fresh scallops, loosened but left in their shells
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons salted black beans
2 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 Tablespoon finely chopped scallions
1 Tablespoon finely chopped red chilies
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped Sichuan peppercorns
2 Tablespoons light or dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine
2 Tablespoons stock
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Scrub the scallops under cold running water. Discard the flat empty half of each shell.
2. Soak the black beans in warm water for five minutes, then drain and mash.
3. Place the scallops in their shells on two separate heat-proof dishes. Place these on the racks of two layers of hot bamboo steamers and steam for eight or nine minutes.
4. While they steam, make sauce by heating the oil over low heat. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, chilies, Sichuan peppers, and black beans and stir-fry about half a minute until fragrant.
5. Add the soy sauce, wine, stock and continue stirring another twenty seconds until the sauce starts to bubble.
6. Sprinkle on the sesame oil and simmer gently for another minute.
7. Serve with two teaspoons of sauce over each scallop.
Stir-fried Pine Flower Eggs
2 or 3 thousand year eggs
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 pound lean pork, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
chopped scallion or parsley, for garnish (optional)
1. Remove coating and shell of the eggs. rinse them, then chop them coarsely.
2. Preheat wok or fry pan, add the oil and the pork and stir-fry the pork for two or three minutes until the meat is no longer pink.
3. Add the chopped eggs to the wok or fry pan, then the soy sauces, and blend well.
4. Continue to stir for three or four minutes more.
5. Sprinkle on the sesame oil and serve hot. Add garnish, if desired.

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