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Easy Family Dishes: A Memoir with Recipes

by: Ken Hom

London UK: BBC Books 1997, $17.98, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-563-38439-5

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newmand
Summer Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(2) page(s): 15

Many have asked if Easy Family Recipes from a Chinese American Childhood and Easy Family Dishes: A Memoir with Recipes by Ken Hom are the same book as they have almost the same title? In the above pair, Easy Family Recipes was reviewed in Volume 4(4) on page 13. London's BBC book. Easy Family Dishes is somewhat identical but there are a few differences; so the answer is yes and no. The BBC version looks a bit more basic, the family photographs are bound together in the center of the book, and gratefully, they are on glossy paper. This touch makes them look like photographs and less like poor photocopies.

Other differences include that the outer and inner covers are nicer in the BBC version, not sickly pink but rather with a photograph of Ken's smiling face. Also, a few recipes are renamed such as Ambrosial Abalone and Squab Soup. Across the ocean, the squab becomes a pigeon. In the Simple Stir=fried Tomatoes, its equal sign is not in error, many but not all hyphenated words have this peculiarity. Their oceanic trip changes them to Simple Stir fried Tomatoes. In this very same recipe, in the American edition the word 'simple' is not indexed though stir-frying is. In the BBC book, it correctly lists four dishes whose names begin with 'Simple' but fails to list them under stir-frying. Both books have a less than a perfect index, and on either side of the ocean, one can almost read through the ultra-thin paper.

Other differences are more cultural and include lingo, measurement protocols such as weights in pounds or grams, peanut oil becoming groundnut oil in the London copy, a third of a cup there becomes five tablespoons in the Amrican version, a cup of dried black mushrooms or a half cup of finely chopped scallions are transformed to fifty-five grams or two ounces. Chopped spring onions change their name, and the three cups of homemade chicken stock or reduced salt canned broth change to seven hundred fifty milliliters, which is one and one-qyarter pints. The Chinese Chicken Stock, capitalized for the recipe appearing on page 62, or store bought fresh stock changes, too.

The differences are minor, but if you collect cookbooks they are enough to make you desire both editions of these and Ken Hom's 'Hot Wok' titles, as well. Sorry to suggest the extra expense; but do check the latter pair out.

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