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Ken Hom Travels with a Hot Wok

by: Ken Hom

London UK: BBC Books 1998, $17.98, Paperback
ISBN: 0-563-38394-1

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(2) page(s): 15 - 16

Both this book and Ken Hom's Hot Wok were published to accompany the BBC television series seen in many countries named: 'Ken Hom's Hot Wok.' Its first broadcast was in 1996, the date of that earlier volume. They are reviewed together in this issue of Flavor and Fortune as one co-mingled article.

These books are even more different from each other than are Easy Family Recipes from a Chinese American Childhood and Easy Family Dishes, both by Hom, as well, and revewed in this same issue of Flavor and Fortune. Collector or not, you do need to own both of them. The paperback which was also published as a hardbound could not be located. It has photographs by Philip Webb. The other volume's pictures are taken by Sandra Lane. Much of the front material is the same, some identical, and a few items are different or in different locations. Do not be fooled into thinking they are the same; there are differences.

Some recipes can be similar, but most are very different. Vegetable Stock in Hot Wok is not the same as Home made Vegetable Stock in Travels with a Hot Wok, nor is its position in the book. The former is in the section on 'Soups,' the latter among things referred to as 'Basics.'

Both of these books have wonderful dishes with, as Hom calls them, "East West Flavours." They bring the passion and the pleasure of newer Pacific Rim foods to you imaginatively interpreted by Hom. One book is really Asian fusion, the other moves further afield but never loses its Chinese roots.

Hot Wok offers many wonderful dishes with Chinese inspirations. Ginger Scallops with Chinese Greens, Crackling Rice Crisps with Dipping Sauce, Vegetarian Crispy Beggar's Purses, and Stir fried Celery in Two bean Sauce are a few examples. Asian marriages include Delectable Broccoli Chicken with Vietnamese inspirations, Thai Style Meatballs, Burmese style Chicken, East West Chips, and Coconut Vegetable Stew. All these Chinese and foods of their neighbors were tested and devoured. As in the Broccoli Chicken, delectable is very much an understatement.

Travels with a Hot Wok has dozens upon dozens of winning multi-cultural recipes rooted in Chinese cuisine; many of them are winners, too. Fresh Foie Gras with Ginger and Five spice Apples, though seemingly more western, is seasoned and has a distinctly Chinese taste as does the Asian flavoured Grilled Steak. Japanese-style Marinated Grilled Quail also works well with chicken and duck. However, both of these changes fit less well with the quick part of quick and easy as all the recipes really are. Mussel and Lemon Grass Soup is elegant, Peking Lemon Duck is a fine taste twist, Korean style Grilled Beef ever so tasty, and Steamed Scallops in Spiced Butter Sauce so succulent, savory, and simple, that they will bring kudos to your table.

Ken Hom's genius shines in both of these books. Serving the foods he presents on 'British telly' is a fine idea. The recpes are easy to make, wonderful to eat, and guaranteed to please. For these two volumes, we recommend that you see double, expend the funds, have both in your kitchen, and cook from both of them, too.
Creamy Corn and Crab Soup
10 ounces canned corn niblets
4 cups chicken stock
1 scallion, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 Tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons water
1/2 pound crab meat, cartilage removed
1 egg
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons minced coriander
1. In a blender, mix corn and half the chicken stock, pour that and the remaining stock into a pot and simmer ten minutes.
2. Add scallion, ginger, rice wine, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar. Bring to the boil then immediately lower heat and simmer five minutes.
3. In a small bowl, mix egg and the sesame oil and slowly pour into the soup mixture mixing gently as you do this. Ladle into a tureen or in to individual soup bowls, add the coriander and serve.
Steamed Scallops in Spiced Butter Sauce
1 pound sea scallops (with coral, if available)
2 fresh hot chilies, seeded and chopped
1 Tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
1 Tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns (fagara)
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces chicken stock
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1 Tablespoon finely chopped chives, as garnish
1. Put scallops on a heatproof dish and sprinkle evenly with the chilies, zest, ginger, wine, five spice powder, Sichuan peppercorns, and salt.
2. Bring two inches of water to boil in the bottom of a steamer, put the dish with the scallops on a rack over the water, reduce the heat, cover tightly, and steam for five minutes.
3. Remove dish carefully from the steamer and put the liquid into a pot, add the stock and reduce the liquid by three quarters.
4. Mix in the butter and put the scallops in and warm them; do not raise the temperature. Remove them and garnish with the chives.
Serves 4.

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