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Authentic Chinese Cuisine

by: Bryanna Clark Grogan

Summertown TN: Book Publishing Company 2000, $12.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 1-57067-101-X

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2001 Issue: 8(3) page(s): 25

Subtitled: For the Contemporary Kitchen, only vegan recipes are in this volume. The cover says it is one in the Healthy World Cuisine series, but if there are others, no way to know. The cover also indicates that the book has a lay-flat binding, something we found useful and do recommend that feature to all cookbook publishers who want to make their books as easy to cook with as this one is.

What makes this vegetarian volume different from the plethora of those on the market are the mock meat recipes so popular in Buddhist cuisine. They are made with wheat gluten, an item left over after one washes the starch from flour; and made using tofu, also known as bean curd or coagulated bean milk, soy milk skin--fresh or dried andalso called bean curd sticks, textured soy and other vegetable proteins, mushrooms, and other vegetables. With them are a wide assortment of other vegetable dishes that are the author favorites. Some use contemporary ingredients such as nutritional yeast and textured vegetable protein and hence the subtitle of the book.

Before being ready to try the recipes, read the first forty pages or five chapters about the history of Chinese vegetarian cuisine. There is an early mention from the Zhou Dynasty beginning in 1028 BCE, yin and yang vegetarian foods, a mite about regional culinary thinking, cooking equipment and techniques, how to plan and serve Chinese meals, and a guide to dozens of ingredients. Many of them are detailed with items such as consideration for health issues and allergies. One stands out needing a note of warning in that otherwise excellent section. It pertains to growing then consuming green soybeans. It fails to advise that green soy beans must be cooked before eating to inactivate a trypsin inhibitor and to destroy an enzyme that many are allergic to or can have a negatively physical reaction to.

The book has many recipes to recommend. Many without mock meats fall into this category including the Pan Roasted Sichuan Peppers, Asparagus Tofu with Black Bean Sauce, Dan Dan Noodles, and the Lotus-Wrapped Savory Rice Pancakes. Those with mock meats do, too, such as the Shanghai Noodles, Stir Fried 'Chicken' Mushrooms in Vegetarian Oyster Sauce, Vegetarian Yunnan Pot, and Dry Garlic Ribs.

After the recipe chapters, pages speak to deep-fried and oven-fried dishes and include a wonderful recipe called Chinese Batter for Deep Fried Foods. In the last chapter called Sweets, the Wheat-free Almond Cookies need special mention. There are few decent baked items for folks allergic to gluten such as those with celiac disease. This particular book belongs on their and everyone's yummy cookie list.

The book ends with mail-order sources and websites for ingredients not easily available to those outside urban areas; it also has an index. They and the recipes are valuable additions to everyone’s knowledge base. The author, a Canadian who wrote other best-selling vegetarian cookbooks, designed these for the modern North American kitchen. She refers to them as "authentic as possible without calling for extremely exotic ingredients." We would call them 'a place to start learning about Chinese food.'
Chinese Batter for Deep-fried Foods
1/2 Tablespoon powdered egg replacer
1/4 cup cold water
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
oil needed for deep frying
1. Beat egg replacer and water until combined and quite frothy.
2. Stir in the remaining ingredients and dip each item in this batter just before deep-frying it.

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