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Best of Taiwanese Cuisine, The

by: Karen Hulene Bartell

New York NY: Hippocrene Books 2001, $24.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-7818-0855-3

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2001 Issue: 8(3) page(s): 26

Bite into a small look at Taiwanese cuisine and taste China’s food. You can do so and enjoy it by season or celebration in this small but packed book written by a westerner who lived for more than a handful of years in that sweet-potato shaped island country situated about a hundred miles off the southeastern coast of China’s mainland midway between Korea and Japan to the north and the Philippines and Hong Kong to the south.

The more than one hundred recipes are organized into eighteen menus. Before them, enjoy cultural tidbits, paper cuttings, even a lunar calendar. Any one of them reminds of a food you recall as indigenous to China. The Clams with Black Beans remind of the best you may ever have eaten in Guangzhou, the Wilted Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce is the easiest recipe you ever made, and the Drunken Chicken similar to one eaten in Fuzhou.

What impresses in this volume are simple things and super recipes. Try the Sweet and Sour Plum Sauce or the Spicy Hunan Sauce; they can go with ever so many dishes. Then there are the many methods, three to be exact, of making Five Spice Powder. They work wonders in the Five-Spice Tofu and can enhance almost every Sichuan dish one might want to make. Vegetarians and lovers of meat listen up, make this dish dozens of times. There is the ten spice powder that reminds of is the best of any Sichuan food one could ever eat. Its use in Ginger Beef might be thought of as Asian universal. It is delicious and a reminder of foods we expect to taste on our upcoming trip to Singapore.

The five-spice powder mix is so good, making it fills the house with pleasure even after the three minutes needed to take Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds and dry-fry them with star anise, coriander, cumin seeds, whole cloves, black peppercorns, ground turmeric, ground cinnamon, and ground ginger. Cool and breathe deeply, this is a heady mixture, and cause to never purchase it again. Rather, grab a blender and grind your own.
Fried Lotus Flowers
24 lotus petals
6 Tablespoons sweet bean or lotus paste
3 Tablespoons lotus flour
4 egg whites
2 cups corn oil for deep frying
1. Dry the petals and put a teaspoon sweet bean paste on each of them, then fold over the long way to cover the paste.
2. Mix flour and egg whites until a nice thin batter.
3. Heat the oil, then dip petal sandwiches in batter and deep fry for about two minutes. then drain and serve.

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