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Food of China, The

by: Harding, Justine editor

Hong Kong : Periplus Books 2001, $29.95, Paperback
ISBN: 962-593-999-7

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(1) page(s): 23 and 24

Bearing a Periplus imprint, photography by Jason Lowe, and exactly one hundred seventy-three recipes by Deh-ta Hsiung and Nina Simonds, this two-hundred ninety-six page extra-large, glossary-rich, gorgeous volume is printed in China, distributed in Asia by Berkeley Books, and first published by Murdoch books in Sydney, Australia. What a mouthful!

The eighteen-member staff, listed in small print on the rear page, advises among other things, that additional recipes are by Wendy Quisumbing, and that the food editor is Lulu Grimes. Were that not enough, there are thirteen lines of acknowledgments, advice on reproducing it, even a warning about salmonella poisoning.

Be delighted by the contents with recipes in ten chapters, the last of which is called; Basics. In addition, there are six special sections scattered throughout and in no order, called: Food Journeys. They include items titled: Dim Sum, Banquet, Peking Duck, Soy, Noodles, and Tea. For the record, the recipe chapters are titled: Snacks & Starters, Soups, Fish & Seafood, Poultry, Meat, Bean Curd, Vegetables, Rice & Noodles, and Desserts. Every item in them has a beautiful color pictures and every recipe itself is a terrific taste sensation. Before each one are several sentences that set the stage. They explain something important about the recipe such as where it comes from, a culinary bit of advice, even a substitution suggestion.

The recipes are classic and clear. The end result is that preparing them is a lesson in Chinese cookery and each dish provides efforts worth whie, every required action detailed and easily understood. Both major recipe writers, Deh-ta Hsiung (featured in this issue of Flavor and Fortune and Nina Simonds (hopefully to be featured in a future one) know Chinese food. Mr. Hsiung has lived in London since coming there for college. He is an humble gentleman who spent years as artist, chef, cookbook author, writer, and caterer. Ms. Simonds recently moved to London from Salem, Massachusetts. Earlier, she lived for a while in Taiwan, then returned to the United States, her birthplace. She has since traveled throughout China soaking up, writing, and reporting about Chinese food. In addition to these experiences, both authors have cookbooks to their credit along with numerous magazine articles, TV appearances, and more. They are well-equipped to know whereof they write.

In this book, you may want to eat the pictures; they are so delish! Many are full page, all are the best of professional food photography. If there were need for a gripe, it is that the good paper it is printed on was heavy to lug home from Singapore, and its size too difficult to cook with. If there were need for additional compliments, as the British would say, it is a bloody bargain and a beautiful cookbook. Do run out and purchase a copy even if you have a Chinese cookbook and are the type that can live with but one of them. If that is really the case, then make a donation of your other one and start cooking and relishing this one.
Scallops with Black Bean Sauce
2 pounds sea scallops
3 Tablespoons salted fermented black beans, rinsed and mashed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 large slices fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
2 Tablespoons corn oil
2 scallions, cut into half-inch lengths
1. Rinse and drain the scallops, pull off any hard white muscle, if there is any.
2. Mix black beans, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy and oyster sauces in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Heat a wok and add the oil and heat until just before it smokes. Stir-fry the scallops for just one minute, then add the scallion pieces and toss well. Put this mixture in a strainer and drain any juices that may come off.
4. In a clean wok, stir-fry the black bean mixture for one minute until it comes to the boil. Add the drained scallops and scallions, and heat through for no more than one minute, then serve.

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