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Chinese & Asian Cookbook, The

by: Morris, Sallie and Hsiung, Deh-Ta

New York NY: Lorenz Books 2001, $14.95, Paperback
ISBN: 0-7548-0854-8

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(2) page(s): 14

This wonderful set of Chinese and Asian dishes is a bargain to buy, a blessing to have, and a bag of compliments from guests when dishes made from it make their way to your table. The book is thorough. It discusses ingredients and utensils and a plethora of food items known, used, and loved all over the Asian continent where its recipes come from. They are, as listed in the recipe chapter titles: China and Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, Thailand and Burma, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, and Japan and Korea.

Each ethnic food chapter says a few things about the characteristics of its specific cuisine(s). Every recipe has a sentence or two for starters that say something about its role in the cuisine, or about one of the main ingredients.

The recipes are wonderful because they do not try to make a particular dish with as few ingredients as possible; rather they are authentic flavorful renditions as they might be served to you in one of the finest homes in that part of the world. They list ingredients with amounts in metric or in volume amounts, metric and non-metric. The steps in the method are listed well separated and with large numbers; and each recipe is on its own page or two, some with a batch of 'Cook's Tips' after them.

The Fragrant Harbour Fried Rice is a Hong Kong version loaded with mushrooms, shallots, shrimp, pork, Chinese sausage, peas, scallions, chilies, and more. They say it serves four, but at a recent lunch, two of us devoured it all. The Steamed Fish with Five Willow Sauce had a clever way to set it up, should you not have a fish steamer or very large wok. It even suggests cutting the fish in half and reassembling it after cooking should your pot not accommodate a large fish. It did not advise how flavorful this particular recipe was using mixed Chinese sweet pickles in its sauce.

The Sichuan Chicken with Kung Po Sauce uses cashews. It is a fantastic recipe for those who often need to avoid its classic rendition if they have peanut allergies; and the nuts can be optional. If you have such an allergy or are serving someone who does, also do not use the recommended peanut oil. And, for safety's sake eliminate their second choice, sunflower oil. Many people with peanut allergies have or can develop problems with other nuts and nut products. Use corn oil instead. What gives this particular recipe its complex taste is the use of two different acidifiers such as rice wine and white wine vinegar; they provide contrasting tastes with the light brown sugar and the two bean sauces of yellow salted beans and hoisin sauce.

The Lion’s Head Meatballs were, as are many recipes in this book, easy to make. So, too, is the Mu Shu Pork with Eggs and Wood Ears. To satisfy the lovers of duck, make theirs Peking style, or better yet prepare Anita Wong’s Duck. Do not know who Anita may be, but her duck is soft and delicious after it gets two hours of cooking attention, not yours. It certainly will remain as a ‘must do’ at our dinner parties.

The Sweet and Sour Salad, known in its part of the world as Acar Bening, sparkles with color. This Indonesian dish shines. Philippine folk will delight in the Ukoy, here called Filipino Prawn Fritters; you will, too. The sweet potato in them of course makes them sweet, it also gives color, and makes them oh-so-good!

These two authors know food, write exceptionally well, and share their know-how, par excellence. Do cap off any meal using their recipe for Malaysian Coconut Ice Cream. You can be a fine host or hostess with thanks to Morris and Hsiung’s rapturous recipes.
Anita Wong's Duck
1 duck with giblets
1 small onion
1 small knob of ginger, smashed with the side of a cleaver
4 Tablespoons corn oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small knob peeled ginger root, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons brown bean paste
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
3 star anise points
salt to taste
1 scallion, shredded and used for garnish
1. Rinse duck giblets and put them in a pot with the onion and bruised ginger. Cover them with three cups of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for twenty minutes then drain and reserve the stock. Remove meat from bones and mince and set it aside, as well.
2. Heat oil and fry the garlic without browning it, for about one minute. Add the duck and turn it frequently until the skin is evenly browned. Then remove the duck to a plate.
3. Add sliced ginger, then stir in the bean paste and the reserved giblet meat. Cook for one minute and then add both soy sauces, sugar, and five-spice powder and stir well before adding the duck. Fry it, turning a few times, until it is coated, then add the star anise and the giblet stock. Cover tightly and simmer for two to two-and-a-half hours.
4. Remove the duck to a plate and skim off the excess fat. When you can handle the duck, cut it into serving-size or smaller portions. Then plate the duck and pour the sauce on top, garnish it, and serve six or more persons.

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