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Wok Fast

by: Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sanderson

Berkeley CA: Ten Speed Press 2002, $17.95, Paperback
ISBN: 1-58008-383-8

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(3) page(s): 20

A talented husband and wife who, before marriage, met and feasted together in China, he the tour leader and she a photographer on magazine assignment. For those new to wok cooking, this seventh volume by this team is a great beginning; for those already committed, it is a fantastic overview of how to speed up Chinese cooking.

Introductory materials including Teri’s clear ‘how to’ pictures that introduce the reader to favorite ingredients and twenty-six superb sauce mixes. Having them handy speeds efforts. Several are Chinese, all are all-purpose and Asian. The ones that are Thai, Singaporese, and Vietnamese are Asian. One tastes Mexican. All are used throughout and dishes can be made mix and match.

In the recipes, the sauces are in amounts from a tablespoon to three, the total number of ingredients can be as much as thirteen. In most you will find cornstarch, sesame oil, soya or another commercial sauce; other items probably already on your shelf, and something that takes one or two minutes to put in a glass or a jar. All the recipes make sense. Those we tried tasted terrific. They show creativity and superb synthesis.

Should you have a favorite recipe, you can make it every night, just vary the sauce. Frankly, were there more time and less recipes to test, we might do just that. We are fans of their Must-have Thai Crab recipe that suggests using Thai Coconut Sauce, we recommend it with any of the sauces. Try Cantonese Black Bean Sauce on Monday, Spicy Peanut Stir-Fry Sauce with oyster, hoisin, and chili sauce on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday use their Spicy Tangerine Sauce. On Thursday, use the Szechuan Marinade/Sauce, and on Friday the Sweet-and-Sour Lemon Sauce. What a way to go!

If crab is not your thing, try the same with their Sweet, Spicy, Sour Squid, their Rainbow Chicken, the Rainbow Pasta with Peppers and Toasted Almonds, the Chinese Roast Duck with Asparagus, the Szechuan Beef, and the Spicy Lamb with Lettuce Cups. Hugh is a popular cooking teacher, now at his own school associated with Cakebread Winery. No wonder thousands have taken his courses. As a clear and concise writer, many more read and cook from his books. Teri teaches photography at the Art Center College of Design, did the photographs for more than forty cookbooks; and those in this one shine forth.

Not all the recipes are Chinese, but their love of Chinese cuisine shines forth. Every recipe in the book can be made to taste and be Chinese. So do get to it!
Cantonese Black Bean Cooking Sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons black bean garlic sauce or one tablespoon salted black beans rinsed and finely chopped
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Mix ingredients together.
2. Use with your favorite meat, seafood, poultry, or favorite vegetable dish, adding it near the end of cooking.

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