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Everyday Dishes

by: Shulian Lin

Beijing China: Beijing Foreign Languages Press 2002, Hardbound
ISBN: 7-119-03081-7

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 2004 Issue: 11(1) page(s): 27

Many books come out in sets or series. The groupings below are worth your attention, may not be easy to find, and are good examples of the direction that Chinese food is going. We suggest you make the effort to learn and to taste many of their delicious dishes. One of a three book series, they sell for eighty yuan each. In Chinese, they are called Zhonghua Meishi Xilie, and each book is titled in English. The second in the series, called Famous Dishes & Great Cook is authored by Chen Jinwan. Huang Huailing wrote the third; it is Health Tonics.

They are reviewed together, so this same review appears for each of them. Every recipe in these volumes is bilingual, and some have appeared with or without variations and formats in other books. Here, some are better edited and all are beautifully presented. Unfortunately, quite a few have language and ingredient errors. Though all is not new or nifty, a good number of the recipes are. Almost all of them have a large color photograph of the completed dish and three to five smaller ones in its preparation. A few are pictured two or three dishes on a page in a large communal shot.

While the editing surely needs help, the dishes represent foods currently written about and eaten in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. China is republishing many cookbooks, and doing so in English allows a window on what is put out in Chinese. While this set is reasonably good, we recommend you carefully check contents before investing and making shelf space for them. If you are not familiar with the Chinese culinary, the pictures will tantalize, but be sure you can make them as written. Our comfort zone in this makes them a valuable look at what is touted and tasted in current Chinese food.

Dou-fu Balls
2 half pound pieces of silken bean curd, pressed lightly to remove some water
1/4 pound minced or ground pork
1 egg white
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ground white pepper
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
3 Tablespoons corn oil
1 scallion, white part only, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
3 black mushrooms, soaked, stems removed, and quartered
1/4 cup bamboo shoots, sliced
1 Tablespoon minced Smithfield ham
3 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon chicken fat or solid shortening
5 snow peas, cut in half
1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with one tablespoon cold water
1. Mash bean curd and mix with pork and egg white. Mix in salt, pepper, and cornstarch. Then, using slightly wet hands, shape into forty balls, each about one-inch in diameter.
2. Heat corn oil and fry the bean curd balls until lightly browned, remove and drain onto paper towels.
3. In remaining oil, fry scallion and ginger for one minute, and remove and discard them, then add mushroom and bamboo shoots to the oil and fry them for two minutes.
4. Add ham, chicken broth, chicken fat, and bean curd balls and simmer for twenty minutes, then add snow peas and simmer another half minute before adding cornstarch mixture. Bring to the boil stirring all the time, and serve.
Shandong Roast Chicken
1 four-pound whole roasting chicken
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon Sichuan pepper, smashed
2 star anise
3 slices fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons rice wine
4 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 stick cinnamon, broken into two pieces
3 cups corn oil
2 scallions, each tied into a loose knot
1. Rinse and wipe chicken dry. Put it into a large bowl.
2. Mix salt, Sichuan pepper, star anise, ginger, rice wine, soy sauce, and cinnamon and pour this over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate. Turn the chicken every half hour for three hours. Remove from the refrigerator and lift the chicken out of the spice solution and set that liquid aside. Let the chicken sit on two or three paper towels for about ten minutes.
3. Then heat the oil and fry the chicken turning it often, for ten minutes. Drain well, then put the reserved spice solution into the cavity of the chicken along with the scallion knots and sew the chicken cavity closed. Set the chicken in a heat-proof bowl on a shelf in a steamer. Cover the steamer and steam over boiling water for one hour.
4. Remove the chicken, drain the cavity, and cut the chicken into sixteen pieces. Discarding bones of all but the wings and legs, and keep skin attached to the meat.
5. Put wings and legs on the edges of a deep platter, the chicken pieces in the center. Moisten the chicken with several tablespoons of the liquid from the bowl it was steamed in, and serve.
Deep-fried Sesame Balls
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups glutinous rice powder
1 and 1/2 cups sweetened bean paste
1 cup white sesame seeds
2 cups corn oil
1. Mix sugar with half cup of water, stirring until dissolved.
2. Add rice powder and stir until it makes a smooth paste. Divide this into twenty pieces. And roll each with your fingers, into a ball, then flatten it somewhat.
3. Divide the bean paste into twenty parts and put one part onto the center of a rice piece and close the dough around the bean paste. Repeat until all are made into balls.
4. Put sesame seeds onto a deep saucer, Lightly wet one ball and roll it to cover it with sesame seeds. Lightly roll to assure that the seeds stick. Repeat until all are coated with sesame seeds.
5. Heat oil until medium hot (about 300 degrees F) and fry five balls at a time until they are golden. Remove and drain on paper towels, and do the next batch, continuing until all are fried. Then serve.

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