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Chinese Pavillion

by: Elisa Vergne

San Francisco CA: Silverback Books Inc. 2003, Hardbound

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2004 Issue: 11(2) page(s): 17

Originally published as Palais Chinois with a Hachette Livre copyright of 2000, this English translation, one of the Café series, has seventy-eight easy to prepare recipes. Subtitled: Casual Chinese Cooking at Home, it is a cross between a paperback and a hardbound. The cover is somewhat soft and the binding rather substantial.

Five recipe chapters are meal categories from Soups & Salads to Stir-fried Wok Dishes. There is a thirteen-item glossary, a four-line paragraph called 'shopping tips' and a single-page three-column index of recipes and its equal partner, a page of recipes listed in chapter categories.

Besides the recipes, there are occasional pages of background information such as: Buddhist influences in China have been responsible for the birth of a delicious vegetarian cuisine, that dim sum are light steamed concoctions, and that Chinese cuisine uses lots of dried mushrooms, which are esteemed for their flavor and texture.

Recipes can be illustrated with photographic gem-ready-to-be-eaten pictures to others making the reader unsure why they are there. One example are the three pictures of mangosteens, never identified, never used. There they sit on pages with three recipes, not one of which has a single mangosteen in it.

One recipe did not work for us, perhaps an instruction is missing. It was a technique we have never encountered before. Called Peanut Buns, the dough is made then steamed for fifteen minutes, cooled a bit, then a piece is flattened and filled with processor-ground peanuts and sugar, then briefly baked–-no amount of time told.

Novices certainly would benefit from more guidance in that one. However, the Crab Egg Foo Young is a snap. It is easy to make and well worth the fifteen minutes needed, start to finish. In spite of several problems in the peanut buns and a few other recipes, we could not figure out, nor try some of the delicious-looking recipes. But the other ones tried were terrific. That said, take advice from the rear cover and: "Throw open the gates of a Chinese pavilion and discover thousand year old cuisine that combines fresh and lovely flavors."
Crab Egg Foo Yung
1/3 pound lump crabmeat, shells and cartilage removed
1/2 carrot cut into matchstick-size pieces
4 eggs
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon dry sherry
1 Tablespoon soy sauce (and we recommend thin soy sauce)
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 scallion, minced
1. Mix crabmeat, carrot, salt, pepper, cornstarch, and egg white and refrigerate for ten minutes.
2. Beat whole eggs with sugar, sherry, soy sauce, and one and one-half tablespoons of water, also the salt and pepper.
3. Heat the half-tablespoon oil and saute crabmeat for two minutes, then remove from the pan. Rinse and wipe the pan dry.
4. Heat the rest of the oil, pour in the beaten whole eggs and stir for one minute, then add crabmeat and cook and stir until just when the eggs have set, sprinkle with the minced scallion, and serve.

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