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Breath of a Wok, The

by: Young, Grace and Richardson, Alan

New York NY: Simon and Schuster 2004, $35.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-7432-3827-3

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2004 Issue: 11(4) page(s): 23

(Missing Picture: http://www.flavorandfortune.com/pix/f11-4-pictures/F11-4-graceYoungBook.jpg) Wok hay is the taste foods gets when properly stir-fried in this indispensable Chinese cookery pot called the wok or guo. One can almost taste it reading this volume, be it in the recipes or the accompanying lore. Woks in proper use sizzle and sing. Any person near one in use should sigh with pleasure. You will sigh with your own as you read Young's weaving of wok stories with winning recipes. Furthermore, you will know the real meaning of this Chinese expression.

Turn the pages and appreciate Richardson's exquisite photography. One's mind eats from them, they are simply gorgeous. Read Young’s carefully selected words and understand selection, seasoning, and care of a wok, and how to stir-fry in any one of the many she describes. The recipes we tried were delicious, every one carefully written and easy to follow. The short paragraph before each of them shares origin and information, reading and making them is your tasty treasure.

David Camacho's Stir-fried Shiitake Mushrooms is simple, its results sensual and sensational. Chiu Chow-style Pork Spring Moon is easy, healthy, and makes consumers happy when they enjoy this great pork, mung bean, egg, and cellophane noodle nest. Henry Hugh's Chinkiang Pork Chops use three tablespoons of vinegar from that region of China and though it adds ketchup, A-1 sauce, and Tabasco, the end result surprisingly is Chinese A-OK. Stir-fried Chicken and Shallots cook quickly and sweetly, and use of boneless thigh meat makes this dish succulent and savory.

Learn to make Young's Homemade Chicken Broth and keep some on hand in the freezer; it enhances every dish that calls for it. She recommends discarding the chicken and ginger, something we never do. Try the left-over dark meat in dishes such as Amy Tan’s Family’s Jiaozi instead of the cup of ground pork needed. It is almost as good. Not scotch when it comes to food, my family would eat the chicken cold with red horseradish or green wasabi, I would recommend Young's Jin Do Tangy Ginger Sauce recipe. I would also, should there still be leftovers, put them into a bowl of her soup and add lots of vegetables such as chopped gai lan.

The one hundred plus recipes Young included are delectable. Her family ‘wok-a-thon’ an item of genius, to be emulated. Cooking with all senses, as Ms Young recommends, is a must for all who delight in using their wok. If you are not one of them, follow her advise, buy one, and try every single recipe; that will be its own education. Meals and merriment will be your reward!
Young's Yin Yang Rice Shang Palace Style
1 Tablespoon dried pitted wolfberries
3 Tablespoons corn oil
8 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 cups cold cooked black rice
1/4 cup minced scallions, green part only
1/4 cup minced scallions, white part only
2 cups cold cooked long-grain white rice
1/3 cup minced celery
1 large egg white, beaten
4 ounces lump crabmeat, cartilage removed
1. Put wolfberries in bowl, cover with cold water, and set aside for five minutes, then drain.
2. Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water sizzles and vaporizes almost immediately then swirl in one tablespoon of the oil and add the mushrooms. Stir-fry for half minute then add the broth and cook for another half minute.
3. Stir in one-quarter teaspoon of the salt and half the pepper, then transfer this to a plate. Then wash and dry the wok.
4. Reheat the wok as done before, then add one tablespoon of the oil and the black rice. Stir-fry one minute breaking up the rice. Then add scallion greens, half the mushrooms, the wolfberries, and half teaspoon of the salt. Fry one minute and then transfer to a plate. Wash and dry the wok.
5.Reheat the wok as before, then add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and then the white rice and the celery breaking up the rice. Stir-fry for one to two minutes until the rice is heated through before adding egg white, crab meat, the white part of the scallions, and the remaining mushrooms, half teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Stir-fry just fifteen seconds. Remove from the heat and continue stirring for another half minute.
6. Put white rice mixture on one side of a platter, black rice mixture on the other side, and take one tablespoon of each rice mixture and ut it on top of the other rice side, then serve.

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