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Life is Short...Cooking is Fun

by: Joseph K.K. Poon

Philadelphi PA: Joseph Poon, Inc. 2005, $19.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-9765596-0-9

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2005 Issue: 12(4) page(s): 19

Vegetable sculpture, recipes, and cultural information inspire. This book is by an enthusiastic teacher, chef, and restauranteur. Unfortunately by the time you read this, the last item will be no more because Poon lost his lease in late fall. Do not despair, he will resurface one way or another. This book is valuable; it touts what he calls: One second sculpture, five second cooking, and ten second philosophy.

Chef Poon was trained in international cuisine and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He was owner of the Joseph Poon Asian Fusion Restaurant in Philadelphia for years. He still teaches a few cooking classes, leads trips to China, and donates considerable time and talent to a plethora of philanthropic events.

The K.K. stands for Kwok and Keung, words meaning country and strong; they describe Poon well. He was born in Hong Kong and some thirty-plus years ago came to this, his adopted country. His strength, he advises, comes from the many failures endured and lots of hard work along the way. All these and more are detailed in the first dozen pages. After them, on to sculpture, cooking, and caring as readers learn about his native culture.

The sculpture section has lessons about carving and humanity Poon's way. The cookery part begins by teaching about seven dishes using one chicken, and how to bone the bird to enable that. Later comes Poon's way to turn one lobster into five different dishes, one Peking Duck into three courses, and others.

Many of the recipes are genius, their English is less so. The appetizers near the end of the book are fusion and fantastic. The tour through his city's Chinese arches, an herbal emporium, practicing calligraphy, seeking out an Asian grocery, baker, and vegetable market, a Chinese Buddhist temple, and a fortune cookie factory are less so.

The landlord's son takes over the lease and Poon must say bye-bye. That makes this book more valuable, as it shares the author's energy and ideas. Use it to taste his treats. His Life is Short...Cooking is Fun has fine humor and finer food. He is infectious, his food fabulous!
Stir-fried Fresh Mango with White Meat Chicken
6 ounces chicken breast meat, sliced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/3 teaspoon salt
dash of ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 Tablespoons sherry
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced shallot
4 snow peas, strings removed
1 stalk celery, cut in four then in thin long strips
1/2 yellow squash, cut in thin strips
1/2 zucchini, cut in thin strips
1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with two tablespoons cold water
1. Marinate chicken pieces in chicken broth, salt, pepper, cornstarch powder, baking powder, and sesame oil for ten minutes.
2. Heat vegetable oil and stir-fry the minced garlic, ginger, shallots, sherry, and all the vegetables for one minute. Then add cornstarch and water mixture, reduce the heat and stir for one minute. Then serve.

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