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Modern Asian Flavors: A Taste of Shanghai

by: Richard Wong

San Francisco CA: Chronicle Books 2005, $18.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-8118-5110-9

Reviewed by: Jcqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 2008 Issue: 15(1) page(s): 19 and 20

Updated family recipes cherished as a boy introduces readers to Shanghai cuisine today. The author is founder/owner of Chinablue, a modern sauce, dressing, glaze, and oil company. The mouth-watering color photographs by Noel Barnhurst make it easy to enjoy his updated tastes.

Appropriately, the first section includes recipes for a half dozen sauces; they can enhance many of the recipes in the book you can make at home, there are others for cocktails and appetizers, soups and salads, poultry and meat, fish and shellfish, vegetables, rice, and noodle dishes, and desserts. A few family pictures provide a look at Wong’s early life, all are black and white, and all provide good contrast to Barnhust’s tasty color photographs of delicious dishes.

Try the Tea Eggs, Mushroom Tapanade, Sliced Steak and Mushroom Stir-fry, and Black Bean-grilled Flank Steak. They get over-the-top-tastes from Sauteed Sweet Pea Shoots made with rendered chicken fat, and Peach Wonton Crisps made in mini-muffin tin, their wonton skins (called sheets) are brushed with butter and baked three minutes to become very crisp.

The Sweet Anise Custard is made with soy milk, cider vinegar, star anise, ginger juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and eggs. This new twist on an old favorite speaks to the author’s creativity. All recipes are titled in small letters but provide large tastes. We loved the Strawberry-lemon Tapioca, a dish my husband thinks is too lady-like. But he does like the Tangy Ginger Crab, and a drink titled Lychee-tini. Loaded with vodka, this non-dessert use of a canned fruit (featured in this issue), is one manly Chinese beverage guests can imbibe in while his appetizers.
Mushroom Tapenade I
1/3 cup vegetable oil
12 ounces assorted mushrooms, finely chopped (we used half Chinese black forest ones and half Chinese straw mushrooms
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sesame oil
24 saltine crackers or squares of toasted bread
1. Heat oil in wok or saucepan, add mushrooms and stir well. Before adding soy sauce and sesame oil, coo until the mushrooms are dark and glossy and have given up much of their liquid (about ten minutes)
2. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with crackers or toast points, and a Lychee-tini or another of alcoholic beverage.

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