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Stir-frying to the Sky's Edge

by: Grace Young

New York NY: Simon & Schuster 2010, $35.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-1-4165-8057-7

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2010 Issue: 17(4) page(s): 23

Subtitled: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories, this author traveled widely to collect them and learn different ways and different tastes when stir-frying Chinese food. She and we give thanks to her culinary scholarship and to the help she received from the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. We are all richer, maybe a mite wider, as well.

The book has more than one hundred recipes in meat, poultry, egg, fish and shellfish, vegetables, tofu, rice, and noodle categories. They are yummy and you-guessed-it, easy to make. For those that try them, they teach many different stir-fry techniques and quite a few new married tastes. Before and throughout, one learns many different ways, types of equipment, wonderful culinary marriages and mixtures, and so much more.

This book is enhanced with color photographs of most completed dishes and so muny others taken by Steven Mark Needham. Before each chapter are several pages tinted light green, many with black and white pictures showing how to hold one's hands when cutting ingredients, other techniques, too.

Every chapter begins with several pages about its food category and how to stir-fry its foods. Every recipe has a detailed paragraph about it and its preparation, several show the person whose recipe it is as they tell about their stir-frying technique or unusual mix of ingredients. They are interspersed with sidebars and culinary lessons from folks in Trinidad, Holland, Germany, Canada, Peru, Jamaica, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Macao, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Libya, and even America's Mississippi Delta.

Also interspersed, are items such as a look at Edward Hopper's oil on canvas called Chop Suey and a traditional Asian clay brazier holding a wok, the cover of a La Choy Chinese recipe brochure, and other tidbits; all do fascinate. They and the volume's tales and treats do that and more; and they send readers to their woks. We particularly like the Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken, the Spicy Dry-Fried Beef, the Velvet Orange Scallops, the Stir-Fried Yau Choi with Oyster Sauce, also the Stir-fried Fuzzy Melon and Ginger Pork. In addition, we were fascinated with Ms. Wong's unorthodox Stir-Fried Bagels with Cabbage and Bacon, thanks to Lejen Chen, and we suggest you enjoy them, as we did!
Stir-fired Bagel with Cabbage and Bacon
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar (we used Chinese black vinegar)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 dried red chili pepper, snipped at one end
2 slices fresh ginger, smashed
1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
5 slices bacon, cut cross-wise into half-inch cubes
1 Tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
6 cups cubed green cabbage (about a pound)
2 large plain bagels, cut into half-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Combine soy sauce and vinegar in a small bowl.
2. Heat 14-inch flat bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporized in one to two seconds, then swirl in the oil, and add the chili, ginger, and peppercorns, and stir-fry ten seconds or until aromatic, then add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium, and stir-fry three minutes or until the bacon is slightly crispy on its edges; and then add the garlic and stir-fry for ten seconds until just fragrant.
3. Add the cabbage leaves and stir until they wilt, then swirl in the soy sauce mixture and the bagel cubes and stir-fry for one minute or until well-combined.
4. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low and cook one minute or until the bagel cubes have softened. Then uncover, sprinkle on the salt, and stir-fry just until well-combined, then serve.

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