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150 Recipes From the Teahouse

by: Lo, Vivienne and Lo, Jenny

London England: Faber and Faber 1997, $26.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-571-17797-2

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(1) page(s): 11 and 27

The authors' father was famous and from Fuzhou. In his twenties, Kenneth Lo settled in England. In the nineties, his daughters opened a teahouse in London called Jenny Lo's Teahouse. Jenny was the more culinary creative of the two, it was she who designed the dishes at the teahouse and the additional ones featured in this book. It was also Jenny who managed her father's cooking school and his store. She even had a hand in his restaurants.

Vivienne studied Chinese literature and language at Cambridge and London Universities; and she studied traditional Chinese acupuncture, too. In 1979, she opened The Traditional Acupuncture Centre, a large group practice in the center of London. It was inevitable that they come together, each doing their thing. Vivienne still works at the Center. She also helps with the tea shop. And lest you think she has free time, she does not, because she is working on her Ph.D. thesis on the history of Chinese medicine.

Kenneth Lo wrote more English-language cookbooks than anyone else. The Lo sisters' grandmother owned a teahouse in China. Thus things have come full circle. They heard lots about grandma's place and they visited it. They also visited other tea houses and many restaurants. They grew up visiting Daddy's world-famous 'Memories of China' restaurant and many of his other eateries. Who better to combine talents, write this book, and run the teahouse?

Their eatery provides comfort as does their book. Both concentrate on fresh vegetables, home-made stocks, raw salads, and lots of steamed foods. Vivienne knows what is good for you, Jenny makes it happen, and together they both produced an interesting book worthy of your attention.

The first twenty pages in their book tout family history, tea houses, essential Chinese ingredients, basic cooking techniques, and simple stock-making. These are followed by six chapters about Northern, Sichuan, Southern, Therapeutic, Japanese, and Jenny Lo Teahouse recipes. They are followed by an essential larder, useful addresses in England, and items for further reading. There is not a Kenneth Lo book amongst them which is a shame; tables for conversion to US measures which are hardly necessary as every recipe lists both UK and US amounts, fourteen pages introducing Chinese medical terminology that are done well, and a very useful index.

Each recipe chapter has many pages about the region and the foods, a few eateries and tea houses to be found, and some things about the people there. They alone are wonderful reading. The recipes are as varied as the authors, each wonderful on its own merits.

On the rear cover, the book touts Long Cooked Pork with Chestnuts and Black Bean Seafood Tossed with Fresh Egg Noodles. I suggest that you try them if you like, but surely try their Weird Flavour Chicken below. That recipe is piquant and with many different tastes. Also indulge in Duck Soup, the best I have ever tasted. The book says duck supports lungs and kidneys and is a savory way to start a winter banquet. Bet it is good in every season.

I loved the Crispy Onion Patties, correctly called a Muslim dish. I ate these wonderful snack foods several times in Xian. The large Muslim population in that city made them very well and with sheep fat. The book's recipe says use butter, lard, or ghee; I say use the last two and forget butter. The White Radish Fritters are best fried with vegetable oil, their choice and mine, too.

The Jenny Lo Teahouse recipes are especially good. Try the Hair Vegetable and Bean Curd Skins, the Chili Beef Soup with River Noodles, and the Long-Cooked Belly of Pork with Chestnuts. Every one of these is a winner, as is the book. it is a wonderful tribute to their differences and to their famous father. The Lo tradition does continue!
Weird Flavor Chicken
1 pound cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 kirby cucumber, seeded, cut in half and cut into one inch lengths
1 Tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper, ground or pounded with end of the handle of a cleaver
1 slice ginger, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon sesame paste or tahini
2 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon chili sauce
4 teaspoons vinegar
4 teaspoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro is optional
1. Mix chicken and cucumber and put on a serving plate.
2. Oil blanch the sesame seeds and Sichuan pepper by putting into hot fat and immediately removing them. Grind when cool.
3. Mix sesame mixture with everything else but the garnish and pour over the chicken-cucumber mix. Then garnish and serve after mixing all at the table just before serving.

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