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Chinese Cuisine Along the Grand Canal (by Irving B. Chang)

by: Irving Chang

Create Space Independent Publishing Platform 2015, $38.99, Spiralbound
ISBN: 978-991266265

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2015 Issue: 22(4) page(s): 20

Irving Chang learned to cook from his American mother and the Chinese family cook, Chef Peng. Now in his late nineties he still cooks delicious food and recalls many of his travels and tasting experiences along the Grand Canal. They provide a rare glimpse of the vital links and colorful locales he visited along its many waterways.

In this book, he shares some of these experiences and tells personal stories about its north-south routes. Some of them taken during the war with Japan when food was scarce and there was a need to move about a lot to stay safe. One simple food tale he tells is about making peanut butter with a stone mill to provide the family with needed protein. There are others during the war years and afterwards when he needed to be inventive.

In later years, he and his late wife Wonona traveled there again, and to other places in China, India, and other Asian countries for Allied Chemical Corporation for whom he worked. He taught the use of their products, about the regions visited, and about their foods. In this book, he shares them and the tastes of foods along the Grand Canal, city by city. It was an important waterway, one of the only ways to go north and south, as China’s main rivers go east-west.

The recipes Chang shares in this volume are from his and Wonona’s files. Together, they published three other cookbooks including those titled: An Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking published in 1977; The Northern Chinese Cookbook including Specialties from Peking, Shanghai, and Szechuan in 1973; and Chinese Desserts, Dim Sum, and Snack Cookbook published in 1994. This most recent volume is a gem. It has traditions of old China and the China of today touting the cities of Hangzhou, Jiaxing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, Zhenjiang, Nanjing,Yangzhou, Huai An, Pizhou Xuzhou, Xuzhou, Dezhou, Tianjin, and Beijing. The dishes he shares are delicious, many are unique to this region and to the cited cities around this Canal.

Irving and his late wife were co-founders of this magazine with its editor and others. They taught many of us about foods of the region along the Grand Canal, all recipes interesting, varied, tasty and terrific. They make this volume unique; one rare citing foods from so many places, one by one. There is more than one recipe tasted and tested from every city touted.

Rare is the Chinese cookbook with such locally specific food specialties. Some are very special, indeed. We are enjoying them all, and cooking our way through this book. So far we have have done three or more from every location, and we challenge you to do likewise.
Lamb in Beer Sauce
1 pound boneless lamb, sliced thin, then cut into 1 and a 1/2 by one inch pieces
1 scallions, chopped
5 slices fresh ginger
2 large carrots, peeled and roll-cut
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
12 ounces lager beer or dark ale
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 Tablespoon Shao Xing wine
1 and 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
1 cup meat stock
1 teaspoon bean paste (chu bean preferred)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with two Tablespoons cold water
1. In boiling water, add scallions, 2 slices of the ginger, and the lamb, and blanch the meat for half minute, then remove it with a slotted spoon, and discard the water, scallions, and the ginger.
2. In a wok or large fry pan, add the oil and the peppercorns and cook until they turn dark, then remove and discard them. Reserve the oil.
3. To the oil, add the lamb and stir-fry for one minute, then drain it in a paper-towel-lined colander.
4. Add the beer, garlic, wine, sugar, chicken bouillon, meat stock, and the bean paste, and simmer for five minutes, then return the lamb and cook it for twenty minutes or until tender. Then add the carrots and salt and simmer for ten more minutes.
5. Add the cornstarch-water mixture and stir until it thickens. Serve this hot, the carrots set on a platter around the meat.

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