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Helen Chen's Chinese Home Cooking

by: Helen Chen

New York NY: Hearst Books 1994, $25.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-688-12756-8

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 1994 Issue: 1(1) pages: 14 to 15

Helen Chen learned to cook as do many women, at her mom's side, her famous culinary mom, Joyce Chen. Her mom's Shanghai taste and Beijing sophistication prevail and permeate the recipes, many from her mom's famous restaurant. Happily, one can easily make them at home.

Helen dominates the family business, designs Chinese cookery equipment, and cooks and writes well. This, her first large hardbound, has delectable recipes. They follw a glossary with names always in Chinese characters. The English transliterations indicate the dialect, sometimes Mandarin and Cantonese, sometimes just Mandarin, and sometimes Mandarin and Japanese. Next comes equipment, cutting and cooking suggestions are detailed.

The strength of the book is in the 150 or so recipes that include old favorites such as: Chinese Steamed Bread, Beef with Broccoli, Lion's Head, Lamb with Scallions and Bamboo Shoots, and Lemon Chicken and newer delights of Steamed Salmon with Black Beans, Turkey Wontons, and Ginger-Glazed Carrots and Parsnips.

Each recipe begins with the Chinese ideograph cleverly watermarked under the English name and some culinary or family suggestions and information. Several lovely desserts end the collection including a simple Emperor's Nectar cool soup-dessert and scrumptious Poached Pears in Spiced Ginger Sauce.

To easily plan and make a simple but wonderful Chinese meal at home, do as I did and include one of her new Sichuan salad suggestions: Chicken with Cashew Nuts (p. 167), Shanghai Golden Fried Rice (p. 96), Sliced Cucumbers with Spicy Peanut Dressing (p. 282), and the Lychees with Sweet Ginger Sauce (p. 336). It was a delightful meal.

In addition to the salads, there are a potpourri of 'Small Eats' and 'Table Dips' to enhance a meal of recipes from what Helen calls 'home kitchen real Chinese food' selections.

For those with troubles mixing and matching, there are four suggested menus, two each for four or six persons. One of the latter follows; it is called Helen Chen's suggested Home-style meal:

Crab and Asparagus Soup
Mushrooms with Bean Curd
Sweet and Sour Shrimp
Spicy Beef with Carrots and Celery
Red-mouthed Green Parrot
along with Rice and Tea
and Fresh Orange Wedges

Note: This review, in the hard copy, appeared in: Newman's News of Things both Printed and Pictured column.

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