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New World Chinese Cooking

by: Bill and Wong, Stephen Jones

Toronto Canada: Robert Rose, Inc. 1998, $17.95, Paperback
ISBN: 1-896503-70-5

Reviewed by: Jo Marie Powers
Summer Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(2) page(s): 19 and 20

The Chinese have been changing the cuisine of the predominantly English community in Vancouver since they began arriving in the 1850's. Recently, I came across a Vancouver cookbook printed circa 1910 with a chapter on Chinese cookery. There was, as expected, a recipe for the 'Celebrated Chinese Chop Suey' but it was not one most would recognize. It called for chicken livers and gizzards, 'clean' pork, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, canned mushrooms, olive oil, ginger root, vinegar, celery, bean sprouts, asparagus, and French green peas, all seasoned with a dash of cloves, cinnamon, and 'see you' sauce. An interesting fusion indeed! Does anyone know what 'see yu' sauce is? Although the logical conclusion is that it is soy sauce, the book lists 'soy sauce' in several other places.

In Bill Jones' and Stephen Wong's newest cookbook, New World Chinese Cooking, the world has come a long way from that illustrious Chop Suey. Chinese cooking in North America has changed from peasant to haute cuisine because of changing immigration patterns. About one hundred fifty years ago, uneducated and poor Chinese workers, most from the Cantonese countryside, were brought into Canada to work on the railroads. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of wealthy, educated, and urban Chinese are migrating to Canada.

Simple soups, dumplings, steamed and stir-fried dishes have been elaborated upon or replaced by a sophisticated Chinese cuisine open to, actually demanding, creativity among chefs who also immigrated from China to Canada. This, Bill Jones and Stephen Wong newest book, is a reflection of this new cuisine See Flavor and Fortune's Volume 4(3) on page 14 for a review of their earlier cookbook called New World Noodles.

My little 1910 cookbook said: "Vegetables — In this department of kitchen lore, the Chinese excel all other peoples." In those days vegetables were assigned a long, slow death by boiling; it was a novel idea to steam or stir-fry them quickly in the Chinese fashion. In the older book, asparagus, for example, could be stir-fried or put into Chop Suey. In contrast, Jones and Wong have uplifted asparagus to a heavenly level. They suggest broiling asparagus brushed with sesame oil, and saucing it with a beurre blanc made with lemon juice, honey, soy sauce and butter. They also puree some into Asparagus Ginger Sesame Cream Soup, or stir-fry the asparagus with garlic, shallots and toasted chili oil. Then as now, asparagus, a well-loved vegetable in Chinese-Vancouver cookery, has so many appealing possibilities in this newest book by Jones and Wong.

As with their first joint effort titled New World Noodles published by Robert Rose in Toronto in 1997, New World Chinese Cooking is a treasure trove of recipes that ask to be tried. Rice Paper-Wrapped Salmon in Herbs with Balsamic Dressing is elegant and easy to prepare. Easily softened in hot water, rice paper is wrapped around the salmon sealing in the juices, allowing the cook to smear the salmon with sauces that can not escape when the fish is pan-fried in a little oil. This clever technique can be used with different fish; it should work with many meats, too.

My older edition says that "any description of Chinese cookery omitting the treatment of rice would be a serious error." It goes on to describe how to cook plain boiled rice. I would assume that rice might have been a new ingredient in Vancouver cookery because the author says that if you burn it, add a lump of charcoal to remove the scorched taste. Jones and Wong include an entire section of rice-partner recipes. Their easy-to-make Steamed Rice with Coconut and Lemon teams up nicely with spicy dishes, and their tasty Fried Rice with Anchovies and Cilantro combines well with Chinese dishes. Their desserts are lovely. For example, they create a crumble with Pears in Carmelized Honey baked with an almond-flavored sesame-seed-oatmeal topping. Candied ginger, a favorite spice used by nearly all Canadians for more than a hundred years, is added to strawberries, sweetened with maple syrup, and made into a parfait with vanilla ice cream. Not surprisingly, the beginning of the century cookbook had no Chinese desserts. My conclusion after reviewing both books is that there is fusion and there is fusion! The earlier book's recipes do work, are still tasty, and I am sure, were adventuresome in those days, but simplistic. From a purely hedonistic point of view, I am glad we have Jones and Wong joining forces to create what I will call 'Chinese Canadian nirvana.'

A scallop recipe from each book illustrates differences, both rewritten in the Flavor and Fortune standard format. In the older book, the recipe's ingredients and instructions are one paragraph and the main ingredient, the scallops, have no amount provided; that has been edited in this recipe; and both of them appear below.
Jo Marie Powers, author, editor, and Adjunct Professor at the School of Hotel and Food Administration at the University of Guelph, recently edited From Cathay To Canada: Chinese Cuisine in Transition. Published by the Ontario Historical Society, they can be reached at: (416) 229-9011 for price and mailing costs for this edited volume.
Breaded Scallop Skewers with Black Bean Sauce
4 wood skewers
16 large scallops
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tablespoons black bean sauce
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with two tablespoons cold water
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1. Thread four scallops on each skewer.
2. In a shallow dish, whisk together egg and milk. Season scallops with salt and pepper, roll them in flour, then in egg mixture, and finally in bread crumbs, ensuring the scallops are well-covered, then shake off excess bread crumbs.
3. In a small saucepan, make a auce combining chicken stock, black bean sauce, and the ginger. Bring to the boil, add cornstarch mixture and stir until it begins to thicken. Set aside until the scallops are ready.
4. In a non-stick pan, heat butter and oil over high heat until the butter begins to foam. Add skewers and reduce the heat to medium high. Cook until scallops are golden brown, about three minutes per side.
5. Pour warm sauce on a plate and lay the skewers on top. Serve immediately.
Scallops and Eggs
1 teaspoon lard or oil
1 onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons lard
4 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pound scallops
1. Scald the scallops for five minutes.
2. Tear them apart with two forks.
3. Heat lard in a wok or fry pan, fry the onions, then add the eggs and the seasoning, and when cooked to your liking, serve them immediately.

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