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Stir-fry to Szechuan--100 Classic Chinese Recipes

by: by the editors of Weight Watchers International

New York NY: Macmillan 1997, $17.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-02-86178-5

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(2) page(s): 21

This Weight Watchers book features their new '1-2-3 Success' weight loss plan, the one that gives each serving a point value. Was told it was an entry in the Julia Chld cookbook awards Health and Special Diet category, know not why.

Problem One: there is no explanation about what these points mean, nor are there explanations for many things from ingredients to information.

Problem Two: No one was hired to act as a Chinese food consultant; were there one, then several inexcusable technical errors would not exist such as that the Hot and Sour Soup gets its kick from hot red pepper sauce and black pepper. In a traditional soup of this name, the sour is vinegar and the hot is ground white pepper. Checking twenty-five Chinese cookbooks at random, seventeen had a recipe for this soup and none used red hot pepper sauce, nor did any use black pepper; all did use ground white pepper for the 'hot.'

Problem Three: A double A for attitude and accuracy. In the simpleton page called 'Beyond Basic White: A Rice Primer,' the book says "long grain white rice gets boring fast," and it goes on to categorize four other rice possibilities: Brown rice, Short grain or sticky rice, Sweet or glutinous rice, and Jasmine or Basmati rice. Most sources use the terms sticky, sweet, and glutinous interchangeably, and Gournet Atlas, another of Macmillan's cookery volumes, copyright 1997, on page 51 says, "sticky or glutinous rices are popular throughout the Far East..." and it goes on to correctly advise that "dishes and cooking styles vary." However, what is regional about "watch out for red-cooked dishes" or "fried items or nuts can turn a healthful dish into a fat trap?"

The book points out that stir-fried food is a term to look for as a calorie bargain. Then one of the "Seven Tip for Eating in Chinese Restaurants" says to "save yourself a lot of unwanted oil, calories and cornstarch...ask for your food to be served plain, with sauce on the side." Have the editors seen stir-fried food prepared? I doubt it. Do they know real Chinese food; doubt that, too. Why ground ginger in some recipes? And, what is successful about ketchup in others when one-third of this condiment is sugar? In the accuracy column, can five steamed vegetable dumplings be sixty-five calories? That is thirteen calories each and is, I believe, a rather deflated number.

My thought, no success for this book. Instead, direct your attention, as should the Julia Child Awards Committee, to good Chinese cookbooks.

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