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Woking on the Healthy Side

by: edited by: Liu, Christine; Woo, Judy; Wing, Rhoda; Chien, Sandra; and Laung, Yin Yan

Oakland CA: Asian Health Services 1992, $18.00, Hardbound
ISBN: None

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(3) page(s): 16

Here is a bilingual (Chinese and English) community collection of delicious and healthy Chinese recipes. The tasty recipes are the result of a 'Gift of Health,' a Heart Healthy Chinese Cooking Contest judged by Martin Yan who is the host of the Yan Can Cook program, author of many books, and more. The winners together with some favorite local recipes are compiled into this community cookbook, which to my knowledge, is only available from Asian Health Services at 818 Webster Street in Oakland CA 94607-4220.

Before getting to them, there is lots to read about the publisher, about health messages, sodium content, seasonings and sauces, information on body weight, fats and oils, principals of Chinese cooking, common utensils, and twenty-seven food items, all condiments, sauces, and spices, and dry ingredients.

The recipes include 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners in each category of: Appetizers; Salads; Soups; Main dishes of beef and pork, fish and seafood, poultry, and vegetables; and Dessert. Each contributor's name appears in the English version and in the Chinese translation. Many are special, all are creative, some are classic renditions, others new with Western twists. All give calorie, fat, cholesterol, and sodium amounts per serving.

In the Appetizers/Salads category, the first place winner is the most Western in the entire book. It is a Lobster Salad made with Miracle Whip and sweetened with condensed milk, and served with head lettuce. Vegetarian Rice Rolls and Tommy's Potstickers, 2nd and 3rd respectively, make few, if any such concessions.

Only in the Dessert section do other winners bow to the West. Magnificent Meringues and Honeydew Melon Tapioca Pearls tilt in that direction while Sweet Taro Balls are firmly planted in the Chinese tradition. Almost all other recipes, no matter the section, bear strong Chinese roots with some modifications for health reasons.

One I consider a winner, they did too, is Chicken Custard with Mushrooms and Water Chestnuts. It took first place in the Main Dish Category. Others that did not win an award but did win my heart include: A piquant Szechuan Beancurd, a delicious Apple Soup, a flavorful Dried Scallop with Chicken in Rice, a terrific and easy Fried Minced Squab, a wonderful Mix Vegetables in Lettuce Wrap, and a mildly sweet cool Vinegar Cabbage. I would be remiss if I did not include the Pipa Tofu--great steamed fish, tofu, pork and shrimp--and the easiest Portuguese Style Chicken this side of Macau.

There are many others in this eighty-two recipe community collection worth mentioning, two of them include the luscious Lotus Root Soup and the simple misnamed marinated fresh squid recipe called Stir Fried Squid with Mixed Vegetables. Misnamed because the only vegetables in it are half a small celery stalk, the half a medium carrot, and one scallion. There is, in the vegetable department, however, a Snow Pea Royale--fit for any king or queen. It comes loaded with flank steak, wood ear and golden needle mushrooms, bamboo shoots, celery, onion and snow peas, and eating this royal dish is pleasure, indeed.

There are not very many Chinese community cookbooks of collected/contributed recipes. This healthy addition provides delicious valuable recipes, a welcome rarity in this Chinese cookbook genre; and the sale of copies advances the Asian Health Services Hypertension Control Program. The nutrition consultants Christiana Liu, Judy Woo, and Sandra Chien did a service for all who love Chinese food and want to do their own Woking on the Healthy Side.
Vegetarian Rice Rolls
2 sheets rice paper (about twelve inches square)
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon margarine
10 medium button mushrooms, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon margarine
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped peanuts
parsley for decor (optional)
1. Cut rice paper into quarters and set aside.
2. Heat the margarine, fry mushrooms lightly. Add the sesame oil, salt, and the eggs and fry lightly making a flat pancake; do not over cook them, they should be soft. Slice the omelet into one by six inch strips.
3. Take one rice sheet, put egg piece on top and roll, sushi style.
4. Take other margarine and stir-fry celery about a minute then add tomatoes and sesame oil and fry another minute, then add all but the parsley and bring to the boil then remove from the heat and pour over the rice rolls and serve. Garnish with peanuts; add parsley, if desired.

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