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Wok a Week, A

by: Elizabeth King, and Dean, Donna H. Chiu

San Francisco CA: China Books and Periodicals 1998, $17.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-8351-2630-7

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(3) page(s): 16 and 17

Subtitled: '52 Lite and Easy Meals,' this two hundred thirty-page volume lets you enjoy a year's worth of fast, flavorful meals. The recipes come in meal groupings so it can be difficult to browse for shrimp or tofu recipes, even harder if you want dim sum or vegetable dishes. But if you can not decide what goes with what, this book is for you. It is also for you, if you truly want to control total calories and the fat in your diet, ease the preparation, have step by step instructions, fewer calories without the gimmick of pint-sized portions, and rigorous attention to terrific taste.

T.C. Lai, a Hong Kong authority on Chinese food says that A Wok a Week effectively teaches what goes with what in Chinese Cooking and shows the reader/cook how to achieve results that make eating a celebration of life. How true. In it are so many wonderful low-fat recipes to choose from.

I particularly delighted in the Rice with Crabmeat and Mushrooms. Last spring I substituted broccoli for their recommended asparagus; another change I made that worked well was tripling the recipe in the Fall, at a buffet. It went well with the Green Bean and Water Chestnut Salad and the Tofu Salad with Pea Pods and Peppers. I also relished watching some lunch buddies put together Lettuce Wraps with Chicken and Mushrooms amazed that it was fun and that the yogurt in the dressing and mozzarella cheese inside the wrap could taste Chinese. I served these wraps with Sweet Sugar Snap Peas and folks dined and delighted. One guest called that recipe misnamed but magnificent. That was amazing as she almost did not taste them because she does not like sugar in her foods. She was amazed when told there was none, and that the snap peas also go by the name of sugar snaps and hence the recipe name.

Each menu in A Wok a Week addresses the calorie count and the number and percent of calories from fat. So does each individual recipe. All the combinations are under four hundred calories, some less than three hundred. Clearly, this is a book where it is possible to eat and lose weight. The recipes give preparation and cooking times, and they take very little time--in the half hour range. This makes them light-weights in the time category, too.

Many readers will enjoy the fact that there are no hard to find ingredients, no complicated wokking methods, and no instructions a child could not master. This East meets West seasonal book of meals offers beautifully balanced flavors. It is a real culinary treasure loaded with vibrant tastes and insightful tips about preparation and presentation.

Make the meals and relish the recipes; all are filled with Chinese flavor, all are simple, some sensational, and every one is healthy, too.
Tofu Salad with Peapods and Peppers
1/4 pound fresh peapods
1 large extra-firm tofu, about ten ounces
1/2 yellow or sweet red pepper, seeded, and cut into half inch pieces
2 Tablespoons diced scallions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
and the recipe for Tofu Salad Dressing below
1. Wash the pea pods, string if needed, snip off the tops, and cut them crosswise into half inch pieces.
2. Put them into two cups of boiling water for one minute, drain and set aside, reserving the water.
3. Cut the tofu into half-inch cubes, put them in, then immediately remove them from the water, drain very well, and set aside.
4. Mix well with the prepared dressing
Salad Dressing Ingredients:
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 Tablespoons oyster flavored sauce
2 Tablespoons cold water
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
Preparation: MIx all the ingredients for the dressing and serve immediately or chill to serve later.

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