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New Classic Chinese Cookbook, The

by: Mai Leung

Tulsa OK: Council Oaks Publishing 1998, $26.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 1-57187-052-1

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(4) page(s): 15

It is a pleasure to welcome this new edition of a beloved 1976 book that has had six editions these past eighteen years. This newest edition embraces wider and fresher availability of ingredients and newer kitchen equipment, and it pays attention to some wishes from our current health conscious society. Do not despair about the changes, it still has the many classic recipes in the earlier edition that were so wonderful.

One need not fret, Dong Po Pork, Crisp Lemon Chicken, Lotus Leaf Rice, and Beef in Oyster Sauce are still there. So is one a favorite from another of her books, The Chinese People's Cookbook(Harper and Row, 1979). Street-Stall Beef Tripe is there though renamed as Spicy Beef Tripe. I am delighted to see this and many other recipes incorporated from that second book. Years ago, I advised an English editor, Jill Norman, she should combine the best of both books into one. This book does that and adds current classics.

It also adds current culinary-health wisdom such as steaming not deep-frying long-beans by updating the earlier recipe, String Beans with Garlic, in this New Classic Chinese Cookbook. There is much to enjoy in the revised recipes, no flavor lost. We have gained additional recipes for tofu and vegetables, the use of more readily available spinach, Shanghai bok choy, Chinese chives, and more; and a better index to find them, too.

The sauces and dips in the earlier edition were among the first and the best; they are still there for your enjoyment. The cooking ingredient list still has the same wonderful information presented simply and in a very usable manner. The recipes are still wonderful and the black and white line-drawings clear. All of these and Ms. Leung's instructions are still letter perfect.

One can read, cook, then taste Fried Sweetbreads in Sweet Wine Sauce, Sliced Leg of Lamb Hunan Style, or Yangchow Fried Rice. One can devour Stuffed Peppers with Black Bean Sauce or Stir-Fried Tofu and Assorted Vegetables in Oyster Sauce. One can enjoy the newly renamed and better written Chinese New Year-Eight Jewel Rice Pudding in Grand Marnier Sauce that before was just called Eight-Jewel Rice Pudding. There is so much to enjoy.

The prose is clear, the directions even more so in its more than 200 recipes. If you do not already own the original, just rush out to buy this very new updated edition. If you do, indulge yourself, this one is updated, better, and with an added chapter about and how to make dim sum. The recipes are the best-loved dishes from Beijing, Sichuan, Guangzhou, and other regions. Many come with a paragraph discussing their regionality or their special ingredients. The stories about them are fascinating, some history sneaks in, and page after page one delights and is guided through wonderful recipes in this venerable cuisine.
Broiled Tuna with Tofu in Soy-mustard-dill Sauce
1 pound tuna, cut in one-inch cubes
1 recipe sauce mixture (below)
1 pound fresh firm tofu, cut in 1/3 inch slices
1/2 cup canned clear chicken broth
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
1 and a 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup scallions, minced
3 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon black soy sauce
3 Tablespoons red or cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1. Combine tuna with half the sauce mixture and cover and marinate in the refrigerator for two or more hours; then drain the tuna and reserve the marinade.
2. Put tuna on broiler pan and broil, turning it once, four minutes per side; then set it aside.
3. Put the rest of the ingredients but not the cornstarch, tofu, and the red peppers into a pot and simmer over low heat for five minutes.
4. Mix cornstarch with three tablespoons water, stir then add this and the peper strips to the sauce and cook until clear and thickened. Put the prepared tuna into the sauce, heat through and serve.

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