Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites From Dim Sum to Kung Pao.
I am always excited to try new recipes and learn new techniques. That’s why it must have been fate when it came my turn to review the cookbook, Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites From Dim Sum to Kung Pao. Note: Little known facts about myself; I grew up in San Francisco where the local Chinatown is the oldest in North America. Also, growing up in a Chinese family, I am no stranger to eating and cooking Chinese food.
One of the first things I do with a new cookbook is thumb through the pages to get the feel for the layout. Low’s book has great photos of the dishes and photos showing tips/techniques; I wouldn’t expect anything less from a world-renowned blogger. A few more likes, especially appreciated in ethnic cookbooks, are the chapters containing cooking tips and techniques; description of equipment and utensils; and, more importantly, a description of ingredients with photo’s of the common brands of bottled and jarred sauces/condiments. I may not be able to read Chinese, but I’m pretty good at matching pictures.
I had a difficult time trying to decided what I wanted to cook. I ended up choosing recipes that were not readily available in restaurants and recipes that remind me of my childhood.
I know cooking steamed rice is a basic skill, but what caught my eye with Low’s recipe is the 1 to 1 ratio of water to rice. Typically, most recipes call for 1 ½ Cups of water (or 2 Cups water) to 1 Cup of rice. While I was thinking about the water ratio, it brought back the memory of my grandmother explaining to us youngsters that some people like their rice firm while others like their rice softer. This was achieved by changing the amount of water. The rice turned out like a typical bowl of rice with no undercooked grains of rice.
Sichuan String Beans
Deep fried string beans with seasoned pork and dried chilies. Not a bad dish. The string beans didn’t absorb the flavors of the rest of the ingredients as much as I hoped so the string beans were a little bland.
Crispy Roast Pork
Roasted pork belly with a crispy, crackling skin and flavorful meat in one of my favorites. Outside of large Asian communities, roasted pork is a difficult dish to find. The recipe provided turned out great! The meat was flavorful and moist which contrasted with the crunch of the skin. The recipe did call for poking the skin with toothpick or a bamboo skewer which didn’t work. The skewers ended up breaking so I used a paring knife to pierce the skin.
Sweet Pork Buns
Little steamed bun sandwiches filled with crispy pork dressed with Hoisin sauce, cucumber, scallions and cilantro. You cannot go wrong with this combination. Steamed buns are readily available in an Asian market or refrigerator biscuits can be used as a substitute. I would have liked a recipe for the buns, but this was an “Easy Chinese Recipes” cookbook.
The next two recipes for roasted meats called for “secret ingredients” – Maltose and Chinese rose wine. Finding these two ingredients became a treasure hunt at a large Asian supermarket. After walking up and down the aisles, we eventually showed a picture of the maltose to the stocking clerk who told us which aisle to look. We found maltose shelved with honey. However, Chinese rose wine was nowhere to be found. We ended using rice wine.
Tangy BBQ Pork Ribs
These ribs were easy to make. Marinade overnight, bake in a foil pouch for 2 hours, glaze and broil. The overnight soaking infused the ribs with a flavorful blend of 5 spice, honey and Hoisin sauce.
Cantonese BBQ Pork
I marinated country style pork ribs (actually a shoulder cut) overnight using Low’s Chinese BBQ Sauce before baking. I tried to stay true to the recipe, but I did borrow a step from the pork ribs (above) where I glazed and broiled the pork to caramelize the sauce on the pork.
Green Onion Pancakes
I made these crispy and chewy green onion flavored pancakes as a snack. My guests were split on this snack. Some enjoyed the snack while others did not. For me, the recipe turned out a touch salty for my taste, but was nicely flavored with green onions.
Overall, “Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites From Dim Sum to Kung Pao” is a good introduction to Chinese cooking at home. The book provides a nice overview of cooking techniques, tips, types of equipment and a description of ingredients. The recipes are a good starting point. As with all cookbooks, don’t be afraid to adjust recipes to your liking. I’m looking forward to making more recipes from Low’s book.