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Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking

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Written by foodie pam   
Sunday, 04 April 2010
List of viewable recipes from "Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking" by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (Chronicle Books, 2009) is a 2010 IACP Cookbook awards finalist AND a 2010 James Beard book awards finalist in the International category. For a list of all the finalists check out the Project Foodie IACP Finalists' Guide and James Beard Finalists' Guide.

Win a copy of Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking! - details

ImageThe title of Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's new book "Master the Art of Chinese Cooking" naturally makes one think of Julia Child's classic "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Given that comparison, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo needed to execute a nearly flawless book. I can almost hear some of the conversation towards the end of the book's production with the various parties involved wondering if the title needed to be changed to something that would have less of an expectation? After spending some quality time with the book, I'm glad they were confident enough to keep the title. It's a wonderful book, a serious book for serious cooks, and it lives up to the expectation created by the title.

Eileen Yin-Fei Lo focuses on ingredients and the Chinese markets from which she gets them. She starts slow with basic ingredients and techniques, building on them throughout the book with a series of "lessons".

This is real Chinese cooking. The recipes requiring authentic Chinese ingredients found in Chinese shops and markets of most large cities. Knowing that many of the ingredients and techniques will be unfamiliar, Lo provides detailed descriptions of the ingredients and clear illustrations of the techniques. She starts off with rice and stocks, takes tours through various different styles of Chinese foods, and ends with sweets. She even includes sample menus and a short section on wines at the end. To top it off, the photography is just gorgeous.

This is a large volume and picking a single recipe to share was not easy.  My choice is a simple but delicious recipe for Squash Pancakes that provides a nice introduction to all that Eileen Yin-Fei Lo has to offer.

Win a copy of Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking! - details

Squash Pancake

Image
amazon.com
From Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (Chronicle Books, 2009)

This dish, a specialty of the Chiu Chow, calls for a vegetable native to southern China, the water squash, or soi guah in Cantonese. It gets its name from the fact that it customarily planted along riverbanks, lakeshores, and the edges of fish ponds, so that its vines can draw nourishing water. It is a summer vegetable and only occasionally is it available in Chinatown markets, but zucchini can be used in its place. The two squashes have a similar texture and both are green and long, though the water squash is larger. It can grow to 18 inches in length, and have a diameter of more than 3 inches. Smaller zucchini, which the Chiu Chow call phonetically ee dai lei guah, or "Italian squash," are the best choice. Look for zucchini about 7 inches long and weighing about 12 ounces each.

  • 2 tablespoons raw peanuts
  • 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick, peeled zucchini slices, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
  • 3 tablespoons 1/4-inch-thick scallion slices
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons Pillsbury Best All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • 3 1/2 to 5 tablespoons peanut oil

First, dry roast the peanuts.  Heat a wok over high heat for 30 seconds. Add the peanuts, spread them in a single layer, lower the heat to medium, and allow to roast for 30 seconds. Turn the peanuts over and stir continuously for about 5 minutes, or until they are light brown. Turn off the heat and transfer the peanuts to a dish. Allow them to cool completely, then place them on a sheet of waxed paper and crush them with a rolling pin.

In a large bowl, combine the peanuts, zucchini, scallions, egg, soy sauce, wine, flour, sugar, and pepper and stir until a smooth batter forms.

Heat the wok over high heat for 1 minute. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of the peanut oil and, using the spatula, coat the wok with the oil. Pour in the batter and spread in a thin layer. Using both handles of the wok, move the wok over the burner in a circular motion so the pancake moves around as well and does not stick. Cook for about 2 1/2 minutes, or until the bottom browns.

Slide the pancake from the wok onto a large, flat plate. Invert a second plate of the same size over the top, and invert the plates together. Lift off the top plate. Slide the pancake, browned side up, back into the wok and lower the heat to medium. Cook, occasionally patting the pancake down with the spatula, for about 3 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed so that the pancake is neither undercooked nor burned, and add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil only if the pan becomes too dry and the pancake begins to stick. The pancake is done when the zucchini has softened and tiny brown spots appear on the second side.

Turn off the heat. Slide the pancake onto a heated platter, cut it into wedges, and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Note: If you want to serve individual pancakes, proceed as directed, but separate the batter into 4 equal portions. Then, cook each smaller pancake separately according to the directions for cooking a single large one.

Win a copy of Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking

The registered Project Foodie user that leaves the most memorable or creative comment below will win a copy of Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking.  Keep the comments clean and relevant - tell us what attracts you to Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking and/or what you feel makes this book award-worthy and we'll select one to be the winner of Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking.

Please note that you must be registered to enter this giveaway and upon winning provide a US postal address for us to ship Mastering the Art of Chinese Cookingto.  We'll announce the winner on May 2nd.

If you have not yet registered with Project Foodie, please take a moment to do so right now--it's absolutely free; and we promise never to share your email address with spammers or other unsavory types.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 05 April 2010 )
Chopsticks in hand
jettrash23 (Registered) 2010-04-04 10:21:22

I'm thrilled at the prospect of being able to recreate authentic Chinese food. I've lived in a small rural town for almost three years and the only Chinese food available is that of greasy Americanized variety. Exploring the different regions of China through food would be incredible for us folks behind the "redwood curtain".
Almost ready
STW (Registered) 2010-04-04 10:33:08

Our stove top is completely inadequate for proper stir frying. This cookbook will motivate me to get a proper burner for using a wok. We haven't been able to use our wok in the four years since we bought a new house with a glass cooktop stove. Do they make these just to look good? You sure can't cook as well on them. Thanks for spurring me on.
You can't be authentic.
Chocolate_Dipped (Registered) 2010-04-04 10:58:43

On Saturday mornings while other kids would be watching their cartoons, I would sit in awe of a man by the name of Martin Yan. The way he explained the history of the food, the presentation of his food, they way he looked so happy while cooking. His knife skills blew me away. Cutting vegetables at blinding speeds without even looking! I was amazed, and inspired.

"If Yan can cook, so can you!" I would say it with him every time. So much, to the point that I started to believe I could. Many years later, I am now a culinary student and that memory still sticks with me.

As with any decent food lover I am trying to build a good library. I would love to add this book to my collection. I have been given other books, but most of them are laden with Chinese-American dishes one can find at the average restaurant. While they are tasty (sometimes its hit or miss), I prefer to have a cookbook that will inspire and teach me authentic Chinese Cuisine.
Back to my roots
displaced.in.the.city (Registered) 2010-04-04 17:39:48

Being Chinese and a recent resurgence of interest in my own cultural heritage, I would absolutely love to learn more about Chinese cooking. I know a great deal about French and Italian. But, with me being Chinese and all, very little...

Anyways, my mom refuses to teach me. I always have to coax her. I would love to "show her up"!
ds8607a (Registered) 2010-04-05 06:59:54

I am now living in Taipei and have a small kitchen. Most food ingredients I am familiar with I am either unable to locate here or they are much too expensive. Ergo, I have a useless kitchen that I would *love* to put to use, but just don't know how. I need a fine lesson in mastering the "art of Chinese cooking."
take me home (sorta)
edda (Registered) 2010-04-11 14:37:38

I grew up Southeast Asian. Being chinese, my chinese cooking is pretty dismal. Time to brush up my skills and impress my ancestors (or mommy when I visit in Dec) help a woman out~
Marital Bliss...
deila1 (Registered) 2010-04-15 12:34:38

So, I am recently engaged (yay!) and one of the more important milestones my fiancée and I have recently enjoyed is the 1st Parent Dinner. Of course, I went through the natural nervousness and many questions. For example, should we eat out or in (out) and what should I wear (something new, after all shopping is a stress reliever!).

I'm glad to report it was near perfect until the conversation turned to my cooking skills (i.e. complete lack of). My fiancée is Chinese and I am not. Where do I even begin learning? Enter Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking! With cookbook in hand, I can just taste the deliciousness ahead especially when paired with the satisfaction of artfully serving my future mother-in-law a meal on her next visit post Wedding!
southerncooker (Registered) 2010-04-23 18:33:49

I love to cook and try new recipes from my own southern roots and around the world. It's always nice to have a guide when delving into a new cuisine and I think Eileen Yin-Fei Lo would be an excellent choice to help me learn some authentic Chinese dishes, by way of her Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking. Although I enjoy reading my cookbooks like novels (I bet this will also be a great read), I also actually cook from them. Who knows what marvelous things I could create with this book in my position.
The Mystery Of It All!
rafiki (Registered) 2010-04-24 17:38:02

Chinese cooking is one of those cuisines that appears to me to be filled with mystery, intrigue, and exotic ingredients. Simply walking into a Chinese grocery store is a trip to another planet; cans, spices, oils, and packaging completely lost to me without taking a personal interpreter to decipher the contents.
Once, as a Christmas present to my husband (who loves to cook… and does it well) I gave him a box filled with just these cans, bottles and packages from a local Chinese market. Not an English word on any of the packaging. We had so much fun opening and discovering what was inside of them, and then planning a meal around whatever it was that were in those containers.
I can’t say it was a total success, but it certainly inspired us to really know what we’re doing with all of those ingredients. Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking would be a giant leap for us, taking a little of the mystery out of such a beautiful cuisine.
And the winner is...
pam (Publisher) 2010-05-01 15:30:17

Lots of great comments here make this a tough choice. Ultimately, deila1 you're plea to cook for your soon-to-be mother-in-law grabbed us - congratulations you're the winner!
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