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
The 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
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
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