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The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen Hardcover – May 5 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 5 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684847396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684847399
  • Product Dimensions: 18.7 x 3 x 23.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 771 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #120,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Grace Young is a culinary sister to novelist Amy Tan. In The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, along with sharing recipes from her family, Young immerses the reader in Chinese culture and the Chinese American experience of San Francisco's Chinatown, where she grew up. This personal book began with Young's wish to preserve the Cantonese dishes prepared by her parents and extended family. Since they cooked by instinct, the only way to record their recipes was by observing her mother, father, and aunties while they cooked, and by asking endless questions. These kitchen conversations also became a way to elicit untold family history from her deeply traditional and reticent parents.

Each chapter opens with an essay intertwining biographical stories with information about Chinese food and healing. The blending of culinary information and cultural observations is powerfully realized, perhaps because Young shows old-fashioned respect along with a contemporary perspective. The result is both affectionate and enthralling. You can vividly picture the meticulous choreography as her parents make dinner in their tiny kitchen, reaching over steaming pots and rushing the steaming food to the table.

Young delves into the hows and whys of Cantonese home cooking, with particular attention to technique and ingredients: Chinese broccoli with flowers should be avoided because the bright yellow blossoms indicate the stalks are too old. Steaming is valued because it draws out the intense flavors near the bone in chicken, fish, and meat, leaving them tender and moist.

Many dishes are elementally simple. Hot-and-Sour Soup is fired solely by aromatic white pepper. White Chicken is perfumed just with ginger and garlic. Some choices are quick and easy, as in stir-fried Bean Sprouts, while others require long and elaborate preparation, like savory Rice Tamales stuffed with pork, Chinese sausage, and duck egg yolks and wrapped in bamboo leaves. Anyone who enjoys eating Chinese food or has experienced the generational differences in immigrant families will get lost in The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen. --Dana Jacobi

From Publishers Weekly

San Francisco native and recipe developer Young (The Best of China; The Best of Thailand) recalls the classic Cantonese meals of her youth, sharing family anecdotes and the basic tenets of Chinese cooking. In Part I, "Mastering the Fundamentals," she introduces essential techniques of the Chinese kitchen: selecting produce, chopping, slicing, steaming, stir-frying, even correctly preparing rice. Aiming to preserve the integrity of traditional dishes, Young instructs with Cantonese de rigueur, eschewing substitutes for such exotic ingredients and shortcuts as food processors. Although labor-intensive steps often precede the cooking process, this 140-recipe collection provides clear, straightforward instruction largely accessible to home cooks. Recognizable favorites such as Eggplant in Garlic Sauce and Pepper and Salt Shrimp, as well as less familiar preparations such as Rock Sugar Ginger Chicken, offer broad palate appeal. Part II, "The Art of Celebration," explores the symbolism of special occasion and Chinese New Year dishes, including Turnip Cake, the glutinous rice flour New Year's Cake, and fried Sesame Balls, all considered harbingers of prosperity for the New Year. Young ends her collection on a holistic note; the last section, "Achieving Yin-Yang Harmony," elaborates the Chinese belief of the yin (cooling) and yang (warming) characteristics of foods as well as their purported remedial and restorative properties. "Tonic soups" include Almond SoupAfor moistening the lungs and clearing the skin. Probing her rich culinary heritage with passion and fortitude, Young expertly reveals ancient secrets encouraging readers to experience the joy of authentic Chinese cooking.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As an American Born Chinese, finding this book was a huge relief. Like so many ABCs, I love the food of my culture but certainly didn't know how to prepare it. This is an authentic down home Chinese cookbook. No fancy dishes here - only comfort food need apply. The book is divided into the following: 1) rice from steamed, fried, dumplings and porridge 2) stir fry - including tomato beef and beef chow fun 3) steamed cooking- egg custard, sponge cake, spareribs with black bean sauce 4) cooking with ginger - drunken chicken, cabbage noodle soup 5) seasonal market dishes - braised taro and chinese bacon, stir fried bitter melon with beef 6) celebratory dishes - stir fried clams with black bean sauce, pepper and salt shrimp, sweet and sour pork 7) New Year's dishes - turnip cake, seasame balls 8) authentic recipes from the homeland - savory rice tamales, pork dumplings, stuffed noodle rolls 9) Chinatown favorites - soy sauce chicken, roast duck, barbecued pork and salt roasted chicken 10) a slew of healing soups and dishes. Reading it was a trip down memory lane for me. The dishes are truly authentic to the Chinese family experience and or those who seek authenticity, Young has presented it here. She also includes a handy guide to shopping and mail order resources!
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By A Customer on April 7 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the few cookery books which I have enjoyed reading, as opposed to referring. I benefitted from the many tips that were woven into her story telling and the description of her dishes. For example, I now choose the more flavoured end-parts when buying a winter-melon (not forgetting to prefer those with more white powder on the melon surface too). I no longer throw away the water used to soak dried mushrooms, scallops & oysters as I could use it to add flavour to soup. I will remember to start with low fire when using a sand-pot and gradually increase to high if needed - not high straightaway - so as to avoid the sudden temperature changes that would crack and ruin the pot. Although it was obvious physics, I cannot help laughing at myself for not seeing, on my own, the simple logic of Grace's father's method of using a bowl to ensure equal parts of egg and water for the Steamed Egg Custard.
However, this book is written, I opine, for the benefit of experienced cooks, esp Chinese and Cantonese, who can picture the dishes from their names - be it English, Chinese or Cantonese. If you have limited experience in Cantonese cooking, little exposure to Cantonese dishes, or if you are not a Chinese or a Cantonese, think again before buying this book. But if you have other Chinese cookbooks with pictures to give you an impression of the end-state of the dishes in Grace's book, then this book will be suitable for you, especially her tips. Otherwise, this book may not be as beneficial although the tips still are.
Just one minor point. Although not a Cantonese, I know enough to note that some of the romanised Cantonese are inaccurate. The Cantonese for duck, such as in roasted duck, is romanised as "Op" which is a far cry from "ngap" or "aap" which is how the Cantonese pronounce it in their dialect.
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Format: Hardcover
Growing up in Chinatown, my family ate Cantonese food pretty much every meal, every day. When cooking Chinese food on my own, I try my best to mirror how my parents cook because there are no written recipes to follow. With this book, there are finally written-down Cantonese recipes that a real Chinese family would cook at home and are perfect for those people who want to cook like mom & dad used to. Most of the recipes are for everyday dishes such as Steamed Pork Cake with Salted Duck Egg, Stir Fried Egg with BBQ Pork or Soy Sauce Chicken. But there are also a few special occasion recipes such as Shark's Fin Soup. Extremely helpful is the index/description of common and not so common ingredients and their Chinese characters/ Cantonese pronounciations for those who don't speak Chinese. I couldn't attest to the 100% accuracy of the history behind the dishes as other reviewers have been critical of, but I'm just looking for recipes, not stories. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's The Chinese Kitchen is okay but seems more complicated so I find myself gravitating to Grace Young's book more. If you prefer Chinese food like you find at a mainstream American Chinese restaurant, then you'll probably be disappointed with this book. This is a good book to buy if you're interested in Cantonese food that goes beyond Cashew Chicken and Sweet & Sour Pork (both authentic Cantonese dishes and found in this book - but taste very different from what is found in most restaurants). A valuable find!
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Format: Hardcover
My parents are from Hong Kong and I was born in Canada. I grew up with the foods Ms. Young describes in her book, but because of my limited ability to read Chinese, I have never been able to follow any Chinese recipe books written in Chinese. When I first bought this book, my aunts thought it was pretty funny. They said "how can a book that is written in English be authentic?" - and considering my spoken Cantonese is accompanied with a fairly strong "Canadian" accent, they were sure the book was full of "westernized" Chinese foods. Well, after looking through the book themselves, they were sold and bought their own copies.
The recipes are good. But what I find most helpful is the inclusion of the Chinese name for the dishes and some ingredients - written in Chinese characters and translated phoentically into "English"(between the combination, I can usually figure out the dish or ingredient and relate it back to what my Mom used to prepare).
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