cover image The Taste of China

The Taste of China

Ken Hom. Simon & Schuster, $29.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-69221-6

If you're looking for help in recreating the Moo Goo Gai Pan you have delivered to your digs every other Thursday, this is not it: Hom ( Ken Hom's Chinese Cookery ) respects his subject too much to simplify it. Thus Western readers may be lured and dragged, protesting (feebly) that they don't have time to attend to ``Food for the Body and Soul: The Medicinal and the Vegetarian'' (here the meat of Chapter 10), that they are unnerved by Hom's recipe for sesame jellyfish, or desire a convenient substitute for bitter melon or silk squash. That's just too bad. Only for those dishes that most Americans really couldn't handle does Hom make exceptions: while explanations are given for shark's fin and bird's nest, recipes do not include them. Variety is wide, ranging from the typical wontons and sesame noodles to Portuguese-influenced dairy dishes like stir-fried milk. Leong Ka Tai's ( Beijing ) beautiful photographs show not only nicely arranged raw materials, final fare and a quaint duck herder but also the sloppier side of culinary endeavors, viz., a pork side slung over the back of bicycle. Likewise, Hom's text puts an array of gastronomic detail into the historical, social, agricultural and technological context of the real China. Author tour; BOMC HomeStyle alternate. (Nov.)