cover image The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing

The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing

Grace Young. Simon & Schuster, $30 (282pp) ISBN 978-0-684-84739-9

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 Soup--for 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. (May)