Publisher: Ballantine Books, December, 2012
The Bottom LineAn excellent cookbook with easy to follow recipes showing readers how to make their favorite Chinese takeout dishes at home.
- More than 80 recipes
- Clear, well written recipes; most include photos
- Recipes are MSG (monosodium glutamate) free
- Excellent photo instructions showing how to fill and fold dumplings
- Comprehensive introductory section, includes an easier method for seasoning a wok
- Includes interesting menu suggestions (fast weeknight meals, family-friendly, light and healthy, and more)
- Variations and other useful information found throughout the book
- Does not provide cooking times and nutritional information
- Hardcover makes this a little pricier than similar cookbooks
- Hardcover, with over 80 recipes
- Includes standard Chinese takeout fare and restaurant dishes such as General Tso’s Chicken, Chow Mein and Beef With Broccoli
- Includes recipes for less well known dishes, such as Taiwanese Pork Buns
- Photos with most (although not all) recipes
- Photos illustrating how to fill and fold dumplings
- Comprehensive introductory section, with an overview of Chinese ingredients, cooking equipment, and instructions on how to season a new wok
- Menu suggestions for meal planning
According to author Andrew Coe, the first Chinese eateries sprang up in California during the heady gold rush days, to serve the flood of men who arrived on the west coast seeking their fame and fortune. With some up and downs, North American’s love affair with Chinese food has continued ever since. Today, Chinese takeout is more popular than ever: the ubiquitous Chinese takeout box with its distinctive pagoda stamp has made an appearance in numerous films and television shows.
But ordering takeout on a regular basis is expensive, time consuming, and may contain unwanted food additives such as MSG. In The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, Diana Kuan shows how to recreate many popular takeout dishes at home. Kuan is the author of the popular blog Appetite for China (appetiteforchina.com). Kuan, who began her blog while living in Beijing, wanted to share some of China’s lesser known regional specialties with readers. "What I didn’t expect were readers back home in the United States emailing again and again, asking for recipes they grew up eating at Chinese restaurants in their own hometowns," she says in the book's introduction (page xii). Kuan decided to write a cookbook that would allow home cooks to prepare their favorite restaurant dishes at home.
The book is organized into ten chapters, including an introductory section on the Chinese pantry, a concluding chapter devoted to basics such as homemade chicken stock, and eight remaining chapters covering appetizers, soups and salads, chicken and duck, noodles and more. Many of the 80+ recipes could be taken straight from a Chinese takeout or restaurant menu: General Tso's Chicken is here, along with Barbecued Pork, Kung Pao Chicken, and Salt and Pepper Squid. In addition, she's included several lesser known dishes that are staring to find an audience in North American, such as Taiwanese Pork Buns.
More Recipe Examples
Kuan's goal is to make the recipes accessible to home cooks, sometimes simplifying preparation methods and using easier to find ingredients. For example, using frozen pie crust takes the work out of cutting and rolling dough for egg custard tarts, and Sesame Chicken is transformed into a stir-fry dish. (Kuan outlines any adaptations she has made in the recipe introduction).
ExtrasSeveral recipes include helpful variations and cooking tips. Kuan also provides several interesting anecdotes, including the battle between the two "Madames" (Madame Wong and Madame Wu) over who really invented the classic Chinese Chicken salad containing shredded chicken breast, lettuce and noodles, all tossed with a sesame-flavored dressing. And who knew that the classic Chinese takeout carton had its origins in the paper buckets used to carry fresh shucked oysters?
The Taste Test!I decided to try the Sweet Chili Shrimp (page 76), making a tiny substitution of white rice vinegar in place of cider vinegar. It was quick and easy and the results were delicious: plump shrimp lightly coated with a spicy sauce with just a hint of garlic. It's definitely a keeper.
Final ThoughtsChinese takeout food junkies will love the The Chinese Takeout Cookbook. But this handy resource also has much to offer cooks who are just searching for something simple and tasty to make for dinner.
More Cookbook Reviews:
Fresh Chinese: Over 80 Healthy Chinese Recipes
Chinese Cookery Secrets: How to Cook Chinese Restaurant Food at Home