A well known cooking authority in Britain, where he teaches at Ken Lo's Chinese Cookery School in London, Deh-Ta Hsiung has put together over 100 recipes to help you reproduce your favorite Chinese restaurant recipes at home. Once you've read the review, try the sample recipes below for Stir-fried Beef With Oyster Sauce and American Chicken Chop Suey.
Can You Make Chinese Restaurant Food at Home?
One question I am frequently asked is "Why doesn't the Chinese food I prepare at home taste like restaurant food?" It's a challenge - restaurant kitchens have specially built gas stoves that can reach the very high temperatures needed for stir-frying, not to mention several cooks! Fortunately, Deh-Ta Hsiung believes none of these difficulties are insurmountable. A well-known personality in Britain, where he teaches at London's Ken Lo Chinese Cookery School, Hsiung has compiled a cookbook demonstrating that it is possible for home cooked Chinese dishes to come extremely close to reproducing the taste and flavor of Chinese restaurant food.
Set Realistic Goals
"Chinese Cookery Secrets" contains over 100 recipes, organized by cooking style. The introduction to each section includes a "Restaurant Quality Rating." For example, using the recipes in the book, readers should have a 98 - 100 percent success rate in creating restaurant quality soups, while the deep-fried dishes have a slightly lower rate of 90 - 100 percent. Hsiung provides several cooking tips to help you achieve success, including instructions on pre-seasoning vegetable oil, and when to use a thick or thin cornstarch paste.
What About MSG?
It's impossible to review a book on Chinese restaurant cooking without mentioning monosodium glutamate (MSG). Nowadays the unique savory taste of MSG is found in everything from sauces to prepackaged mixes, making it difficult for restaurants to prepare food that is entirely MSG-free. Inevitably this will affect the taste of the dish. Hsiung doesn't rule out using MSG - for best results he recommends adding it to soup stock. Several other recipes list it as optional. But this doesn't mean you must use it as well. Just realize that the results may differ slightly from your local Chinese restaurant. Then again, does it really matter as long as the dish tastes great?
An added plus, rarely found in Chinese cookbooks, is that Hsiung includes the Chinese characters for both the recipe names and the ingredients (see glossary). This is extremely useful for anyone who wants to order from the Chinese menu for a change, or who has trouble identifying Asian ingredients at the supermarket. I also appreciated the section on "Iron Plate Dishes." A variation on Japanese Teriyaki or Sukiyaki, Iron Plate dishes are grilled and served sizzling at the customer's table. A restaurant specialty, you won't find them in most Chinese cookbooks, but they are easy to prepare and could easily be the star of your next dinner party.
Sample Recipes from Chinese Cookery Secrets
Chinese Noodles in Soup
American Chicken Chop Suey