Book reviews from The Free Lance-Star.
Takeout from your kitchen
By Kurt Rabin
The Free Lance-Star
A FUNNY thing happened when young Chinese–American foodie Diana Kuan was teaching cooking in Beijing and writing the blog Appetite for China. She got peppered with stateside emails requesting recipes for Chinese takeout standards like General Tso’s chicken. She obliged, and has now gone one step further, producing a cookbook that helps re-create takeout dishes in the comfort of your home.
Chinese food and Americans have had a love affair for more than 100 years. Egg rolls and sweet-and-sour pork are now as ubiquitous as burgers and spaghetti. In fact, most everyone has a kitchen drawer devoted entirely to chopsticks, soy packets and takeout menus.
But what if you didn’t have to spoon your favorites lukewarm out of a container and could instead ladle them out of a piping-hot wok? With “The Chinese Takeout Cookbook,” Kuan brings Chinatown into your home with more than 80 popular Chinese takeout recipes, including appetizers, main courses, noodle and rice dishes and desserts. They’re all easy to prepare and contain no MSG or other additives. Plus, you don’t need to live near an Asian market or own a deep fryer to make this mouthwatering food. Most ingredients can be found at your local supermarket. And a wok or heavy-bottomed pot and fine-mesh strainer are all you’ll need for frying. So put down that takeout menu, grab your wok and some peanut oil, roll up your sleeves and get cooking!
That’s what I did recently, and with Kuan’s guidance I was able to serve up three most-satisfying meals. First was chicken congee, the chicken soup of Asia. (Think rice porridge.) It takes about an hour for the rice to break down and the dish to achieve a creamy texture. (Think ultimate comfort food!)
Kuan’s moo goo gai pan recipe is pretty standard-issue, but I followed her advice and substituted the more-flavorful cremini mushrooms for white buttons, and voilà! A more-savory moo goo—my wife’s and my favorite takeout dish—was the result.
Finally, I prepared Yangzhou fried rice, cooked white rice with barbecued pork and shrimp tossed in, with only scallions and salt and pepper for seasoning. Best fried rice I’ve ever had! (Probably because it omitted the goopy oyster sauce, too-salty soy and overly pungent fish sauce that would surely have overpowered it.) A confession: The barbecued pork I used was actually takeout. I realize that’s like cheating—buying takeout to make takeout. But something tells me the author would have been all right with that!
Kurt Rabin is a copy editor with The Free Lance–Star.
THE CHINESE TAKEOUT COOKBOOK
By Diana Kuan
(Ballantine, $30, 208 pp )
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