This is the 25th anniversary edition of Ken’s original and ground-breaking book. I had that first edition, and it fell apart through years of use. I am sure that many readers will have had the same experience. This is a book you will use even if you are too young to remember the BBC series that helped launch Ken Hom onto the UK food scene. It’s already a classic and it’s not difficult to see why.
Ken was the first Chinese chef/cook/food presenter to make a real impact in the UK. Kenneth Lo had long been respected as a promoter of Chinese food in Britain, but Ken Hom had a TV series that coincided with renewed interest in cooking and all things foodie. This slightly nervous young man presented entertaining and fascinating programmes that introduced Chinese food to a country that was ready to accept new flavours and the excitement of frying with a wok with the gas turned high. We started to find Chinese ingredients in high street shops and a quick stir-fry seemed more appealing than a time-consuming roast.
Chinese Cookery is a book welcomed by those new to Chinese cooking and those who are well practised in that cuisine. Ken offers a wealth of information about ingredients, equipment, menu planning and technique, and then it’s on to the food which is marvellous. There are some additions to the first edition so now there is a selection of dishes that encompass both traditional family cooking and also some contemporary innovations.
I am not sure that Ken Hom has a “signature dish” but I have my favourites. Chicken Pieces in Black Bean Sauce is a recipe that is simple but delicious. The black beans are salty and tangy and they give the chicken a unique flavour that I have found to be quite addictive. Cold Spicy Noodles are comforting and rich. I use peanut butter although Ken says that sesame paste is equally good. These noodles are so easy to prepare and it’s truly a meal in moments. If you don’t really like cooking you will love this one.
OK, so the TV series was well-timed but it’s the quality of Ken Hom’s work that has allowed him to stay at the top of his profession. Chinese Cookery has endured because the recipes still reflect modern tastes. Timeless!
Author: Ken Hom
Published by: BBC Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018