Heat magazine proclaims “Ching-He Huang is the new face of Chinese cooking”. Fresh-faced and youthful, Ching already has, however, a good few years of successful career behind her. Ching-He is a popular contributor to various UK food programmes and was the presenter of her own series Chinese Food Made Easy. She is the author of two other cookbooks, China Modern and Chinese Food Made Easy, companion to the TV series, which was one of last year’s best sellers.
Ching’s Chinese Food in Minutes is a book equally suited to the debutante at Chinese cooking as well as to those who have lots of experience. Ching starts with advice about buying and caring for your wok. Yes, it is OK to use a non-stick one and I think I have spotted Ching’s own range in a department store. If you’re new to Chinese cooking then you’ll need just a few store cupboard ingredients. Not a long list, and available from your favourite high street supermarket or mail-order if you live on a shop-free island.
I like this food. A reviewer is sometimes placed on the horns of a critical dilemma. Nice book – nasty food (that is to say, not to your reviewer’s taste). But this is a Chinese cookbook that I could have personally commissioned. There is so much here that I find to tempt my taste-buds. Rich and spicy dishes as well as some lighter fare when you want to feel noble. It’s all about great food but fast.
There are some traditional favourites like Peking Duck and Sweet and Sour Pork – quicker cooking it yourself than ordering from your local takeaway (takeout), cheaper and healthier. But there is much here that is new and inspiring. Taiwanese Ginger and Sesame Chicken Noodle Soup is a delicious winter warmer. Mixed Seafood Crispy Noodle is very smart and ready in 30 minutes. Black Bean Razor Clams are exotic yet simple to make and will be on your plate in 18 minutes.
The dishes that have my rapt attention are those with a bit of heat. Hot Pink Pepper/Black Pepper Chicken is quite a marvel. Five minutes of preparation and ten minutes of cooking is all it takes to have a succulent meal on the table. If you have your Chinese store cupboard set up then you just need to buy the meat on the way home from the office. A great flavourful recipe for those evenings when thinking is not an option.
A dish called Sichuan anything is bound to be delightful. Ching offers a few alternatives including Sichuan-style Sweet and Sour Prawns. Another 18 minute meal packed with flavour. Sichuan pepper has heat but also imparts a very particular tongue-numbing but rich mouth-filling flavour. It’s well worth getting the real thing.
Ching’s Chinese Food in Minutes deserves to become as popular as Chinese Food Made Easy. The book is bright and attractive with gorgeous photographs by Kate Whitaker. The “hand-written” introductions to each recipe help to give this volume the feel of a family kitchen journal. Lots of anecdotes and food-related memories which add to the charm. One of my favourites for 2009.
Ching’s Chinese Food in Minutes
Author: Ching-He Huang
Asian cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018