To any home cook that title might sound attractive – Easy Chinese Recipes – but to a reviewer who is a passionate cook that very same title can cause worries. Is this going to be a book with its focus on convenience foods? Could it be sub-titled “Make Friends with your Microwave”? The reality is far from that.
Bee Yinn Low is the guiding light behind one of the internet’s most successful Asian food blogs. She was born in Malaysia but her Chinese heritage finds her well placed to educate the rest of us. She takes advantage of products that all Chinese cooks enjoy these days. Nothing wrong with a bottle of good quality sauce when added to delicately balanced spices and fresh ingredients. You’ll be cooking in the same way as they do all over Asia.
Bee loved cooking but she didn’t have unlimited time to spend in the kitchen so she sought out the best recipes to adapt to a modern Western life. Her recipes taste authentic but you don’t need a diploma from the culinary institute in Shanghai to accomplish them, and all the ingredients will likely be in your local supermarket, Asian emporium or the internet.
I love the dishes of Sichuan. They have a reputation for being pungent and laden with red chilli. Bee offers Sichuan Spicy Chicken – La Zi Ji – which is adapted from an original Chinese restaurant recipe from Chongqing, the capital of Sichuan. It uses 20 dried chillies and that is the toned-down version. Try the recipe with this many and then increase or decrease the spice to suit. Chilli is addictive so don’t be surprised if your tolerance mounts over time.
Chicken with Garlic Sauce has much less chilli but there is real punch from the garlic: 3 or 4 cloves, but don’t be shy with that main flavouring ingredient. This is a colourful dish that will fill your home with the most enticing aromas while it’s cooking. An economic meal but striking enough to impress dinner guests.
Fresh Mango Pudding is a popular Chinese dessert these days. It is simple to prepare and has sweetness from the fruit pulp and richness from the evaporated milk. Bee suggests a tablespoon of evaporated milk as a garnish on top of these set pots, but one could also use some slices of mango or a handful of dark berries. A delightful make-ahead dessert.
Easy Chinese Recipes is full of delicious dishes that won’t take hours to produce. There is something for every palate from the searingly spicy to the mellow and aromatic. A book for those with good taste and little time.
Easy Chinese Recipes
Author: Bee Yinn Low
Published by Tuttle Publishing
Asian cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018