If you’ve wanted to cook authentic Chinese food but have felt a little put off by unfamiliar ingredients or techniques, then run, don’t walk, to buy this book. Kian Lam Kho demystifies Chinese cuisine by focusing on the cooking techniques-steaming, flashpoaching, oil-steeping, red-cooking, salt-baking, and velveting, just to name a few-that form its widely varied foundation. A software engineer by trade and James Beard Award-nominated blogger by passion, he’s a Singapore native who moved to Boston to attend college in the 1970s. Unable to find authentic Chinese food, he wrote home to relatives in China for instructions and recipes, then went on to become a restaurant consultant, food writer, and cooking teacher. His engagingly written book starts with the big picture, “The Essence of Chinese Food,” then hones in on the home kitchen, discussing key Chinese cooking tools and how to stock a Chinese pantry. Photos of some of the more exotic (to a Westerner’s eye) ingredients are also invaluable. If, say, I need to buy fish maw or dried sea cucumber, I’ll at least know what I’m looking for.
But not all of the 158 recipes feel so exotic, and for every flash-fried pig stomach, there’s a Blanched Asparagus with Ginger Soy Sauce and plenty of recipes made familiar on take-out menus. The finished-dish photos are super-enticing, and there are lots of step-by-step photos, too.
By the way, if you’re wondering about the title, it’s what the Chinese call chicken feet and broccoli, respectively, and you’ll find both ingredients in the book.
General Tso’s Chicken
If you love the overly sweet version of this take-out favorite, this one may not be for you. Chicken thigh pieces fry up amazingly crisp before being tossed in a spicy sauce and finished with a good amount of toasted sesame oil.
The description of this classic tofu dish as searingly spicy is spot on, but the heat is balanced by the dish’s other flavors, including fermented black beans, ground beef, ginger, and scallions. Plus, you have the author’s permission to scale back on the red chile powder.
Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking, by Kian Lam Kho (Clarkson Potter; $35)