on 14 May 2012
A guest review from a friend
Gok Cooks Chinese is Gok Wan's first cookery book and is accompanied by a Channel 4 series. It contains 82 recipes under the headings: Chinese Takeaway Classics, Dim Sum, Favourite Wan Family Dishes, Chinese Classics, Street Food, Feasting, One-Pot Wonders and Modern Dishes. There are concise and clear sections to explain ingredients and essential equipment.
The recipes are straightforward and work well. Preparation and cooking times are fair - although I needed more time for careful chopping - but with over half the dishes do-able in less than 30 minutes, there are many realistic mid-week options. Photographs are simply styled and provide both incentive and guidance. In terms of ingredients, the basics are readily available and did not take up much cupboard space. There are many recipes which would need a trip to a Chinese supermarket for authenticity, but alternatives are given and, particularly helpfully, there is advice on when it is just not worth trying to substitute.
From the perspective of someone who loves Chinese food yet somehow does not end up cooking it, Cooking with Gok was a revelation. Intensely-flavoured yet fresh dishes kept on emerging and the absence of the dreaded MSG aftertaste that usually heaps regret onto the end of a take-away evening was striking. I felt particular pride after my first attempt (Beef in Easy Tomato Sauce) which just happened to be a Saturday-night sofa meal and looked and tasted authentic, albeit without rain-sodden shoes kicked off nearby. As suggested, I paired Soy-Glazed Chicken with Spicy Cucumber and Spring Onion Salad and have found a quick, fresh and delicious meal which I will come back to again and again. I struggled with Aromatic Aubergine and Mushrooms to fit the aubergine into the sauce as it cooked, but the taste of my thinned-down version was great. Spicy Stir-Fried Prawns with Cashew Nuts was delicious and, despite the luxury of so many nuts, it was of course still cheaper than the typical take-away version. And anyone looking for a fast, delicious and truly healthy meal, the very last recipe in the book - Steamed Cod with Tenderstem Broccoli - is a must.
I have given Cooking with Gok a fuss-free rating of ****+. It delivers a broad range of accessible, straightforward and seriously tasty dishes as well as some challenges for rainy days. Gok's popularity in other fields and the forthcoming TV series are likely to encourage those new to cooking Chinese food to have a go and if Cooking with Gok does not create a legion of happy converts, I can't imagine what would.
on 2 August 2012
WeI have made quite a few of Gok's recipes and I cannot fault them apart from agreeing with other people about the amount of salt used, water it down, tastes just as good.
The recipes are so easy to follow and you end up with amazing results, our favourite being the Beef and Ginger..... Blew us all away and now it's a family favourite :-)
The tools and basic ingredients required as advised by Gok's were easy to get, we are lucky enough to live in London and access to Chinatown is just a train ride away, we bought the wok, ladle, wok scrubber and all the ingredients in his "basket of love" for the grand total of £22. We are now adapting his recipes to our own likes e.g. his chow mien recipe has been adapted into so many different flavours.
We are very impresses with the quality of these recipes and would recommend anyone to buy and try, you won't be disappointed.
Thank you Gok, we look forward to your next book and thanks also to Pappa Wan for letting you share some of your family recipes.
This book enabled us to cook meals that were reminiscent of those we had in Hong Kong. It is a well laid out book with good photographs showing the finished meals plus photographs that just help the Chinese feel of the book.
All of the recipes are easily explained with a section in the front of the book explaining various ingredients, some of the ingredients we found difficult to obtain for example "Yellow bean paste"Amoy Crushed Yellow Bean Sauce was the nearest we could find. Sometimes you can be given a false sense of how easy some of the recipes are so look at the bottom of the page for the preparation time for example "Char siu pork buns" give a preparation time of 2 hours which is not too far out. A useful tip given in the book is to have a lot of little bowls to put the ingredients in, we used ramekin dishes. I did like the book so why only 4 *, this is because while I don't doubt the authenticity of the recipes I am not sure they have been tested in the quantities stated, the buns although for 8 the dough would easily make 16 but there was not enough filling for 16.
on 28 May 2012
I received this book a little before it's official release date (Whoops, Amazon!) - so I had the chance to try out a few recipes before reviewing (this is a cookbook after all).
Now, I own a number of cookbooks, from Chinese, to Japanese, to Thai, and the reason why I bought yet another Chinese cookbook is because I admit it, I was in a bit of a rut, and it's always good to have a wider pool of ideas to dip into. The deciding point, for me, was when I saw a sneak preview of a Dim Sum recipe or two, and I couldn't believe they were from Gok Wan - so I thought I would give this a go and see what else he could do.
Now, the book is laid out in a non-intimidating, and logical way, with Takeaway Classics to dip your toe into, progressing through to some wonderfully adventurous, and modern dishes which you can build up to when you gain more confidence. Chinese food isn't all about chow mein, don't you know?
The book also presents us with a list of cupboard essentials and equipment, which is very handy for the Chinese cooking novice, and these are things you will be using again, and again (yes, you will use Fish sauce over and over again, and Sesame Oil will quickly become your best kitchen buddy). Almost all of these items could be reasonably found in a kitchen where a wok is used a lot, and can be found in most supermarkets, or bought online if you're out in the sticks - nothing too daunting or scary, here.
One thing that's good for someone new to Chinese cooking - if you do need to buy equipment, Gok offers some handy advice, and the essential items can be bought without too much expense (unlike a certain cookbook, by a celebrity chef, which initially had a half hour time limit, and gave you list of electrical equipment which would make any bank manager cry) - there is nothing worse than trying to learn to cook, when the initial outlay is off-putting. This is not such a problem here.
Lets try the food! The recipes are rather easy to follow, and the timings are about right. Gok offers advice on what can be substituted (if something just cannot be sourced) and what really shouldn't. As much as I love Chinese takeaway classics, I am here for the family dishes and Dim Sum and party food! There are dishes that have wowed my friends when presented to them this weekend, but they were ludicrously simple to make, such as the Soy Glazed Chicken - for the love of God, try the chicken! Sesame Prawn balls are perfect for those who love their prawn toast, but want to do without the stodgy, greasy bread bit (try these, you might need to practice getting the texture right, but once you do, you will never go back!). Pork and Prawn Pot Stickers and Prawn and Scallop moneybag dumplings, was a little fiddly, but they all had a wonderful taste and "Blimey, you must have worked so hard on these" payoff! Mercifully, a lot (if not all) of the dim sum can be made in advance, so no last minute panicking - you can take your time to get these lovely bites perfect (again, a great dish for novices who want to gain confidence). I didn't get much of a chance to present the dishes as beautifully as in the book before ravenous friends descended on the food like a pack of hungry wolves - and believe me, I made plenty!
The Hot and Sour soup is divine! It is better than anything I have tried at any take-out, and I am another advocate of the Steamed Cod with Tenderstem Broccoli dish as a must-try, for something tasty, different, satisfying and healthy. All the dishes I have tried were fresh, tasty and beautiful, oh, and not a whiff of MSG in sight.
If the book is so brilliant, why the 4 stars, and not 5? Well, I am a greedy little madam, and I couldn't help but want a little more... like a dessert or two! (hint, hint), maybe there's more to come from Mr Wan's Wok if this takes off?
All in all, a very good book, with familiar and achievable (and all the more important, tasty!) dishes for novices, and ideas to stimulate and inspire more experienced Wok Wielding Warriors - just remember to provide your own pudding if you're planning on entertaining.
on 18 June 2012
I am half Chinese (like Gok himself) and have been eating and cooking Chinese food for a very long time. I did buy this book and I have tried out several recipes. I don't want to seem too negative but I would warn against a couple of things.
1. Gok is very keen to remind us that his recipes are healthy, but he seems not to realise that the amount of salt he uses could be leathal! I made his 'Braised Beef Short Rib' the other day and found that 250ml of light soy sauce was way too much. If we look at his 'Choi Sum in Oyster Sauce', he uses oyster sauce, light soy sauce and then fish sauce as well... and then reduces them slightly to make them even saltier! (Most restaurants just pour on oyster sauce by itself which is already salty enough. I always dilute with water.) So when talking about healthy food, it's not only dress sizes we should be thinking about. High blood pressure can kill you.
2. His recipes are not always authentic Chinese. Sometimes I would even call them 'fusion'. For example, fish sauce comes from South-east Asian cuisine and is unheard of in regular Chinese kitchens. I have nothing against it as I love Thai food as well, but he should have said. For his 'Chicken and Leek' potsticker dumplings, firstly, that combination is not traditional, and secondly, he uses runny honey in the dipping sauce! The traditional dipping sauce is soy with vinegar. (My mother comes from Beijing where it is sometimes vinegar alone; I believe the Cantonese prefer soy, but not honey.) Furthermore, his technique of actually wrapping the dumplings is rather strange... more like ravioli than real jiao zhe.
But otherwise it's a fun book and tv series, and if it gets more people involved with Chinese cuisine then that's great. It's a good starter.
on 28 May 2012
Bought this book after just one episode of his tv show and it is well worth the money. It provides sensible advice on buying equipment which won't cost an arm and a leg, and explains why each piece of equipment is needed. The recipes are simple, quick and easy to follow and produce fantastic results - which do actually look like the photographs in the book! Highly recommended for anyone who wants authentic tasting Chinese food without any hassle.
on 26 June 2012
I admit, I am a fan of Gok the fashion guru (Chinese, clever and camp - what's not to like?), so I watched the first episode of his new TV series with a certain amount of automatic favour; however, I was still surprised and delighted by the simplicity and accessibility of the recipes in the opening show, so despite the fact that I already have more cookery books (incl Chinese ones) than I could ever manage to read, let alone fully utilise, I decided to buy the book and try out the recipes for myself.
Just FOUR days in from book purchase I can already highly recommend:
- the PEKING DUCK (easier even than the Ken Hom version I've been perfecting for the last 20 years or so)
- the CRAB & SWEETCORN SOUP (SO much better than the sum of its parts - largely just an assembly from store cupboard ingredients - although I admit I did add a dash of chicken stock just to bring out the flavour a little more - but a really lovely, simple, excellent dish)
- the GLASS NOODLE WARM SALAD WITH PEANUTS AND DRIED SHRIMP (fabulous, yet light, flavours - and who knew about dried shrimp!!?)
- the AMAZING PORK RIBS (another revelation - steaming the ribs with a light dressing, incl the black beans, means that you can actually taste the pork, rather than just some gloopy sauce - and results in some meltingly tender meat; they are also lovely eaten cold ... very naughty!)
- the PRAWN CHOW MEIN (excellent, reliable recipe, though I'd cut back on the dark soy)
- the DRAGON SCALLOPS WITH BURNING OIL SAUCE (a simply beautiful, yet impressive, way of cooking the scallops)
If I had to criticise the book ... it would only be from a point of view of the order in which the recipes are presented - from a user-perspective it might be easier to take a more traditional approach and have all the noodle recipes together, all the meat options, etc. But by classing them as chapters under such titles as 'Street food' and 'One-pot wonders' it does challenge the reader to perhaps try something that they wouldn't otherwise attempt, and combine them with other suitable accompaniments.
I love the design of the book - great end papers, clever contents pages, and having a whole recipe on a single page, with an accompanying photo on the opposite page is a great idea (though I'd prefer the title to be over the recipe please!).
So far, Gok has introduced me to salted black beans ('had some in the cupboard for ages, but had never used them), dried shrimp (a fantastic ingredient) and white pepper (after years of using the black variety, it has been a revelation to rediscover the powerful/gentle heat of this old ingredient).
Would I recommend this book? Wholeheartedly yes.
I've read some of the other reviewer comments - yes, he is a little heavy on the soy (salt) perhaps, and yes, perhaps the recipes are family adaptations and use a few non-Chinese (more generally Asian) ingredients, but what this book brings to the reader is Gok's real joy in and love of the food, and a simplicity in approach which will build the confidence of the home cook.
A fabulous book, Gok. Well done.
on 31 July 2012
I love cookery books and this one is nicely illustrated and contains very straightforward recipies, which taste very authentic. One word of caution though, is that some of these taste very salty which will be down to the amount of light soy sauce recommended. Personally, I would cut back on this for health and taste reasons. All in all, I do not regret the purchase as I have acquired a good few tips and have made some speedy and authentic, even if 'salty' meals!
on 16 June 2012
After catching Gok's show on TV I was keen to explore the contents of his cook book. I looked at all the reviews on Amazon before making my decision, especially the video review that shows the list of recipes, and I thought it would be a book that I would use and enjoy.
It arrived promptly and I was not disappointed. The first few pages give a nice introduction to Gok and are handy to set a context if you haven't seen his programme. I have found his equipment and ingredient pages very useful and I appreciated the honesty that came across i.e. he tells you if ingredients/equipment are absolutely essential or just nice to have!
Today I cooked my first two meals, 'Perfect Fried Rice' and the 'Spicy Sichuan Chicken'. I set off to the supermarket with an extensive list of ingredients, most of which I did not have in my cupboard. I was half expecting to make several trips to several supermarkets to retrieve this list and was pleasantly surprised. After popping into a reasonably small, well known store (with orange bags), I managed to get everything apart from light soy sauce (I substituted this with dark soy and it was fine).
The recipes were easy to follow, although I would recommend slicing and preparing ingredients before starting to cook things in the wok, as this stage moves quickly and I wouldn't have had time to cut things alongside without things burning.
I served the two dishes and they went down well with no left overs, impressive considering I was serving two rather fussy eaters. The washing up also went very quick as I hadn't ended up using the usually array of kitchen equipment that normally makes it way out of the cupboards. I am also confident that my shopping will be much quicker next time now that I have some of the ingredients already
Overall, very impressed and looking forward to my next Gok experience!
on 13 July 2012
This is a wonderful collection of simple, quick yet amazingly tasty recipes. Every time I cook a meal based on his recipes I get the whole family (including grandparents and teenagers) sat down eating together all really enjoying the food. And by that I mean plates and bowls are scraped clean.
Well presented, easy to follow and stylish (well you wouldn't expect anything else) with humour too. And the food really is delicious.
I particularly like Gok's salad side dishes and presentation suggestions.
This now sits next to my worn copy of Ken Hom's classic chinese cookbook. Thanks Gok for the wonderful recipes.
I'd recommend this for people starting out cooking and for people like me looking for new, fresh recipes.