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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 April 2012
This is a beautiful book that is quite difficult to categorise and define. It is not just a cook book, it is not just a guide to Chinese cuisine, it is not just a book about culture...
Yet when examined together it is just a perfect fit. It is not something you really want to dip in and out of, at least on first reading, as you will gain much more benefit by reading it end to end and then, as required, dip back in again.
In essence this is a compilation of a close family's experiences about food, a collection of memories, a tribute by a daughter to her mother and extended family, a celebration of the various superstitions and philosophies in Cantonese society. A real labour of love.
The reader is not assumed to be an expert in Chinese food and culture, yet equally the reader is not treated like a fool. As you read through you gain a lot of knowledge and information which the brain ever-so-carefully files away in different places for later recall. Fundamental basic building blocks such as rice are carefully and reverentially covered in extensive, wonderful detail so one can begin to appreciate how and why certain ingredients can hold such a sway in Chinese cooking. Consideration is also given to the various cooking methods utilised so one can begin to appreciate how small changes can create a large impact (sometimes for the worse). Even how a vegetable is chopped can, within the overall balance of the dish, make a difference. Quite remarkable really!
Throughout the book over 150 different recipes almost appear as an afterthought but that is clearly not the intention. It might be fairer to say that the "surrounding" text which accompanies the recipes is not just filler, but in fact a central, crucial part of the overall proposition. Just like a good sandwich should have a quality bread and tasty filling, the recipes are the tasty filling to the quality bread (of information).
Food as an item for celebration is a large theme throughout the book and the author shares how certain foods are key "members" or participants at any celebration. Many of the ingredients used are harder to find, particularly in more Western markets, and invariably there is a greater degree of complication involved in their preparation. This book may give you more confidence to try things rather than just leave a certain thing out as you have a greater appreciation to the contribution and balance each ingredient can make.
The book is rounded off with consideration of the various beliefs about the healing properties of ginseng, gingko nuts, soybeans and the like. An extremely comprehensive glossary of ingredients typically used within Cantonese cookery is provided to help the wary and provide further background information.
Overall, a wonderful book. Not quite one that would be used for daily cooking when you need to dash through it for inspiration but nonetheless many of the recipes can be a very regular appearance at your table and it is probable that this book will not be gathering dust somewhere on a distant bookshelf...
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on 31 May 1999
The stories, recipes and information about home style Cantonese cooking have great appeal. The book strikes a balance of soups steamed and stir-fried food. The writing is a pleasure to read.
In one chapter, Grace Young, goes to great length to emphasize the need to cut food properly to achieve a balance in taste. Here is where the book fails to live up to its promise. While the author explains the need to cut food properly, she fails to provide complete descriptions, illustrations and photographs of exactly how the food should be cut. Cutting techniques for Cantonese food may not be a mystery to those who already know the dishes, but for those of us are new to Chinese cooking, they are. While there are some descriptions of how to cut in the recipes, no where are the kind of helpful, explicit details that might be learned by a novice learning French cooking by reading Jacques Pepin or Julia Child.
Pictures dealing with other aspects of preparation are also scarce. The chart identifying food is too small to be of much use. The photographs showing finished dishes are too few and, again, too small to be helpful to a novice looking for clues about a dish's preparation.
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on 9 June 1999
I feel that Grace Young have put together an excellent cook book with history of cooking recipes from her large families. Its a great reading book, with all its old traditions. She has captured all the generations, and generations of our ancestors very unique and techniques in preparations of the Chinese meal. Cooking a Chinese meal means to put in a lot of time and preparations. This brings back lots of old memories of myself helping and cooking with my mother. We learned at a very young age to mainly help prepared if not the actual cooking, which sometimes its more important than the actual cooking the meal. For this is the art of preparing that Grace Young have actually describe in her book. I aso enjoyed the selected topics of each chapter of the book, especially the one on chapter 3, "The Meaning Of Rice" is very interesting and to the point of what is important in a Chinese meal. Its a great book to have and to keep with all its philosophy, traditions and great and simple recipes that I think anyone can follow. "The Wisdon Of The Chinese Kitchen" have been very well written and put together for easy and enjoyable reading, and of course the simplicity of her recipes. Great job Grace.
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on 13 May 1999
I've read and tried a lot of Chinese cookbooks and nothing really worked (not even ones written in Chinese)! Until this one! It is full of recipes that are true to the Chinese way of cooking (not altered to make it easier for the Western world). The step-by-step instructions are great (my mom thinks so too). The best part about this book is it includes some festive dishes which can be tricky to make! Now I can surprise my mom and mother-in-law with some really good festive dishes!
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on 25 June 1999
This is the best cookbook that I have read in years! The recipes are great and the stories evoke memories of growing up with my Asian extended family. If you want to prepare dishes that feed your soul as well as your appetite, buy this book. (It's especially useful for the neophyte as it explains the ingredients in full detail.)
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on 21 July 1999
As a third generation Chinese, this book was a wonderful treat to have in the kitchen. It's recipes and instructions were so clear and precise that one couldn't possibly make a mistake. The results were excellent. Most of my siblings have also enjoyed being my guinea pig while I experimented with the recipes from our childhood. We all enjoyed the brief intro to each of the recipes as well. Thank you Ms. Young for publishing this book that all third generations can relate to.
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on 6 May 1999
I'm not really a cook. But I love reading cook books. And this is by far the best I've read this year. It's a family memoir. It's a love letter. It's a book about Chinese herbs. I might even go back into the kitchen!Thank you Grace Young.
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on 4 July 1999
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The recipes were very clear. I particularly liked the thoroughness of the definitions & explanations of ingredients for the Western cook. It makes finding the ingredients in an Asian market easy & accessible.
The author's memoirs were charming & I loved the way she spoke about her parents' honoring & celebrating the process of cooking. There is so much emphasis on speed & results in America today, we forget about honoring the processes of life.
All in all a lovely read & very refreshing.
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on 11 May 2015
Good descriptions with great detail.
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on 30 October 2014
no comment
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