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Ching-He Huang is one of the brightest stars in modern Chinese cooking in the UK. Each week in her new BBC2 series she re-invents the nation's favourite Chinese dishes, modernising them with fresh, easy to buy ingredients, and offering simple practical tips and techniques. These are brought together in this beautiful book to accompany the series. Drawing on the experiences of top chefs, her family and friends, growers and producers and celebrity enthusiasts Ching sets out to discover the best Chinese cooking in the UK today, introducing easy-to-make Chinese food to sometimes resistant Brits, and painting a picture of modern Anglo-Chinese life in the UK as she goes. Chinese Food Made Easy begins with some of the most familiar dishes from a Chinese takeaway menu - Sweet & Sour Prawns, Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Chop Suey and Cantonese Vegetable Stir Fry, each with Ching's special and imaginative twist. Later we explore spicy Szechuan food: Noodles, Dumplings and Dim sum; Seafood; Fast Food; Desserts and finally Celebratory Food, where Ching presents a complete banquet of dishes to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Ching's knowledge, charm and enthusiasm shine through as she shares the 'basic principles' of Chinese cooking including some of the simple techniques and tips taught by her Grandparents for tasty results. Using ingredients from high-street supermarkets and some imaginative suggestions for alternative ingredients, these classic Chinese dishes are updated, fresh and healthily prepared so that anyone can make and enjoy them.
I've been watching and enjoying random episodes of Ching-He Huang's cooking show on the new TV Food Channel. When I saw a copy of her cookbook on the Sale table at my local bookstore, I grabbed it. I'm very glad I did.
I have several Chinese cookbooks, but many of them are geared towards authenticity or east-meets-west. If I had to categorize Chinese Food Made Easy I'd say it's "30 minute Chinese meals." The recipes emphasize simplicity -- and also healthfulness. Foods that are traditionally deep fried, for instance, use only a few tablespoons of oil, and she turns to more natural sugars (like honey). There's rarely a long list of ingredients; I have most of these items in my pantry. (But then I have a good Chinese market relatively nearby, making it easy to stock up.)
So far, we've made three of her recipes: Scallops with black rice vinegar and ham; Sichuan orange beef with shitake mushrooms; and soy and sesame green beans. All were under a half hour, start-to-finish, and each were delicious. On my upcoming list: Seafood congee (which uses one of those frozen "mixed seafood" packets I see at Trader Joe's but am never sure how best to use), fast hot and sour noodle pot (on the TV show she demonstrated how to make this in less time than a ramen noodle mix), and mango chicken.
My only quibble is her portion sizes. We don't eat a lot, but the scallop recipe made a pretty light dinner. You probably do need at least one accompaniment.
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I have enjoyed this show on the Cooking Channel so I thought I'd give the book a try. As advertised the recipes in the book are easy to reproduce for us at home, we have a pretty good pantry so the ingredients are most often at hand. We've now tried four recipes out of the book with mixed results. The Chicken Chow Mein was fun and easy to whip up and is a do-again for us. The Orange Beef however was disappointing- preparing and seasoning it as directed resulted in a bland dish. We made some notations to spice this up the next time we make it and moved on to two other dishes: Five Spice Roasted Chicken pieces and Smacked Cucumber and Sesame Salad. Having learned from our previous experience we doubled the strength of the marinade for the chicken and doubled the amount of dressing for the salad while keeping the amount of salad vegies the same. Both dishes turned out to be very flavorful using our method. Each of the four dishes have been easy to prepare so the book fulfills it's promise on that level. For our tastes however the spicing level- and I'm not referring to heat- as written is just too bland for our tastes. We don't mind being a little creative in our own kitchen however so the book is a keeper and we're going to be making several more of the recipes.
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