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Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories Hardcover – May 4, 2010
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More About the Author
I spent much of my early professional life as the test kitchen director for over forty cookbooks published by Time Life Books. In the early nineties, after growing weary of producing what had become soulless work with formulaic recipes, I developed a yearning to reconnect to the tastes and foods of my childhood. Over the next few years, I made numerous trips back to San Francisco from my home in New York to cook with my 70-year old mother and 82-year old father. It took much cajoling and great persistence to convince them to teach me their recipes. At the beginning, my focus was on a precise recording of the recipes. Eventually, and to my great surprise, as we cooked my parents, who had always been reticent about their past, began to share memories of their lives in China and accounts of their early days in America. This is how I came to learn a large part of my family's history. What started as a little recipe project soon blossomed into a memoir cookbook, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 1999. The book was awarded the IACP Le Cordon Bleu Best International Cookbook Award, in addition to being a finalist for an IACP First Cookbook Award, and a James Beard World International Cookbook Award. It was also featured in a special segment on CBS Sunday Morning. Many of the relatives and friends who taught me their recipes and shared their stories have since passed away. The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen feels to me now almost like a treasured family album.
My second cookbook, The Breath of a Wok, grew out of the realization that most Chinese Americans know little about their own culinary traditions, specifically wok cooking. I had become aware also of how cooks in China were abandoning their classic, well-seasoned iron woks for inferior nonstick cookware. In a tribute to wok cookery and out of a desire to reignite its popularity, I partnered with Alan Richardson to create what the acclaimed food historian and author Betty Fussell described as, "a bridge between cultures for a Chinese-American in search of history and destiny. It is a remarkable collaboration between a writer and a photographer that reveals what the wok symbolizes---a craft, an art, a container of communal harmony and balance." That book won the IACP Le Cordon Bleu Best International Cookbook Award, the Jane Grigson Award for Distinguished Scholarship, and the World Food Media Awards' Best Food Book. It was also featured in the New York Times, on NPR's All Things Considered and was selected as one of the best cookbooks of the year by Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, Bon Appétit, and Epicurious.
The Breath of a Wok led me to the adventure of traveling with my carbon-steel wok (in my hand-carry baggage) on a 25-city tour for the culinary retailer Sur la Table to teach the art of wok cooking. I published further articles on Chinese cooking in Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Eating Well, and Saveur, where I am a contributing editor. The book also brought me speaking engagements at the Culinary Institute at Greystone, China Institute, New York University Asian/Pacific/American Institute, the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, The French Culinary Institute, and the Chinese Historical Society of America.
In 2006 I began work on Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. This effort was dedicated to the effort of empowering home cooks to stir-fry with confidence. It explores everything from the origins and health benefits of stir-frying to the technique's great economy of time and fuel. I was awarded an IACP Culinary Trust eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters Culinary Journalist Independent Study Scholarship which funded my research travel to Trinidad, Germany, Holland, Canada, and the United States to study the stir-fries of the Chinese diaspora. While Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge concentrates on traditional stir-fries, it is also filled with remarkable stories of how this simple, beloved cooking technique has enabled generations of Chinese around the world to eat well and with exquisite economy. My interview subjects include Chinese who grew up in such far-flung locations as Peru, Jamaica, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, Macau, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and the Mississippi Delta.
My passion for recording and preserving Chinese culinary traditions continues to lead me in quest of home cooks who understand and enjoy the benefits Chinese cooking. If you have a comfort food that is at risk of being lost or a story to share, it would be my great delight to learn of them. Please feel free to contact me: www.graceyoung.com.
Top Customer Reviews
I haven't had this much fun cooking from a book in a long time. So. . .buy the book, find those tiny Mom & Pop Asian grocery stores, & don't be afraid to ask questions. You're going to eat well!
Grace Young's book is great for the first-time wok cook, or for those like me who are rediscovering Asian cooking. The opening section has clear explanations and color photographs on the different kinds of woks, how to season a wok, wok tools, and wok variations in different countries. She provides a very handy list of Asian ingredients, with explantions for each and substitutions that can be used for some. The recipes are clearly written, accessible to the western cook, and lots and lots of color photos which I particularly appreciate. At the back is a resource list of stores and web sites.
I called one of these -- The Wok Shop in San Francisco's Chinatown -- and the store owner, Tane, who is also featured in one of the pictures in the book, was very helpful in helping me choose the right wok for me and my stovetop. A mere sixty bucks and a few days later, I had my wok, wok cover, all my wok tools, and was ready to roll. (I bought a lot of extras but you can get a wok from Tane for as low as $15) Since then we've been using the wok several times a week, and really enjoying the many things that can be made in it, especially the vegetables, which I'm trying to eat more of.
what I appreciated most about Young's philosophy is that wok cooking is extremely inexpensive AND healthy. It is the chosen cooking tool for humans in most parts of the world, and once you learn how to use your wok, most of those other pots and pans really are not needed. Wok, heat source, something to move the food around (spatula or whatever), and some food from the garden or local market and you are good to go, anywhere on the planet! Highly recommended for novice cooks and chefs alike!!
First, all recipes can actually be made; the ingredients used are available at most supermarkets and the few which are not are available at any metropolitan area asian grocer or from many mail order vendors for those of you living in rural areas.
Second, the quantity of ingredients and directions are detailed and straight forward. The author goes so far as to write up techniques and tools for preparing the proteins and vegetables such as the best ways to cut matchstick sized vegetables, slice proteins, etc. There is no guess work needed to make the recipes. The author avoids this very common failing of cookbooks.
As a consequence of the foregoing, even a novice cook can actually make the recipes as intended by the author and they are delicious.
Third, I have loved the flavors, textures and smells of all of the recipes which I have made. The dishes written up are excellent.
Fourth, there is a great variety of dishes covering all of the usual proteins and vegetables. Whatever one you favor, you will find a preparation including it, and most likely featuring it, be it chicken, fish, seafood, beef, pork, noodles, rice, and all sorts of vegetables.
I do wish that the recipes contained nutrition information. However, this is common among non-diet books.
I expect that I will make at least 90% of the recipes in this book and expect to love them all. This book is a keeper and worth adding to you cookbook collection. I am grateful to the author and anticipate that you will be too.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very please with content of book & also condition considering it was second hand.Published 16 days ago by Trevor Cunningham
Beautiful book with lots of background information adding much to your wok cooking knowledge and experiences!Published 20 days ago by Bob@Kelly
No matter your skill level, this book will produce good food every time! It's simple to follow and I highly recommend.Published 23 days ago by Amazon Customer
I've started this review a dozen times. I don't want to be so effusive that I sound like a stalker of Ms. Young, but I also don't want to be too understated. Read morePublished 2 months ago by L. Maple
If you enjoy Asian cooking as much as we do then this cookbook is a must for you cookbook library. We are well on our way to trying every recipe and no losers yet! Read morePublished 2 months ago by Rick in Reno
Lots of knowledge in this book. Important tips intentionally drilled into your head throughout the reading, as well as into the recipes; if the wok temp drops to much from... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Kevin