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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

4.7 out of 5 stars 277 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stir-frying may have been pedestrianized by generations of vegetarian college students, but this beautiful, comprehensive cookbook restores it to its rightful place among the most elegant cookery techniques. The virtues of stir-frying, Young writes, are many: it makes bounty out of small amounts of meat and oil; it emphasizes healthful vegetables; and most importantly, it creates 'alchemic flavor out of raw ingredients. Young (The Breath of a Wok), has a scholarly yet impassioned approach, and she fuses personal anecdotes, meticulously researched history, and stir-fry–related arcana to illuminate her subject. She covers types of woks and utensils and a recommended stir-fry pantry, including a photograph of sauces with tricky-to-decipher packaging. At the book's heart are the classic techniques and dishes of China's regional cuisines, such as Hunan-style cumin beef, Cantonese chicken with black bean sauce, and stir-fried Sichuan beans. Still, for Young, who always travels with her own wok, the story of stir-frying is also the story of the Chinese diaspora. By tracing the stir-fry around the world, she demonstrates all of the diversity it can contain: Jamaican stir-fried chicken with chayote, Cuban fried rice, and Peruvian stir-fried filet mignon. For the serious home cook, this informative, lyrical tome is an inspiration. Photos. (May)
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From Booklist

Most people associate stir-frying solely with Chinese cookery, but this classic method of flash cooking has influenced cuisines throughout the world due in large part to the Chinese diaspora. Young, whose expertise in wok technique has already enlightened American cooks, has now gathered recipes for stir-frying reflecting culinary traditions as far-flung as Indonesia and Peru. Familiar Chinese dishes such as Sichuan Pork with Peppers and Peanuts and Shrimp in Lobster Sauce honor classic flavor combinations, but Jamaican Chicken with Chayote shows that stir-frying can adapt to other cultural impulses. For the novice, Young offers lots of basic yet learned advice on shopping for unfamiliar ingredients and on assembling a Chinese pantry. Photographs and step-by-step instructions make fundamental wok tools and techniques accessible to even the least experienced. Her sidebars featuring talented stir-frying masters from all over the world add human dimension to the recipes. --Mark Knoblauch

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Taunton Press; 4.4.2010 edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416580573
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416580577
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 2.7 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I grew up in San Francisco surrounded, on the one hand, by the immigrant Chinese traditions of my family and relatives, and, on the other, by an innovative American culinary culture. My earliest memories of food are of the extraordinary meals my mother and father prepared for us (my brother and me) and of the efforts they made to ensure that we ate well. Their care was not only a matter of selecting the freshest ingredients, but also for the authenticity with which they replicated the traditional Cantonese dishes of their youth in China during the 1930s and forties. This connection to the cooking of old-world China coupled with the discovery of Julia Child on television (and her "exotic" dishes) shaped my lifelong affair with food and cooking. At the age of thirteen I began an apprenticeship with Josephine Araldo, a French cooking teacher. Those lessons initiated an exploration of other cuisines and led me, eventually, to my career in food.

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.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
After purchasing this book, I have had a hard time cooking from any other. To date, I have made: minced pork in lettuce cups; stir-fried beef & broccoli; stir-fried chicken with pineapple and peppers; chinese trinidadian chicken with mango chutney; five spice chicken with sugar snaps; chinese jamaican stir-fried chicken with chayote; stir-fried chicken with carrots & mushrooms; chinese burmese chili chicken; stir-fried salmon in wine sauce; dry-fried pepper & salt shrimp; singapore-style stir-fried lobster; spicy long beans with sausage and mushrooms; fried sweet rice with mushrooms; and singapore noodles. No dish has disappointed. The recipes are clear and concise, the backgrounds giving more appreciation for each dish, and the photography approaches the pornographic for glorious color & close-ups of the food. That said (I may be biased), my dishes have looked remarkably close to the pictures.
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!
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Back in the 70s and early 80s, the wok was all the rage. Then in one of my many youthful moves, I lost mine and never thought about it again. Not, that is, until this book came along.

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!!
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Format: Hardcover
Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge is what a cookbook about stir frying should be. I have lost count of the number of such books on the subject which I have read through and I have cooked from at least ten and this is the finest for some of the reasons described below.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. Stir Fying to the Skys Edge. I have been cooking for 30 years with what I thought was a pretty good knowledge of stir frying. I love my wok and use it a couple of times a month. This Book without a doubt has helped me bring my cooking to a whole other level. The recipes are great but there is so much more to be learned in this book. Grace Young makes you want to run to the store and prepare a great healthy meal. She makes it interesting and easy to cook all your old favorites plus and ton of new dishes. Lets face it what cook does not love a one dish meal??? Great Book. I am buying this book for all my future wedding shower gifts.
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