Review: Chinese Style Appetizers

by Lee Hwa Lin

1996, We-Chuan Publishing, ISBN-13: 978-0941676694

Since starting this blog, I have posted several reviews of cookery books from Wei-Chuan publishing. I generally like of all the books I have purchased so far and this latest one, which I only recently acquired, is one of the best I have come across yet…

 

The book contains 89 recipes generally organized according to major ingredient. There is however, an understandable overlap in the categories, as many recipes under one heading will contain major ingredient that would properly allow the dish to be categorized elsewhere as well. This is hardly a problem except in the limited case where the reader may miss a dish or two while consulting the index for recipes containing a specific foodstuff.

As with virtually all the Wei-Chuan books, all the recipes are illustrated and, at the beginning of the book, there is a short series of very nicely arranged platters featuring various combinations of different appetizers. In addition to this, there are also three pages featuring photographs of some of the different foodstuffs employed in some of the recipes. This is quite helpful but could, in my opinion, be a little more comprehensive.

Although there are many classic Chinese appetizers in this book, ‘Drunken Chicken’ or ‘Spicy Pig Ear’, for example, there are a few, like the Korean Kimchi, or deep-fried Karasumi, which are directly drawn from other cultural cuisines. The rest of the recipes, as the book title suggests, are not classics as such, but are very recognizably created in Chinese style. Many, like the ‘Egg and Seaweed Rolls’ featured on the cover, and the ‘Chicken and Apple Salad’, are very innovative and nicely put together.

One of the nicest features of this book, to my mind, is that it contains an impressive number of recipes featuring certain ingredients that will be considered exotic by most non-Chinese. There dishes containing pig tripe, beef tendon, chickens feet and, best of all, no less than four recipes using salted jellyfish.

The book does, however, suffer from a few limitations… Some of the recipes are quite brief in their instructions and it is not always clear what is intended. The recipe for ‘Three color eggs’ for example, lists the ingredients and tells the reader to combine and steam them, but then fails to give clear instruction on how to produce the attractive slices appeared in the accompanying illustration. Likewise, the book deals with a number of ingredients that are not always clearly identified. Two recipes, for instance, call for ‘Soaked Squid’ and then give soaking instructions that require the use of baking soda. Another recipe calls for dried squid and provides alternate instructions for salting it and, ultimately, it is not clear whether ‘Soaked squid’ means dry or fresh quid which is then soaked according to the provided instructions, or one of the pre-soaked varieties that are available commercially.

Overall

Aside from the minor criticisms I mention above, I like this book very much and highly recommend it to those interested in Chinese cookery. There is a wide and interesting range of different recipes, all of which would not only be fun to recreate exactly, but which also provide great sources of inspiration. You can be sure that I will be using many of them in the upcoming months as the starting point for a number of experiments in my kitchen…

Available Here…

9 thoughts on “Review: Chinese Style Appetizers”

  1. I can’t wait to see some of your experiments using the recipes from this book. I also think it can be frustrating when some instructions are unclear in a cook book – most likely this was because of the translational issues of converting from Chinese to English.

    1. Actually… like many Wei-Chuan books, they are printed in Chinese as well as English. The Chinese instructions are also quite short bit in cases where something is truly unclear you always have the option of consulting the Chinese text… for me, though, that takes quite a bit of time with my dictionary.

      1. Once, at a Chinese restaurant, the staff brought me the Chinese-only menu. Being illiterate, I had to go up and ask for the other menu. But I couldn’t remember the word for to read, I could only remember the word for to see.

        So I kept telling the waitress that I couldn’t see the menu, and she kept picking it up and replying, “Oh honey, it’s RIGHT HERE!”

        And after about two minutes of this, she just realized that I must be mentally disabled. so she brought me the menu that only had pictures.

      2. OMG … that’s too funny. I once meant to say (in French) ‘I don’t speak French well’ and slipped up and said ‘I don’t *like* to speak French well’… the person in question couldn’t tell if I was being rude or just an idiot!

      3. That’s funny too!

        But somehow I think that’s more understandable than a Chinese girl who speaks Chinese with no accent, but who can’t read 😛 And doesn’t know the difference between reading and looking at something 😛

  2. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog.
    Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like
    this one nowadays.

    1. Thank you so much! This is a paid blog theme … I have been wanting to do something different but the thought of the headaches and work involved (in addition to actually writing the blog) is a bit daunting 😦

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