Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites from Dim Sum to Kung Pao, written by Bee Yinn Low, features a collection of favorite Chinese dishes perfect for beginners and those short on time. Notable recipes include Crispy Fried Wontons, Simple Egg Drop Soup, Baked BBQ Pork Puffs (Cha Shao Su), Beef with Broccoli (Xi Lan Hua Niu Rou), Sweet and Sour Fish, Shanghai Fried Noodles, and Flaky Sweet Egg Tarts (Dan Ta).
Bee Yinn Low was born in Penang, Malaysia in a Chinese household. She observed her mother in the kitchen growing up, but didn’t actually start cooking until she left home for college in Kuala Lumpur. She now lives in Southern California with her family and started her blog, Rasamalaysia.com in 2006, which is currently the largest independent Asian recipe blog online.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Tuttle Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
Chapters are divided based on course: The Basics; Appetizers; Soups; Dim Sum and Dumplings; Beef and Pork; Poultry; Seafood; Vegetables, Tofu, and Eggs; Noodles and Rice; and Desserts and Drinks.
For those new to Chinese cooking, Bee begins with a few pages covering the basics. Cooking techniques and tips include how to tenderize meat and cut it against the grain, create shrimp with a shuang cui (bouncy) texture, deep-fry, and stir-fry. Essential tools and utensils such as steamers, strainers, and rice cookers are described. You will also learn how to season and maintain a cast iron wok.
The overview of basic Chinese ingredients is particularly helpful with photos, descriptions, uses, and substitutions when available. To help build the foundation, basic recipes for sauces, steamed rice, stocks, salads, and wrappers are also included. The resource guide at the end of the book includes some of Bee’s favorite cookbooks and where to shop for ingredients and tools.
Measurements for the recipes are provided in US Customary and Metric. The name of the dish is listed in English and the original language (romanized) when applicable.
Most of the photography is by Bee. Every recipe is accompanied by a photo of the finished dish, quarter to full page. A few have step-by-step photos to show a certain fold or technique. She also touches base on the food styling and photography.
This book is a great pick whether you are interested in Chinese cuisine or wanting to recreate your take-out favorites at home. Between the step-by-step photos and Bee’s thorough explanations, the dishes are made for beginners and more seasoned home cooks alike. Having a market featuring Chinese ingredients nearby will be helpful in recreating a few of the recipes. Some of the more difficult to find ingredients include garlic chives, pork belly, bamboo shoots, red finger-length chilies, plum sauce, preserved black beans, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, Chinese broccoli, baby bok choy, tapioca pearls, red bean paste, wood ear mushrooms, and Chinese black vinegar.
Bee made these Sweet Peanut Nuggets based on a Chinese recipe called Tang Bu Shuai. They are quite addictive with the chewy center coated in a sweetened ground peanut and sesame mixture.
The base is made with a simple combination of glutinous rice flour and water. After a 30 minute resting time, the dough is formed into small balls, boiled, then covered in a mixture of sugar, ground peanuts, and toasted sesame seeds.
They reminded me a bit of the Chinese Peanut Dumplings in Ginger Syrup, a recipe also from Bee, I made a couple of years ago, but these are even easier since the coating takes place of the filling and there is no syrup to prepare.
Glutinous Rice Flour is made by grinding glutinous (sticky) rice. It is called glutinous rice based on the sticky texture when cooked and is actually gluten-free. I bought the rice flour from an Asian Food Market and have seen it lately in the international section of some larger supermarkets, but it is also available on Amazon:Dried Sweet Glutinous Rice Flour.
As a note: be careful when giving products with glutinous rice flour/mochiko to young children or those with swallowing difficulty. The texture may create a choking hazard.
I also made Green Onion Pancakes, West Lake Beef Soup (Xi Hu Niu Rou Geng), Honey Walnut Shrimp (Mi Tao Xia), and Tea Leaf Eggs (Cha Ye Dan).
Green Onion Pancakes are flaky little discs of dough filled with sliced green onions. I absolutely loved the texture with the crisp, lightly fried exterior and soft layers on the inside. Bee includes step-by-step photos to help you form the pancakes.
West Lake Beef Soup, Xi Hu Niu Rou Geng, is a light, flavorful soup from Hangzhou, China. Sesame oil marinated ground beef is cooked in a seasoned chicken broth with chopped cilantro and strands of beaten eggs. This one was Evan’s favorite.
Honey Walnut Shrimp, Mi Tao Xia, has an amazing combination of flavors and textures. I particularly liked Bee’s description: “deep-fried succulent shrimp, lightly coated with a creamy mayonnaise-based sauce, flecked with crunchy amber-colored glazed walnuts.” After making the glazed walnuts, it was very difficult to stop snacking on them while the shrimp were frying.
Tea Leaf Eggs (Cha Ye Dan) have been on my list for a while now and I am so glad I tried them. The striking marble effect is created by steeping the cracked, boiled eggs in a spiced soy and tea mixture. This particularly recipe is best when allowed to rest overnight before serving.
Sweet Peanut Nuggets
Adapted from Easy Chinese Recipes
8 ounces (250 grams) glutinous rice flour
3/4 cup (185 ml) water
Water for boiling
3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped to garnish
3 ounces (75 grams) ground peanuts
3 ounces (75 grams) fine sugar
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, lightly toasted
In a large bowl, add the glutinous rice flour. Slowly add the water while mixing and kneading by hand until a dough comes together. Continue to knead until smooth and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes. If it is too watery and sticky, add a little more flour. If too dry and crumbly, add a little more water. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
On a lightly rice floured surface, divide the dough into two equal pieces. Roll one of the pieces into a rope and cut into 12 equal pieces. Repeat with the other half. Roll each piece into a ball.
In a medium bowl, combine the ground peanuts, sugar, and sesame seeds.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Gently add the balls of dough and cook until they rise to the top, about 2 minutes.
Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove the balls from the water, gently shaking off the excess. Roll each ball in the ground peanut mixture to coat thoroughly. Garnish with the chopped peanuts and serve immediately.