China: The Cookbook, written by Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan, features over 650 recipes that represent a cross-section of the many cuisines of China in 720 pages. Well-known favorites such Deep-Fried Wontons, Hot and Sour Soup, General Tso’s Chicken, Sweet and Sour Shrimp, Lion’s Head Meatballs, and Hong Kong-Style Egg Tarts can be found alongside the lesser-known but still delicious Eggplant Salad with Sesame Sauce, Patriotic Soup, Stuffed Pumpkin Flowers, Honeymoon Fried Rice, and Fried Milk Custards. I will also be sharing their recipe for Chicken with Cashew Nuts following the review.
Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book from Phaidon in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan
Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan are a husband and wife team based in Hong Kong. They are best-selling authors and are regarded as top culinary authorities in China. Kei Lum Chan’s father, Mong Yan Chan, was the editor-in-chief and food critic for a Hong Kong newspaper and published “Food Classics” (often considered the Chinese food bible) in ten volumes in 1953. Diora Fong Chan’s family had members in the Qing Dynasty court and in high positions in the Republic of China government prior to 1949.
China: The Cookbook
Chapters are divided based on food group: Introduction; Appetizers & Salads; Soups; Fish & Seafood; Poultry; Meat; Vegetables, Tofu, & Eggs; Rice, Congee, & Noodles; Desserts; and Guest Chefs.
China is made up of 34 provinces/regions and 56 indigenous nationalities, yet only 11 percent of China’s landmass is suitable for agriculture. This has created a variety of cuisines featuring notable flavors, ingredients, and cooking methods. The book begins with a background describing this food culture with the eight great cuisines, use of food as a medicine, food in religion, street food, globalization, and mealtime rituals.
For those new to Chinese cooking, there is also a detailed section with important cooking techniques such as baking (ju), blanching (cuan), boiling (bao), braising (hui), deep-frying (zha), and steeping (jin zi) along with cooking equipment. The glossary lists some of the most popular ingredients with the name in English and its original language, descriptions, preparation tips, where to locate them, and substitutions when available.
Each dish is listed in English and its original language (hànzì). The headnote also includes the region, preparation time, cook time, and serving size. Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric. The recipe photographs are by DL Acken. Many of the recipes have a full-page photo of the finished dish. There are also beautiful photos of China’s scenery, food, and people.
This book is a great pick for those wanting to learn more about Chinese cuisine and culture. The book is massive with over 720 pages and has a great variety of recipes (no beverages though). The dishes were narrowed down and selected with the home cook in mind and to share with the family. Most come together quickly and range in difficulty from beginner to advanced. Having a seafood market and specialty store featuring Chinese ingredients will be helpful. A few of the more difficult to find products include Shaoxing wine, Chinese cured bacon, dried black mushrooms, red distilled grain sauce, fermented black beans, shrimp paste, Shajiang powder, Sichuan peppercorns, Tianjin preserved cabbage, bamboo shoots, and more.
Chicken with Cashew Nuts
Chicken with Cashew Nuts comes from the Guangdong region in China. It is perfect for weeknights as a quick and easy meal incorporating a variety of textures. Pieces of chicken are lightly marinated in garlic and Shaoxing wine. It is tossed over high heat with shallots, bell peppers, scallions, and crisp cashew nuts, then served with steamed rice.
Shaoxing Wine is a fermented rice wine originally from Shaoxing in the Zhejiang province in eastern China. I have been able to find it at larger grocery stores with a sizeable wine selection, such as Wegmans. It is also available in Asian food markets specializing in Chinese ingredients. Sherry can be used as a substitution.
I also made Egg Rolls, Egg Flower Soup, Egg and Beef Rice Casserole, and Walnut Cookies.
Egg Rolls have always been a favorite of mine and these from Henan did not disappoint. Each roll is filled simply with slices of pork tenderloin and chives, then fried until crisp. It is a great accompaniment to a multi coarse meal.
The Egg Flower Soup was Evan’s favorite. This soup from Guangdong is made by boiling chicken stock (a recipe is included), then quickly stirring in the falling beaten eggs to create silky strands. It is seasoned with salt and chopped green onions.
The Egg and Beef Rice Casserole from Hong Kong was perfect as a weeknight meal. Ground beef is marinated in a mixture of soy and oyster sauces, then formed into a patty. The patty is baked over a layer of rice, then when nearly finished, an egg is cracked on top to cook lightly in the residual heat. The dish is finished with a drizzle of a sweet soy sauce before serving.
The Walnut Cookies from Hong Kong are a nice snack or ending to the meal. A basic shortbread-like cookie dough is combined with broken pieces of walnuts, then baked until golden. For an extra touch, garnish each cookie with a walnut piece. This was a fun recipe to make with Claire, especially during the holiday baking season.
Looking for more Chinese recipes?
Chicken with Cashew Nuts Recipe
Excerpt from China: The Cookbook
Chicken with Cashew Nuts
- 5 boneless chicken legs cut into 3⁄4 inch/2 centimeter cubes
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (cornflour)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus extra for deep-frying
- 3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces, 100 grams) cashew nuts
- 6 shallots quartered
- 1 red bell pepper seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 2 scallions (spring onions) stems only, cut into 2 inch, 5 centimeter lengths
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- Coarsely chopped cilantro (coriander leaves) to garnish, optional
- Steamed rice to serve
- Combine the chicken, garlic, salt, wine, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch (cornflour) in a large bowl, then add the oil and marinate for 10 minutes.
- Put the cashew nuts into a wok or large skillet (frying pan) and add enough oil to cover them completely. Heat the oil to 285°F/140°C, or until a cube of bread turns golden in 2 minutes. Deep fry the nuts for 2-3 minutes, or until crunchy. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the nuts from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- Pour out most of the oil leaving 1 tablespoon in the wok and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes until fragrant. Put in the chicken, increase to high heat, and toss rapidly for 2 minutes until browned. Add the bell pepper and soy sauce and stir-fry for another minute, or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the scallions (spring onions).
- Mix the remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon cornstarch with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl and stir this mixture into the wok. Bring to a boil, stirring, for about 30 seconds to thicken the sauce. Add the sesame oil and garnish with cilantro (coriander), if using. Serve with rice.