First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home, written by Frankie Gaw, features an incredible collection of eighty recipes inspired by his childhood and family. A few highlights include Lap Cheong Corn Dogs, Sesame Shaobing (Baked Layered Sesame Flatbread), Hand-Cut Noodles with Minced Pork Sauce (Zhá Jiàng Miàn), Chili Crisp Chicken and Peach Guo-Tie, and Maple Toast. I will also be sharing his recipe for Honey Mustard-Glazed Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Ten Speed Press 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.
Frankie Gaw is a food writer, photographer, and designer. His blog, Little Fat Boy, won Saveur’s Blog of the Year award and IACP’s Individual Food Blog award, and was nominated for a Webby.
His work has also been featured with Facebook and Airbnb. He grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and is currently based in Seattle with his partner, Scott.
Frankie begins First Generation with a short introduction of his family and childhood growing up in the Midwestern United States. The beautiful writing and stories are ingrained throughout the book before each chapter and within the memorable recipes.
Chapters are divided according to the following: An American Pantry, Small Eats, Bing, Noodles and Rice, Dumplings and Bao, Family Style, and Bake Sale. The contents include the list of recipes with page number for easy reference.
The first chapter is filled with a visual guide to favorite snacks and staples in the Asian supermarket with descriptions. There is also a collection of base recipes for homemade sauces, condiments, and stocks to help build flavor.
All the photography and illustrations are by Frankie. Most of the recipes are paired with at least one beautifully-styled full page photo of the finished dish. He has also put together a few step-by-step photos to accompany the instructions for Big Bing, Hand-Pulled Noodles, different ways to fold dumplings, and more.
In addition to the step-by-step photos, I especially love the detailed illustrations demonstrating specific techniques such as rolling the Fluffy Cornmeal White Bread and Scallion Pancakes.
Measurements are listed in US Customary. Titles are written in English and Mandarin. Each dish includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, yield, and serving ideas.
Honey Mustard-Glazed Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken
Everything I have tried so far has been fantastic, but I was particularly drawn to the Honey Mustard-Glazed Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken. The combination of tender, crunchy chicken with the sweet and tangy glaze was absolutely incredible.
Pieces of chicken are marinated in a garlicky soy sauce mixture, then coated in sweet potato starch.
They are fried twice to create the perfect crisp texture, then tossed in the easy honey mustard glaze and paired with fried basil leaves immediately before serving.
This recipe calls for kosher salt. If using table salt, halve the amounts and adjust seasonings to taste.
Sweet potato starch (camote/kamote flour, sweet potato flour) is made by drying sweet potatoes and grinding them into a powder. The resulting flour is gluten-free and adds a slight sweetness.
You can find sweet potato flour in markets with South American or East Asian ingredients. For those in the Northern Virginia/DC area, I was able to locate it in the starch section of 99 Ranch Market in Fairfax, Virginia. I haven’t attempted it yet, but China Sichuan Food has a recipe to make your own at home.
Shaoxing wine (绍兴酒) 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, and in markets specializing in Chinese ingredients. If unavailable, swap for mirin or sake.
I also made Big Bing, Stir-Fried Rice Cake Bolognese, Lu Rou Fan, and Reese’s Puffs Brownies.
This was my first time ever making Big Bing and I was so so excited with the results. This leavened version of scallion pancakes is packed with layers of scallion oil in one large bread. I loved the crispy texture and fluffy interior resulting from both pan-frying and steaming.
I made the Stir-Fried Rice Cake Bolognese the day after receiving this book. It was such a fun and comforting combination of flavors. Sliced rice cakes are paired with a savory homemade bolognese sauce.
The Lu Rou Fan was a favorite with the kids. Pieces of pork belly are simmered with shiitake mushrooms and warming spices. It is paired with rice, cilantro, and optionally soft-boiled tea eggs.
Evan developed a love for peanut butter cups and all related flavors over the summer, so he was particularly excited to see a recipe for Reese’s Puffs Brownies. They were so good! The brownies are packed with crushed Reese’s Puffs in the chocolate base along with the crumble topping.
First Generation is a great pick for those interested in Taiwanese-American cuisine paired with stunning photos and personal stories. There is a fantastic range of bread, noodles, rice dishes, and dumplings, along with small bites, family meals, and a few treats. Some recipes come together quickly with a handful of ingredients while others are fun projects perfect for weekends.
Having a market nearby with East Asian ingredients will be helpful in locating items such as star anise, lap cheong, sweet glutinous rice, miso, Shaoxing wine, rice cakes, Bok Choy, chickpea flour, pork belly, daikon, ancho chili powder, and more.
Honey Mustard-Glazed Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken Recipe
Excerpt from First Generation
Honey Mustard-Glazed Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine, mirin, or sake
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 egg white
- 14 ounces sweet potato starch
- 2-3 cups canola oil, vegetable oil, or any other oil with a high smoke point
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Black or white sesame seeds
Marinate the Chicken:
- Cut the chicken thighs into halves (for larger pieces) or thirds (for smaller pieces) so you have roughly even chunks.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the garlic, soy sauce, cooking wine, salt, flour, and egg white.
- Add the chicken pieces, cover the bowl, and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
Make the Glaze:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, honey, soy sauce, and mustard and set aside.
Coat the Chicken:
- Pour the sweet potato starch into a large mixing bowl.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade.
- Dip a chicken piece into the starch, turning to coat, and then set aside on a plate. Repeat for all the chicken pieces.
Fry the Chicken:
- Fill a large Dutch oven or heavy pot with 2 to 3 cups of oil (to reach a depth of about 3 inches) and throw in a handful of basil.
- Set over high heat and warm until the oil reaches 350˚F to 375˚F. The oil is ready when you start to see a light simmering of bubbles around the basil leaves.
- Take the basil out with a mesh strainer, set aside for garnish, and turn the heat down to low-medium.
- Fry the chicken in batches, turning as necessary, until lightly golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Remove the chicken pieces with a mesh strainer and transfer to the prepared tray lined with paper towels.
- When all the chicken has had its first fry, turn the heat up to high to get the oil to 385 to 395˚F.
- For the final fry, place the chicken pieces back in the pot and flash fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until golden brown.
- Transfer the chicken back to the paper towels to drain.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the chicken with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Glaze the Chicken:
- Pour the glaze into the bowl with the fried chicken and toss until evenly coated.
- Top the chicken with sesame seeds, garnish with fried basil, and serve warm.