Chinese Heritage Cooking From My American Kitchen: Discover Authentic Flavors with Vibrant, Modern Recipes, written by Shirley Chung, features a wonderful collection of 76 delicious and inspiring Chinese-based recipes. Highlights include Cheeseburger Pot Stickers, Kale Mixed Rice with Smoked Trout Roe, Soy Poached Whole Chicken, Bok Choy with Crispy Garlic, Sweet Mochi with Strawberry and Nutella, and Rice Wine-Braised Lamb Shank. I will also be sharing her recipe for Kaya Jam (Coconut-Egg Jam) following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Page Street Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All opinions and statements 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.
Shirley Chung is a chef, restaurant owner, and finalist on Top Chef. She was born and raised in Beijing, China and moved to the United States at the age of 17. Along with her roots in Chinese cooking, Chung’s grandmother, Liang Si Yi, former Director of The Red Cross in China, exposed her to international cuisine at an early age and she has also received training in classic French and Italian cuisine. She is currently based in Los Angeles, California and recently opened Ms. Chi Café in Culver City.
Ms Chi Cafe
After discovering that Ms Chi Cafe is only a short drive from our house, we stopped by one morning for brunch shortly after I started working on the review.
I loved all the unique offerings! We ordered the cheeseburger potstickers with cheddar cheese and bacon jam (Top Chef Winning Dish); breakfast fried wontons with scrambled eggs, sausage, cheddar, and chili ketchup; mochi donuts (a favorite with the kids); strawberry yogurt slushie; black sesame latte (so good); hedgehog bao with dark chocolate, sesame granola, and vanilla ice cream; and a hot dog bao. Everything I tried was wonderful, but my personal favorite was the hedgehog bao filled with dark chocolate. This restaurant is definitely a dumpling lover’s dream.
Chinese Heritage Cooking From My American Kitchen
Chapters are divided according to the following: To Wok or Not to Wok: Meat Dishes from My Chinese American Kitchen; Beijing Girl in California: Salads and Chilled Dishes; Just Dough It: Better Than Mama’s Noodles, Dumplings and Pancakes; Southern China Roots: Seasonal Vegetables and Rice Dishes; The Fish Masta: Everyone Can Cook Fish and Shellfish; Bowl of Hugs: Soups; Congees and Comfort Foods; Double Happiness: Larger Dishes for Holidays and Celebrations; They Call Me Firecracker: Hot Sauces and Condiments; and I Don’t Bake: Easy Stovetop Sweets and Desserts. The contents include a list of the individual recipes with page numbers for easy reference.
Chung begins with the story of her life and how she developed a love for cooking before leading right into the recipes. For those new to Chinese cooking, she has included a short guide to regional Chinese ingredients with descriptions and how to use them. The beautiful photography is provided by Albert Law. Every single recipe is accompanied by at least one full-page photo of the finished dish. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. The titles are written in English. Each recipe has a headnote with background information, serving size, menu ideas, and pro tips.
This book is a great pick for those looking for new and exciting twists on traditional Chinese recipes. Many come together easily in just a short period of time. Others require a bit more technique such as folding dumplings, making your own noodles, and wrapping strawberries with mochi. Having access to a market specializing in Chinese ingredients will be helpful for locating items such as skin-on pork belly, star anise, tian mian jiang (sweet fermented bean paste), huang jiang (fermented soy bean paste), Napa cabbage, Shaoxing wine, baby Bok Choy, sambal chili sauce, mung bean vermicelli noodles, small tapioca, oxtail, Chinkiang vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns, daikon, and more.
Kaya Jam (Coconut-Egg Jam)
Kaya Jam is a caramelized coconut spread popular in Southeast Asia. Eggs (five of them!), sugar, and coconut are mixed well, then slowly cooked until thickened and creamy with the help of a little cornstarch. Once the jam has thickened, additional caramel is folded in for a finishing touch. This helps give the Kaya Jam that golden color and adds even more richness.
The jam comes together with just a few ingredients, but it does require constant attention to keep the mixture from burning. This particular version doesn’t include it, but Kaya Jam is often flavored with pandan leaves (which can be difficult to find). Pandan Kaya even has a beautiful green color and is definitely on my list to try someday.
Chung describes Kaya Jam as tasting “like a creamy coconut caramel candy.” She recommends serving it with toast or over vanilla ice cream. My favorite way to use it is to make Kaya Toast with Tea Tarik (Malaysian Pulled Tea) and Telur Kopitiam (soft-boiled eggs). The jam is also delicious as a filling for French Toast.
I also made Panfried Pork Cutlet with Black Vinegar, Glass Noodles Salad, Scallion Pancakes with Hazelnut Pesto, and Tomato Egg with Misshapen Noodles.
Inspired by schnitzel around the beginning of the 1900s, this panfried pork cutlet is traditionally coated in an egg mixture and breadcrumbs, then fried until golden. Chung added a bit of a twist by dipping the cutlet in cornstarch, coating in the beaten eggs with Chinese five-spice powder, then covering in instant mashed potatoes mix in lieu of the breadcrumbs. This gives the cutlets a lighter and fluffier crust. After panfrying, they are served simply with Chinese black vinegar for dipping.
The summertime Glass Noodles Salad was perfect for a light and refreshing lunch. Mung bean noodles are tossed in a garlicky vinegar dressing with Napa cabbage, radishes, avocado, bean sprouts, cilantro, and sesame seeds.
These flaky Scallion Pancakes are filled with layers of scallion oil seasoned with salt and Chinese five-spice powder. After pan-frying, they are served with a delicious homemade hazelnut pesto.
I absolutely love making homemade noodles and they work so well in this Tomato Egg with Misshapen Noodles. A basic noodle dough is rolled into a sheet and cut into large triangles. After boiling until just tender, the noodles are tossed with s tomato-egg sauce flavored. It is such a great way to use heirloom tomatoes.
Kaya Jam (Coconut-Egg Jam) Recipe
Excerpt from Chinese Heritage Cooking From My American Kitchen
Kaya Jam (Coconut-Egg Jam)
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) coconut cream
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) coconut milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (10 grams) cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (23 ml) water
- 1/3 cup (67 grams) sugar
- Whisk the eggs, sugar, coconut cream and coconut milk together, and mix well. Use an electric hand blender to help make sure everything is combined. Slowly cook this mixture over medium-low heat in a soup pot, and constantly stir it with a wooden spoon for 20 minutes. The coconut mixture will start to thicken and become lumpy in the pot. Don't stop stirring and make sure you scrape the bottom of the pot all the time so it does not scorch.
- When the jam is simmering, combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl to make a slurry. Add the slurry into the simmering jam, and mix well to thicken the jam.
- After your kaya jam is cooked, heat the sugar in a small pan over medium heat. When the sugar becomes golden brown, about 3 minutes, add this hot caramel into the jam and stir well; this will turn the color of the jam golden. Blend the jam in a blender until silky smooth, and put it into a jar. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.