The title of this collection of Chinese cuisine adds ‘Home Cooking not quite authentic. 100% delicious” which is a perfect synopsis of the curated recipes. This book brings the wonders of Chinese cultural cooking into the homes of kiwis.
There are all the dishes that one would expect to find in an Asian cookbook, from dumplings through to fried rice, congee to perfect wontons. But it really is the practical tips that help even the most basic of home cooks get it right every time. Cooking rice - for example (Recipe number 1!) in a variety of ways that has completely shifted the standard ways that have been employed for decades in our kitchen. No more rice cookers here.
The authors make it accessible to cook proper and authentic styled food using some quick and easy hacks that take a lot of the guesswork out of cooking. Things like purchasing the dumpling shells (although there are also recipes for these, too).
Now, the recipe flavours themselves. As someone who has made Chinese food for a long time, these were outstandingly balanced flavours. Fresh and tasty selections of produce - including some less common ingredients and how to buy them in local Chinese grocery stores - matched with subtle flavours from a range of sauces like black bean paste, shrimp sauce and buying the best soy sauce for the job. The recipes really do break down the complex recipes into manageable and doable sections.
Without doubt the dumplings (Jo’s Mum’s Dumplings) surpass anything you could ever buy in a store. And by making a double load and freezing what you don’t use, there is an easy and delicious dinner waiting on those busy nights.
When it comes to cooking at home, it really is so easy to get caught in the cyclical mentality of what is easiest and go into an automatic pilot mode. By breaking out of that mould and trying something new - such as another culture’s food - there is such a wealth of inspiration that can make a huge difference to those evening meals.
Along with the recipes, the stories from both Kaul & Hu add a flavour and interest to the book. Always read these blurbs from the authors in cook books, they are full of great insight and ideas in and of themselves. In this case, the story of fusing their Chinese heritage with Australian culture is really quite interesting - plus all the hacks that can go into cooking authentically in a modern era where time is just too precious to be making noodles from scratch. Really great tips on the best brands and stores does make a difference and, when trying to find these in Auckland, there was little trouble sourcing any of the ingredients.
A wonderful collection of delicious and inspiring dishes. Highly recommended for something a little more adventurous in the dinner routine.
Reviewer: Chris Reed