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Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking
cookbook reviewsmartin yan's chinatown cooking
Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking
by Martin Yan
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November 2003
Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking, a companion cookbook for a PBS show, contains recipes from Chinatowns around the world. As someone who is unfamiliar with Chinese Cooking, I was more excited about were the sections on "Equipment and Techniques and the "Chinese Pantry".

The book starts out with the "Equipments and Techniques" section. Extensive information on woks and their care are greatly appreciated. There is also information on knives and their care. The techniques discussed are clear and concise. I especially enjoyed the information on ordering in a Chinese Restaurant. Suggestions such as "Eat with the seasons", and "Try a new dish each time…" are good advice for any diner.

Throughout the recipe sections there are brief histories and backgrounds of the different Chinatowns covered, from San Francisco and Honolulu to Sydney and Yokohama. Yan also gives his recommendations for restaurants and dishes to try while you're there. If you are lucky enough to live near one of these Chinatowns, I'm sure they are recommendations worth following.

The Recipes are grouped by course. Some of the recipes are pictured; all included a brief introduction, telling a bit about the recipe or hints to making the dish. The quantities for each recipe are either given in number of pieces or serving as part of a multicourse meal, making it easy to determine if adjustments are needed based on your needs or menu. The ingredients for each recipe are separated by what they are used for in the recipe, avoiding confusion. The directions are step by step and easy to follow once you became acquainted with the ingredients. Any questions are easily solved by a trip to the Asian Market or a quick look at the Chinese Pantry section. The Chinese ingredients and many other less common ingredients in the recipes were covered in this Section. The recipes I tried were Broccoli Beef and Ma Po Bean Curd and I enjoyed each of them. I am anxious to try more and some recipes that I am not familiar with.

The Chinese Pantry section is filled with essential information. This alphabetical glossary of ingredients gives information on each ingredient as well as possible substitutes, when required. For me it was a must read before beginning any recipe. I was surprised how what I thought I knew, wasn't quite so.

The index, an important area of any cookbook, is great! If you want a duck recipe, look up duck. If you want an appetizer, you got it. Recipes can also be found under their name as well as various main ingredients. You would be able to find "Roast Duck Nachos", under any of these headings. The cross referencing makes locating a recipe simple, whether you know what you are looking for or just browsing for something good. One typo however, the "P" section is labeled "N", pretty minor.

Overall, I found this book informative and full of great recipes and recommendations. The recipes are clear, the index is easy to navigate and the added ingredient, technique and equipment information is crucial for those not well versed in Chinese cooking. You can tell that this is not Martin Yan's first cookbook. All his bases are covered and it leaves you with a delicious dish. This book will certainly stay on my cookbook shelf (when it is not out being used. Overall recommendation: Great book for those new Chinese cooking, and a great resource for those who are.

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