A New Cook Book For Review
It’s a happy day, indeed, when a new cookbook finds it’s way onto my bookshelf. Like many self proclaimed ‘foodies’ I like to explore the nuances of many cuisines, preferably first hand in their country of origin. When travelling is not an option, print is the next best thing. Kan Lam Kho’s Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking is a gorgeous book packed full of almost everything you need to know about Chinese cuisine. It is highly approachable to the uninitiated reader (me) and reading it made me realize that there are many aspects to Chinese cuisine that I didn’t know about.
There’s So Much to Know About Chinese Cuisine
At most, my connection to Chinese cuisine has been through dining out at Dim Sum and Szechuan restaurants. To date, the only recognizable Chinese dish I have attempted at home has been Red Cooked Pork. I don’t even remember where I got the recipe from but I do remember it was a comforting dish on a cold night. It was the first time I realized that there is a way to eat comfort food in every cuisine.
About Kan Lam Pho
Kan Lam Pho is a food writer, instructor, and food consultant who specializes in Chinese cuisine. His blog, Red Cook, was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award and his first book, Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking has already received the Julia Child First Book award from the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). His experience in teaching at the Institute of Culinary Education and Brooklyn Kitchen is reflected in the pages of the cookbook. Kian has thoughtfully included descriptions of pantry essentials, equipment, and techniques within the book, as well as intriguing history and family anecdotes. These inclusions make Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees more than just a cookbook, but a labour of love.
Mid Autumn Festival
Today, I am happy to be part of a group of bloggers joined together to celebrate Mid Autumn festival, the second most important Chinese holiday (after Chinese New Year) by cooking from the pages of Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees. Like the universality of comfort food dishes, harvest feasts occur worldwide with the gathering of families around one table to enjoy a feast under the harvest moon. Since the Mid Autumn Festival is for lunar worship and moon watching, moon cakes are offered between friends or on family gatherings during the festival. There is no recipe for moon cakes in PCJT but there are several ‘how to’ posts on Kian’s blog for reference (here’s a link to one of them: Making Mooncake with Love).
So Many Delicious Recipes!
There were several recommended recipes to choose from and I longed to try one of the stir fries. Stir frying is a technique that many people, like me, try to imitate. Many fail because they do not have the proper equipment. For years I’ve been using a flat bottomed non-stick basic frying pan for stir frying. It does cook the meat and vegetables but doesn’t really give the dish that ‘special something’ that every authentic Chinese stir fry has.
Breath of the Wok
That special something is called ‘wok-hay‘ or, breath of the wok. It is an indescribable presence that accompanies an authentic stir fry. It’s similar to the the fifth sense of ‘umami’ that you have while eating a tomato. Like I said, it’s difficult to describe but ever so essential. I wanted that ‘wok-hay‘ in my dish so badly that I bought a carbon steel wok of my own. Then tried to season it. Do you see the gorgeous black patina on the wok pictured above? Despite my best efforts (and a great deal of time) this is what I ended up with:
From what I have heard, I can still salvage the wok. Unfortunately I can’t do it in time to try the Stir Fried Beef with Black Pepper from page 118. Instead, I’ve turned to the most basic recipe and one I was surprised to learn I have made before! A refreshing Cucumber Salad with Garlic (page 336).
Cucumber Salad with Garlic (recipe reprinted with permission)
- 1 large hothouse or 3 small Persian cucumbers (8 ounces total)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- Quarter the cucumbers lengthwise and slice off the centre portion to remove the seeds. For large hothouse cucumbers you may want to further cut the quarters lengthwise into eighths.
- Then cut the lengths into 2 inch long pieces.
- Put the cucumbers in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt and garlic and mix well.
- Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- When you are ready to serve the salad, drain the juice that the salt has extracted from the cucumber pieces. Try to retain as much of the garlic as possible. Then arrange the cucumbers on a plate.
- Pour the sesame oil over the cucumbers and serve cold.
Oh, please note that I am not Canadian, so please take me out of your drawing. My apologies!
No worries! There’s a US blogger giveaway for the cook book too…just search #phoenixclawscookbook on social media and something should pop up.
That simple salad is right up my alley, Bernice! Amanda! It looks like a great book, as well. I know I could certainly use a resource to sharpen my authentic Chinese cooking skills. I have a step brother and step sister that are half Chinese so I’ve learned a (very) little bit through osmosis and find their cultural dishes fascinating!
I’ve had many, many kitchen mishaps — the worst was probably burning my hand on the bottom of a pot I was making cranberry sauce in. I had company coming for dinner the next day and I was up late getting a head start. I picked up the pot the cranberries were reducing in by the handle (it was obviously hot), but it was heavy — so in my tired stupor I immediately put my other hand underneath to support it! I burned my hand badly, spilled the cranberry sauce all over the floor and cracked a tile! I spent the holidays with a bandaged hand (I drank lots of wine to numb the pain). Haha. I no longer cook while exhausted and will hopefully never do that again! 😉
ouch!! thankfully I have never been so tired while cooking to do something equally bad. I just order pizza lol. Yesterday I tried to take my heavy and very hot le creuset baking pan out of my oven (I can’t slide the racks) and accidentally opened the oven all the way down. I can’t reach in that far because of my tyrannosaurus arms and I ended up burning my shin on the hot oven door. #shortgirlproblems
Aww, burns are the worst! Hope yours heal up soon. I burnt my calf on both a curling iron and a hot steamer last week — never steam clothes when you’re wearing them! I’m on the mend though. Haha
I just don’t think you should be allowed around hot appliances 😉 sheesh
On my first attempt at cooking supper for a date night, I flipped my homemade pizza upside down all over the bottom of the oven. Huge mess and embarrassment! Happy ending: we’ve been married 37 years now.
Awww. Great story. They say a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and to err is divine. I think you nabbed both of those phrases and obviously hubby did too!
Tragic kitchen adventure: (accidentally, obviously) dumping hot rice all over my feet causing some very uncomfortable blisters.
oh my gosh!! I bet that hurt. Some kitchen accidents are funny…this one is definitely not.
Oh, that reminds me of when I completely didn’t think about rinsing out a pan that had some really hot oil in it. It splattered, needless to say. However, it gets worse. I ran cold water on my arm, but because I had such a bad sunburn from Taiwan, I didn’t realize how burned I was until I saw the big blisters later. All healed and wiser now.
The other one would be a multi-stepped Chinese recipe for lacquered quail or something similar that I was making for guests. I had thought I read the recipe closely and did all the time consuming steps ahead, however, I neglected to notice yet another step requiring an hour or two resting in the fridge. Luckily, the menu was large enough that it wasn’t missed. But I still haven’t tasted that recipe to this day.
oh, I am so bad at reading recipes in their entirety before I begin cooking. Definitely one of my downfalls.
My most tragic kitchen adventure? Mmm, I would have to say making macawrongs are pretty darn tragic. Especially because it takes forever to get to the point of baking and then to find out I messed up!
Oh yes! I can definitely sympathize with that one…
Wow. I have never heard of this book, this author, and his blog, Very impressive, though. I have a similar recipe from an ancient Chinese cookbook (from the 60’s) that uses a little sugar, sesame seed oil, rice wine vinegar, and Tabasco. This salad sounds equally good. I need to cook more Asian food….
yes, I usually add rice wine vinegar to mine too.
Great quick and easy salad that probably packs a punch! I’ll keep it in my reserve recipe box.
yep! super easy…and great with all the fresh garlic available right now. Sometimes I add a drizzle of rice vinegar too…
First attempt at gluten free baking for my neighbour and I decided to make pumpkin spice muffins. I was so worried about using GF flour and making sure there was no cross contamination that I forgot to add the sugar. I didn’t realize until after they were proudly delivered as a gift to my neighbours. To top it off they have company over for dinner that night and announced that the muffins were going to be for dessert!
I think I have since redeemed myself as they still accept food gifts.
Ohhhh poor you! Well, at least they gave you a second chance 😉