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Essentials of Asian Cuisine: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes
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Essentials of Asian Cuisine: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes

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by Corinne Trang, Christopher Hirsheimer (Illustrator)
 

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With eight major national cuisines, and dozens of regional variations, a comprehensive exploration of Asian cuisine might seem too daunting to present in one volume. But with Essentials of Asian Cuisine: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes, award-winning author Corinne Trang successfully brings the fundamentals of Asian cooking into the home kitchen in a

Overview

With eight major national cuisines, and dozens of regional variations, a comprehensive exploration of Asian cuisine might seem too daunting to present in one volume. But with Essentials of Asian Cuisine: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes, award-winning author Corinne Trang successfully brings the fundamentals of Asian cooking into the home kitchen in a collection that includes both contemporary and time-honored recipes.

Trang takes the reader on a journey of Eastern culinary discovery as seen through a practiced Western culinary lens. Explaining how and why Chinese cuisine is at the root of all Asian cooking, she describes in familiar terms the techniques that incorporate the five senses and embody the Chinese yin yang philosophy of balanced opposites. Trang uses Asian ingredients commonly found in supermarkets and through mail-order sources -- such as fish sauce, lemongrass, and rice noodles -- to guide home cooks through the preparation of healthy, sensual meals. She illuminates the mysteries of authentic Asian cooking, explaining the aromatic herbs and spices that make Asian cuisine vibrant, colorful, and distinctive.

Trang brings together more than three hundred traditional and cutting-edge recipes for condiments, appetizers, main courses, vegetables, and sweets and drinks from China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Mouthwatering items include Chinese Scallion Pancakes, Filipino Fried Spring Rolls, Spicy Indonesian Crab Fried Rice, Japanese Miso-Marinated Black Cod, Japanese Spring Water Tofu with Sweet Sake Sauce, Stir-Fried Leafy Greens, Chinese Pork Ribs with Black Bean and Garlic Sauce, Green Tea Ice Cream, and Thai Coffee.

In organizing the book by type of food, Trang allows cooks to see both the common elements and the distinctive individualities of Asian national and regional cooking. Trang explains the roots of major recipes and discusses where they appear in various guises in different countries. Vietnam's Canh Ca Chua (Hot and Sour Fish Soup), for example, can also be found in Cambodian, Indonesian, and Thai cuisines; Trang provides the recipes for both the master soup and its variations.

Trang includes a comprehensive glossary of Asian ingredients, plus a detailed list of resources for purchasing special ingredients and equipment. She offers sample menus, including a Chinese Dim Sum, a Filipino Dinner, and a Japanese Lunch. A special section on feng shui demonstrates how to organize and beautifully present a meal.

In this lavishly designed and illustrated volume, more than eighty-five original black-and-white and color photographs bring to life the ingredients, dishes, and people of Asia. The book is rich with personal anecdotes and intriguing information about Asian culture, and nowhere else will you find such a clear, comprehensive, and accessible treatment of Asian cuisine. More than a cookbook, Essentials of Asian Cuisine is a celebration of exotic culinary delights.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
There are some books you never knew you needed until they appear, and then you can't imagine how you did without them. Trang's newest (after Authentic Vietnamese Cooking) is an encyclopedic summation of the history, techniques, ingredients and recipes of the major Asian nations (China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines). It's an ambitious undertaking, but Trang delivers and shows an astonishing mastery of the often subtle differences among the cuisines. (For example, she clearly differentiates between three kinds of hot pots-Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese.) In this vast catalogue, some recipes are relatively familiar, like Bibimbap, Tempura, Hot and Sour Soup, Chicken Adobo; Curried Conch Shells, Fish and Coconut Custard and Oxtail braised in Peanut Sauce are more exotic. While some staples have not been included (such as Kungpao Chicken), the book can hardly be accused of brevity. A true instructor, Trang spends 60 pages on fundamentals before offering any cooking instruction. She fills out each chapter of recipes with an extensive essay on the different permutations taken by shared ingredients-there are 140 pages on "Rice, Noodles, Dumplings, and Breads" alone. The protein chapters are somewhat less impressive; still, this volume should be a first port of call for home cooks eager to undertake a serious study of Asian cooking. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Though she now lives in New York, food writer and former Saveur magazine editor Trang grew up in Vietnam as well as Paris, and she has traveled widely throughout Asia. In her impressive new cookbook, she explores the "continuities" among the centuries-old Chinese culinary tradition and the cuisines of the rest of Asia, from Japan to Vietnam and Thailand to the Philippines. She starts with a detailed, illustrated pantry section and another on equipment and techniques, followed by an overview of the "fundamentals," the guiding principles of Chinese cooking, along with brief introductions to the foods of the other Asian countries. The following chapters, from "Condiments" to "Rice, Noodles, Dumplings, and Breads" (the longest one and, to a certain extent, the heart of the book) to "Sweets and Drinks," offer more than 250 recipes. Trang's readable and informative headnotes provide provenance and explore the connections among similar dishes found in the various cuisines; she also includes useful tips on using unusual ingredients and suggests substitutions if necessary. The lengthy chapter introductions are equally impressive, serving as mini-encyclopedias in themselves. Authoritative and thoroughly researched, this will be invaluable as both a reference and a cookbook. Highly recommended. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
Grace Young author of The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen This remarkable cookbook is packed with information and tempting recipes. Any fan of Asian cooking will savor it as an "essential" for replicating the great dishes of this historic tradition.

William Woys Weaver contributing editor, Gourmet magazine There are a great many books on Asian cooking, but very few of them come to us from the pen of a true teacher. This one walks you through the essentials of raw ingredients, proper cooking techniques, and, best of all, well-tested, fail-safe recipes which explode with unusual tastes and textures, for truly dazzling menus anyone can make at home. The Fish Steamed with Beer was so delicious I had to make it twice for the same dinner — it disappeared that quickly!

Martin Yan author and host of Yan Can Cook As ambitious as its title, this book captures not only the basic essentials of Asian cuisine but its very essence. Within these beautifully written pages Ms. Trang links the intricate and far-reaching roots of different Asian cuisines. It makes a most fascinating culinary journey for its readers.

Nadsa De Monteiro executive chef, The Elephant Walk (Boston, MA) and Carambola (Waltham, MA) Corinne Trang's multicultural background and talent enable her to accomplish this ambitious project with complete success. This book has indeed captured the heart and soul of Asian cuisine.

Cook's Illustrated Essentials of Asian Cuisine has the beauty of a coffee-table book, the depth of an encyclopedia, and the regional information and landscapes of a travel guide.

San Francisco Chronicle If you could own just one pan-Asian cookbook, this would be it.

The Washington Post What Julia Child once did for French cuisine, Corinne Trang has tried to do for Asian cuisine, sweeping across Southeast Asia to encompass the culinary history, cultural context and recipes of several countries. Encyclopedic in both breadth and depth of coverage, the book is nevertheless a remarkably concise and passionate work that demystifies much of Asian cookery.

Publishers Weekly (starred review) There are some books you never knew you needed until they appear, and then you can't imagine how you did without them. Trang shows an astonishing mastery of the often subtle differences among the cuisines. This volume should be a first port of call for home cooks eager to undertake a serious study of Asian cooking. —

Northwest Asian Weekly This is quite simply one of the best cookbooks I've ever read, looked at or cooked from. Accessible and tasty recipes from throughout Asia put this cookbook on the same shelf as Joy of Cooking.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743203128
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
02/03/2003
Pages:
608
Product dimensions:
7.72(w) x 9.46(h) x 1.76(d)

Read an Excerpt

Tofu with Crispy Ginger and Scallion


Serves 4 to 6

Tofu comes in various textures -- silken, soft, medium, and firm. It can be fried, steamed, and braised, or included in any number of stir-fries or soups. This recipe is derived from the classic deep-fried soft tofu served with a spicy soy sauce, but when my father complained of too much fat in his diet, I modified the recipe, using firm tofu and pan-searing it. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the pan-seared firm tofu is drizzled with a delicate soy sauce and nutty sesame oil dressing and garnished with beautiful crispy strings of golden ginger and green scallions. The outcome is a light and beautiful first course.

For fried tofu, see page 363.


2 pounds firm TOFU, cakes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1/4 cup CHINESE LIGHT SOY SAUCE

1 teaspoon SESAME OIL

FRIED SCALLIONS AND GINGER (page 108); 2 tablespoons of the frying oil reserved


1. Place a double layer of paper towels on a plate. Gently place the tofu pieces on top and place a double layer of paper towels on top. Refrigerate at least 6 hours, allowing the paper towels to absorb the water from the tofu. Check after 2 hours to see if the paper towels are drenched and need to be replaced.

2. Gently blot dry the tofu pieces. Heat the 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the tofu slices until lightly golden and heated through, about 2 minutes per side.

3. Whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, and reserved frying oil in a small bowl.

4. Place an equal amount of tofu in the centers of individual plates. Top each serving with an equal amount of crispy scallions and ginger. Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of the soy sauce dressing, making sure to stir so the oil and soy sauce blend well. Serve while hot.


Tofu, or bean curd, is, in essence, soybean cheese. It originated in China as far back as the ancient Han period. Made from soybean milk, it is solidified by gypsum. Easy to digest, low in cost, it is a great source of protein, rich in minerals, especially calcium. The Chinese eat more tofu than anyone in the world, except the Japanese and North Americans.

Text, recipes, and black-and-white photographs copyright © 2003 by Corinne Trang

Meet the Author

Corinne Trang is the award-winning author of Authentic Vietnamese Cooking (1999). She has written for numerous publications, including Organic Style, Saveur, and Food & Wine. She has also been a guest on such radio and television shows as Bloomberg Radio's Executive Dining Guide with Peter Elliot, and TV Food Network's Cooking Live and Martha Stewart Living. Trang has lectured internationally and currently teaches in the Culinary Arts program at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She lives in New York City.

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Essentials of Asian Cuisine: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this to be a great introduction to the cuisines of asia. Ms. Trang offers good background on each region and simple steps for completing each dish and information on the obtaining the right ingredients.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Essentials of Asian cuisine by Corinne Trang isn't just a cookbook. If you are looking for recipes, there are plenty of publications out there. However, if you want to understand what Asian cuisine is about, where it comes from and why are things prepared in a certain manner, then this a truly essential book you actually love to read . . . and yes, if you want to find the right ingredients it is a great guide, too.