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When Donna Klein's The Chinese Vegan Kitchen showed up in my mailbox, I was grateful to have a source for tasty, yet healthful dishes to remind myself that sugar really isn't one of the principal food groups.
Many traditional Chinese dishes from throughout the vast country either already are vegan or can easily be adapted. Klein's recipes, inspired by dishes she was exposed to during the year she worked and traveled in China, incorporate the full range of flavors, from hot to mild, savory to sweet. All the recipes are easily accessible to Western cooks, and some of the dishes call for New World ingredients (potatoes, for example).
The Chinese Vegan Kitchen starts with an informative introduction that discusses each region of China in terms of flavors, ingredients, and cooking methods. A helpful glossary and metric conversion chart are included in the cookbook.
The chapters are divided in a familiar manner, such as soups, snacks, side dishes, and desserts. One of the main dish chapters is all about tofu and seitan dishes, but I'm pleased that most of the recipes are soy free.
Klein's directions are clear and easy to follow, meaning that even inexperienced cooks should have no trouble serving up delicious meals. In addition, Klein provides tips, ingredient substitutions, variations, serving suggestions, and nutritional information.
One thing I particularly love about The Chinese Vegan Kitchen is that the dishes are universally appealing; you don't have to be a dietary extremist to get some good use from this cookbook. Here are just a few dishes I have marked to try:
- Pot Stickers with Cabbage and Shiitake Mushrooms
- Velvet Corn Soup
- Raw Beet and Scallion Salad
- Barbecued Tofu wit Hoisin Sauce
- Grilled Sesame Asparagus
Although I don't have any objection to cookbooks without photographs, cooks should be aware that The Chinese Vegan Kitchen is not illustrated: no photos, no drawings. The only thing that does bother me is the inconsistencies in the index. Full recipes are listed for some ingredients (like carrots) but only page numbers are listed for other ingredients (like asparagus). This isn't enough to make me not buy the cookbook, but a good index is essential when searching for recipes.
Here's a recipe I hope to try soon.
Cashew Fried Rice
Makes 4 servings
- 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon toasted (dark) sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/4 cup chopped carrot
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- 3 cups cooked white or brown rice, at room temperature, any clumps removed
- 4 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup frozen green peas, thawed
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted cashews
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a wok or large nonstick skillet, heat the peanut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, 30 seconds. Add rice and white parts of scallions and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add reserved soy sauce mixture and stir to thoroughly blend. Add the scallion greens, peas, and cashews; cook, stirring constantly, until heated through and well combined, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve at once.
Buy The Chinese Vegan Kitchen at an Indie or at a bookstore near you (link leads to an affiliate program).
Published by Penguin USA / Perigee, 2012
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).