The Chinese Cookbook
First published in 1972, The Chinese Cookbook by Craig Clairborne and Virgina Lee remains one of the best Chinese cookbooks. For many Americans, The Chinese Cookbook opened the door to a world beyond chop suey and egg foo young.”
Virginia Lee had been cooking since age seven. She observed and experimented with Chinese recipes during her extensive travels over China with her family, and after her marriage to Kuang Chao Lee, manager of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. Due to her husband’s position and interest in fine food, many of the finest chefs in China cooked in their kitchen, and furthered her education. After coming to the United States in 1967, she quickly developed the reputation as one of America’s foremost Chinese chefs.
Over a two year period, Virginia Lee worked with Craig Claiborne in his East Hampton’s home kitchen, to clearly and explicitly explain how 250 well know Chinese dishes could be prepared by most American cooks without undue work.
The book is both thorough and easy to understand, written clearly and explicitly to educate even the novice cook. Recipes are categorized by their main ingredient (pork, chicken, beef, seafood, et cetera) with a chapter on desserts.
It provides considerable practical advice about kitchen equipment, methods, and proper cooking techniques, such as the proper ways to carve and present meat. It concludes with a detailed list and description of Chinese ingredients.
New to the 2011 Edition
Electronic books have no fixed page numbers. However, for the purposes of the index, the page numbers listed correspond to hypertext links that are located at the same locations of the original text. (You can click on an index page link and be taken to that portion of the text.) Color illustrations have replaced the orig
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This was one of the first books to emerge during the post-Nixon China visit and remains one of the best Chinese cookbooks in any collection (and I have many). Check out the stir friend pork with straw mushrooms and baby corn, an old Cantonese standby, or the pork with long or green beans. Also excellent is the recipe for Kung Pao chicken, particularly if you augment it with some vegies (I use onion chunks, bell pepper, and asparagus). With Pierre Franey, Claiborne, food critic for the paper, wrote some wonderful "New York Times Cookbooks," chock full of international gourmet selections, and Ms. Lee was already a leading authority on Chinese cooking, aiding Claiborne in making the recipes easy for the American chef. Their fried rice recipe is still popular, though I like mine in the Yangchow style with shrimp, pork, and chicken in combination. There may have been a lot of more comprehensive Chinese cookbooks, as well as several concentrating on the food of a particular region (Hunan, Szechewan, &c.) but this is as good a basic primer as is available.