Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Easy Chinese Recipes by Bee Yinn Low of Rasa Malaysia

A craving for pork buns can be all consuming.  A good pork bun is salty, sweet, crispy, fatty and moist all together.  But there are just so many weekends that I actually have time to get fresh steam buns in Chinatown or at Myers and Chang.  Which means I need to cook them at home. Last summer, I tried Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's recipe from Mastering the Art of Chinese cooking.  The barbecued pork alone was fantastic but the recipe required "red wet preserved bean curd."  Likewise, David Chang's recipe, in the Momofuku cookbook took almost 2 days, since I followed his suggestion to brine pork belly overnight, and then had to make the buns from scratch with bread flour and non-fat dried milk. They were fantastic...and my kitchen was a messy disaster!
However, in Easy Chinese Recipes, by Bee Yinn Low, the pork recipe took minutes and was very good even if they weren't as authentic as that of Yin-Fei Lo.  In addition, Bee Yinn Low suggestion that you can make good steam buns by steaming, "Pillsbury biscuit dough" had me literally laughing out loud.  It was a genius short-cut, especially for a working mom. And this is what I like most about Bee Yin Low's new cookbook. She isn't trying to emulate or replace others. (She, too, cites Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's fabulous book.)  Yinn Low is herself.
(photo by Diane Cu)
Reading the introduction to Easy Chinese Recipes by Bee Yinn Low, I wanted to root for her.   She has done what many of us bloggers long for (and are often to hesitant to do): to write her own book. It is so clear that she is so proud of this book and that it represents a tremendous amount of work.  She first created the website RasaMalaysia.com. This book, and her blog, are extensions of her desire to share her love of Asian food and her "interpretation of popular Chinese dishes."  One of the most impressive features of the book is the fact that the stunning photos are hers. As a food blogger for the last 4 years, I know how challenging it can be to create a gorgeous photograph of food.  In one of the most fascinating sections at the end of the book, Bee Yinn Low writes about the process of styling and photographing her dishes.

She begins with a two page autobiography of her journey from a hesitant cook to a passionate one, as well as how her family and friends influenced her path.  Bee Yinn Low's writing style is informal and personal.  The book is well organized, with a thematic recipe guide at the beginning and an index at the end.  She includes some fascinating techniques at the beginning, such as using baking soda to tenderize chicken and baking soda to make "shrimp bouncy."  She has a clear section about tools, utensils and ingredients.  Having the ingredients listed in Chinese would have made the book even more useful in an Asian Supermarket like Ming's or H-Mart. That being said, the photograph on pages 24 and 25 is just fantastic as it offers images of Yinn Low's recommeneded brands of vinegars and sauces.
For many people this book will be a wonderful introduction to cooking certain dishes.  Some are Americanized, such as one of the first recipes for "Tasty Lettuce Wraps" which is a riff on that dish from the restaurant PF Chang.  Yinn Low offers recipes for many Chinese restaurant favorites like Scallion pancakes, Cashew chicken and orange chicken.  Others are more interesting like Steamed Fish Filets and Fish Fragrant Eggplant.  Most dishes have meat. For example, even Mapo Tofu uses pork or beef.  Many are also fried such as Salt and Pepper squid.  My only wish? That Yinn Low had included some Malayasian recipes, though she notes that while she was born in Mayalsia, she grew up in a Chinese home.  And here is the truth: I still love the authenticity and the challenge of Yin-Fei Lo's book. But people who want simplicity and great taste, Yinn Low's book offers an accessible way to try a new style of cooking.

I made a fabulous meal from her book. The best part? It was enjoyed by adults and children and we never had the leave the house.

My rundown so far:

Cucumber Salad-This is nice and light. It transforms every day cucumbers into something a bit more exciting and delicious with pork.

Sweet Pork Buns-As I noted above, I modified these by trying the Cantonese BBQ Pork instead of the Crispy Roast Pork that used pork belly.  I had frozen steam buns in the freezer, but next time I am trying her Pillsbury secret!

Cantonese BBQ Pork-As I mentioned, I prefered Yin Lei Fo's version.  That being said, it was so much easier and all the ingredients are easily available at Whole Foods.

Fresh Mango Pudding-This is genuis (and is pictured above) though I confess I simplified it further by buying a pureeed can of Kesar's mango pulp at Whole Food's. But in seconds you have homemade pudding that is healthy and delicious.

Shaved Ice with Fresh Fruits-Red beans and fresh fruit are a light, easy and instant dessert.

To purchase Easy Chinese Recipes directly from Bee Yinn Low's website, just click here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing the review. I love it and I am great that you have tried some recipes. I hope to work on a Malaysian cookbook next, until then happy cooking from Easy Chinese Recipes. xo.