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The Shun Lee Cookbook: Recipes from a Chinese Restaurant Dynasty by Michael Tong

This was a recent arrival at my local library. It's an attractive book, lots of full-color, full-page pictures which helped me decide to borrow it. This book focuses on home versions of their restaurant dishes. As I haven't eaten at their New York City restaurants, I can't judge how close they are to the real thing.

It's not a cheap book to cook from. Lots of oil and expensive meats; heavy on the shrimp, crab, lobster, duck and lamb.

That oil is used in most recipes for "passing through" or what Bruce Cost just calls passing in his Big Bowl cookbook. The cut meat is briefly passed through hot oil to par cook it. As lots of the meat has been velveted or at least corn starched, passing through completes the velveting. This and Bruce Cost's book are the first in my experience to make such heavy use of passing. I now suspect it's a prevalent practice in most Chinese restaurants. Michael Tong recommends fresh oil each time you cook so you'll be going through a lot of oil if you cook from this book regularly.

Mr. Tong takes credit for creating General Tso's chicken and introducing some other restaurant standards such as Crispy Orange Beef to the US. There is a fair amount of dispute about these claims.

As to the recipes, there's not much new here though it does concentrate many popular restaurant dishes in one book. It was refreshing to see less reliance on some of the more modern pre-made condiments and marinades. I dont' recall any recipe using Oyster sauce for example. Also, he uses lots of hot bean paste where many chinese cookbooks opt for hoisin and chile-garlic sauce as a substitute as these are more easily found by casual cooks.

His instructions are straightforward and fairly thorough. Some time is spent introducing equipment, technique and ingredients, but not much real depth. And critical knife skills, though known to us here are not explained much.

In the end, this book is for fans of the fancier restaurant cuisine more than those seeking true Chinese cuisine. I enjoyed my time with the book, but it's not one that I would include in my own collection; I'm not really it's target audience.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair