It seemed the best of her books to begin with because Chinese Kitchen is not just a book of recipes. It is an encyclopedia of, well, the Chinese kitchen. It begins with the cultural heritage as well as the ingredients founds in the Chinese larder and the tools including the two principle ones, the wok and the cleaver. This is essential information for anyone who has never shopped for a good wok or who wouldn't recognize a fresh bok choi if one were thrown in their face.
Anyone who takes their food seriously knows that the best dishes require the best ingredients. The best ingredients for Chinese cuisine are found at Chinese markets. A winning smile, an engaging personality, and a pretty face go along way to encouraging the proprietors and customers to help you select the best. Having none of these qualities, I had to rely on Eileen's instructions.
My first results surprised me. I didn't achieve the kind of food that I had expected, like the food that I had purchased at Chinese restaurants and take out joints. This was authentic, really good Chinese food! Seriously good.
To be honest, even well written cookbooks can't help some people. I had a married friend in law school whose wife couldn't boil water. (Sorry, I know that's a platitude, but it was literally true in her case.) I tried to help. I gave her the a copy of the Culinary Institute of America cookbook and strict instructions to use only those recipes that I helped her with. Her first attempt to strike off on her own almost ended the young marriage.
These days, there are several websites that provide excellent recipes. My favorites include
- All Recipes Recipes are ranked by user's ratings and users post modifications they're used to adjust them to their own taste. Registered website users can bookmark their favorite recipes for future reference.
- America's Test Kitchen Well-tested recipes as well as great comparisons of kitchen tools and equipment to help you get the most for your dollar. Also features episodes of their television programming providing you with step-by-step demonstrations.
- Food Network The companion website to the cable television Food Network featuring some of America's favorite chef's, their recipes, and video presentations.
- National Institute of Health I found this website by accident while searching for a recipe to prepare one of my wife's favorite dishes: Chicken Marsala. Unfortunately, it is loaded with cholesterol and calories. However, the NIH version is a healthful alternative as are all their recipes. Check it out, especially if you are on a special diet to loose weight, reduce cholesterol, or for diabetes.