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Monday, 27 August 2012

Gok Cooks Chinese: Book Review






This Book Review first appeared on The Breeze Website


Fashion guru Gok Wan, famous for his efforts to persuade women of all shapes and sizes that they can look good naked, has written a cook book. For him food and fashion are like peas in a pod. Both are about love and connecting with people.

Gok loves food. It is hugely important in his Chinese culture. As he puts it “A chink without food is like a shoe without a heel: completely pointless. Food is just who we are.”

He knows how to cook Chinese food. His Father used to own a Chinese Take-away in England and taught him the art of the wok when Gok worked there after school as a teenager.

The food that was cooked in Chinese Takeaways to please the customers was coated with batter, deep fried and with gloopy sauces. This was quite different from the food his family ate at home. Their diet was more authentic and healthy.

When Gok was handed a stash of secret family recipes he knew he had the makings of a recipe book. To some he has added his individual twist.

You don’t need to invest in a lot of equipment to cook Chinese food. For Gok a wok, cleaver and wooden chopping board are the only essentials. I found I could make do with a large frying pan instead of the wok.

At the beginning of the book there is a description of Chinese ingredients. This made a convenient shopping list. Most of the ingredients were readily available in our local supermarket.

I started with his grandfather’s noodle soup, an easy recipe which had only 7 ingredients: noodles, ginger, chicken stock, sesame oil, light soya sauce, oyster sauce and spring onions. It took only a few minutes to make a bowlful of noodles resting in a soupy broth. It was the kind of comfort food that just slides down your throat.

The mushroom soup looked inviting in the photograph with slices of mushroom floating decoratively in a clear broth. But it was an egg drop soup so my soup finished up stringy and cloudy although it did taste good.

How to cook Asian vegies is still a bit of a mystery to many of us. The recipe for choisum (a green leafy green vegetable) in oyster sauce was easily made just by tossing it around in a wok with some basic Chinese seasonings.

His stir-fried Chinese mushrooms recipe included dried shitake mushrooms which I found in our local Asian food market. They were surprisingly cheap. After soaking they had an earthy flavour and slightly chewy texture which complimented the other mushrooms in this dish. They were stir-fried first and then quickly stewed in a flavoursome broth which included dry sherry, light soy, fish and oyster sauces.

Chinese salads are always side dishes created to contrast with the main dish and are based on the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang. Gok’s little grated carrot salad was a vibrant orange spiked with crunchy sesame seeds. But his zingy spring onion and cucumber salad was my favourite. As Gok says “It is the perfect accessory to any dinner outfit you are putting on the table. Particularly good when sashaying down a catwalk next to the Simple Soy Glazed chicken.”

The tofu in black bean sauce included black beans which were not available so I had to make do with black bean sauce out of a bottle. Although the tofu did not turn a deep golden brown the dish was tasty and made a good vegetarian main.

I love Chinese dumplings so the next challenge will be to make these. Although they could be a little fiddly to make I am sure the end result will be worth it. And there are lots of other recipes I can’t wait to try, fish and meat as well as more vegetarian.

Gok’s over the top enthusiasm makes it a fun book to read. The recipes are easy to follow and the dishes I have tried so far tasted really good and were not too expensive. This book is a great introduction to Chinese cooking!

Gok Cooks Chinese by Gok Wan
Published by Michael Joseph/Penguin RRP $50.00 hardback

By Lyn Potter.




 

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