Review by Chef Bobby Lavon – February 6, 2014
The Breath of a Wok by Grace Young and Alan Richardson– Published 2004
I came across this book at the library one day while researching Asian history and exploring for unique and breath-taking recipes. Most of the time I‘m submerged for hours before I find the hidden pearls I’m looking for. Every now and then however, it does happen by chance that I’m immediately drawn to an excellent publication; such is what occurred with the breath of the wok
A Breakdown of the Breath of the Wok
This written work by Grace Young is instructional and spoken in a language that even the amateur cook will appreciate. It promotes 125 well crafted recipes with arousing stories that teach the history of Chinese wok cooking. Some traditions in the book date back 2000 years to the original Cantonese and are still relevant today! The photography is illustrative; we are put right in the middle of the action as masters of the WOK entertain with adroitness. You most certainly will praise the ability of experienced and seasoned veteran Alan Richardson for capturing the details and keeping us entangled in the moments!
What You Will Learn when you Read the Breath…
There are some obvious facts about the Chinese. They are held together by social and cultural ties; Chinese are festive! They are considered to be in accord with reality and Spirituality. They have superb cooking skills! We know that wok cooking is widely appreciated in the world and held in high esteem because it is healthy and nutritious? Whatever we haven’t learned about their impressive form of artistic cooking can be gleaned by reading The Breath of the wok.
Wok Techniques used in the book
Grace Young shows intelligently how just about every cooking method can be performed with the wok. Study her book to become accustomed to wok methodology. We need to have discipline when using the wok; Grace teaches us how to become disciplined. She shows us the orderly logical arraignments that must take place to help us become proficient in these areas:
Question that will be answered when you read the Breath of the Wok:
How does one get started with wok cooking? How do I select the right equipment to use and is caring for it difficult? Which spices should I use and where can they be purchased? Are cooking methods comparable to what I’m accustomed to or should I expect to purchase all new equipment and pantry items? Is wok cooking vegan, vegetarian and gluten friendly? All of these questions and more are answered with delicacy to assure that readers understand the basics and intricacies of Chinese wok cooking.
Recipes, Recipes, and more recipes:
Careful details are poured into each recipe. A few of my favorites are, Kung Pao Chicken, Lee Wan Ching’s sizzling pepper and salt shrimp, Bernadette Chan’s Stir-fried Beef, Danny Chan’s crab with black bean sauce, Ming Tsai’s mandarin fried rice; spicy garlic eggplant. Trust me, there are many more that can be mentioned, but I’m sure you’ll get the point once you purchase the book.
Cantonese comfort food to serves 4
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons oil (I used soybean, vegetable or canola is also good)
8 ounce lean flank steak
1 head of baby bok choy (found at international store)
2 roma tomatoes, quartered
6 to 8 shiitake mushrooms, julienne
1 jalapeño pepper (optional)
2 Thai chilies (optional, very hot)
1 red onion, julienne
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine or dry sherry
2 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (found at international store)
2 scallions cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon finely shredded ginger
- Cut beef with grain into 2-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip across grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Put beef in shadow bowl and add soy sauce, rice wine, 1 ½ teaspoons of cornstarch, sugar and salt (set aside for no more than 10 minutes). In a bowl combine remaining 1 teaspoon cornstarch, oyster sauce and 1/3 cup cold water.
- Heat unwashed wok over high heat until hot and a faint wisp of smoke rises from the pan. Swirl in remaining 2 teaspoons oil, scallions, red onion, jalapeño, Thai chilies and ginger; carefully add beef, spreading evenly in wok. Cook undisturbed 30 seconds, let beef begin to brown. Using a metal spatula, stir-fry 1 minute until beef is lightly browned but not cooked through. Add vegetables and stir-fry. Stir cornstarch mixture and swirl it into the wok and bring to a boil, stir-frying until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Very Simple Indeed!!!