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Iron Chef Chen's Knockout Chinese
By Chen Kenichi
ISBN: 1934287466
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Publication date: May 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
List price: $19.95 
Type: Ethnic: Chinese
Sample recipe: Hot & Spicy Garlic Shrimp
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive coffee-table Biblical stature
Competition: outclassed follower in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 ≥300
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: 7-Eleven airfare required online pantry supermarket
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose bare-bones full-figured educational
Time conscious: unconscious outright lies white lies realistic honorable
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant balanced generous
Photos/drawings: none distracting decorative instructive glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine considerate work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging tolerable clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy dubious years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: non-existent hard-to-find spotty sufficient every page
Table of contents: AWOL frustrating passable useful excellent
Index quality: none tragic adequate good a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writer: beginner food writer writing cook personality auteur
Cook: unknown self-taught chef teacher celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short almost there satisfactory exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward best friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: The challenge of this book – and for many people it will be insurmountable – is that you absolutely have to have access to a well-stocked Asian market.

This book was not produced for a North American audience; it is the translation of a Chinese cookbook produced for a Japanese audience. Among the ingredients specified in these recipes are dried shrimp, boiled octopus rings, shiso leaves, goji berries, tianjiangyou (sweet soy sauce), doubanjiang (Chinese chile paste), zha cai (Sichuan pickled mustard tuber), king trumpet mushrooms, hua jao fen (Sichuan pepper), aralia buds, pickled mustard greens, bunching onion, pickling cabbage, garlic sprouts, kamaboko (fish sausage), edible chrysanthemum, beef tallow, turnip stems, pickled plums, dried scallops, shark fin, and – our favorite – a liqueur scented with sweet olive petals.

There is a modest reference guide in the back that says you can substitute Hoisin sauce for tianmianjiang (sweet noodle sauce), cayenne pepper for seven-spice powder, Shanso Japanese pepper for Chinese pepper, and basil or mint for shiso; that you can mix your own tianjiangyou and starch paste; and that you may want to roast your own sesame seeds. But for many ingredients, you'll need a good Asian market or you'll need to be an adventurous online shopper. (Of course, it's not like you can cook real Asian food successfully without access to real Asian ingredients.)

All in all, it's a charming book. The dishes produced look delicious. And if you can vault over those ingredient hurdles, you may be able to cook like an Iron Chef, too!


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