Food stuff

Jun 2, 1999 at 12:00 am


The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen
By Grace Young
Simon & Schuster Editions, $27.50, 282 pp.

At first glance, you might think The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen is another version of Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club. On the cover, there is a photo of three generations of Chinese women with a Chinese-style red background.

But it’s not just the cover. The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen has a similar theme to The Joy Luck Club. Both tell stories about generations of Chinese-Americans. The difference is that instead of tragedy, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen tells stories related to food.

Growing up in a Chinese family, author Grace Young ate lots of Chinese food and learned about Chinese food traditions. Her struggle with her Chinese roots and American thoughts should be familiar to all Chinese-Americans or other immigrant Americans.

Young’s struggle brought a good result: She wrote this book. Through 150 mouthwatering recipes, Young tells her stories while introducing readers to the traditional Cantonese and Chinese cooking which is part of her family’s life.

The stories in this book are beautiful and useful. Young uses them to introduce basic Chinese cooking methods such as steaming and stir-fry, giving readers an easy way to cook Chinese food on their own.

More advanced Chinese dishes are also included, such as dishes served for Chinese New Year. These demonstrate the delicate side of Chinese cooking and are good for all occasions.

Young emphasizes the Chinese yin and yang eating philosophy, which indicates two different food characteristics: Yin means "cool" or "female" and yang means "warm" or "male." The belief is that most things can be categorized into yin and yang, and that keeping the two in balance is essential.

The yin and yang forces also exist inside our bodies. Practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine say that eating foods that balance the yin and yang in our bodies promotes good health. Young’s book offers recipes for yin foods, yang foods and some neutral dishes as well.

Young also explains other Chinese cooking essentials, such as how to care for a wok, and includes a glossary of ingredients and a chapter based solely on mastering the art of shopping for Chinese recipes. If you still have no idea what some Chinese ingredients or products really are, the full-color identification photos will help. Bring the book to your nearest Chinese market and show the staff what you want. What a wise way to use The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen! –Yu-Ru Lee


Birmingham Community House’s Bates Street Café is open for the summer. Lunch is served weekdays only from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Community House is located at 380 S. Bates St., Birmingham. Call 248-644-5832. … Look for new carryout cold soups at Zoup! (29177 Northwestern Hwy, Southfield, 888-778-SOUP). They’re a light way to chill out on summer cooking. … Taste a rare fish this month when Northern Lakes Seafood (1475 N. Woodward, Bloomfield Hills) serves up Copper River king salmon in a variety of entrées. Call 248-646-7900 for reservations.