Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wok Fast (Fast Books) Review & Ratings

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Wok Fast (Fast Books) Review

I love the approach taken by the authors of this book -- here are the key techniques, here are the ingredients needed, here are the key flavorings (marinades, sauces), and here are some recipes to try. The authors then encourage you to experiment with these basics to suit your own taste. Very refreshing.
If you are brand new to wok cooking, you may want to follow the recipes closely at first. But after your confidence builds (and these excellent recipes help that process along brilliantly) you are free (encouraged in fact) to try your own combinations. Don't like the sound of black bean sauce with a chicken stir-fry? Great, use the tangerine sauce instead. Once you understand how ingredients cook in a wok (shrimp take almost no time, chicken takes x amount of time, etc.), you will be able to substitute and interchange ingredients in no time. This freedom should be one of the goals of a good cookbook -- to stimulate not only your taste buds, but also your imagination.
Sadly, not many authors take this approach. All too often cookbook authors offer the "my way or no way" approach. Do you know someone (maybe even yourself) who is afraid to vary from the ingredients in a recipe? Fortunately, not too many people are that timid, but it is rare to see substitution and experimentation encouraged in a cookbook.
I also appreciate the courage of the authors to "name names" in terms of ingredient brand names. If you are new to Asian food and have no concept of which company produces the best soy or oyster sauce, where pray tell do you learn? The authors actually give you several brand names that they use and recommend. Most ingredients have two brands listed in fact. I learned the hard way how important this information can be. Once I prepared a hoisin-based sauce with whatever brand was available at the local market and it tasted so vile that I could not serve it! Thanks to a few brave souls on the Internet and the authors of this book I now have some brands to purchase that are of a high quality and flavor. I have lost my fear of hoisin!
The recipes in this book are simple and tasty. My favorite sauces so far (there are many to choose from) include the tangerine and basic veggie stir-fry. They are full of flavor but do not overwhelm the meat, fish, or vegetables in the stir-fry. The authors cover quite a few main ingredient groupings (seafood, poultry, vegetables, etc.) in this fairly slim book, but it is not a comprehensive list of recipes by main ingredient. You won't find twelve chicken dishes and fourteen beef dishes in this book for example. However, with the basics mastered you can easily imagine your own perfect dish involving your favorite ingredients.
If I had one desire it would be that the authors would have included a section on salads and salad dressings. What you say, but this is a wok cookbook! Of course it is, but a lovely salad with your stir-fry is a nice accompaniment. Oh well, perhaps this prolific cookbook team will produce another Asian cookbook with salads included.
I highly recommend this book. Buy it and let your imagination run wild. As of this writing (6/12/2003) I see this book is out of stock. Ten Speed Press does a great job on cookbooks in general, but lately I've been seeing a lot of their books going out of print. Hopefully, this book is only between printings. Whatever the case, this is a book worthy of a search - used or new.

Wok Fast (Fast Books) Overview

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