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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts from China Towns

Now this may not be the prettiest photograph I've ever taken, but it is one of the best Chinese dishes I've ever cooked.  I made this while I was having my kitchen floor replaced, the final part of the work we have had to do as a result of dry rot at the front of our home.  So there I was cooking on a single electric ring in my back kitchen (utility room), with the joiner working away in the kitchen sawing and hammering.  It's perfectly  possible to cook good food in this limited space but not all that great for food styling and photography!

In Western countries, the Chinese food eaten in restaurants is often a far cry from the dishes prepared and served by the Chinese themselves. This is because the Asian communities that have settled in so-called ‘China Towns’ around the world, in cities such as New York, San Francisco, London and Paris, have mastered the art of adapting their cuisine to suit local tastes. Added to which, this cuisine is often influenced by other Asian dishes, so much so that food served in one city’s China Town may be heavily influenced by other Asian dishes, so much so that food served in one city's China Town may be heavily influenced by Vietnamese dishes whereas in another it may resemble closely Thai cuisine.

In this visually stunning cookbook, author Jean-François Mallet goes behind the scenes in Chinese communities around the world in order to understand how and why the food changes so much depending on location. As well as intimate portraits of these fascinating communities, this stunning book contains, 100 delicious recipes capturing the essence of China Towns from across the world and their various geographical influences.

About the Chef: A trained professional chef as well as a talented photographer, JEAN-FRANÇOIS MALLET naturally transitioned from cooking to pursue his passion for images. He has worked for some of the biggest names in French Cuisine, such as Jöel Robuchon, Michel

The Introduction
This is a fascinating read, where you learn about the different culinary families of China and the influence of Asian immigration on what we know as 'chinese' cuisine.

The Contents
This is a very large book containing information, photographs and recipes for Starters; Chinese Dumplings; Soups and Broths; Chicken and Quail; Beef; Pork; Duck; Fish and Seafood; Weird and Wonderful; Vegetable, Rice and Side Dishes; Noodles; Tea, Drinks and Desserts.

The recipes reads like the menu of a very eclectic Chinese restaurant, here is what I would choose... well I might not manage all of these dishes, but they were too good to leave off the menu!

Vietnamese Prawn Salad
Juicy Pork Dumplings
 Broth with won-ton dumplings
Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts
Fried Beef with Basil
Cantonese Pork Spare rib
Glazed Peking Duck to make at home
Chinese Steamed Fish
Salt and Pepper Prawns
Tofu with 100 year old eggs
Fragrant Rice with Pork
Kimchi Fermented Cabbage
Pad Thai
Egg Noodles with spring onions
Chilled Jasmine Tea with Lemongrass
Toffee Apples

Who is it for?
It is certainly not for the faint hearted as it contains recipes for chicken feet and there are not very many vegetarian recipes.  It's also not for purists who are looking for original recipes from the country, these are unashamedly adaptations of the originals to suit the ingredients and tastes of the people around the world.  So if you would like to cook a dish that would be served in China Towns across the world, then it's for you.

The stories and information preceding the recipes are as interesting as the recipes themselves.  There are lots of interesting photographs of the China Towns as well as of the recipes.  I found the recipes well written, many are quite short and don't require unusual ingredients.  I loved 'How to eat with chopsticks and what you should never do with chopsticks'.

This is one big book, it doesn't sit open very well for cooking, I had to weigh it down to keep it open. Although there are lots of photographs, the photos for the finished dish are not always beside the recipe, which I prefer.

The Verdict
I was certainly impressed with the recipe I cooked, but I felt you could have condensed the content into a slimmer volume which was less expensive and easier to use in the kitchen. I am quite keen to try some of the other recipes after the success of the Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts, so overall a bit of a mixed verdict.

Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts
Serves 4
Preparation: 25 min
Marinating time 2hrs
Cooking time 20 min

2 garlic cloves
1 onion
4 chicken breasts
2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
6 tbsp soy sauce
1 bunch Thai basil
2 tbsp groundnut (peanut) oil
150g (5 1/2 oz or 1 cup) cashew nuts

Peel and chop the garlic and onion, then cut the chicken into small pieces.  In a bowl, mix the chicken, garlic, onion, cornflour (cornstarch) and soy sauce together, then leave to marinate at room temperature for 2 hours.

Strip, rinse and dry the basil.  About 20 minutes before serving, heat the oil in a large wok over a high heat.  Add the cashews and stir-fry for a few minutes then add the chicken and marinade and cook for 10 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, add the basil leaves, stir and turn off the heat.  Serve immediately with fragrant rice.

Such a simple recipe, but the flavour was really close to what you would eat at in a Chinese restaurant and the chicken is super tender and tasty.

China Towns Asian Cooking from Around the World in 100 Recipes by Jean-François Mallet  Hardback RRP £30.00
Published by Jacqui Small Publishing

To order China Towns at the discounted price of £24 including p&p* (RRP: £30), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG358. 
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas. 

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At 26 August 2015 at 08:16 , Blogger Unknown said...

This looks delicious Janice. Will definitely give this a go. As ever your cook book review was great and made me want to buy the book! :-)

At 26 August 2015 at 19:41 , Blogger Janice said...

Thank you so much for your lovely comment, it makes it all worthwhile :-)

At 26 August 2015 at 20:33 , Blogger Fab Food 4 All said...

That chicken dish would go down really well here, shame the book didn't live up to expectations!

At 26 August 2015 at 21:30 , Blogger Hello said...

Looks delish to me, would love to eat this for my dinner x

At 26 August 2015 at 21:53 , Blogger Anne said...

The book sounds fascinating and your dish has a lovely glisten to it! We have been recently ordering a similar dish in our local Chinese, would be good to recreate at home!

At 26 August 2015 at 22:01 , Blogger Janice said...

It went down well here. The book was just too unweildy for me Camilla, but the recipes are good.

At 26 August 2015 at 22:03 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Charlene

At 26 August 2015 at 22:03 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Anne, it really does taste like a take-away and really not difficult to make at all.

At 28 August 2015 at 09:42 , Blogger Karen S Booth said...

It looks good to me Janice and we've been on a REAL Asian food kick lately, so I may get this book! Karen

At 28 August 2015 at 15:05 , Blogger Unknown said...

love the sound of this book. I do LOVE your book reviews. The chicken and cashews are such a classic and I used to eat them in the bucket load back in my youth but it's been a while and they never looked as good as yours... its funny how Chinese food seems to have taken a bit of a back seat in asian food recently but it's well worth a revival!

At 28 August 2015 at 20:25 , Blogger Janice said...

I couldn't believe how authentically Chinese Restaurant it tasted, Karen. Easy to make too.

At 28 August 2015 at 20:27 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Dom X You are right about the Chinese food and there are so many great dishes to make, these recipes are really accessible so no excuse for not making more!

At 28 August 2015 at 20:34 , Anonymous Corina said...

I would love to get my hands on a copy of this book. It sounds fascinating. I love Chinese food and have been to China too where the food was so different in different regions and so varied too.

At 28 August 2015 at 22:01 , Blogger Heidi Roberts said...

It's amazing how a really simple recipe can taste so good! This will be one of your repertoire now!

At 29 August 2015 at 13:45 , Blogger Unknown said...

A lovely review, a very tasty looking dish and I'm hoping for an invite when you cook up that incredible sounding list of dishes Janice :)
Janie x

At 31 August 2015 at 13:45 , Blogger fiona maclean said...

I don't know about the photo - it looks fine to me, just like real food! Delicious

At 31 August 2015 at 22:03 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Fiona, it is real food and tasted great!

At 31 August 2015 at 22:04 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Janie, you will be first on the invite list!

At 31 August 2015 at 22:05 , Blogger Janice said...

You are right Heidi, definitely going to make this again

At 31 August 2015 at 22:05 , Blogger Janice said...

There is certainly plenty of variety in this book, Corina.

At 7 September 2015 at 16:25 , Blogger Moi said...

I don't know what you mean about the photo - this looks AMAZING! Have just included it in a Blog Love round-up on my blog. Will definitely be trying this!


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I love to read your comments and try to reply when I can. I have had to enable comment moderation due to high levels of spam, so it may take a little time before your comment is visible. Please let me know if you make one of my recipes or if you have any questions I will try to answer them. Janice

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