The stir-fry is all things: refined, improvisational, adaptable, and inventive. It is the rare culinary practice that makes less seem like more, and by which small amounts of food feed many.
For centuries the Chinese have carried their woks to all corners of the earth and re-created stir-fry dishes, using local and sometimes nontraditional ingredients. The old expression: 'One wok runs to the sky's edge' means 'one who uses the wok becomes master of the cooking world'. And as the wok user becomes master of the cooking world, so does he become master of the stir-fry, one of the greatest techniques of Chinese cookery.
The technique and tradition of stir-frying, which is at once simple yet subtly complex, is as vital today as it has been for hundreds of years. In Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, award-winning author Grace Young shares more than 100 classic stir-fry recipes that sizzle with heat and pop with flavor, from the great Cantonese stir-fry masters to the culinary customs of Sichuan, Hunan, Shanghai, Beijing, Fujian, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia, as well as other countries around the world. With more than 80 stunning full-color photographs, Young's definitive work illustrates the innumerable, easy-to-learn possibilities the technique offers—dry stir-fries, moist stir-fries, clear stir-fries, velvet stir-fries—and weaves the insights of Chinese cooking philosophy into the preparation of such beloved dishes as Kung Pao Chicken, Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli, Chicken Lo Mein with Ginger Mushrooms, and Dry-Fried Sichuan Beans. In honoring the traditions of her cultural ancestors who traveled the globe, Young offers delectable crossover recipes for Chinese Jamaican Jerk Chicken Fried Rice, Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum, Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken, and Chinese American Shrimp with Lobster Sauce.
Expert home cooks and professional chefs teach you the foundations of stir-fry mastery in the modern kitchen—everything from how to choose, season, and care for a wok and the best skillet alternative; the importance of marinades and the proper technique for slicing meat and poultry for optimum tenderness; to how to select and handle Asian vegetables; ways to shortcut labor-intensive preparations; and tips on how to control heat and choose the best cooking oil.
Fascinating personal portraits illustrate how stir-frying is not just a cooking technique but a vital element of China's rich culture. With this book, Grace Young has created the authoritative guide to stir-frying, a work that is at once rewarding and beautiful, much like the technique of stir-frying itself.
About The Author
I grew up in San Francisco surrounded, on the one hand, by the immigrant Chinese traditions of my family and relatives, and, on the other, by an innovative American culinary culture. My earliest memories of food are of the extraordinary meals my mother and father prepared for us (my brother and me) and of the efforts they made to ensure that we ate well. Their care was not only a matter of selecting the freshest ingredients, but also for the authenticity with which they replicated the traditional Cantonese dishes of their youth in China during the 1930s and forties. This connection to the cooking of old-world China coupled with the discovery of Julia Child on television (and her 'exotic' dishes) shaped my lifelong affair with food and cooking. At the age of thirteen I began an apprenticeship with Josephine Araldo, a French cooking teacher. Those lessons initiated an exploration of other cuisines and led me, eventually, to my career in food.
I spent much of my early professional life as the test kitchen director for over forty cookbooks published by Time Life Books. In the early nineties, after growing weary of producing what had become soulless work with formulaic recipes, I developed a yearning to reconnect to the tastes and foods of my childhood. Over the next few years, I made numerous trips back to San Francisco from my home in New York to cook with my 70-year old mother and 82-year old father. It took much cajoling and great persistence to convince them to teach me their recipes. At the beginning, my focus was on a precise recording of the recipes. Eventually, and to my great surprise, as we cooked my parents, who had always been reticent about their past, began to share memories of their lives in China and accounts of their early days in America. This is how I came to learn a large part of my family's history. What started as a little recipe project soon blossomed into a memoir cookbook, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 1999. The book was awarded the IACP Le Cordon Bleu Best International Cookbook Award, in addition to being a finalist for an IACP First Cookbook Award, and a James Beard World International Cookbook Award. It was also featured in a special segment on CBS Sunday Morning. Many of the relatives and friends who taught me their recipes and shared their stories have since passed away. The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen feels to me now almost like a treasured family album.
My second cookbook, The Breath of a Wok, grew out of the realization that most Chinese Americans know little about their own culinary traditions, specifically wok cooking. I had become aware also of how cooks in China were abandoning their classic, well-seasoned iron woks for inferior nonstick cookware. In a tribute to wok cookery and out of a desire to reignite its popularity, I partnered with Alan Richardson to create what the acclaimed food historian and author Betty Fussell described as, 'a bridge between cultures for a Chinese-American in search of history and destiny. It is a remarkable collaboration between a writer and a photographer that reveals what the wok symbolizes---a craft, an art, a container of communal harmony and balance.' That book won the IACP Le Cordon Bleu Best International Cookbook Award, the Jane Grigson Award for Distinguished Scholarship, and the World Food Media Awards' Best Food Book. It was also featured in the New York Times , on NPR's All Things Considered and was selected as one of the best cookbooks of the year by Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, Bon AppEtit , and Epicurious.
The Breath of a Wok led me to the adventure of traveling with my carbon-steel wok (in my hand-carry baggage) on a 25-city tour for the culinary retailer Sur la Table to teach the art of wok cooking. I published further articles on Chinese cooking in Gourmet, Bon AppÉtit, Eating Well, and Saveur , where I am a contributing editor. The book also brought me speaking engagements at the Culinary Institute at Greystone, China Institute, New York University Asian/Pacific/American Institute, the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, The French Culinary Institute, and the Chinese Historical Society of America.
In 2006 I began work on Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. This effort was dedicated to the effort of empowering home cooks to stir-fry with confidence. It explores everything from the origins and health benefits of stir-frying to the technique's great economy of time and fuel. I was awarded an IACP Culinary Trust eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters Culinary Journalist Independent Study Scholarship which funded my research travel to Trinidad, Germany, Holland, Canada, and the United States to study the stir-fries of the Chinese diaspora. While Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge concentrates on traditional stir-fries, it is also filled with remarkable stories of how this simple, beloved cooking technique has enabled generations of Chinese around the world to eat well and with exquisite economy. My interview subjects include Chinese who grew up in such far-flung locations as Peru, Jamaica, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, Macau, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and the Mississippi Delta.
My passion for recording and preserving Chinese culinary traditions continues to lead me in quest of home cooks who understand and enjoy the benefits Chinese cooking. If you have a comfort food that is at risk of being lost or a story to share, it would be my great delight to learn of them.
"Young, whose expertise in wok technique has already enlightened American cooks, has now gathered recipes for stir-frying reflecting culinary traditions as far-flung as Indonesia and Peru.For the novice, Young offers lots of basic yet learned advice on shopping for unfamiliar ingredients and on assembling a Chinese pantry. Photographs and step-by-step instructions make fundamental wok tools and techniques accessible to even the least experienced. Her sidebars featuring talented stir-frying masters from all over the world add human dimension to the recipes."
"--" Mark Knoblauch", Booklist"