Yummer Reading

Yummer Reading

Potsticker Chronicles: America's Favorite Chinese Recipes

by Stuart Chang Berman

John Wiley & Sons, 274 pp., $27.50

I have about 35 Chinese cookbooks in my collection and have looked through hundreds more in my time, and not one single cookbook of all of those that I've looked through has ever had a recipe for garlic sauce except this one. There are two possible reasons for having never seen it before now: There is an ongoing conspiracy among Chinese cookbook authors on such a massive worldwide scale that it boggles the mind, or garlic sauce is an American Chinese-restaurant invention and therefore below the dignity of "serious" Chinese food authors and researchers. What I do know is that, regardless of the original source of the recipe (and of the sauce itself), I love garlic sauce on pretty much any Chinese entrée, and the fact that it is now in print is cause for celebration, as this version is superb.

Berman gained his restaurant skills working his way up through the ranks of his mother's famous Washington, D.C., restaurant, the Court of the Mandarins. To learn the finest arts of Chinese cuisine, he imported an old master chef from Shanghai and worked at his side for a year straight. He later went on to open a series of his own restaurants, introducing D.C. to the concepts of the open-wok kitchen and true fusion Chinese cuisine.

One of the delights of this book is the interspersed memoirs: Some are quite intimate, many hilarious, and all are thoroughly entertaining. Berman is a consummate storyteller, and the tales are injected into the book seamlessly. The 160 recipes range from very basic to complex banquet dishes, and the structure is immaculate. The recipes are straightforward, easy to understand, and produce excellent food. So, whether you read cookbooks for their entertainment value or read them for their utilitarian value, Potsticker Chronicles covers both bases with aplomb.

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