Pros: 4-serving recipes; low-fat food; better than many other versions of these recipes I’ve tried
Cons: 4-serving recipes
Rating: 5 out of 5
First posted 10/9/2000
I’ll get this out of the way right off. My one problem with this cookbook is that most of the recipes are designed with only four servings. Okay, okay, I know that’s a good idea for a weight loss cookbook (yep, this is a Weight Watchers cookbook). But we cook with a friend, which means there’s three of us, and we like to have leftovers for a night or two. So we always end up doubling the recipes.
Hmm. I guess that means that my “big problem” with this cookbook won’t even be a problem for most of you. In fact, for a lot of people it’s really nice having a cookbook that doesn’t offer recipes for huge amounts, particularly if you’re dieting. All right, all right, I’ll list it under “pros” as well as “cons.”
Oh, wow, the flavors. There’s a recipe called “ants climbing trees” that I’ve always been fond of – it’s basically flavored ground meat on cellophane noodles (or other thin noodles). You’ll find it here under “Cellophane Noodles with Spicy Ground Pork.” The Weight Watchers version, frankly, is better than any other I’ve had. More yummy flavor to it. It’s even great when made with ground bison.
The Tofu-Noodle Soup is pretty good, although not amazing. The Cold Noodles with Tofu-Peanut Sauce are, frankly, outstanding. This cookbook has preserved so much of the Oriental flavors in these recipes that it’s hard to go wrong here!
A few ingredients may be hard to find. For instance, I’ve only been able to find reduced-fat firm tofu, not soft tofu (it often substitutes well, though). You may or may not be able to find cellophane noodles, fermented black beans and oyster sauce at your grocery store; odds are you’ll have to pick up at least the beans online or at an Oriental grocery. Most of the ingredients, however, are fairly standard, so you should be able to make most of the recipes here. You will find a glossary at the back that will explain most of the unusual ingredients. In some cases substitutions are suggested.
This book is littered with hints and tips. Some help you with the low-fat losing weight end of things – like the list of the most calorie-laden and healthiest items you’ll find on the menu at a Chinese restaurant (this narrowly saved us from a noodles with sesame sauce calorie disaster). Others have to do with techniques and information for Chinese cooking, like stir-frying or keeping a wok well-seasoned. Some of them just present interesting information, like the “regional taste tour” and the rice primer. There’s even a comparison between Chinese and US diets.
The recipes are easy. They’re generally one-small-page affairs, usually limited to two to four steps each. The lists of ingredients aren’t huge. This is the simplest Oriental cookbook we have, yet it preserves so much of the flavor that it’s quite amazing. You’d never believe this stuff was low fat and healthy. In fact, why not try it even if you aren’t on a diet?
Here’s a preview of some of the marvelous recipes you’ll find here:
- Clam and Black Bean Soup
- Pan-Fried Noodles with Spicy Lamb
- Rice Pancakes with Shrimp
- Oven-Fried Spring Rolls
- Spicy Chicken Dumplings with Cilantro and Peanuts
- Ginger Beef and Asparagus Stir-Fry
- Shrimp Egg Fu Yung
- Broccoli in Oyster Sauce
- Soy-Braised Chicken
- Mongolian Barbecued Beef
- Spicy Grilled Tofu
In short…buy this cookbook. We’ve been quite surprised by it, and I expect that you will be too. If you don’t want yet another cookbook with skinless chicken breasts, then try to get your hands on some bison meat – just as healthy as skinless chicken, but lots more flavor. Besides, with the flavors and sauces in here, even I love the chicken recipes – and I’m not a huge fan of chicken!