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The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking The Secrets of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore by Grace Young and Alan Richardson

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Notes about this book

  • Eat Your Books

    2005 International Association of Culinary Professionals Award Winner

Notes about Recipes in this book

  • Chicken with Sichuan peppercorns CCTI

    • Breadcrumbs on December 07, 2010

      p. 68 - Dec 2010 - I just recently purchased this book so this was my first use of this recipe and, the book. I was delighted to see how quick this dish was to assemble and prepare. Chicken is tossed w rice wine, cornstarch salt and pepper then browned in the hot wok along w some dried chilies. A sauce of soy, vinegar sesame oil chili oil, sugar, broth and rice wine is added along with green onions, garlic and ginger. A deceptively tasty dish with a great amount of heat . . . the kind that builds as you eat. Served this along with some stir-fried bok choy w garlic and some peanut noodles w veggies. I'd definitely make this again.

  • Stir-fried chicken and shallots

    • wcassity on January 30, 2012

      Best recipe I have cooked from this book so far. Not heavy, very flavorful. The shallots and the black beans were great.

    • sarahcooks on November 08, 2013

      Very flavorful, but unfortunately the shallots were pretty much raw. Next time I'd put them in sooner and cut them smaller.

    • Breadcrumbs on January 26, 2011

      p. 68 - I wanted another protein to serve with the Beef Chow Fun and it needed to be super-quick. This dish fit the bill. It exceeded our expectations. Flavour exceeded effort three-fold! Prep is minimal. Boneless, skinless chicken is cut into 1 inch cubes then marinated in soy, rice wine, sugar, cornstarch, salt and pepper. I pulled this together in a ziplock bag in the morning to save time at night. The shallots really shine in the final dish, adding just the right amount of sweetness and depth. Super-simple, totally tasty. This was a perfect, quick and delicious week-night dish that we’ll make again.

  • Uncle Sherman's home-style chicken and vegetables

    • Jane on January 25, 2011

      I liked this stir-fry a lot. The chicken had good flavor from its marinade of ginger, garlic & soy. The veggies were varied with broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and button mushrooms. Extra flavor was added with black bean sauce. A stir-fry that's above the average.

  • Kung Pao chicken

    • Breadcrumbs on January 30, 2011

      p. 74 - We liked this dish but it wasn’t a knock-out. Our main issue w this dish is for whatever reason, it just seemed to lack flavour and certainly, lacked the heat I’d expect from Kung Pao. I opened a fresh package of chilies from Penzey’s for this recipe so was reluctant to increase the quantity without knowing how much heat they’d yield, especially since they were split for the recipe. In hindsight, I’d have tripled the amount. The red bell peppers didn’t do anything for the dish either really, no heat for their sweetness to tame. Don't think I'll make this version again.

  • Tina Yao Lu's chicken with spinach

    • Breadcrumbs on January 07, 2011

      p. 74 - I took some liberties with this dish in the interest of timesaving. I used baby spinach instead of using the regular stuff and since it was very tender, I skipped the pre-cooking stage and simply added it in at the end once the broth has been incorporated into the stir-fry. I also used boxed chicken stock instead of homemade. That said, I don’t believe the final product suffered at all for my adaptations and it made for a satisfying dish that was quick and easy to pull together. The chicken was ridiculously tender and the mushrooms and spinach helped flavor the sauce. I was expecting the dish to be a bit bland based on the individual ingredients but somehow it comes together to make a very tasty dish that we’d be happy to have again

    • lilham on May 30, 2012

      I used baby spinach instead of the regular stuff. Knorr chicken broth instead of homemade. I also substituted with a mix of brocolli and cauliflower for the mushroom. I don't like the end result at all. It reminded me of drinking down rice with a big bowl of chinese soup when I was a kid. I don't think the use of mushrooms would change that.

  • Sweet and sour chicken

    • Breadcrumbs on February 01, 2011

      p. 76 - I had 2lbs of chicken in the fridge so decided on 2 chicken dishes tonight and this was one of them since I had all the other ingredients on hand. I’d passed by this on a couple of occasions as I don’t tend to like overly sweet dishes but on closer inspection saw that there was minimal sugar in this recipe -1 tbsp plus 1 tsp along w 2 tbsp of ketchup. Given the quantity of other ingredients in the sauce, I imagined this wouldn’t be too sweet at all and, I was right. We really enjoyed this well-balanced dish. The chicken was super-tender and the sauce itself was soy forward but balanced w the other ingredients. I'd make this again.

  • Helen Chen's pork and cucumber

    • chawkins on July 19, 2014

      Good use of my cucumbers from the garden. As I prefer my cooked cucumber to remain crunchy, I strayed from the recipe by salting the cucumber slices and let them sit for 30 minutes and then drained and pressed gently to get rid of excess liquid. I also added the pepper strips a minute or two before I added the cucumber slices and stir-fried them only briefly.

  • Stir-fried pork and chilies CCTI

    • Breadcrumbs on January 25, 2011

      p. 90 - This dish was good, not great. As always I omitted the salt because the recipe calls for soy sauce. If I were to make this dish again, I’d likely reduce the soy as we still found the saltiness of this to be a bit pervasive. This is the first dish I’ve made that's included the cloud ear mushrooms and we especially enjoyed the texture they added to this dish. They worked very well w the bamboo shoots. When I first stirred the broth mixture into the wok I worried this dish was going to be a bit soupy but the sauce quickly thickens and clings nicely to the pork and vegetables. We served this with Henry Hugh’s Lotus Root w Sugar Snaps from BoaW and the Chinese Indian Chicken Manchurian from p. 142 of SFSE.

  • Martin Yan's Genghis Khan beef

    • Breadcrumbs on January 19, 2011

      p. 91 - Wow! We just loved this dish. I’ve never prepared flank steak in this manner in the past and was skeptical as to whether it would be tender with only 20 minutes of marinating. Typically I’d marinate overnight prior to grilling and slicing for service. Well, I needn’t have worried because those little cubes of beef were tender, juicy and had just the right amount of pinkness in the centre for our tastes. The sauce itself was gravy-like in appearance and had just the right amount of heat. So glad we tried this recipe, everyone loved it and I’ll be happy to add it to my collection of Chinese go-to recipes. k9

    • chawkins on March 08, 2013

      It's been couple of years since I last made this, it is still as good as I remember it to be. I used blade steaks instead of flank steak because I think they are more flavorful, just cut each steak into 2 strips around the middle connective tissue and discard that, then cut the strips into cubes. I added sugar snap peas this time because they needed to be used and it was a nice addition.

  • Cousin Zane's Sichuan beef

    • Breadcrumbs on January 19, 2011

      p. 95 - Another hit from BoaW! We loved this dish. Like many of Young’s recipes, you sear your beef for a minute then stir-fry until it's beginning to brown then in this case you remove it along w any pan juices and drain it over a plate. Well, my juices were plentiful and later on when the directions said to stir the broth back in, I accidently poured those juices in, forgetting my broth. Not sure how things would have turned out if it had been made properly but we loved it this way. There was plenty of rich-flavoured, gravy-like sauce that was just delicious. I’m almost afraid to make it the right way since we enjoyed this so much. One of our favourites so far. I’d highly recommend this dish. k9

    • Jane on January 25, 2011

      I had to do a bit of adjusting to this recipe since I didn't exactly match on the ingredients. The flank steak was sirloin tips and the green bell pepper was broccoli. But really liked it, and the kids did too. The beef was marinated in rice wine, soy and ginger for 30 mins before being drained. The beef is then stir-fried with more ginger then drained while the vegetables cook. The sauce of hoisin, chile bean paste, ketchup and soy was really tasty, not too spicy for the kids, but enough flavor for me. Definitely going in my stir-fries rotation.

  • Lee Wan Ching's sizzling pepper and salt shrimp

    • chawkins on April 14, 2013

      Very good and came together in no time since you don't even have to peel the shrimps. But a tad difficult to eat since you cook the shrimps with the shells on, may not want to serve it to guests.

  • Millie Chan's chili shrimp

    • chawkins on December 30, 2013

      The shrimps took on a crunchy texture after being brined. The chile bean paste and ginger provided just enough spiciness. Very nice dish.

  • Ken Lo's chow fun with beef and broccoli

    • Breadcrumbs on January 04, 2011

      p. 119 - Looks great. Calls for 1lb of FRESH broad rice noodles for optimum results so will look around for those.

    • chawkins on April 27, 2013

      An unusual but delightful way to make chow fun. Grace Young called for fresh unrefrigerated ho fun, but the Chinese grocery store here sell them from the refrigerator case, I can't get fresh ones unless I drive over to Philly, but it is not a problem, just cut them in strips then microwave them for a couple of minutes and they'll soften and are just like fresh ones, you can then separate them into individual strands. The recipe have you spread the ho fun in the wok and swirl two eggs over them, I found that two eggs is a tad too skimpy to hold all the noodles together, so next time I'll use three or even four eggs. Also make the noodle cake first, then the beef, followed by the broccoli, this way you can get away with not having to wash the wok in between.

  • Dickson Hee's oyster lo mein

    • Breadcrumbs on January 30, 2011

      p. 124 - I was looking for an alternative to rice tonight and since I had all ingredients on hand, thought I’d give this a try. This dish underwhelmed. Noodles were cooked, drained, rinsed and mixed w a sauce of sesame oil, oyster sauce, soy and sugar. Oil is heated in your wok and garlic is stir-fried until fragrant then noodles are tossed in. Scallions and the optional julienned were then tossed in before serving. My noodles were fresh but even they couldn’t perk up the flavours of this dish. Just one note and, unfortunately that note was boring!! I wouldn’t recommend this dish and that’s a first for me from these COTM’s.

  • Liang Nian Xiu's snow peas, tomatoes, and chilies

    • Breadcrumbs on January 19, 2011

      p. 132 - We really liked the sound of this recipe when I first read through the ingredients and I was determined to make it despite the fact we only had Sugar Snap Peas and no pork belly. Instead, we used a little ground pork and plodded along regardless! This is really, really quick and easy. The de-stringing of the peas is definitely the most time consuming step! Oil is added to a hot wok then pork, ginger, garlic, Thai bird chilies - doubled in our case and salt - omitted are stir-fried for 1 minute before the Peas are added and tossed around for a minute as well. Then some chopped tomato, sugar and salt are added and stir-fried together until your peas are tender. I loved this, the SS peas were hot and crunchy and my Thai chilies added the perfect heat. The ground pork ended up working really well w the sugar and tomatoes. We really enjoyed this one and will definitely have it again. k8

  • Liang Nian Xiu's moon hill corn and beans

    • wcassity on September 10, 2011

      Great summer dish. The flavors of the corn, green beans and tomatoes dominate, accentuated by the ginger and garlic. I added 1/2 lb ground pork and 1 T cilantro.

  • Mary Chau's Shanghai-style snow cabbage and edamame

    • PrincessK on February 10, 2011

      pg. 135 Keeper per Q: also suggests eliminating the final soy sauce addition and replacing it with broth.

  • Stir-fried sugar snap peas with water chestnuts

    • Breadcrumbs on February 01, 2011

      p. 135 - I was able to find fresh water chestnuts in Chinatown so we were really looking forward to this dish. It didn’t disappoint and was quite tasty. The finished dish is fresh, crunchy and delicious in its simplicity. I would have been satisfied with a big bowl of this alone for dinner. Really nice, the fresh water chestnuts are a must in my humble opinion. We’ll definitely have this again.

  • Henry Hugh's lotus root with sugar snaps

    • Breadcrumbs on January 25, 2011

      A nice blend of crispy, fresh, crunchy veggies dressed in a very mild sauce. The subtle sweetness that the Lotus Root adds to this dish is what really elevates it. The Chinatown grocer was very helpful in instructing me to select an unblemished root with a creamy-pink hue. She also was quick to instruct me not to break root segments apart. The lotus root looks a bit like a string of sausages! Evidently it’s bad luck to pull the root sections apart. As instructed, I stored the root in the fridge until I needed it. To prepare, you simply treat it as you would a potato. Give it a good clean, trim, peel and slice. In this case Young instructs you to halve the root lengthways then cut into 1/4 inch half-moon shaped slices. I elected to slice mine much thinner since I intended to skip the blanching step to save time. This dish is very basic but we appreciated its freshness and subtle flavours, a perfect accompaniment to two our two other spicy dishes. I’d make this again.

  • Susanna Foo's tofu, eggplant, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes

    • Breadcrumbs on February 08, 2011

      p. 143 - This recipe has been on my mind since I first spotted it in the book. Last night my husband, a tofu-hater was attending a business function so it was the perfect occasion for me to pull out my wok and give this a stir. So glad I did because this dish was absolutely delightful, I loved it! Since I like my tofu on the dryer side, I placed it between sheets of paper towel and weighted it over a strainer to expedite the draining.I didn’t have all the suggested veggies on hand so used my own blend of king mushrooms, shitakes, 2 Chinese eggplants, sun-dried tomatoes, spring onions, garlic, red peppers and 3 Thai bird peppers.I absolutely loved this dish. The sauce was well-balanced and seemed to enhanced the caramelized flavours of the eggplant and sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes. I would definitely recommend the use of King mushrooms, I loved their meaty texture and it was a really nice compliment to the other textures in the dish. Can't wait to make this again!

  • Florence Lin's slow stir-fried red peppers

  • Spicy garlic eggplant

    • smtucker on August 16, 2013

      Delicious. House favorite during Japanese eggplant season.

    • Breadcrumbs on January 11, 2011

      p. 144 -Originally I hadn’t intended to make this dish but when I saw Chinese eggplant during my trip to the market today, I couldn’t resist them and once home, I found this recipe. Hands down this is our new favorite way to prepare eggplant. I think the Chinese (long) eggplant made a difference, they didn't seem to be as acidic. This was a perfect, scrumptious dish.

    • PrincessK on February 10, 2011

      pg 144 Even appeals to eggplant haters.

  • Sweet and sour cabbage

  • Ginger and scallion oysters Lichee Garden

    • chawkins on October 21, 2014

      So delicious. I should have doubled the recipe, 6 oysters just weren't enough for the two of us, even with a whole steamed bass and a plate of stir-fried silk gourd. We could each eat half a dozen of the oysters easily. The preparation was simple and the oysters were cooked to perfection with not much shrinkage, just a wonderful dish.

  • Florence Lin's tofu with cilantro relish

    • chawkins on April 18, 2013

      Simple and delicious. Three main ingredients: tofu, cilantro and ginger.

  • Cousin Sylvia's drumsticks with caramelized onions

    • chawkins on July 16, 2014

      The taste is good but I'm not happy with the cooking method. You're supposed to pan-fried the drumsticks after cooking the garlic, ginger and onion without cleaning the pan, but unfortunately the chicken stuck to the pan badly resulting in a nasty cleaning job. You probably can achieve the same taste profile by braising with a little water.

    • amraub on August 24, 2012

      I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this dish. I'm trying to clean out the freezer in preparation for a move and found some drumsticks buried in the back. This dish looked perfect as it uses primarily pantry ingredients. The chicken came out great, but the star of the dish for me were the onions. I gave them a bit of extra time for a little bit more caramelization. Will make again, even when not in the middle of a freezer clean-out.

  • Martin Yan's Mandarin five-flavored boneless pork chops

    • eve_kloepper on December 07, 2011

      delicious, but be careful not to overcook the pork. 30 min. is way too long.

  • Ray Lee's Cantonese steamed chicken

    • chawkins on November 17, 2013

      Very tasty. Instead of two whole chicken legs, I used four thighs that I boned after they were cooked and cut the meat into thick slices. Also, instead of using water to mix the wet white and red fermented bean curds together, I used the red bean curd liquid.

  • Danny Chan's steamed salmon with lemon

    • chawkins on November 17, 2013

      May be my lemon is super tart, I found this to be a little too sour for my taste. Other than that, this is quite good and easy to prepare.

    • sarahcooks on May 16, 2012

      Very tasty, but cooked a bit sooner than the recipe said, so definitely keep an eye on it. So simple.

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  • ISBN 10 0743238273
  • ISBN 13 9780743238274
  • Published Sep 20 2004
  • Format Misc. format
  • Language English
  • Countries United States
  • Publisher Simon & Schuster
  • Imprint Simon & Schuster

Publishers Text

2005 IACP Award Winner - International Category:
The Le Cordon Bleu Award!

When Grace Young was a girl, her father instilled in her a lasting appreciation of wok hay, the elusive taste food achieves when properly stir-fried in a wok. As an adult, Young aspired to create that taste in her own kitchen. The quest for wok mastery has taken Young through America, Hong Kong, and China, where she and prize-winning photographer Alan Richardson sought the advice of home cooks, professional cooks, and culinary teachers like Cecilia Chiang, Florence Lin, and Ken Hom. The resulting stories, advice, and recipes, gathered here in an innovative and richly photographed new volume, not only offer expert lessons in the art of wok cooking--they also recapture a beautiful and timeless way of life.


Emphasizing the vitality of cooking with all the senses, The Breath of a Wok transports all the wonders of old-world wok culture to today's modern kitchen. The author's elegant prose yields unforgettable descriptions of artist wok makers, Hong Kong street food, a dumpling party with Amy Tan, and much more. The recipes highlight such classics of wok cooking as Kung Pao Chicken and Moo Shoo Pork, as well as unusual dishes like Sizzling Pepper and Salt Shrimp, Three Teacup Chicken, and Scallion and Ginger Lo Mein.



Other cookbooks by this author

The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking The Secrets of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore

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