Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking by Kian Lam Kho and Jody Horton

Search this book for Recipes »

Notes about this book

  • PinchOfSalt on March 31, 2016

    also available as an eBook ISBN 9780385344692 Kho, Kian Lam (2015-09-29). Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking (Kindle Location 18). Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony. Kindle Edition.

  • ellabee on January 09, 2016

    The title is exotic-sounding but gives no hint that this is a book organized around techniques. In theory the subtitle lets you in on the secret, but only if you can make it out; on the cover it's so small and subdued as to be nearly invisible. Golf clap, Random House.

Notes about Recipes in this book

  • Stir-fried fly head

    • JoanN on August 01, 2016

      LOVED this. Serious comfort food. And super quick and easy.

  • Sweet-and-sour pork

    • Gio on February 22, 2016

      Pg. 171. The full amounts of all the ingredients were used. We had fresh pineapple spears which I cut into proper chunks. Each flavor was distinguishable and each contributed its own characteristic. The sauce was not overly sweet, the meat tender and markedly flavorful. We loved every last bite, and that's an understatement. Great Recipe!

  • Stir-fried ho fan with beef and yellow chives

    • Gio on February 09, 2016

      Our first recipe from the book and truly a winner in every way for both of us. Of necessity we had to make several substitutions: Sherry, egg noodles, banana shallots. The most important sub was to use organic pork instead of beef, since we do not eat red meat. Even so the finished dish was absolutely marvelous. The seasonings coupled with the aromatics enhanced the tender juicy meat slices perfectly creating a full-flavored delight with every forkful. Definitely a recipe to revisit. My dish of meat and chives was darker than the photos from the book, but we thought it was just delicious.

  • Red-cooked tofu

    • Gio on February 18, 2016

      Pg. 202. This was a great dish that we both enjoyed eating. Loved the way the tofu absorbed the flavorful braising sauce. We followed the recipe implicitly, using the full amount of oil, peanut oil in our case, and a lovely new Chinese wine with no salt, Pearl River Bridge King Kian. Absolutely wonderful final dish and we are looking forward to cooking it again,

    • L.Nightshade on February 21, 2016

      This was part of our dinner for vegan friends, so we made it without the pork. We had a brief discussion about the mushrooms, as Mr. N wondered why we wouldn't use fresh, instead of rehydrated dried shiitakes. I think the dried mushrooms added a much more condensed flavor, and a heartier texture to the dish. In addition, I used the mushroom soaking water instead of adding plain water. All in all a wonderfully flavorful dish. I'd like to try it with the pork too. I do wonder what it would be like if the tofu wasn't deep fried before the braising, whether it might absorb even more flavor from the liquids.

    • chawkins on December 21, 2020

      I was apprehensive about deep frying the tofu, but surprisingly there were no splattering at all, I did sit the cut-up pieces of tofu on paper towels for over an hour before frying though. I was worried that the dish would be too saucy when a cup and a half of water was added before the 10-minute braise, but all that sauce was mostly absorbed by the end of the braise. The end result was very flavorful dish.

  • Sweet-and-sour watermelon radish

    • TrishaCP on December 24, 2019

      These are really delicious and easy to make. My only quibble is that by julienning them per the instructions, you lose the beauty of the radishes. So I simply sliced my small radishes to get the white, pink, green sunset effect. They were a tad less crisp than the larger radishes that I julienned, but not significantly.

  • Sichuan fermented pickles

    • L.Nightshade on February 21, 2016

      I just used a couple big glass jars for this, but now I want one of those Chinese pickling jars! I tested the pickles after one week, but they weren’t sour enough for my taste, so I tried again every few days. They ended up going two weeks. The vegetables start out being cut in 1/2 inch thick strips, then the final instructions say to cut them into pieces about 1/4 inch thick. I wasn’t certain how to interpret that, and those in the photo look like they’re still at the 1/2 inch stage. I ended up just kind of chopping them, and serving them like a relish. I thought making such a large amount of pickles, I’d have trouble getting rid of them. They were gone in a few days. That pretty much says it all.

  • Sesame candied walnuts

    • L.Nightshade on February 21, 2016

      I always slightly dread making anything that’s candy or candied, but this was surprisingly easy. No luck finding walnut halves, for some reason, but we had a big jar of mixed nuts so I used those. After roasting, the nuts are set aside while the sugar is melted. Because this was part of our dinner for vegans, I used an organic sugar, which was slightly golden to begin with, so I used the hard crack test instead of watching until the sugar turned yellowish. At that point, the nuts, sesame oil, and sesame seeds are added. The nuts are spread out on parchment which has had a brush of sesame oil. I’m, sadly, not supposed to be eating sugar, but I did taste one, and it was delicious! And of course the nuts have that toasted sesame oil aroma that is nearly hypnotic to me, so it was nice just having them around. There were none left at the end of the evening, fortunately, for I surely would have been tempted.

    • Kduncan on January 15, 2020

      Needed to get rid of some of the dregs of a few walnut bags, so I figured this would be an easy way to do it. The recipe is really simple, and the addition of the toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds was great. Great on salads and as an afternoon snack. Would highly recommend.

  • Beggar's chicken

    • L.Nightshade on March 06, 2016

      This chicken is supposed to be roasted in clay; I just roasted it in a clay baker. The chicken is also supposed to be swaddled in pork caul; I just rubbed the chicken with duck fat. We monitored doneness with a meat thermometer, and took it out at 1 1/2 hours, which was really a shorter period of time, as the clay baker starts out in a cold oven. It’s quite dramatic opening up the lotus leaves and releasing the aromatic steam; I can only imagine how theatrical it would be to crack the clay with diners looking on. This chicken was wonderfully moist and tender, even the breast meat. And the stuffing? I could eat a bowl of this stuff with a spoon! I’m thinking of deboning the chickens and stuffing it a la Pepin’s chicken ballotine. We also discussed trying this with a duck. Basically, I just want to keep cooking birds in lotus leaves, and eating this stuffing.

  • Eggplant salad

    • L.Nightshade on February 08, 2016

      We found only one Asian eggplant in the shop, lonely and diminutive, it had to come home with us. So I made only a 1/3 recipe of this salad as a sort of test run, as I plan to find some more eggplant, and repeat it for a vegan dinner party I’m planning. The eggplant is broiled on on each side until the skin is blistered. Once cool, it is peeled, and the flesh is cut into long strips. It’s dressed with the Black Vinegar and Garlic Vinaigrette, and topped with scallions, cilantro, and sliced red chile. That garlicky black vinegar and toasted sesame oil dressing is the perfect complement to the slightly smoky eggplant. I also added some of the optional chile oil. I'll be making double the full recipe next time.

  • Moo goo gai pan

    • L.Nightshade on February 06, 2016

      I chose this recipe partly because I had all the ingredients, partly because it’s pretty quick and easy, but mostly because I love velveted chicken. And I don’t even like chicken! On page 118 the author discusses the “moist stir fry,” and how the technique is abused in some Chinese-American restaurants to create a gooey sauced dish. This is not that. The flavors are delicate and satisfying, and the texture is, of course, velvety. I’m eager to try the other dishes using pork and beef, and the moist stir fry.

  • Dry-fried lotus root

    • L.Nightshade on February 19, 2016

      Oh my goodness, this just might be my new favorite food. Our little Asian market gets a small amount in once a week, and it sells out quickly, so Mr. N went in immediately after the delivery and the shop owner brought it out of the back, and broke off a lobe for him. Neither my husband, nor our dinner guests, had ever had lotus root before, so I stuck to my original impulse and sliced it crosswise, just so everyone could see the beauty of the root. I cut back on the chiles, not the amount, but the type, using half of our very hot Chinese chiles, and half Japones, as our friends might not have been as heat-loving as me. This was part of a dinner with several dishes from the book, and a couple snack items from elsewhere, but the lotus root was the one dish that had no leftovers. I just might become a regular at the weekly morning lineup after the lotus root delivery.

  • Dry-fried string beans

    • L.Nightshade on February 06, 2016

      I was wary of the amount of oil used, but, although my beans glistened nicely, I certainly didn’t find them too oily, and most of the oil was recaptured after straining. The various flavors in this dish combine so beautifully, while maintaining their individual characteristics. I especially loved the bit of ya cai, which I won’t consider optional!

    • jenniebakes on November 23, 2018

      Oh this is good. I think I may have pulled the beans a little early on their deep-fry, but the texture was perfect in the end. Definitely use the ya cai if you can find it - it adds a lot to the dish. As written it's quite fiery, so next time we of weak spice tolerance here will halve the chile amount. It's definitely being made again, though.

  • Mapo tofu

    • L.Nightshade on February 06, 2016

      I like that the recipe specified firm tofu, as I’ve seen others that specify soft. The technique of simmering the tofu was new to me also, and I was a tad reluctant, as I don’t like squishy tofu, but it didn’t have that effect on the texture at all. I did rinse the fermented beans, and our homemade stock has no salt, so it came out just perfect. I used a combination of scallions and garlic sprouts at the end, but did not simmer them, just tossed them in. I could eat this every night, I really could.

  • General Tso's chicken

    • L.Nightshade on February 16, 2016

      This is a dish I religiously avoid in local restaurants, because of the cloying, gloppy, almost day-glo colored sauce with which it is customarily surrounded. Not this version, oh no. Garlicky, a bit hot from the chiles, a tang from the Chinkiang black vinegar, with only a hint of sweetness: perfect. (Full disclosure on that hint of sweetness: I’ve been using stevia for all recipes that require a bit of sugar, as I don’t eat sugar. It wouldn’t work in a dish that really requires caramelization, but for a bit of sweet, it’s been working just fine.) The scallion garnish on the chicken came from my windowsill garden. I was happy as a tapioca-clad chicken nugget with this dish. Or a clam, which may be more accurately purported to be happy. For just the two of us, we thought we’d have leftovers. Ha! Silly us, we scraped the bowl clean.

    • sosayi on January 25, 2018

      Really great flavor on this dish. I too loved the vinegar "tang" of the dish, but thought that it needed a bit more heat. I took out the seeds from the dried chiles, but perhaps I should have left them in?? Toddler also loved the plain fried chicken cubes, so I had a bit more sauce than needed. Not sure if it's because of that, but the sauce seemed a bit "gloppy" or "gooey". I might try cutting back on the tapioca starch amount in the sauce itself next time. Can't wait to compare to other versions.

    • cellenly on January 14, 2020

      Loved the marinade for the chicken. Teens loved the dish without the sauce better & disappointed that I added the sauce to all the chicken. They preferred w/o the sauce. Sauce was okay but no one loved it, however I forgot to add the sugar. The sauce was too much and too gloopy for us as well. (though we had some chicken loss with the kids just stopping by and eating the plain fried chicken). I though the tapioca starch puffed up too much. I would consider mixing the tapioca with rice flour next time. But the chicken marinade is a keeper.

  • Crisp fried red snapper with spicy sweet-and-sour sauce

    • L.Nightshade on March 06, 2016

      Mr. Nightshade actually made this dish. Instead of using a whole red snapper, he used a fillet. I didn’t watch his every move, as I was busy with my own wok, but I know the fillet was dredged in tapioca starch, then fried in very hot oil. The sauce is made of ketchup chicken stock, white rice wine, white rice vinegar, soy sauce, chopped pickled red chiles, sugar (he used stevia), and a tapioca starch slurry. I’m definitely warming up to sweet and sour, when it’s not that sweet, gloppy, bright red stuff. And, although still not my favorite, I’m also warming up to fried food. In other words, this was much better than I expected; we both liked it quite a bit.

  • Stir-fried beef with black pepper

    • L.Nightshade on February 09, 2016

      I made the recipe just as written. When I mixed up the sauce, I thought it was going to be too much liquid, but it thickened up nicely and the dish was perfectly saucy. I loved the flavor of the sauce and crunch and bite of the slightly cracked peppercorns. Big return of flavor for a pretty easy stir fry.

    • Kduncan on October 31, 2018

      Pretty simple instructions. Double everything to have leftovers for lunch. Flavor was good. The biggest problem I have is with all recipes here - I never seem to reduce the sauce enough.

  • Kung pao chicken

    • L.Nightshade on February 14, 2016

      Kian Lam Kho suggested this alternative in the COTM, just substituting shrimp for chicken. I loved it even more than the chicken version! We found some very hot Chinese dried red chiles, type unknown, but they were hot! With the highest power on the over-stove exhaust fan, we were coughing and our eyes were stinging. But it was worth it. Great combination.

    • L.Nightshade on February 11, 2016

      I made this for dinner last night, using thighs. This says how much I trust this author, as I’m a 100% white-meat girl. Of course, they worked perfectly. I couldn’t find any notes about what kind of chile to use, or what types are customarily used in Chinese cooking, so I picked the two I had which looked to be about the right size: Japones and Chiles de Arbol. I used about 2/3 of the amount called for, as Mr. N doesn’t take the heat as well as I. Interestingly, we both could have used more! Either that or hotter chiles. If I make this again, I’ll try to find some dried Thai chiles to add into the mix. As I’ve come to expect, this recipe redeems the dish from its restaurant version. The flavors are vibrant, the chicken is perfectly tender, and the peanuts lend a nice crunch. Mr. N stir fried broccoli with garlic and fermented black beans for our side dish.

    • chawkins on December 16, 2020

      This was pretty good. There were just enough sauce to cling o everything. I was worry about the spicy level and was not too sure how the cup of Chile’s were measured. After deseeding and cut up, I had about half a cup of chile strips. I used about eight home dried Thai Chile’s, a pasilla and a guajillo.

  • Barbecued pork

    • apattin on April 21, 2020

      Very good weeknight version of what would take hours if using pork shoulder. Flavor is spot on.

  • Stir-fried Chinese water spinach with shrimp paste

    • meggan on January 14, 2020

      Didn't have shrimp paste and used old cincalok which was a little too much.

  • Steamed sticky rice with seafood

    • chawkins on January 13, 2021

      Excellent light alternative to my go-to sticky rice with Chinese sausages. I usually cooked my sticky rice in a rice cooker or in the instant pot, this was the first time I used the steaming technique. The rice was perfectly cooked after a 6-hr soak.

    • springandfall on June 01, 2016

      Couldn't find lotus leaves, so used baking parchment instead. The dish still turned out wonderfully - though I'm going to be on the lookout for dried lotus leaves, which would infuse the rice with its flavor and look more striking.

  • Blanched asparagus with ginger soy sauce

    • imaluckyducky on March 26, 2020

      5 stars! Extremely quick and low-key side dish that packs a fantastic punch of flavor. The cooking wine cuts through the saltiness of the soy sauce, and together brings out the warm kick of the fresh ginger. I personally loved the sliced chili on top. Served with Takashi's salmon in soba noodles (using ahi tuna steak) and Andrew Weil's brussel sprouts with umami sauce.

  • Garlic stir-fried greens

    • rosten on March 10, 2016

      simple and effective.

  • Sweet-and-sour dipping sauce

    • sosayi on November 02, 2018

      The amount of tapioca starch in this was far too high. I'd start with half and see how that works out. Flavor was good, but the extreme gloopiness of the sauce was so off-putting I can't rate it any higher.

  • Fried sesame pork tenderloin

    • sosayi on November 02, 2018

      This was just okay for us, unfortunately. We ended up needing many time more sesame seeds than called for to coat the chicken. And, it's not like I was TRYING to overcoat it, but the egg/tapioca starch coating seemed to magically attract all sesame seeds and not let them go... I'd probably try tossing the correct amount of seeds in a ziploc and shaking the all of the pork in it to try to coat a little more evenly and with fewer seeds. The amount of sesame that I ended up with definitely overwhelmed the pork and any seasoning from the marinade.

  • Flash-fried lamb with leeks

    • Kduncan on November 14, 2018

      This one came out well, for once not too much sauce. Really easy to make, though it is a bit annoying to heat up that much oil for 10 seconds of frying. Served just with white rice.

You must Create an Account or Sign In to add a note to this book.

Reviews about this book

  • Fine Cooking

    If you've wanted to cook authentic Chinese food but have felt a little put off by unfamiliar ingredients or techniques, then run, don't walk, to buy this book. Kian Lam Kho demystifies Chinese cuisine

    Full review

Reviews about Recipes in this Book

  • General Tso's chicken

    • Fine Cooking

      If you love the overly sweet version of this take-out favorite, this one may not be for you. Chicken thigh pieces fry up amazingly crisp before being tossed in a spicy sauce...

      Full review
  • Mapo tofu

    • Fine Cooking

      ...the heat is balanced by the dish's other flavors, including fermented black beans, ground beef, ginger, and scallions. Plus, you have the author's permission to scale back on the red chile powder.

      Full review
  • ISBN 10 0385344686
  • ISBN 13 9780385344685
  • Linked ISBNs
  • Published Oct 05 2015
  • Format Hardcover
  • Page Count 368
  • Language English
  • Countries United States
  • Publisher Random House USA Inc
  • Imprint Clarkson Potter

Publishers Text

Create nuanced, complex, authentic Chinese flavors at home by learning the cuisine’s fundamental techniques.

Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees offers a unique introduction to Chinese home cooking, demystifying it by focusing on its basic cooking methods. In outlining the differences among various techniques—such as pan-frying, oil steeping, and yin-yang frying—and instructing which one is best for particular ingredients and end results, culinary expert Kian Lam Kho provides a practical, intuitive window into this unique cuisine. Once one learns how to dry stir-fry chicken, one can then confidently apply the technique to tofu, shrimp, and any number of ingredients.

Accompanied by more than 200 photographs, including helpful step-by-step images, the 158 recipes range from simple, such as Spicy Lotus Root Salad or Red Cooked Pork, to slightly more involved, including authentic General Tso’s Chicken or Pork Shank Soup with Winter Bamboo. But the true brilliance behind this innovative book lies in the way it teaches the soul of Chinese cooking, enabling home cooks to master this diverse, alluring cuisine and then to re-create any tempting dish they encounter or can imagine.

Other cookbooks by this author