The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo

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Notes about this book

  • ellabee on March 16, 2017

    There's a floridly written but informative article about Kuo's life, work, and the writing of the book at Food52: Unfortunately, the Food52 piece has resulted in an extreme overpricing of used copies, which may or may not wear off after a while. Update March 2018: used copies back to earth, $12-25.

  • Gio on March 04, 2014

    Stir-Fried Spinach Pg. 370, We've made this more times than I can count, first with spinach, then escarole, then with every other leafy green under the sun. It's a perfect vegetable side dish for just about anything.

  • shonaghd on June 27, 2012

    This is such an informative and comprehensive book, I always have at hand. Read for example, her words on MSG, and the original homestyle MSG (taste-essence).

  • KeenCook on October 27, 2011

    Australian edition: Nelcon, 1977 (hardback), ISBN 0170052958

  • Avocet on August 19, 2011

    The hot and sour cucumber recipe is an excellent and easy cold side dish that keeps well.

Notes about Recipes in this book

  • Chicken soong

    • Breadcrumbs on October 01, 2015

      p. 279 – I made an adaptation of this recipe. I had some wild mushrooms to use up so I subbed those for the dried. This turned out very well, quite fresh and flavourful. The peas are a nice touch and I’d like to try this with snap peas next time around. It was a perfect dish for mr bc who isn’t a fan of too much heat or spice. Photo here:

  • Green peas in crabmeat sauce

    • JoanN on January 11, 2014

      Very few ingredients here so the flavor of the crab really comes through. (I used Costco jumbo lump.) With rice, it’s pure comfort food. Next time I’d use half as much stock; thought it soupier than necessary.

  • Stir-fried celery

    • Gio on March 04, 2014

      Stir-Fried Celery Pg. 376. Used Tamari instead of salt, and peanut oil. Pleasant side dish. .

  • Lobster Cantonese

    • Gio on February 23, 2016

      Pg. 231. Included in the ingredients are a beaten egg white and cornstarch slurry. This is a recipe that Boston Chinese restaurants and customers think of as their Iconic dish. Apparently the basic recipe varies according to individual regions in the US. This particular recipe of Cantonese sauce is often sold alone or with other seafood. I love the flavors here, and the fermented black beans lend a unique salty funky essence that goes well with lobster.

  • Shrimp fried rice

    • PennyG on November 09, 2013

      This is a go-to recipe for us. Have made it for years! Always turns out great.

  • Red-cooked fresh ham

    • okcook on June 17, 2012

      I made this with a couple of 12 oz chunks of pork leg and OMG, it's fantastic. After the pork was cooked I partially shredded it. Then I reduced the sauce by about 25% to make is richer and served the meat over plain steamed rice with the Stir Fried Chinese Cabbage on page 388 of the same book. It's a 'do over' for sure. This would be great for a large Chinese meal because it can be prepared ahead.

  • Stir-fried shredded cabbage with carrots

    • Avocet on March 09, 2021

      Really good. Went extremely well as a side dish to spicy Ants Climb a Tree.

    • Bloominanglophile on September 14, 2013

      A good and easy side-dish.

  • Stir-fried green cabbage

    • twoyolks on December 11, 2017

      I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe. It's very simple and very fast. The cabbage is softened just enough and there's enough added ingredients to make this taste quite nice. It didn't developing an overly cabbagey flavor that I would normally expect.

  • Stir-fried spinach

    • twoyolks on October 19, 2017

      This really brought out the earthy flavor of the spinach. It's very simple to cook and works reasonably well. The portion size per person is huge. A half recipe was too much spinach for two people and it should serve 1 to 2 per the recipe.

  • Beef with leeks

    • hirsheys on August 13, 2017

      Shredding the flank steak would have been easier if I had briefly frozen the flank steak first, but I forgot. I also finely shredded the leeks, though I'm not actually sure if that was what she wanted. I also realized later that I accidentally used hot rather than sweet bean paste. You are supposed to cook the beef in 2 cups of oil, which I couldn't bring myself to do, so I stir fried the leeks, took some out to make the bed of leeks she describes, and left some in the wok. I then sprinkled the beef shreds on top of the leeks, added a little water to the wok, then covered it so the beef would steam a bit, which worked well. Next time I might do half sweet and half hot bean paste rather than all sweet or all hot. I felt that the leeks could have been cooked even longer so that they would come out more silky.

    • chawkins on June 01, 2014

      Very good. I halved the recipe successfully. Instead of serving the shredded leeks around the mound of beef as suggested, I stirred in the cooked leeks and mixed them with the beef and the sauce in the wok at the last minute, so that they too were coated with the sauce.

  • Stuffed bean curd

    • hirsheys on September 03, 2017

      The sauce for this is very mild - just soy, chicken stock, and sesame oil. Kuo's method of cooking the triangles didn't work great for me, mainly because of the stove temperatures she called for - makes me wonder if she had one of those really hot wok burners. Basically, the tofu didn't brown (as she said it would) over medium low heat and the sauce did not thicken over low heat (cornstarch needs to simmer to thicken, I think). I turned up the heat in both cases, but next time I would make sure the triangles actually got some color/texture on them. Aside from that, I liked this dish - it was unique and interesting to make. Next time, I would aim for a more interesting sauce, too. I actually think this would be great with a spicy sauce or even a vinegar-y sauce. The scallions on top are a requirement - they brighten the whole dish.

    • GiselleMarie on May 04, 2021

      My mother-in-law, a Cantonese cook, used to make this dish. When she died, I thought the recipe was lost to me forever, so I was delighted to find it in this book, and I’ve been making it for decades. Kuo’s version is identical to the one I am accustomed to, so I wouldn’t change a thing. Her instructions are to heat the oil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low to brown the pork-stuffed tofu triangles. I have used an electric wok for this recipe in the past, but now I have a high-powered gas range, and this has always worked well for me. On a different note, maybe I just never noticed before, but it seems lately as if everyone feels the need to make everything spicy. This isn’t a Szechuan dish, but to each his own.

  • Meat pie

    • hirsheys on September 03, 2017

      The variation for this recipe called for the meat loaf mixture to be steamed inside an eggplant, rather than in a plate. (I scraped the seeds out of my eggplant, figuring it would get rid of possibly bitter seeds as well as create a well for the meat.) I had some ground beef I needed to use up, so I replaced pork with beef. I was a bit underwhelmed with the outcome, but obviously, I didn't follow the recipe exactly. The eggplant was steamed beautifully - it was creamy and smooth - but it was underseasoned and boring. The meat mixture inside the eggplant is yummy, but very subtle, so it doesn't impart enough flavor to the eggplant. Again, this would probably be better with an aggressive sauce and I bet pork would be tastier. Similarly, it might be smart to season the eggplant before adding the meat.

    • KissTheCook on March 22, 2018

      Fine if you want to use up a lb. of ground pork, but not particularly memorable. I like the idea and ease of the steaming, but all the march-chopping beforehand is a bit laborious (and perhaps unnecessary?) Like a mildly seasoned pork meatball, but easier since there's no rolling individual balls.

  • Shrimp with mo-er mushrooms and cucumbers

    • hirsheys on September 03, 2017

      This is a fairly simple stir-fry of mo-er (aka tree-ear or cloud-ear) mushrooms, cucumbers, and shrimp with a mild cantonese sauce (soy, sherry, sugar, and sesame oil). I made this in part because I read jjhorinek's posttive review, but more importantly, I was curious about cooked cucumbers. Turns out I like them. I also was intrigued by the cilantro, with Kuo doesn't use all that often. All in all, this is a mild, pretty dish that I might make again. More likely, though, I would use the combination of shrimp, cloud ear, and cucumbers with a more interesting sauce (maybe a kow sauce with oyster in it?) and/or double the garlic, ginger, and cilantro and up the sugar.

    • chawkins on September 15, 2019

      I have cucumber galore coming out of the garden. Cucumber stir-fried with shrimp is my go to for cooking cucumber, my own version is much simpler than this one, but I like the addition of the mo-er (wood ear fungus), it added a different texture to the dish, the cilantro also added a taste contrast. Quite nice.

    • jjhorinek on May 09, 2017

      This has been a go-to recipe for over 30 years. It's low carb and fairly low calorie. It's also very pretty, with the red of the shrimp, green from the cucumber and cilantro, and black from the dried fungus (mo-er mushroom). So to those of you who may have this book, it's tasty, doesn't require any elaborate techniques or equipment--just a wok and ingredients easily available on the web if you don't have access to an oriental market.

    • GiselleMarie on December 27, 2020

      I made this for the first time for Christmas since I had two pounds of white and baby bella mushrooms I wanted to use. I was aware that the mushrooms could make my sauce dark and they did. It tasted fine but I’m looking forward to using the right ingredients in the correct proportions, especially after seeing the beautiful photo here on EYB.

  • Cucumbers simmered with dried shrimp

    • chawkins on August 15, 2014

      This simple dish is surprisingly good. I reversed the order of adding ingredients to the wok. I added the soaked dried shrimp to the hot oil first to infused the oil, then added the skinned and seeded cucumber batons and finally the shrimp soaking liquid. I thought the cucumber would disintegrate upon simmering, but it held its shape well. Great cooked cucumber dish.

  • Seafood kow

    • chawkins on June 04, 2019

      Very good. I made half a recipe, using about 6 oz of Pacific rockfish, 4 large shrimp and 4 sea scallops for the seafood, 2 cups of snow peas from the garden and half a carrot for the vegetables, skipped the mushrooms and the bamboo shoots. I oil blanched all the seafood, put the scallops in first, followed by the shrimp, then the fish which were cut in about 1x2” chunks.

  • Bean curd with shrimp

    • PinchOfSalt on March 06, 2013

      Made this with some Maine shrimp. Very tasty, but will make some changes next time. Added the shrimp after the bean curd to avoid overcooking. (Maine shrimp are tiny and cook in a flash.) Next time, briefly stir-fry the shrimp, remove, and re-add just before thickening the sauce. Also, the light soy sauce turned the bean curd an ivory color. Could be that the bottle was old, but the dish would have been prettier if that had not happened. Likewise, next time try adding the scallion at the end, to preserve the bright green color.

  • Roast pork

    • IsaSim on January 28, 2014

      Excellent; roasted strips on a rack for 30 min then turned the pieces and used convection for 20 min, + 10 at 400F.

  • Egg shreds and cold-stirred vegetables

    • springandfall on August 12, 2018

      Beansprouts are suggested as a substitute for the white radish. This is terrific. It's worth blanching them.

  • Casserole of fish

    • mamacrumbcake on June 29, 2016

      This was ok, but not what I was hoping for. I was looking for a deeper, richer, more savory flavor. This recipe has (for me) too much vinegar (5 tablespoons Chenkong or red wine vinegar--not noted on the EYB ingredient list).

  • Fluffy spicy shrimp

    • Mayito27 on May 17, 2017

      Five Star Make again

  • Mushrooms in oyster sauce

    • GiselleMarie on August 01, 2019

      Excellent! I did not thicken this dish with cornstarch. It was great without it!

  • Beef with cauliflower and cartwheeled cucumbers

    • GiselleMarie on February 19, 2017

      This is a great recipe! The savory sauce that flavors the beef and cauliflower combined with the refreshing cucumber slices is delicious!

  • Sweet and sour cucumber skins

    • GiselleMarie on September 05, 2021

      I’ve never before seen cucumber skins used as a side dish. My cucumbers had rather thick skins. “Marinating” them in the refrigerator for an overnight or two softened them somewhat, but they were still fairly crisp. This isn’t the greatest recipe in the world, but my natural frugality is satisfied by making a pretty good side dish from something I normally discard. I’ll probably make this again.

  • Chiang-bo chicken

    • GiselleMarie on June 10, 2018

      Very good! I doubled the sauce and tripled the scallions and bamboo shoots, the latter of which are growing in profusion in our back yard. I have my own method of velveting, which works well but is a much quicker process: Toss the chicken in a little salt, wine, and egg white, then stir in corn starch to coat. Stir-fry in the wok with ginger and scallions.

  • Chicken kow

    • GiselleMarie on June 10, 2018

      Any vegetables may be used in this recipe.

  • Spicy green beans with meat

    • GiselleMarie on December 27, 2020

      I didn’t want to brother with deep frying so I shallow fried the beans instead until they were lightly browned. The dish was good but I’m sure the deep frying probably would have resulted in an even better taste and texture.

  • Beef in black-bean sauce

    • kungfustu on November 30, 2020

      Online recipe here

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  • ISBN 10 0517148897
  • ISBN 13 9780517148891
  • Linked ISBNs
  • Published Feb 17 1996
  • Format Hardcover
  • Page Count 532
  • Language English
  • Countries United States
  • Publisher Random House Value Publishing
  • Imprint Random House Value Publishing

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