Review: The Chinese Takeout Cookbook

Recently we were drawn to one of our favorite cookbooks. We made recipes from it for nearly a month. The book? The Chinese Takeout Cookbook by Diana Kuan. I found it years ago while browsing her blog, ended up buying it, and haven’t regretted it since. That was June 2013 and since then we’ve had so many delicious dinners from this book. It feels like we’ve had it longer than four years because we’ve used it so often but Amazon purchase history doesn’t lie. This is my second cookbook review. My first one was on Thug Kitchen and you can read it here. I thought that one was fun to write so I’m at it again with The Chinese Takeout Cookbook.

Lookin’ good!

First Impressions

The images selected for the cover of The Chinese Takeout Cookout will make your mouth water. I’ll admit I’ve purchased a cookbook once before based on the images on the cover and was disappointed but this one does not let you down. The hardback has a nice glossy finish and the pages are full of  colorful, well lit photos. We all know how I like my photos! Chapter One had a lot of pictures which I found incredibly helpful in identifying some lesser known vegetables. The photos accompanying how to make an egg roll and dumplings are crucial to getting the aesthetic of the dish correct.

My dumplings look amazing! 5/5

The Jist

Chapter One, The Chinese Pantry, is immensely helpful. It lists the most common ingredients, other names for them, how they’re typically used, and other information to help you understand what you’re looking for and what you’re doing. It also has some equipment listed and we used this part for direction on purchasing our wok.

Additionally, each recipe has some history on the dish, why it’s called what it is, and/or suggestions on what to pair it with. It’s really great. I really like having this information because it brings more to the dish. For example, crab rangoon is believed to have been invented by Victor Bergeron and American recipes left out the Sichuan peppercorn part of a recipe because of an import ban. It just makes things more interesting!

We’r ready to wok and roll! 5/5

What We’ve Made

We’ve made a lot of the recipes from CTC. When I was flipping through the recipes to choose which ones to highlight in this post I realized we haven’t even made half. Which is amazing to me because we’ve still made so many recipes from this book! Here are some of things we’ve made from CTC and my thoughts.

  • Cold Sesame Noodles. This is such a delicious noodle recipe. It’s so easy, looks good, and the sauce is killer. It’s crunchy where it needs to be which makes it enjoyable to chow down on. One time we added chicken and  made it a main dish.
  • Pork Dumplings. The recipe calls for mushrooms but we leave them out because my husband doesn’t like them. This is by far our favorite recipe in the book and we’ve made it more than any other. The pork mix is so simple yet so delicious. We made them two weeks in a row because I couldn’t get enough. Bonus: there’s a recipe in the back of CTC where you can make your own dumpling wrappers. I did it once. To shorten the time between making and eating dumplings I just buy the pre-made ones.
  • Sichuan Cucumber Salad. Cucumber salad is one of my favorites but I didn’t like this recipe. I’m not a fan of garlic or soy sauce in my cucumber salad. It wasn’t a bad dish, it’s just one we pass on.
  • Spicy Black Bean Chicken. This is one we recently made and it was amazing. I love any excuse to visit the Oriental Grocer and we had to in order to locate fermented black beans. The spice in this dish is just enough to keep you coming back for more. It was addicting!
  • Sweet and Sour Pork. We’ve made this with chicken and tofu as well as the pork. It’s such a classic and the flavors go well with either meat. Definitely a favorite of ours.
  • Simple Broccoli Stir-Fry. The name says it all. It’s really simple to make, aromatic, and tasty. It pairs well with any dish and I love adding extra veggies to it. The last time we made it I added baby corn. I also found out my husband doesn’t like baby corn.

Final Thoughts

Like I mentioned above, I didn’t how many recipes we haven’t made until I was doing this post. I’m looking forward to trying the recipes and trying some news things. Chinese is probably one of our favorite kinds of food and having this cookbook makes it easier on our wallet. Plus, it’s just fun to make some of these at home. Have you ever cooked with a wok? You feel kind of badass.