Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking By Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, Chronicle Books, 2009. Hardcover. $50; 384 pagesSzechuan pork has been my go-to Chinese takeout order for years, so imagine my delight when a dish of Pork Sichuan with Chili Sauce from Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's big, dazzling 2009 cookbook turned out to be the best version of this dish—and I made it! (With 42 ingredients, including two subrecipes, it was more involved than takeout!) Buoyed by that success, I moved on to White Congee. The result: supple rice with traditional salted eggs and crunchy peanuts as accompaniments. In a word: perfection.
Beautifully photographed and boldly designed, Lo's tome is a collection of 23 lessons in three sections. In her hands, the usual cookbook pantry list becomes "Lesson 1: Creating a Chinese Pantry," concerning things like bean-curd juice, boxthorn seeds, and mung bean starch. One section looks at "The Market Particular," by which Lo means even rarer pantry ingredients, like bird's nest and hairy melon, along with a review of more basics and then a sampling of tea.