I met Kian Lamm Kho and his lovely partner Warren through my friend, Jackie Gordon, a while back. Kian is a food writer, cooking teacher and food consultant specializing in Chinese cuisine.We chatted at her place. He showed me a PDF on his phone of his upcoming cookbook and I was instantly mesmerized by the concept of an intro to cooking Chinese cuisine by techniques. The style of the book was stunning. I went home and immediately pre-ordered it on Amazon.
When the book arrived, it did not disappoint. Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking was not only a visual treat, it is an informative and beautifully written cookbook. I was so happy for Kian when it went on to win the 2016 IACP Julia Child First Book Award. The book was also nominated for a James Beard Award. Well deserved. Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees comprehensively covers the culinary regions of China, utensils, ingredients, sauces and is divided into methods of cooking. If you like to read and learn from cookbooks, this one is perfect.
When Kian contacted me to participate with other bloggers in his blog event, Mid-Autumn Festival Blog Feast, I was honored. I found out that the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important celebration after Chinese New Year in the Chinese holiday calendar. Family members gather for a feast and enjoy the harvest moon. We were tasked with preparing a recipe from his book and I chose General Tso's chicken.
At the bottom of this post is a chance not only to win a copy of Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees but also the beautiful Anolon Advance Bronze 14" covered wok I used to make the dish. Anolon has generously signed on as a sponsor of this giveaway and this wok is a dream to cook with. More on that later.
It's ironic how easy this recipe was to make because getting everything together to create the post was so difficult. First of all, I live walking distance to Chinatown in NYC and admit I was a bit smug about how lucky I was to have such great access to a selection of Chinese supermarkets.
That was short lived.
After arriving, I was completely ignored by the supermarket's employees when asking for help to find items. My poor feet had wheel marks on them from being run over several times by elder Chinese ladies with shopping carts. I got shoved in the aisles and people blatantly cut me in the cashier line. However, I persevered and made it home in one piece with my precious bag of ingredients, some cute chopsticks, undaunted and still in a great mood.
The second problem involved an epic fight with UPS who completely messed up getting the wok shipment to my apartment. As most of the recipe ingredients sat patiently waiting on my counter day after day (mama still loves you!), UPS completely disappeared after their first unsuccessful attempt to deliver the wok to my apartment. Despite several attempts, both online and via telephone as well as the giant, practically neon sign I posted on the gate to my building, no one at UPS could give me an answer on where the package was for the following two days.
I resorted to stalking the UPS person when I saw the truck outside my building. It was parked illegally with no one in it. I waited 45 minutes. The driver was a no-show and had left the hand truck leaning up against the truck. Before I gave up and slunk away, it took every ounce of self-control I had not to steal that hand truck or to find a traffic cop to dole out a ticket.
Back in my apartment, I threw the chicken into the freezer and gazed sadly at my hard earned ingredients promising them I would be with them soon.
The wok arrived. Finally! I whisked it off, along with the ingredients to our weekend home and was able to get on to the much more pleasant business of using it to make one of my favorite Chinese dishes, General Tso's chicken.
As long as I have been eating Chinese food (since childhood), no Chinese food delivery or restaurant visit of mine is ever complete without this dish.
In general, I have found it hard and most intimidating to recreate the Chinese food of my dreams or recipes of my favorite neighborhood joints in my own kitchen. Recently I tested Cold Noodle with Sesame Sauce recipes and ended up creating a hybrid of two, plus my own tweaks with Jackie's help. It's close but not perfect.
In comparison, this General Tso's Chicken recipe is excellent. I was surprised with how well it lived up to my expectations. I did follow the recipe to the letter, almost, which is unusual for me. Like most bloggers, I like to veer off course frequently in the kitchen. In full disclosure, I did use fresh red chilies instead of dried because I thought they popped better color for the pictures but everything else was followed exactly as written.
This dish came together like magic and was so tasty, I was disappointed I didn't double the recipe. The chicken coating was delightfully crunchy crispy, the sauce coating had a deep flavor and was tangy with just the right amount of sweet. The chicken pieces were tender on the inside. My German husband with the hard to please palate who only eats black bread and cheese was circling me like a shark while I was styling and photographing the dish waiting to sample it.
The recipe calls for making a marinade for the chicken pieces (only a 20-minute wait), Whisking together a separate sauce for the chicken, then you coat the marinated chicken pieces in tapioca starch and deep fry them. Stir fry the fried chicken pieces in a few other ingredients, add the prepared sauce, garnish and you are done in a jiffy.
Part of the ease of making the dish was using the Anolon Advanced Bronze 14 inch wok. Because I live in three places and am always cobbling together whatever cookware I have on hand at the time to make things work, I forget how fantastic it is to cook with a superior product and how the proper pan can make one's life so much easier in the kitchen.
First of all, the pan is a stunner. A cookbook this beautiful deserves a gorgeous wok companion to give away together. I am in love with the bronze color outside and the chocolate color inside. Wow.
The lid is a great bonus. Constructed to help ingredients cook and steam faster and more efficiently, the shatter-resistant glass in the center of the lid enables you to monitor your dish while keeping the heat and moisture inside.
The wok is so light, I was surprised when I picked it up for the first time. The revolutionary rubberized stainless steel Anolon SureGrip® handles enabled me to work mostly without oven mitts. It cooked the recipe efficiently and it was a breeze to clean. In addition, the wok is PFOA-free, premium-quality nonstick and is metal utensil safe. You can put it in the oven up to 400 F.
You want this wok. It's as sexy as the recipe.
Now that I know what to expect when food shopping in Chinatown, I'm motivated to properly dress like a roller derby queen and brave the Chinese supermarkets once more. I've eyed several other recipes I want to try from this book. Red Pork Belly, Dry-Fried String Beans, Oil-Braised Spring Bamboo Shoots and Marbled Tea Egg are only a few. Plus, I want to give the wok a workout.
Here's the giveaway info.
To win a copy of Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees AND the Anolon Advanced Bronze 14" Covered Wok, follow the instructions below.
A winner will be picked October 10th. The deadline for entering is October 9, 2016, at 11:59 PM. Entries accepted from the USA only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway