Cookbook Profile

The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen
Classic Family Recipes
for Celebration and Healing

By Grace Young

The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen  
"A cookbook of family secrets that the Kitchen God's Wife would have been proud to write for her daughter."...Amy Tan.

The Wisdom of the Chinese is the culmination of author Grace Young's painstaking research into her Cantonese heritage and its flavors. In heeding her Grandfather's advice to never forget the importance of her Chinese heritage, Grace has honored her ancestors with a cookbook-a collection of 150 recipes that her family has been cooking in China for generations. It is a cookbook that conveys a type of wisdom that can only be handed down from generation to generation.

"Growing up in San Francisco, I ate Cantonese home-style food every day," she says. "These were rich, savory dishes with pure, simple flavors that are the hallmark of a home cook. Whether it was a simple weeknight supper or a more elaborate weekend meal, my parents wanted us to know why, in all of China, the Cantonese were considered to be the best cooks. Their cuisine is the most highly developed-it has the broadest range of flavors, yet the subtlest of tastes."

The recipes in The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen are truly authentic. Grace has recorded them with the skill of a trained culinary writer, using the proper Chinese ingredients and cooking techniques. "If you genuinely desire to cook Chinese dishes, you will need exotic ingredients, along with the time to properly prepare them," says Grace. "I have tried to preserve the traditional ingredients and techniques as mush as possible."

On her visits with her parents in San Francisco, Grace's mother's delicious home cooking stirred her taste memory. Grace came to realize not only how good the food was but how much healthier she felt and realized that her parents' traditional Cantonese way of eating was the reason. In The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, Grace explains how the Chinese integrate the principles of yin and yang into their diets for a perfect internal balance. Yang foods, like ginger and lamb, are warming, invigorating, and powerful; yin foods, like watermelon and tofu, are cooling, soothing, and mild, and characteristically more vegetarian. Warming and cooling or yin and yang foods are part of the brilliant harmony of Chinese cooking, tools with which to balance the yin and yang forces in the body.

"It is fundamental to the Cantonese system of eating to keep yin and yang foods and cooking methods in balance. Every individual's age, digestive system, absorbing power, and metabolism are different and affected by the seasons of the year," explains Grace. "The Cantonese approach is very personalized and complex and takes into consideration numerous factors to achieve optimal health." The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen offers tonic soups, such as the Walnut Soup, Green Mung Bean Soup, or the Dried Fig, Apple, and Almond Soup, that are yun, or neutral, and, used correctly, will help keep the body's balance. Conversely, Grace has also included restorative recipes such as Korean Ginseng Soup and Chicken Wine Soup to improve energy and vitality.

The everyday extraordinary meals that Grace grew up with include Rock Sugar Ginger Chicken, Savory Rice Dumplings, and Flavored Sweet Rice. Stir-fry's, like Baba's Stir-Fried Butterfly Fish and Bean Sprouts and Stir-Fried Chicken with Baby Corn and Straw Mushrooms along with steamed dishes like Steamed Spareribs with Black Bean Sauce are also featured. For an auspicious celebration, prepare succulent delicacies such as Glazed Roast Squab, Spring Rolls, Pepper and Salt Shrimp, and Shark's Fin Soup.

Her culinary lessons do not stop at recipes. The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen includes information like how to care for a wok, a glossary of ingredients, and a chapter based solely on mastering the art of shopping.

Understanding how difficult it is to shop in the markets and in Chinatowns for ingredients, whether one is intimidated by not speaking the language, uncertain of what the ingredient should look like, or unfamiliar with the market itself, Grace provides a guidebook on how to find anything. Tips for what is frequently shelved together helps one to understand an ingredient's relation to others. Full color identification photos show a product's exact look and package, and the Chinese characters for each ingredient are included in the glossary, so Chinese speakers can help find the item. So, if all else fails, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen along!

For more information visit Grace Young's Website at


The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen
Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing

By Grace Young
Published by Simon & Schuster Editions
Hardback, $27.50
Publication date: May 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84739-6
Information provided by the publisher.


The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen



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This page created June 1999