A Hamburger Today

Cook the Book: 'The Chinese Takeout Cookbook'

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Raise your hand if you've got a Chinese takeout menu (or two, or three) hung on your fridge. Or perhaps stuffed in a drawer? Maybe you've got your favorite to-go joint's phone number on speed dial on your phone or their menu bookmarked on your browser. Needless to say, most of us enjoy our fair share of Chinese takeout, whether we order it delivered to our five-story walk-up or eat it at the suburban restaurant a few miles from our house.

To be sure, I'm talking about good, old-school American-Chinese here: chow mein, wonton soup, and egg rolls. Now-popular regional Chinese fare is wonderful in its own right, but sometimes I just want some pork fried rice, STAT (no lines or hipsters included).

Back in December, blogger and cooking instructor Diana Kuan released a lovely little cookbook dedicated to making all of our Chinese takeout dishes at home. The Chinese Takeout Cookbook has recipes for just about anything you'd order for delivery: There's pork fried rice, of course, and also things like peking duck (yes, peking duck), egg foo young, and crab rangoon. Most of the recipes are fast (besides the duck) and all are fairly easy. None contain food dyes or MSG; Kuan instead uses ingredients like dark soy for its slightly red color and dried shiitakes for umami.

Kuan's family has run both a Chinese-Latin style restaurant in Puerto Rico and a Polynesian restaurant outside of Boston, and her experience with this style of cooking shows. Recipes are detailed, friendly, and each step works just as described. And, like any good cookbook author, Kuan provides an index of ingredients with photographs and helpful substitutions for readers who don't have access to a wealth of Asian ingredients.

This week, we'll try our hand at a several ubiquitous takeout classics. For appetizers, we'll roll Scallion Pancakes and simmer Egg Drop Soup. We'll stir-fry Beef with Broccoli and dry-fry green beans. Then we'll round out our week with the always-popular (at least in my noodle-loving house) Chicken Chow Mein.

Win 'The Chinese Takeout Cookbook'

Thanks to the good folks at Ballantine Books, we have five (5) copies of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook to give away this week. All you need to do to win is tell us about your top takeout dish in the comments section below.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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