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China Moon Cookbook

CLS's picture

China Moon Cookbook (post #62574)

I guess I'll get the ball rolling. It's been discussed here so often: the China Moon Cookbook by Barbara Tropp is ESSENTIAL for anyone's collection.

Also, if you enjoy that, I think that the Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Ms. Tropp is also an essential cooking tome.

If you do nothing else but make her spicy oils (which are so far superior to those horrible things in the market), and her chicken stock, double stock, and China Moon "Infusion", you will get your money's worth out of the China Moon. But you shouldn't stop there. Her curry powder formula is the best I've ever used, and she also has lots of great tips, like foolproof method for poaching chicken, and how to shop for the best ingredients.

You don't have a cookbook collection unless this book is part of it.

MadMom_'s picture

(post #62574, reply #1 of 11)

Okay, CLS - I'll join in, although I know others are much better qualified to offer their advice. I love
i The Cake Bible.
Also treasure my ancient copy of
i The Helen Corbitt Cookbook,
which is out of print. If I were going to give one cookbook to a new bride who is just learning, my choice would be
i How to Cook without a Book.
I think Pam Anderson does a great job of providing a structure while encouraging experimentation. Of course, I'm sure if I went and checked my hundreds of cookbooks, there would be many many more I could recommend...and a few I wish I hadn't bought.

Pi's picture

(post #62574, reply #2 of 11)

Jacques Pepin's Table

The Way to Cook - Julia Child - can go anywhere with her basics

The Chesapeake Bay Fish and Fowl Cookbook - still pull this one down from the shelf

Silver Palate Cookbook(yeah, I know, it's very 70's)

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #62574, reply #3 of 11)

What happened to one book per discussion? Am I the only one paying attention? 5 points for me.

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #62574, reply #4 of 11)

China Moon Cookbook- A review
Barbara Tropp
While the culinary imagination of others of her generation went wandering in Tuscany and Provence, Barbara Tropp headed in the opposite direction. Smitten with things Chinese at an early age, she pursued her graduate studies in Taiwan. There, under the tutelage of the superb cooks who headed the two households in which she stayed, she fell in love with Chinese food.

Out of this passion came her Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, written in 1982 and still in print. Something better than a classic, it has become best friend to countless fledgling Chinese cooks. Since then, at China Moon Café, her own San Francisco restaurant, she's been creating what her publisher calls Chinese bistro cooking and she herself describes as California-Chinese cuisine.

In China Moon Cookbook Barbara Tropp takes Chinese cooking where Alice Waters brought French and Italian Mediterranean cuisine: back home to San Francisco. Like Chez Panisse, China Moon is a showcase for fresh local foodstuffs; its cooking is similarly earthy, imaginative, and respectful of its source. (However, Barbara Tropp's delight in dessert--the crystallized ginger butter squares, the black friar plum-frangipane tart--is very much her own.)

Where Tropp and Waters part company is in the kitchen. If the recipes in Alice Waters' first book have not proved especially memorable, they were almost all undaunting. Contrarily, Barbara Tropp's cooking is most authentically Chinese in the discipline and concentration required by almost every item on her menu. Its emblem might well be the consummate stir fry, where a host of separately prepared ingredients are conjoined in a burst of highly controlled frenzy into a single exquisite dish.

This is superb restaurant cooking--but not what most of us associate with the word 'bistro.' What that phrase is meant to convey, I think, is that this is a collection of brightly flavored dishes that both imagination and appetite can immediately embrace--duck-confit sandpot, light-style peanut-lime noodles, stir-fried orange beef with chiles and mushrooms. Their real connection with traditional French bistro cooking, however, is that their apparent simplicity is accomplished through mastery of technique and a carefully cultivated network of suppliers.

Anyone who had sampled, for instance, that beef and orange stir-fry and turned to this text to learn how to make it at home may be shocked to discover that the dish contains over two dozen ingredients, not counting two--"China Moon Chili-Orange Oil" and "China Moon Infusion"--that are prepared of other ingredients and that you are expected to already have at hand. It may seem delightfully simple in the mouth, but it is the product of many different super-fresh ingredients (sugar snap peas, Italian field mushrooms, baby spinach leaves, oyster mushrooms, etc.) and painstaking kitchen work.

This is the paradox of China Moon Cookbook, and it is not an easy one to resolve. What is most admirable about the cuisine of the China Moon Café--its intensity, its generosity of means, the way it is cut from the whole cloth of a single inspired sensibility--is what is least transferable to the home kitchen. There, and especially where foreign cuisine is concerned, relativity is the rule. (If we applied Barbara Tropp's standards to pork purchases, we would never be able to eat that meat at all.) And while some individual recipes in this book are doable enough, most do not make sense to anyone lacking easy access to the many fresh and perishable ingredients or who might find it hard to call up the reserves of energy and dedication that make her dishes work.

This means that, so far as the recipes are concerned, this book can only be wholeheartedly recommended to culinary professionals and the most ambitious of urban amateur chefs. Even so, to pick up a thread dropped earlier in this review, it wasn't the recipes that finally drew us to The Chez Panisse Cookbook either; it was the clarity and appeal of its culinary vision. Like Alice Waters, and unlike many similarly driven culinary superstars, Barbara Tropp is an interesting, thoughtful, and very engaging cook.

Whether one prepares her recipes or not, they repay careful study; so do the sidebars of commentary that run down beside them on every page. What usually is a repository of mindless chat, Barbara Tropp transforms into a minor art form, a marginalia autobiography. Read about her trip with her Chinese Po-fu (uncle) to a Japanese-run nightclub to try a han-bow (hamburger), and you will immediately recognize the voice of someone genuinely fun to hang around with...and who has much to teach anyone truly interested in Chinese cooking, or in learning how knowing food can become a way of knowing life.

Adele_'s picture

(post #62574, reply #5 of 11)

China Moon is the best. I always have a jar of pickled ginger and some of the other oils in my fridge. The double infused chicken stock is TDF.

Pi's picture

(post #62574, reply #6 of 11)

Well, exccuuuuuuuuse me.......

MadMom_'s picture

(post #62574, reply #7 of 11)

Mean, I think that suggestion came up after CLS posted this and after I replied and added more Pi says, exccuuuuuuuuuuse me!

Wolverine's picture

(post #62574, reply #8 of 11)

I like it for the oils, stocks, etc., as noted by others.

Of the recipes I have made from it, all have turned out well. Since the ones described for chicken, pork, etc., are generally repeated for each "division", I think that all the recipes probably work well.

Contrary to the review posted by MC, I did not find the recipes at all challenging, a little fore thought was needed (basic planning, really), but - no more so than for many other recipes!

CLS's picture

(post #62574, reply #9 of 11)

I think the reviewer that Mean posted is a lazy cook. Her recipes do have lots of ingredients, and you need to be organized and it's ESSENTIAL to do mis en place (which you should be doing anyway!), but frankly, her recipes are sooooo worth it. I have a pantry full of her pantry basics and I use them all the time. Her peanut sauce alone is worth buying the book for. Just make sure you mis en place and everything (the cooking part) is so easy. So, so, so, so, so easy.

chiqui_new_orleans's picture

(post #62574, reply #10 of 11)

I was very fortunate to get my copy from Tavolo when they were "dumping" all their a paperback copy for $2.00!!!!!!! Haven't had much time to cook from it, yet......after my move I will dive in!!

Jen_M.'s picture

(post #62574, reply #11 of 11)

I found the binding on the paperback to be cheap-- it self-destructed on me already. But I love the recipes, especially the chili-orange oil.