Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews with a heavy emphasis on San Diego. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Mimsy Review: The Wok: a chinese cook book

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, February 14, 1998

Review of The Wok, a chinese cook book, with a recipe for stir-fried parrot.

AuthorGary Lee
PublisherNitty Gritty Books
Year1970
Length176 pages
Book Rating6

My version of this book is in the standard “nitty gritty” style, half-height and elongated. It also is printed on somewhat “corrugated” paper, similar to the Japanese Country Cooking “nitty gritty” book. It is not as ‘pretty’ as the Japanese book, however. The book I’ve listed below at Amazon is from a different publisher. However, it has the same ISBN and illustrator, a fairly sure indication that it is the same book.

The introduction, after exhorting his countrymen in foreign lands to cook for their friends and retain their heritage, and after discussing the incomparability of Chinese food to western food, goes to the kitchen:

First, let’s check your kitchen. We need some minimum requirements in tools to start. I never had a chance to play golf, but I know that you cannot play golf with only one club—even though you might be as good a player as Bob Hope!

It is puzzling to me to see the cookware that is on the market. I wonder if their designers ever practiced cooking or not? Cookware is to be used, not only to be displayed, unless you are a cookware salesman.

He goes over woks, how to use them, stir-frying (he calls it “Chinese-frying”), deep frying, and the chopping block. Knives, and how to hold them and cut with them. And lots of tips on Chinese-frying. It also covers some important parts of the recipes that follow. For example, some of the recipes mention adding a small amount of cornstarch. It is assumed that the cornstarch will be premixed with water: three parts water for each part cornstarch. The water is not mentioned in the recipes, it is assumed.

The recipes start out very simply, with soups that contain three or four ingredients. Chicken and Mushroom soup really is chicken and mushrooms. Pork strips soup? Pork strips, plus broth, soy sauce, and cornstarch (water assumed). After discussing various ways of making chicken, he explains the looo, its use and how to make it. The “looo” is a “method of storing, in liquid form, subtle spices and food essences”. It is for a sort of marinating process for meats.

There is a section on “how to judge a Chinese dish”, much like judging wine.

Lots of pork and beef in various styles, and of course some fish. There are Smoked Eggs (using the looo again), Puff Eggs Soup, an interesting recipe for “Shrimp Chips” which I haven’t dared try. And a very good, very simple dish of tofu and spinach, reproduced below as the sample recipe. It is a long recipe because it comes with a story about a country girl and a king.

A sweet and sour sauce is presented for use with Sweet and Sour Pork, Pork Ribs, and Fish.

The “Deem Sum” section covers the use of the wok and bamboo steamers to make various kinds of filled dough things. (“Dim Sum” is the modern transliteration.) After that there is the “Genghis Khan” style of barbecue, and detailed instructions on how to make your own “Mongolian Barbecue” pan.

There is a large section on dessert, which is: the lychee. And a section on Chinese table manners.

I really like this book. It is fun to read, and fun to cook from, and the recipes all end up being very tasty, even the ones with no ingredients!

Bean Curd with Parrot

  • 16 pieces firm bean curd, about 1" x 2" x ¼",
  • 4 tblsp oil,
  • 8 oz spinach cut into 2" lengths,
  • ½ clove garlic,
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce,
  • 1 tsp salt,
  • ½ tsp salt,
  • 1 tsp sugar,
  • 1 tsp cornstarch mixed in 3 tsp water,
  • sesame oil.
  1. Dissolve 1 tsp salt in cold water (enough to barely cover bean curd) and cover curd for ten minutes.
  2. Drain.
  3. Use 1 tblsp oil in a flat pan to brown bean curd on both sides to light golden brown.
  4. Add soy sauce, sugar, and ¼ cup water.
  5. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Set aside.
  7. Stir-fry spinach with 3 tablsp oil in wok, adding garlic and ½ tsp salt.
  8. When spinach is almost done, add bean curd.
  9. Quick-stew it for a minute or two.
  10. Thicken the sauce with cornstarch before serving and add several drops sesame oil.

The Wok: a chinese cook book

Gary Lee

My cost: $0.25

Recommendation: Recommended

If you enjoyed The Wok: a chinese cook book…

If you enjoy Nitty Gritty Books, you might also be interested in Japanese Country Cookbook.