Short ribs laced with star anise and lemongrass from a pioneering Chinese woman.
For powerful reasons — both good and bad — we are in a defining time for women.
As such, “A Woman’s Place: The Inventors, Rumrunners, Lawbreakers, Scientists, and Single Moms Who Changed the World with Food” (Little, Brown and Company) couldn’t have debuted at a more appropriate moment.
The new book, of which I received a review copy, is by food writer and photographer Deepi Ahluwalia, and Stef Ferrari, senior editor of Life & Thyme Magazine.
It shines a bright light on the enterprising, pioneering women in food who more often than never received the recognition they deserved. They include such icons as Lena Richard, an African-American women who grew an empire of restaurants, cookbooks and even had a television snow — all during the height of segregation in America; and Clara Steele, who started a family dairy in Marin County that went on to produce the highest volume of cheese in California in the mid-1800s.
Interspersed throughout the book are 10 recipes from notable female culinarians.
I had never heard of Esther Eng (1914-1970), but because of this book I now know what a pivotal figure she was. An openly gay Chinese woman, Eng was a film director turned restaurateur who grew up in San Francisco before moving to New York. It was there that she opened Bo Bo’s, a Chinese restaurant where Chinese-American actors could find steady work and work on their English when they weren’t making movies. The food was so amazing that none other than Craig Claiborne praised it. In so doing, Eng managed to break through and rise to the top of two characteristically male-dominated industries.
Thinking about that achievement makes her “Chinese Five-Spice Braised Beef Short Ribs” all the more transportive.
Pork belly — red-ooked style.
It’s no secret that the Chinese love the color red, which is festive, and symbolizes prosperity.
We also love our pork.
And no cut quite so much as the pig’s luscious belly.
Combine all three and you get “Red-Cooked Pork,” an iconic family-style dish of pork belly that’s cooked in a soy sauce-laced braising liquid that’s not really more brown than red. The “red” in the name, though, comes interestingly enough from the fact that the Chinese language doesn’t really have a character to describe “brown.” So, apparently, they opted for the next best color — red.
So writes Kian Lam Kho in his new cookbook, “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy. The comprehensive book just won the prestigious “Julia Child First Book” award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. The book’s poetic name pays homage to the Chinese characters used as synonyms on Chinese menus for chicken feet and Chinese broccoli.
Indeed, if you are interested in learning more about Chinese cooking, this book is a must-have. Kho of New York City is a private chef, culinary instructor, and creator of the blog, RedCook. He’s written a book that deftly explains the fundamental cooking techniques of Chinese cuisine — from pan-frying to light frying, from flash-poaching to oil-poaching, and from simple steaming to flavored steaming.