While researching to buy a good Chinese cook book, I found this thread awhile back. From reading through it I decided on purchasing the Wei Chuan’s “Chinese Cuisine” book and/or Topp’s “the modern art…”. I also thought, based on a couple of negative reviews in this thread that Tropp’s “China Moon” cookbook was not worth the paper it was printed on!!! Anyways, I did get the Wei Chuan book and honestly I was a little disappointed. The book is really a collection of recipes, the recipes are good but that’s all they are: recipes. It really did not make me more familiar with the cuisine or teach me much. What it did have is a good list/picture of commonly used ingredients and I value it for that. After reading a little through it, it made sense why it was built like this, IT IS PART OF A SERIES!! Duh, right? So to get the whole experience you pretty much have to buy several Wei Chuan books. For example “Chinese Cuisine” had nothing to do with rise, buns, eggrolls,noodles,… it only dealt with several recipes of “main entrees” (chicken, pork, fish,..) and not an extensive list at that. So for any future users looking for a good Chinese book, please keep what I said in mind.
Which brings me to that wonderful book called “China Moon” by Brabara Tropp. I picked it up on impulse at a used book store in a like-new condition for $3 after flipping through it for a few minutes and reading some paragraphs. I am so glad I did. This book has it all, it might not be “authentic Chinese grandmother recipes”, but using this book I can create wonderful meals (be it elaborate entrees, noodles, rice dishes, soups, buns or rolls). If nothing else matters, it should be bought solely for the Pantry section and for Tropp’s advice on what brand names to buy of various Chinese ingredients (like bean paste, vinegars, oils, noodles…). Yes, the ingredient list is long and you do need to have certain things prepared in advance like Chili oils and such, after all it IS a restaurant recipe cookbook. The thing is though you can simply spend a few hours on a weekend and prepare the main 4 or 5 items (oils, pickled ginger, spice mix) and they would last for a long long time and you can use them whenever the recipe asks for it. Another shortcut is to substitute certain ingredients, like using the regular chili oil instead of the orange chili oil or use regular good quality unsalted stock instead of the infusions (she actually gives the option to do this). I can go on about the virtues of this book like the side bars with Ms. Tropp’s advice, tips, tales and light-hearted writing style. I can really tell she was very passionate about and loved what she did. So, if you are looking to learn more about this cuisine, you love to cook and are not afraid of making your own stock or chili oil then you will love this one. When I do run across Tropp’s first book I will also make sure to buy it.
To make a long story short, IMHO, “China Moon” cookbook was misjudged in this thread and I felt it belongs here among other favorites for Chinese cookbooks.
Now if I could only get a hold of a good source for Szechuan peppercorns