Katie Chin’s Everyday Chinese Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes from My Mother’s Kitchen

Katie Chins Everyday Chinese Cookbookfour-stars /5

Filled to the brim with crisp photography and easy to follow traditional Chinese recipes, Katie Chin’s Everyday Chinese Cookbook is a great overview of Chinese cuisine. The book is broken down into components of the meal—as every good cookbook should be—and it benefits from Chin’s personal stories of her time learning to cook with her mother. Home cooks who, like me, are not familiar with the intricacies of Chinese cooking will enjoyed the detailed what’s what of common ingredients and basic cooking techniques (the differences between wonton wrappers and pot sticker wrappers, how to steam dumplings without a steamer, etc.).

For the most part, the instructions are clear and the organization of the book is logical. However, there are a few places that drew cooking to a rapid stop and had me flipping through the book looking for the primary recipe upon which my chosen recipe was based—and which was not, for some reason, placed at the beginning of the book with the other basics of Chinese cooking. For example, if you wanted to make Spicy Pork Noodle Soup on page 69, you would need to first turn to page 25 for the recipe to make the chili paste and then to page 62 for the recipe for homemade chicken stock. And since the chicken stock takes almost three hours to cook, I certainly hope you planned ahead. Of course, the instructions do acknowledge that you can very easily substitute both of these with store-bought versions, but if you’re truly aiming for authenticity, this is going to leave you a little frustrated.

Overall, though, I can’t complain too much. I’m a visual learner and this book has fantastic step-by-step instructions and great photos of what the end project should look like.

Originally published on San Francisco Book Review.


Japaneseness: A Guide to Values and Virtues

japanesenessthree-stars /5

By taking a close look at 76 core values of Japanese culture, author Yoji Yamakuse both offers an informative window into Japanese culture and raises the questions of what constitutes “Japaneseness” and how this fits with the modern era. In the end, all the cultural values in traditional Japanese society come back to harmony and the seamless cooperation of values within this system leads to an overall tranquil culture. This interaction of values eventually leads to a development of virtue and an appreciation of beauty. Among the ideas examined are thoughtfulness, moderation, temperance, and devotion.

Japaneseness presents an interesting perspective on Japanese culture. It is written in very short sections, which makes it the perfect bedside book–read a little and then mull it over as you’re waiting for sleep to quell your mind. I can see the practicality of many of the values discussed in this book, but somehow I doubt they could be applied to my on life with much success. It very much felt like I was reading about another culture, rather than reading how to adapt the values of another culture to my own. Still, it was eye-opening and resolved a lot of misconceptions I held without even realizing it.

Originally published on San Francisco Book Review.

The Nazi Hunters

nazi_huntersfour-and-a-half-stars /5

Contrary to popular belief, Hitler wasn’t the only Nazi during WWII. The Nazi Hunters is a historical account of the years that followed World War II. It moves swiftly through the trial that immediately followed the Allied victory – where several of the top Nazi officials were executed. However, where most other accounts of the tumultuous post-war period follow the political attention of the time to focus on the rising threat of the Cold War,The Nazi Hunters instead takes the reader along the road less traveled, one traversed by only a few men and women hell-bent on seeing justice prevail: the Nazi hunters.

This is not a topic that I would usually have delved into for pleasure reading, but my younger brother recently was accepted into the Air Force Academy, so there’s been a lot of military talk around the house lately and it caught my attention. Whether my picking it up was a fluke or my brother’s enthusiasm rubbing off on me, I’m glad I followed through. This book was both intriguing and well written – both a plus – but what made it really stand out to me is that it so perfectly captured a time in history that so few people know about. It completely changed my understanding of WWII and helped me feel a connection to a time and events that really aren’t all that long gone – and yet already feel so forgotten.

Originally published on San Francisco Book Review.