If you follow Creative Cooking Gluten Free on Facebook or Twitter you have probably seen my recent posts about receiving a review copy of Laura B. Russell’s cookbook The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen. When I first received the book in the mail, I don’t think I put it down for about thirty minutes (okay it was probably longer than that). It is simply beautiful. Bryan’s first response was “the cover looks so good I could eat it”. Thankfully Bryan loves Asian food as much as I do. The majority of the food we eat is Asian inspired.
I was more than excited to receive this cookbook. If you read through my recipes or take a look at my “pantry” page you have probably noticed the large selection of Asian inspired dishes and ingredients. Since I can remember I have had a deep fondness of Asian foods and their cultures. My mom used to tell me that while she was pregnant with me she craved Chinese food all the time. That statement there could probably be the root of my love of Asian food, however it grew even more when I had the opportunity to live in China for a little while in 2003 (yes right in the middle of SARS).
While living there I had some pretty interesting foods but also some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted. People used to make fun of me saying I could live off of Chinese food and eat it for every meal, well I had the opportunity to do so and I have to say I would do it again. My breakfast usually consisted of the following: fresh made wonton soup or red bean porridge , scallion pancake (cōng yóu bǐng), fresh hot soy milk ( dòunǎi) which has a slightly sweet flavor to it. Lunch was a number of different options (sadly most of which I can’t remember their name): kung pao chicken (gōng bǎo jī dīng), egg flower soup (dàn huā tāng), the most delicious spicy cucumbers, steamed dumplings (xiǎo lóng bāo) – either veggie or meat filled, and for the occasional dessert some Mantou (mán tou) which is steamed bun that is served either steamed or deep-fried with condensed milk. For dinner my favorite dish was Peking Duck (Běijīng kǎoyā), Hot Pot (shuàn guō zi) was another favorite of mine, although they tended to order mutton (yáng ròu) I opted for the chicken (jī ròu) and Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans with some ground pork.
As I’m looking and every recipe and every picture in The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen I am taken back to my time in China. All of my wonderful memories came rushing back, not just about food but all the places I had the opportunity to visit, the amazing friends that I made, and the beauty of the country. As I mentioned above I was there during SARS so I was unable to travel very far. I was fortunate enough to visit, The Great Wall (twice) (Bādálǐng), The Forbidden City (Zǐjin chéng), Tiananmen Square (Tiān’ānmén), The Summer Palace (Yíhé Yuán), Mausoleum of Mao Zedong (Máo Zhǔxí Jìniàntáng), Ming Dynasty Tombs (Míng shísān líng), Temple of Heaven (Tiāntán), Temple of Confucius, and many more. The best part about it was I was there pretty much by myself. Not many people were out visiting and there were definitely not tourists around. You can view some of my photographs from China on my Flickr Page (this was pre-digital so I have a ton to scan still)
Sorry for being side tracked on memories of China, I just couldn’t help it. Now back to the book. After I looked (drooled) over the recipes and photos I handed the cookbook to Bryan and asked what he wanted me to make first. With out much hesitation he asked for the recipe on the cover: Gingery Pork Pot Stickers with the Soy Vinegar Dipping Sauce. Thankfully I had enough of the flours the recipe called for to make them. You can get the recipe by ordering The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen on my Amazon Store! (This is still available for pre-order, release date is August 23rd! so order now for only $14.50)
Over all the recipe its self is pretty simple with simple ingredients that most of us (especially if you are gluten-free) already have in your pantry. The only two items I needed to pick up were the pork and the green onions. We don’t normally cook with any form of onion in our house because of Bryan’s allergy, but we decided to give these a try to see how he felt (he felt fine after eating them, woo hooo). I read the instructions a few times because I didn’t want to screw anything up…I had my heart set on these dumplings and probably would have shed a few tears had they gone wrong. Due to the heat and humidity I had a bit of a hard time “rolling” out the dough, but I just made it work. We ended up with a few less dumplings than the recipe yield but we devoured them all regardless.
It is amazing what a huge flavor impact just a few ingredients can have. I had a little bit of the sausage mixture left over so I added it to a skillet, cooked it up and then tossed it with my spicy green beans as a side dish. I’m not joking when I say I almost cried when I first tasted them. Between the dumplings and the green beans/sausage it brought me right back to China. I was in love with this cookbook when it arrived and after tasting this first recipe I am even more in love with it. Laura did an amazing job with this recipe and the whole cookbook. My next recipe to try is her Kung Pao chicken.
We plan to make these again but I have to order some flours first. However, when I do make them I will be making a triple batch and freeze the majority of them. That way we have them for a quick dinner and something that Bryan can just make while he is home for lunch and I am at school.
Seeing as this is the recipe Bryan choose I asked him what he thought of it (I usually do this anyway but he still can’t stop talking about them) and his response was “these are fucking delicious – anything more would just take away from its deliciousness”. Now who said you can’t have gluten-free Asian food and it taste like the real thing?
Laura, I know we’ve been chatting back and forth and I have said this a million times to you but thank you for creating such a beautiful cookbook with amazing recipes that take me back in time. The recipe that we tried truly made me feel like I was back in China with my friends at a dumpling restaurant or on campus at the dining hall. You also made my non-gluten-free boyfriend one happy person. We are both looking forward to trying more of your recipes.
Also, Are you in the Portland area? Laura will be doing a book signing for “The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen” at Crave Bake Shop on Wednesday, September 7th in the evening. Lots of treats involved!