Kwoklyn Wan’s Chinese Takeaway Cookbook

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Like 24 million of us, Chinese food is my go-to takeaway choice. I remember trying Chinese food for the first time, my 8 year old mind was blown! One taste of the beautifully steamed har gow, salt & pepper sui mai and crispy duck pancakes, I was hooked. Memorising my favourite dishes by number and name, I always wanted to be the first to choose what we had to eat.

Ever since, I count down the days to our ritual Friday night Chinese takeaway. Unfortunately after over 20 years of the crispy duck, steamed dumplings, deep fried wontons, prawn crackers and spare ribs every week, it has started to be a bit of a strain on the wallet.

So in an effort to continue our ritual, but lessen the impact on my bank account, I went in search of a Chinese cookery book. I needed one that was not only easy to understand but didn’t have 3 pages of ingredients for every dish and still included all of my favourite takeaway choices.

After weeks of searching and research, I was actually in Waterstones buying a gift for my wife when I discovered “Kowklyn Wan’s Chinese Takeaway”, this absolute gem broadened my mind to all things chinese takeaway.

Kwoklyn has an impressive Chinese culinary pedigree, having grown up in Leicester with his brother Gok, he is a third generation restaurant owner; with his grandfather opening Leicester’s first Chop Suey House in 1962. His father went on to open Leicester’s very first Cantonese restaurant in 1978. It wasn’t until they opened “The Panda” in 1983, that Kwoklyn started his chef career washing pots and peeling prawns. At sixteen he left school and became a full time chef at The Panda restaurant, creating amazing Cantonese and Szechuan dishes. The business soared, even making it into The Good Food Guide, where they stayed for several years.

He has since joined the Wan family restaurant dynasty, when he opened his Hong Kong street food bar and Taiwanese bubble tea store. Whilst he has had many varied business activities over the years, cooking has always remained at the heart.

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The main issue I have had with Asian cookery books is the specialist ingredients needed to complete the recipes; However Kwok's Chinese takeaway recipes are more than achievable, if you have a reasonably well stocked supermarket you shouldn’t have any problems cooking from his recipes.

The book consists of 7 chapters: Starters & soups, chicken & duck, seafood, beef & pork, vegetables, rice & noodles and sandwiches & sweets. The nicest surprise was the little QI-esque chapter on Chinese etiquette and customs, this was a really nice addition and one I had not seen anywhere else.

 Here are some of my favourite recipes from the book:

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Banana fritters

A classic Chinese takeaway dessert. I love the simplicity of this recipe.
Tempura banana with golden syrup and vanilla icecream. It has a 15 minute frying time, which seems like a lot and you may be tempted to cut it short, but it is well worth the wait as the slightly lower frying temperature and time give the batter time to get really crispy and the banana to get extra gooey. A great way to finish any meal.

 

Banana fritters

A classic Chinese takeaway dessert. I love the simplicity of this recipe.
Tempura banana with golden syrup and vanilla icecream. It has a 15 minute frying time, which seems like a lot and you may be tempted to cut it short, but it is well worth the wait as the slightly lower frying temperature and time give the batter time to get really crispy and the banana to get extra gooey. A great way to finish any meal.

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Crispy Fried Tofu in Hot and Sour Sauce

I think that tofu is a hugely underrated ingredient in this country. It is incredibly versatile and this recipe shows it at its best, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. The sauce beautifully blends the 5 traditional flavours of Chinese food. 
This is quick, tasty and a perfect entry point for any tofu novice.

This was by far the biggest, most welcome surprise of the entire book for me personally.
 

 

Crispy Fried Tofu in Hot and Sour Sauce

I think that tofu is a hugely underrated ingredient in this country. It is incredibly versatile and this recipe shows it at its best, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. The sauce beautifully blends the 5 traditional flavours of Chinese food. 
This is quick, tasty and a perfect entry point for any tofu novice.

This was by far the biggest, most welcome surprise of the entire book for me personally.

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Chicken Satay Skewers

Chicken is one of my absolute Chinese takeaway favourites, this recipe does not disappoint.

These satay skewers are perfectly spiced, I have embellished a little with the presentation but they are incredibly simple.
I would double the recipe, because when you smell these things cooking I would be surprised if they all make it to the table!

 

 

Chicken Satay Skewers

Chicken is one of my absolute Chinese takeaway favourites, this recipe does not disappoint.

These satay skewers are perfectly spiced, I have embellished a little with the presentation but they are incredibly simple.
I would double the recipe, because when you smell these things cooking I would be surprised if they all make it to the table!

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Chow Mein

A classic and staple of any Chinese takeaway. This chow mien is simple and delicious, the sauce is soya sauce and sesame oil and it really lets the fresh ingredients shine through.

I swapped the egg noodles out for rice noodles, just my personal preference but the recipe really holds up. It can be prepared in advanced and takes seconds to put together. Delicious!

 

Chow Mein

A classic and staple of any Chinese takeaway. This chow mien is simple and delicious, the sauce is soya sauce and sesame oil and it really lets the fresh ingredients shine through.

I swapped the egg noodles out for rice noodles, just my personal preference but the recipe really holds up. It can be prepared in advanced and takes seconds to put together. Delicious!

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Wonton soup

All the work for this soup is in the wonton itself. It is on the higher end of the technical skills required for this book, but still comes in well under 20 minutes of prep time and is absolutely worth the effort. 

The soup is an incredibly simple blend of stock, soya and ginger, but it has just right amount of zing to compliment the pork and prawn wonton and the spring onions offer a great contrast of flavour.

 

Wonton soup

All the work for this soup is in the wonton itself. It is on the higher end of the technical skills required for this book, but still comes in well under 20 minutes of prep time and is absolutely worth the effort. 

The soup is an incredibly simple blend of stock, soya and ginger, but it has just right amount of zing to compliment the pork and prawn wonton and the spring onions offer a great contrast of flavour.

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Deep Fried Crispy Wonton

A bite sized mouthful of pure bliss, the Chinese seem to have a similar affection for these little parcels of joy as I do. They can be steamed or deep fried, but in my opinion they are at their very best deep fried and served with kwok’s tangy hot and sour sauce.

Again simple easily attainable ingredients with, very little prep and even less technical ability required. 
This is an absolute must try for anyone cooking from this book, crispy, aromatic, salty, juicy and sweet all in one mouthful, exceptional.

 

 

Deep Fried Crispy Wonton

A bite sized mouthful of pure bliss, the Chinese seem to have a similar affection for these little parcels of joy as I do. They can be steamed or deep fried, but in my opinion they are at their very best deep fried and served with kwok’s tangy hot and sour sauce.

Again simple easily attainable ingredients with, very little prep and even less technical ability required. 
This is an absolute must try for anyone cooking from this book, crispy, aromatic, salty, juicy and sweet all in one mouthful, exceptional.

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Sample recipe

Crispy chilli beef is my absolute number 1 choice at a Chinese takeaway. I have adapted the recipe slightly, for bigger portions or to serve more people. I also prefer red rice vinegar and love sesame seeds so I put a few extra on to garnish.

This is by far the best crispy chilli beef recipe I have ever tasted. It has the perfect blend of sweet, sticky, and spicy, it also smells incredible. But don’t take my word for it try it for yourself!

Crispy Chilli Beef

Ingredients

  • 200g corn flour
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 900g sliced beef
  • 15g finely chopped ginger
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 carrots cut into match sticks
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 60ml light soy sauce
  • 80ml red rice vinegar
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 40g honey
  • 60g chopped spring onions
  • 30g dried chilli flakes
  • 10ml toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tblsp  toasted black sesame seeds
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Method

First put the beaten eggs and corn flour in separate bowls and dip the beef strips, first through the egg then the corn flour. Shake them at the end to get rid of any excess corn flour, then deep fry at 170 degrees until crispy.

Peel the carrots and cut them into 2 inch pieces, then slice thinly, then chop again into matchsticks. Cut the root and the stem off the onion, peel then slice in half, with root end facing away slice the onion into thin strips.

Add the ginger and garlic to a hot frying pan with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and fry for a few seconds, then add the carrot, onion and fry for  around a minute or until the onion and carrot has started to soften.

Next add the rest of the ingredients except the sesame seeds and fresh chilli, bring to the boil, add the crispy beef and coat with sauce thoroughly.

Finally too serve, scoop into a bowl, add the sesame oil and black sesame seeds, and eat immediately.

Conclusion

The only negative I can see is the prep/cook times can be subjective, they are dependent on your equipment and skill level so should be taken as a guide and not be taken literally.

Kwok’s book delivers delicious recipes, in a nice sturdy hardback. It is beautifully illustrated with great pictures, easy to follow instructions and has something for everybody with a great mix of meat, seafood and vegetarian recipes with dishes to suit all skill levels.

It is not an understatement when I say this book should be regarded as a national treasure. It should be everybody’s integral guide to all things takeaway. From cover to cover, this book is full of incredible recipes. I cannot get enough Kwok’s helpful tips and his insight into the Asian culinary artistry. It was a real treat as kids to order food from our local Chinese takeaway and I still get those lovely feelings cooking from this book. This book is truly a pleasure to cook from every week. 

The book is available signed with a personalised message on his website for £15+p&p. Also while you are there check out his “cook-a-long videos”. The book can be found at Amazon for around £12, it is also available at most good book shops.