Adopted outside China for speed and efficiency, stir fry is quick indeed, but it is also one of the most nuanced methods of cooking. Listen to author Grace Young in the opening pages of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge: "The alchemy of stir-frying brings a blush of color to raw shrimp and a radiance to vegetables. Meats grow plump and fragrant from browning. The stir-fry dish brings food to life."
Grace Young is a poet at heart, and Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge is infused with her refined sensibility. The recipes speak to a sophisticated palate, as well as one in a hurry to put beautiful food on the table. Young's recipes are luscious and varied, gleaned from all corners of China, and the beautifully written text is easily followed while still being detailed. Personal stories accompany the recipes, each revealing a little more about the subtlety of stir-frying, and each a peek into the Chinese culture.
Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge is designed to bring the home cook to mastery of stir-frying so that food achieves the sublimity described so well by Young. This is not a book for tossing any random ingredient into a skillet then stirring madly, it is one for achieving the delicate balance of flavors and textures for which the Chinese cuisine is so famous. Young brings this subtlety forward with ease. Each recipe is workable, and if Chinese ingredients cannot be found, Young gives alternate suggestions.
Young dedicates the opening pages to a full explanation of woks, their use and the results from every wok. She goes on to give suggestions for the well-stocked stir-fry pantry, then continues to give the 'language' of stir-frying and the basic steps. Each of these short sections are clear and easy to follow while also being inspiring for their hint of dishes to come.
Young traveled the breadth of China for this book, often speaking with chefs who are masters of the technique. Nothing is missing, from dry stir-fries, moist stir-fries, clear stir-fries, and the mysterious velvet stir-fries which are here illuminated. You will find recipes such as Hong Kong-Style Silky Stir-Fried Minced Beef, Hot Pepper Beef, Cantonese-Style Stir-Fried Pork with Chinese Broccoli, some classics such as Kung Pao Chicken, Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli, Chicken Lo Mein with Ginger Mushrooms, and Dry-Fried Sichuan Beans. She includes strictly vegetable recipes, those using tofu, poultry and egg,. She devotes time to the exploration of the Essentials for Stir-Frying Rice and Noodle, even includes recipes outside the classical box, such as Stir-Fried Bagels with Cabbage and Pork, Chinese Jamaican Jerk Chicken Fried Rice, Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum.
All the recipes reach the poetic perfection that Ms. Young brings to her work. There is a guide to sources, an equivalency table, and a lengthy bibliography, should the reader be inspireed (we are) to explore further. Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge is practical without ever being pedestrian.