Chinese cuisine is the ne plus ultra of world cooking. I expect that 95% of those reading this will disagree, so I might add that this is my personal opinion. Being Italian-American, I love Italian cooking, but I crave Chinese. While other children enjoyed visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads on Christmas Eve, I dreamed of spring rolls and dumplings. Don’t bring me chicken soup when I’m sick unless there are some nice healthy wontons floating in it, and — if I’m going to eat rice — ginger and soy had better be in there somehow.
As much as I love Chinese food, when it comes to cooking I limit myself to few-and-far-between stir-fries. When I’m eating in an Asian fusion or Chinese restaurant, I tend to order vegetarian, but when I’m home, most of the Chinese dishes that appear on my table are the relatively unhealthy frozen skillet and microwave variety. I should be ashamed of myself. I almost am. Cooking is not a labor of love for me, it’s just plain labor — the longer a dish takes the less likely it is that I’ll be preparing it.
To my rescue (and the rescue of thousands of time-challenged cooks) comes The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East, a cookbook that includes Chinese, Indian, Thai, and Japanese cooking along with Asian Fusion foods “combining the flavors of Korea, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan.” It is one cookbook that combines three of my favorite elements: Chinese food, short kitchen sentences, and meatless meals. When I saw the recipe for “Sweet and Sour Mushrooms” I thought, “What’s wrong with me — why didn’t I think of that?”
“Creamy Corn Soup,” another favorite, is simple to make, and the “Spinach Tofu Dumplings” with a choice of sauces is not only tempting, but inspires a number of other variations of steamed or sautéed dumplings. Speaking of variations, The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East is rich with recipe variations (such as using the dumpling filling for stuffed mushrooms) as well as “Chefs’ Tips and Tricks.”
Japanese “Tempura Vegetables,” Indian “Semolina Cashew Halva,” “Pad Thai,” and “Miso Simple Soup” (which is extremely simple) are samples of the assortment of Asian dishes included in The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East. Each section includes a “pantry” — a list of ingredients appropriate for its country with descriptions. Sprinkled throughout The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East are additional “Asian Pantry” tips especially useful for the beginning Asian/Vegan cook.
From the Indian “Wok-Tossed Cabbage Salad” to “Cardamom Cookies” and Chinese “Mango Custard Pudding,” Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray (authors of The 30-Minute Vegan) provide 150 recipes that will take cooks through every course with ease. There is even a Jell-o-like dessert that doesn’t require gelatin. Reinfeld and Murray took nothing for granted, and included appendix sections on “Preparation Basics,” “Supplemental Information” (e.g., composting, health, and environment), “Additional Resources,” and a glossary (so important for those new to either vegan or Asian cooking).
For vegetarians who are ready to take the step to vegan and omnivores that would like to add animal-free dishes to their diet, The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East offers an array of dishes that will make their experimentation easy. Vegans will find it is an excellent addition to their cookbook libraries.