Our Verdict: Simply Chinese

Kirstin: I’ve been thinking a lot this month about why this has been such a fabulous book. And I think it’s for several reasons. The most important one is that we love Chinese food. But that’s also related to the realisation that I hadn’t previously found any Chinese cookbooks that I wanted to cook from DESPITE loving Chinese food. A lot of the previous books on Chinese food that I had found, were more about authentic cuisine and ingredients. And I get that. But these recipes were potentially a little niche even for me, a fan of the cuisine. And that’s even with the increase in Asian supermarkets and greater availibility of ingredients in supermarkets these days. It explains why I love this cookbook too; these are recipes I have previously eaten in restaurants, simply made with easy to get hold of ingredients. And I trusted Suzie to have produced good recipes. Which she did. So I would really recommend this book, both to those who already love Chinese food but also to those who want to find out more about Asian cooking generally. And as I have become more confident with the recipes, I have even tried cooking some of them for others too which is the real sign of a good cookbook.

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Our Verdict: Simply Chinese

“King prawns, celery and carrot” from “Simply Chinese”

Kirstin: In the introduction to the recipe, Suzie describes this as “ticking all the boxes for feeding her kids”. It worked for our older children too. The carrots, celery and onion all combined with the oyster sauce to make a really delicious accompaniment for the prawns. And it was super fast to make too. Just a few minutes of chopping and preparing all the stir fry ingredients. My only gripe? That I did not have this recipe when our children were smaller because this would definitely have featured regularly. I hope to rectify that by making it more when they are older.

“King prawns, celery and carrot” from “Simply Chinese”

“Crispy Seafood Noodles” from “Simply Chinese”

Kirstin: This was a new way of cooking noodles for me. It involved frying them into a crispy cake, a bit like making a frittata with pasta, before putting them into the oven to crisp them up further. My friendly sous chef Tom loveingly prepared all the vegetables beforehand; the mushrooms, carrots and spring onions (which I mistakenly fried at the wrong time in the recipe. Oooops). Next up was the sauce and finally cooking the king prawns (this recipe calls for scallops which we are not huge fans of so I doubled up on the prawns). This all made for a fantastically tasty meal which everyone enjoyed.

“Crispy Seafood Noodles” from “Simply Chinese”

“Instant Noodle Bowl” from “Simply Chinese”

Kirstin: I love ramen. It was one of those meals I missed the most during the Pandemic. I tried recreating it so many times over those years as I really missed that complex, deep broth. And for those endless lockdown days at home, we all became really good at pimping instant packet noodles which we bought in bulk. So I was intrigued by this recipe, which in effect combines the two by making the soup base out of basic spices (rather than using the packet of flavours that comes with the noodles) to which you can add your own bits and bobs. I used chicken, an egg and some spinach. I would definitely make this again, as we often have packet noodles kicking about and it was a good way of using those leftovers (it’s interesting to see more and more of the Asian varieites popping up in supermarkets here). But I’m still making the most of good ramen and being able to go out to enjoy it as often as I can.

“Instant Noodle Bowl” from “Simply Chinese”

“Beef Ho Fun Noodles” from “Simply Chinese”

One of the Hard Truths I’ve learned over the years is this: When you’re making a stir fry, get everything– and I mean everything– prepped before you turn on the hob.

When I read a recipe, I’m inclined to think, “Oh, that’s fine. I just do that chopping while everything is cooking.” And some times, that works fine. You’ve got enough cooking time to do the slicing and the dicing or whatever other gerund needs to be done. But with stir fry, no such leisure time exists. The whole point is that it cooks up FAST so things need to be ready to go by the time you get started. I’ve learned this the hard way when I’ve overcooked the stir fry and it’s not nearly as good enough as it should be.

I also needed to be quick with this Beef Ho Fun– one of my favourite Chinese dishes– and I was. I love the noodles. I love the beef. The sauce transports me back to 12-year-old me when I had my very first Chinese takeaway at my friend Jill’s house. It’s all good.

I should note that the additional spring onions were added by my purely for aesthetic reasons. They were not called for in the recipe, but I also knew that the overwhelming vibe of brown that is this dish wouldn’t look that great. So I put them on top (and I do think it makes it look more interesting).

All in all, a delicious recreation of Ho Fun, which I’ve never attempted to make at home. Now I will definitely make it again.

“Beef Ho Fun Noodles” from “Simply Chinese”

“Duck and pineapple fried rice” from “Simply Chinese”

Kirstin: I have to admit I had an alterior motive for making this recipe, but I’ll get there in a moment. First off, we love duck. All of us. So it’s always good to find recipes that include it. For this recipe, I bought a half prepared Chinese style duck that required 35 minutes in the oven before shredding. I also bought pre-prepared rice because we never have leftover rice and even if we did, it’s just sometimes easier when stir frying to use the bought stuff. And now to the alterior motive. This was an opportunity to use my PINEAPPLE SLICER. I am such a gadget girl but often forget to use them (come on we all have gadgets we don’t use, right). NOT THIS TIME. This time I remembered I had a pineapple slicer AND where it was. Miles was particularly impressed at this gadget and used his extreme strength to help cut the pineapple into rings. Overall this recipe was a winner; it was simple to make, tasty and bonus pineapple slicer. What’s not to love?

“Duck and pineapple fried rice” from “Simply Chinese”

“Salted chilli tofu with perfect basmati rice” from “Simply Chinese”

Kirstin: As a card carrying member of the tofu-eating wokerati I can now say that I embrace cooking tofu, this recipe included. I now know which kind of tofu to choose at the shops and how each kind needs cooking differently. I am familiar with the I love Tofu song and can even join in some of the words. It turns out however that I still need some help when it comes to cooking with hot oil though. Because when I was cooking this recipe, I needed to get rid of the oil I had used for frying the tofu, knowing that I should not pour it down the sink. But I was in a rush and grabbed the first thick-ish plastic container I could find in the drawer. It would all be fine, right? The plastic would be thick enough, I was sure of it. And if I let the oil cool down a bit, I was pretty sure all I would get away with it. But no, let’s put it this way, this jug is no more and has been replaced by a pyrex one. But please don’t let this put you off cooking this dish, because the recipe itself was delicious, with firm flavourful tofu and perfect rice and we all had a good giggle at my ongoing culinary exploits. And the next time I make it (because I will, while singing my favourite tofu song), I shall have my pyrex jug at the ready!

“Salted chilli tofu with perfect basmati rice” from “Simply Chinese”

“Cantonese-style Sweet and Sour Chicken” from “Simply Chinese”

Kirstin: One of the reasons I am enjoying this book so much is that cooking from it has been a team effort with my husband. He turns out to be extremely good at all the food prep, all that chopping and slicing and dicing. All that stuff which I can do but can sometimes feel a little lonely. And it’s been a lovely way to catch up on his day as he preps and I make the rest of the dish. I have been amassing a collection of food hacks on TikTok (all I follow is food on that platform) and he was particularly keen to help on this day to try out this new food hack for cutting up red peppers. And while I was a little anxious about frying up the chicken, as it’s not a technique I use very often, I needn’t have been. This recipe was amazing, just the right amount of crunch, just the right amount of sweet. I’m already looking forward to making it again and again.

“Cantonese-style Sweet and Sour Chicken” from “Simply Chinese”

Cookbook of the Month, November 2022; “Simply Chinese: Recipes from a Chinese Home Kitchen” by Suzie Lee

Kirstin: I don’t think we have ever cooked exclusively Chinese food for a month on this blog. There was the Wok On book of February 2020 which was a general Asian cookbook and there was also Bill’s Everyday Asian book from 2011. That said, it’s not that we don’t llike Asian food. My family is always asking for Chinese and Korean food in particular. And we do cook a lot of Asian recipes from cookbooks generally. Recently I’ve been cooking more and more Chinese food, inspired by a co-worker of Hong Kong heritage. Our WhatsApp messages have become more and more focused on food as I’ve been experimenting with new flavours and ingredients. It also helps that there’s a new local Asian shop near our favourite ramen place and while Tate is choosing an iced tea I can often be found browsing all the shelves of goodies.


So I’m very much looking forward to the book of this month written by Suzie Lee. Raised in Ireland, she is of Chinese heritage, growing up in the family business, a Chinese takeaway. In the introduction to the book, she writes of her love of family and cooking. She also writes about using cooking as therapy and as a means of staying connected with her mother who died unexpectedly when she was just 16. According to Suzie all the ingredients can be found in local shops so there’s no need to stress about finding exotic spices. She also gives recommendations about how to find the right pan (ie. not a wok) for cooking her recipes. While I have tried cooking from non-woks before I finally decided to invest in one earlier this year after a particularly successful chicken in black bean fest. After much research I finally settled on this one if you’re interested.

Maureen: It’s really surprising that we’ve never done a Chinese cookbook in all the years of the blog, given how much we both love Chinese food. I have written before of our small but perfectly formed Asian section of our local Sainsbury’s, which has served up such delights as vacuum-packed udon noodles, Asian chilli oil, super-sized bottles of soy sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise. I’m sad to report that when they moved the section to a different part of the store, they also slimmed down the offerings. We waved a sad goodbye to easy access to the Kewpie and the chilli oil, but at least they still have the super-sized bottles of soy sauce, and, crucially, the udon noodles.

I really hope she means it when she says the ingredients are easy to source. Maybe our small but perfectly formed Asian section will come up trumps again. But even if it doesn’t, that will only require some forward planning and an order from the Internet. The forward planning I will struggle with, but the Internet order, not so much.

Wok on!

Cookbook of the Month, November 2022; “Simply Chinese: Recipes from a Chinese Home Kitchen” by Suzie Lee

Our Verdict: Dinner in One

Kirstin: I have so enjoyed this month!

Maureen: Me too. It hit all the things we look for weeknight meals: delicious, relatively quick and/or easy and interesting. The fact that cleanup was so straightforward was a huge bonus.

Kirstin: I know what you mean. I don’t know how Melissa does it but she’s definitely done it again. And she does much more fish in this book than her previous books.

Maureen: I am going to miss cooking from this book.

Kirstin: SAME! I have so much more I want to cook from it, so I’ll be continuing to cook from it during the next few months at least. And I’ve already given a few copies to friends. Melissa is so wondetful and dependable too. I love that about her recipes. You know they are going to work.

Maureen: This is one of the few books that made it onto the high rotation shelf within a few recipes.

Kirstin: I hear you. A classic.

Our Verdict: Dinner in One