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Cookbook Watch

July 08, 1998|LAURIE OCHOA

Two very different Chinese cookbooks have been published recently--one from an expert and one from two dedicated amateurs.

Mai Leung is one of America's pioneering Chinese cookbook authors. Many of the dishes in her original "The Classic Chinese Cookbook," published in 1976, had never before been printed for American audiences. In her revision of that book, "The New Classic Chinese Cookbook" (Council Oak Books, $26.95), Leung has added recipes, adapted old ones to reflect changes in available ingredients and interests in more healthful eating habits, and added sections, including a chapter on tofu and vegetables and one on dim sum (Leung's other well-known book is "Dim Sum and Other Chinese Street Food").

Annabel Low and Ellen Blonder, who were raised almost as sisters but are aunt and niece, represent a sort of lost generation of Chinese American cooks looking to reclaim their heritage. Although they grew up in California eating Chinese food--Low's father owned Sacramento's Hong Kong Cafe--they didn't learn to cook it. "We can teach our daughters how to deal with corporations, but we couldn't pass down the simplest technique for dealing with a taro root," Blonder writes. "Perhaps we had to reach midlife to realize something was amiss."

Low and Blonder turned to their family for help, and not only learned to cook, but also came up with a charming cookbook, "Every Grain of Rice: A Taste of Our Chinese Childhood in America" (Clarkson Potter, $25), illustrated with watercolors by Blonder.

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