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Helen's Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir Fries

Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir- Fries

April 27, 2009 is an important date for me this spring. It’s the publication date of my new cookbook, Helen's Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir- Fries, published by John Wiley & Sons. The book is just what I wanted – small (128 pages), relatively inexpensive (under $20) and chock full of easy, healthy, home-style recipes.

How times have changed in the book publishing world. When my first book was published in 1994 I was told in no uncertain terms by the publisher that there would not be any color photographs – too expensive. In fact, even line drawings were restricted to a certain number. Now with the cost of color printing being more affordable, very few cook books are published without color photographs.

Easy Chinese Stir-Fries exemplifies the type of cooking I like to do – simple, straightforward home-style dishes that are low in fat and healthy, but still taste delicious – dishes that Chinese home cooks make for their own families.

Stir frying is considered one of the healthiest cooking techniques. Many nutritionists and dietitians recommend stir frying as a way to incorporate healthier eating habits into our lives. It’s low in fat, uses heart-healthy oils like canola; fresh vegetables of all kinds and especially dark leafy greens like bok choy and mustard greens – mainstays in the Chinese kitchen; smaller quantities of lean meats that are just part of the dish, not the whole dish; and quick cooking techniques that maintain the color, texture, vitamins and minerals of the ingredients. All these attributes are part of every day stir frying.

We read and hear about healthy ingredients and healthy, low-fat recipes all the time, but few home cooks actually enjoy cooking that way. Maybe it’s the recipes, but the attitude seems to be that “healthy” food is boring, tasteless, and uninteresting. So we continue to pay lip service to healthy eating, but resist incorporating it into our daily meals.

Preparing healthy meals isn’t difficult. In the beginning it will take a little extra thought, effort and discipline. But once you get the hang of it you’ll be surprised at how automatic and enjoyable it can become. What a great feeling it is to know that you are cooking delicious meals using nutritious and healthy ingredients – with hardly any effort! What a gift to both yourself and to the ones you love.

When I look at lists of “healthy” foods I am not surprised to see that so many of them are part of Asian cuisine – vegetables, dark leafy greens, fruits, seafood, nuts and seeds, beans, whole grains, green tea –

Do take a look at my new book and discover for yourself how easy it can be to go from the “dark side” of cooking and eating to the “lighter” side of health and good nutrition – without compromising on or abandoning fabulous taste.

Advance sales of the book are taking place right now at, or visit your local gourmet store and reserve your copy there.

- Helen

Here's a sample recipe from HELEN'S ASIAN KITCHEN: EASY CHINESE STIR FRIES. It's a quick and easy recipe that's low in fat and delicious. If you like the ease and taste of this recipe, you'll love the other 59 recipes in my new book. Enjoy!

Shanghainese Shrimp with Peas
Peas go nicely with shrimp, complementing but not overpowering them, and their bright green color is pretty against the pink of cooked shrimp. This is a perennial favorite at Shanghai restaurants.

Serves 3 to 4

1/4 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine or pale dry sherry
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen and thawed
1 scallion, bulb split and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons canola oil

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ginger, wine, cornstarch, and salt. Add the shrimp and mix well.
2. If using fresh peas, drop them in boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Drain immediately and run under cold water to stop the cooking.
3. In a wok or stir-fry pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until the oil is hot but not smoking. test by dipping a scallion piece into the oil; it should sizzle. Add the scallions and stir a few times. Add the peas and stir for 1 minute. Stir up the shrimp mixture and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the shrimp turns opaque and pink, about 1 minute more. Transfer the shrimp and peas to a platter. Remove and discard the scallions, if desired. Serve immediately.

Recipe reprinted from Helen's Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir-Fries, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2009.

Recipe and text Copyright 2009 by Helen Chen. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to buy a few cookbooks in order to improve my already delious stir fries but I wanted to try them out so I didn't wind up with useless books. One of the books I choose was Stir Fries and it is a revelation. It it organized beautifully and the photos are gorgeous. Not to overstate it but aside from the joy of cooking this is the best cookbook I have ever owed. Thank you for all the hardwork & inspiration.


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Like so many of us, Helen Chen learned to cook at her mother's side. But few of us had a mother like Joyce Chen. Helen grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her mother prepared the authentic dishes of her native Shanghai and Beijing with the sort of regularity the rest of us came to expect of macaroni and cheese or meatloaf.

"I remember when I was little, watching my mother prepare meals for family and friends. I once wrote a list of my favorite Chinese dishes," Helen recalls, "I came up with 150 recipes. I do not have one or two favorites. All the dishes on the list are traditional and all are ones that I learned from my mother. That is what I love most about Chinese food: its variety. Taste, texture and color all come into play, as does personality and culture. I think this is what cooking is all about."

Soft spoken and intensely intelligent, Helen Chen was born in Shanghai and moved to the U.S. with her family while still a baby. Helen grew up, as she describes it, in a traditional Chinese-American household. "When I was young I wanted to be totally American," she remembers. "It wasn't until I was in high school that I realized how lucky I was to have two cultures."

Today, Helen Chen is a widely acknowledged expert in Chinese cooking. Besides her role as an educator and cookbook author, she also is a corporate spokesperson and business consultant to the house wares industry. In 2007 she created and developed a new line of Asian kitchenware under the brand name Helen’s Asian Kitchen®, expressly for Harold Import Company in New Jersey.

Having been born in China and raised and educated in the United States, Helen brings the best of both worlds to her approach to the art of Chinese cuisine. She understands the needs of the American cook as only a native can, yet she is intimately knowledgeable in the culinary practices and philosophy of China.

In her active role as a teacher and educator, Helen teaches Chinese cuisine at Boston University; and, through the Anderson Foundation’s enrichment program ‘Cooking Up Culture’ she teaches Boston area school children from grades 1-12 about Chinese cuisine and culture. She also teaches Asian cuisine in numerous cooking schools across the country.

Helen has lectured to various professional and culinary organizations such as the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Boston University Seminars in the Arts and Culinary Arts, Oldways Preservations and Exchange Trust, Small Business Development Center, The Culinary Historians of Boston, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and the Culinary Guild of New England. In addition, she conducts culinary tours of Boston’s Chinatown and is a frequent guest chef at cooking schools around the U.S.

Helen is the author of Helen Chen’s Chinese Home Cooking (Hearst Books, 1994), Peking Cuisine (Orion Books,1997) and Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir-Fries (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). A second book in the Helen’s Asian Kitchen series, Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Asian Noodles is scheduled for publication in January, 2010.