Kwoklyn Wan grew up working in his Dad’s Cantonese restaurant with his brother Gok and has been in the food industry ever since. He has an impressive career history that includes running a Martial Arts School, and a clear passion for Chinese cookery. Following the success of his previous books The Chinese Takeaway Cookbook and The Veggie Chinese Takeaway Cookbook, Kwoklyn has released his third book Chinese Takeaway in 5 which delivers 80 recipes that use only 5 ingredients (plus basic store cupboard items). The book focuses on recognisable recipes that are quick and easy to prepare including Prawn Toast, Beef in Oyster Sauce and Tom Yum Soup.
The cover’s contemporary comic book / pop art style with a bright banana-yellow cover and bold red and black font, makes the book feel modern. The rest of the book is simply designed using an easy-to-read font. The recipes have a minimalist style to them – this works very well with the overall layout as it is easy to flick through the instructions.
Sadly, not every recipe has a photo attached (although, I think I can remember what Prawn Toasts are meant to look like) but the included photographs are gorgeous. There are so many different styles of pictures featuring different materials and textures; some are full of props and others are much simpler. The creative styling and photography team has done an excellent job of showing off the food – my particular favourite is the Chinese Beer-Battered Tempura Oysters in which a golden battered oyster is served on the shell, surrounded by vibrant blues and yellows. I’d happily buy this as an art print for my wall!
Chinese Takeaway in 5 starts with a full contents page listing every recipe which makes it extremely easy to find what you’re looking for. In his introduction, Kwoklyn urges the reader to experiment in the kitchen – using the recipes and making tweaks and changes to suit individual needs and tastes. He also outlines the 5 crucial store-cupboard ingredients: salt, ground white pepper, light soy sauce, oil, and sugar – ingredients I’m sure most of us will already have. There is also a short section describing suggested basic equipment and Chinese cooking techniques (Stir-frying, Steaming and Deep-frying etc.) which is especially useful for beginners.
There are 8 distinct chapters in the book which are self-explanatory: Soups; Light Bites; Seafood; Chicken & Duck; Meat; Vegetarian; Condiments; Desserts & Drinks. The recipes are clearly presented, with an introduction to each dish, information on how much preparation time and cooking time is required, and how many the dish serves. Some recipes contain tips such as how to store leftovers or what can be made in advance etc.
There are no real surprises to the recipes, most are familiar dishes and easy to make. I started with a simple Chicken Chow Mein which was a perfect mid-week meal. The most complicated part of this recipe was chopping spring onions… which is not really a challenge! I really enjoyed the home-made Stir-Fry sauce (which is a separate 5 ingredient recipe) that combines the flavours of oyster sauce, sesame, soy and rice wine. I have cooked this recipe a few times over the last few weeks – it tastes just as I expect a Chow Mein to taste… no more and no less.
My next recipe cooked was Chicken and Mushrooms on Boiled Rice which, again, is a very simple dish and makes another great easy mid-week meal full of delicious oyster sauce and umami mushroom flavours.
I enjoyed the Black Pepper Beef recipe which takes fillet steak, onions and green pepper and mixes it with soy, oyster sauce and black pepper. I read this recipe a few times to see where I add the black pepper… but realised the instruction is completely omitted (this should have picked up in editing). I added the pepper bit by bit throughout the recipe, and although it had great flavour, I wish the recipe was clearer. I’m looking forward to trying the Tom Yum Soup, Breakfast Bao Sandwich and Chilli Ginger Crispy Tofu recipes next.
Overall, this book delivers on its promise of 5(ish) ingredient Chinese Takeaway-style food, though some recipes circumvent this limit by referencing sub-recipes. It is definitely a beginner’s book and is unlikely to challenge experienced cooks. As someone quite new to cooking Chinese food, however, I will continue to cook from this book, as it makes great quick and simple dinners that suit a busy day.
Recipes from Chinese Takeaway in 5
We have permission from Quadrille to share these recipes with you from the book:
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Chinese Takeaway in 5 by Kwoklyn Wan from publishers Quadrille. Book photography by Sam Folan. Home cooking photography by Jack Thomas.