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Asian Wraps

Deliciously Easy Hand Held Bundles to Stuff, Wrap & Relish

by Nina Simonds (William Morrow)

Asian Wraps



If you've been wrapped up in wraps the last few years and think you've had your fill, leave a little room for Nina Simonds' Asian Wraps.

Wraps, of course, have been the hottest thing to hit the sandwich world since sliced bread. And that's precisely their function, to take the place of sliced bread. Flour tortillas, or other "wrappers," are topped with tempting fillings, rolled and tucked. With all the outstanding rustic, home-style "boutique" breads on the market today, though, I frankly never understood the pull of wraps. I'd rather have my sandwich filling safely ensconced between two thick slices of a stunning rosemary or kalamata olive bread. But Simonds prompted me to leave my bread for breakfast toasting. Her wraps are glorious concoctions of bold flavors with good reason to be wrapped. In Asian tradition, she uses such wrappings as spring roll, egg roll, won ton, dumpling, nori and rice wrappers and lotus and cabbage leaves.

Simonds' sure hand with Asian cuisine (she's written many acclaimed Asian cookbooks, including Asian Noodles and Classic Chinese Cuisine) is apparent in the more than 75 beautifully photographed recipes. She clearly explains all ingredients.

Lotus leaves, for example, would be used for steamed packages of food and can be replaced by parchment paper. Cooks of Chinese food often like the perfume the leaves lend to their steamed packets of rice and meat. The leaves are not eaten and need to be softened before use in hot water. When buying Mandarin pancakes—a staple in Northern China available in the U.S. frozen in Asian markets and as takeout from some Chinese restaurants—look for thin ones. Known to restaurant patrons as the wrapping for mu shu pork, they are also wonderful stuffed with barbecued poultry and can be replaced by flour tortillas. Simonds also tells you how to make your own Mandarin pancakes. Once you've gotten your hands on some Mandarin pancakes, you can get an idea of Simonds' savvy style—she offers both traditional and trendy turns.

Mu Shu Shrimp starts with a classic marinade of rice wine or saké, fresh ginger and sesame oil. The shrimp is stir-fried with egg, Chinese black mushrooms, leeks, Chinese cabbage and more fresh ginger and rice wine or saké. A traditional hoisin sauce is made from soy sauce, sugar, ground black pepper, cornstarch and rice wine or saké and then smeared onto the Mandarin pancake.

Grilled Lamb With Flash-Cooked Fennel, though, is Simonds' completely original take on what would make an outstanding Mandarin pancake filling. The filling of seared sliced lamb with pink center is tossed with slices of fennel, red bell pepper and scallions and a light soy sauce-Chinese black vinegar (or Worcestershire) dressing.

Simonds repeats these kinds of traditional/trendy scenarios with similarly sumptuous results. She'll tell you, for instance, how to make wonderful classics like won tons (and spicy Sichuan ones), Chinese dumplings, Vietnamese spring rolls (and Chinese and Cantonese ones) and sushi. But she'll probably dazzle you even more with her own inventive wraps such as Chinese Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa in flour tortillas, Grilled Miso Salmon With Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers in butter lettuce wrappers, Barbecued Halibut with Spicy Cilantro Paste in flour tortillas and Fried Wild Mushroom Rice Wraps in Chinese cabbage leaves served with a spicy Korean dipping sauce. To wrap up this whole thing, following is one of Simonds' takes on a classic recipe followed by a purely modern turn.


Fresh Chinese Spring Rolls
Chinese Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa

Previously featured:

Great Kitchens: At Home With America's Top Chefs

Essentials of Cooking

City Tavern Cookbook: 200 Years of Classic Recipes From America's First Gourmet Restaurant

The Cake Mix Doctor

(Updated: 10/30/08 SB)

Cookbook Book Reviews Recipes Gayot

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