Cookbook 86: New Idea’s Chinese Cookbook

I was gifted New Idea’s Chinese Cookbook by my grandmother just after I moved out of her house, as she knew I liked to cook Chinese food.  I’m sorry to say that apart from looking at it from time to time, I didn’t cook from it.  It’s quite fragile, and as it turns out also pretty rare.  That link above is the only place I’ve found it for sale in Australia – so I might have one of only a few copies left.

This cookbook is from the era of “bamboo shots in everything”, and definitely from the era of making Chinese food palatable to Western palates.  From experience, the recipes are also heavily modified to ensure that ingredients are familiar and locatable for the most part, from whenever it was published, I’m guessing early 70s.  Personally I think that bamboo shoots are not food, and the two recipes I selected do not contain them.  Sadly the book has next to no vegetarian recipes in them, so this week was all about the meat.

The cookbook covers famous restaurant specialities, and it would appear that many of those restaurants no longer exist.  It also provides a bit of information about regional cuisines and history of popular Chinese dishes.  Most of the recipes are straight forward, but there certainly are some that need refinement.  Overall I give this 3 out of 5 stars.

Shredded Beef with Walnuts


  • 500g lean rump beef steak
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 cups shredded Chinese cabbage (I used choy sum)
  • 1 onion
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 125ml beef stock
  • 125g walnut halves
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon cold water


  1. Partially freeze the beef, then slice very thinly into finger-length strips.
  2. Mix beef with garlic, ginger and soy sauce.
  3. Prepare cabbage and cut onion into wedges.
  4. Heat oil in a wok and stir-fry beef over a high heat until it changes colour.  Remove from wok.
  5. Stir-fry onion for 1 minute, then add Chinese cabbage and stir-fry for 1 minute.
  6. Return beef to wok, add stock and walnuts.
  7. Blend cornflour with water and stir into wok until liquid boils and thickens.
  8. Serve immediately with boiled rice.

Notes on this recipe:

  • This was really tasty.  The blend of ingredients really worked, the meat was tender, the cabbage/choy sum delicious, and the addition of walnuts perfect.
  • The instructions in this recipe are also quite clear.  It is a little difficult to tell when meat that has been marinated in soy sauce has changed colour to cooked, but not impossible.
  • I also cooked the onion a bit longer than 1 minute as I wanted mine to be thoroughly cooked.

Chicken Szechuan


  • 500g boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup sliced snake beans or green beans
  • 2 carrots, obliquely sliced and parboiled
  • 8 mushroom cups, thickly sliced
  • 6 red chilli peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 185ml water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine


  1. Cut chicken into thin finger-length strips
  2. Place chicken in a bowl, add soy sauce, garlic, ginger and chilli powder and mix together
  3. Heat oil in a wok to 150C and stir-fry chicken mixture until brown, then remove from wok.
  4. Add snake beans, carrots, mushrooms and chilli peppers to wok and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in water, tomato sauce and sherry.  Return chicken to wok and simmer for 5 minutes or until chicken is tender.
  6. Serve chicken Szechuan immediately with boiled rice.

Notes on this recipe:

  • If this recipe had been made with the chillies you’d expect in Szechuan food, this would have blown the roof off many Aussies’ heads.
  • I put in one cayenne pepper from my garden, and 5 shop bought red chillies (that weren’t very hot).  With the cayenne pepper and the chilli powder, this dish has a nice kick to it.
  • It really isn’t all that authentic though compared to Szechuan dishes I have had.

1 comment

    • Diane on 14/08/2014 at 10:04 pm

    Yes I agree about the bamboo shoots. I intend to omit. Make a little more of the sauce and serve with noodles and water spinach. Will let you know how it goes.

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