In Young's first section, Mama and Baba (she identifies her parents only through their affectionate nicknames), confident and resourceful, guide their daughter—and us—through a series of lessons in the arts of steaming, stir-frying, and braising. (Young, no novice in the kitchen, has plenty of her own expert advice to add, too.) In ''The Breath of a Wok'', one of the book's beautifully titled chapters, we learn about wok hay—literally, ''wok breath''—a fleeting taste, crucial to an authentic stir-fry, that only food right out of the wok can have. In ''Shreds of Ginger Like Blades of Grass'', Baba, despite his 84 years, smoothly slices ginger into feathery wisps that meld with the other flavors in a dish instead of dominating them. ''Cooking as a Meditation'' describes the ''true art of cooking by instinct'' that Mama and Baba practice. Nothing is timed or weighed. ''The most important virtue,'' her parents believe, ''is alertness to the senses; knowing when an ingredient has the correct visual cues, smells, sounds, tastes, and texture is more valuable than mastering the intricacies of a complicated recipe.'' For that reason, she admits, ''Trying to record a precise recipe by watching my parents cook is as difficult as catching an animal in the wild.'' In the end, though, she succeeds: The cookbook itself is her trophy collection.