This trio of books which ranges from the spartan to the sumptuous should make a respectable Chinese chef of an American steak-and-potatoes specialist. Lo will save you much money in the bargain. By applying his theory of ""exploding savoriness"" he makes (apple) lb. of meat the starting point of a dinner for six. Nor will you feel like a pauper eating it thanks to the carefully thought out balance of bland bulk dishes (rice, pasta, dumplings) with pickled or piquant meats and fish. From the basic Chinese rice gruel, congee, to lu cookery where tripe, pigs' trotters, kidney, and other inexpensive cuts are simmered in a strong soy-herbal master sauce, Lo neglects neither condiments nor inviting appearance. At the other end of the spectrum are the Schreckers whose book uses the recipes of Szechwan-born Mrs. Chiang whom they brought back with them from Taiwan. The Schreckers are entranced with zhen wer or the ""true taste"" of each dish. This makes them disdainful of most American Chinese restaurants and their ""cavalier"" substitutions and shortcuts. And what's a poor Yank to do when ""the ordinary American vocabulary is not adequate to convey the spirit of Chinese cuisine?"" Still, if you have infinite patience and a Chinese auntie by your side, dishes like smoked chicken or pork in the style of fish (which combines ""crunchy, gelatinous, fibrous, and soft textures"") should make your reputation. Somewhere in between Lo and the ineffable Mrs. Chiang, is Karen Lee--unabashedly inventive, flexible, and practical. She readily substitutes American for Chinese vegetables, and happily turns appetizers into entrees and vice versa. Which is not to say that she doesn't cook fancy--her recipes are geared to dinner parties and often involve marinade, sauce, and binder. Interestingly, as dissimilar as these books are, none of the authors has any use for MSG.