Nina Simonds and Barbara Tropp (below) are two of the better-known new Western experts on Chinese cooking; otherwise, their books could hardly be more different. Simonds' charming, well-organized compilation centers around some 15 menu-categories (from rice--quite correctly presented as the foundation of the Chinese meal--and breads, to soups and sweets). The title is a fair guide to the aim: a representative cross-section of traditional favorites from all regions, prefaced by a brief but lucid introduction to important techniques and equipment. The assumption is that anyone of reasonable intelligence and modest kitchen horse-sense can produce a decent facsimile of a simple Chinese dish (like shrimp with sizzling rice or stir-fried beef with scallions) or a more exotic one (like deep-fried squid balls or Yunnan steamed chicken) from succinct and clearly if economically illustrated step-by-step directions. There is a lot to be said for this no-fuss, minimal-explanation approach; and the collection as a whole compares well to other good books of the sort. For Tropp's different approach, and highly original work, see below.